You have updated your resume, lined up three references and endured the process of sending it into the proverbial black hole of online job postings. Mercifully, even miraculously, you finally reach the pinnacle of job searching – the interview! Congratulations are certainly in order. You survived the culling of several dozen, if not hundreds, of other applicants to reach this point. Are you ready for what’s next?
As the director of technology practice at Greythorn with nearly two decades in the staffing industry, I have conducted, participated in, and listened in on hundreds of interviews. I could write a book on some of the things I have seen unfold in an interview. To protect the innocent, I will keep these stories to myself. The fact is that most of us are really, really bad at interviewing.
To be fair, it’s not all that surprising that most of us struggle in this area. Interviewing — and the rest of the job change process — is one the five most stressful life events. We would literally rather take a trip to the dentist office than endure the interview process. The consequence of this is most of us are poor at interviewing. Therein lays the great interview conundrum: I rarely interview, therefore I am not very good at it. Since I’m not very good at it, it’s very intimidating and scary. Therefore, I’d prefer a trip to the dentist.
So what is the answer? Honestly, you probably already know the optimum solution to this problem — interview more. Interviewing is indeed a skill; like any other skill it needs to be practiced and improved. In this instance, you don’t have time to practice; you’ve already landed the interview. Or like most, you know you are not going to seek out opportunities to interview for the sake of practice. What you need is a secret weapon— something you can arm yourself with through the interview process to give you confidence, a sense of control and a plan. I have that secret weapon for you: asking questions. And not just any questions. Thoughtful, intelligent, well-targeted questions.
If you have read any of the dated material on how to prepare for an interview, no doubt you were advised to bring a handful of questions for the last few minutes of the interview when the interviewer asks “do you have any questions for me?” Unfortunately, this is not the greatest advice. The reality is, if the end of the interview is the time you start to ask questions, you are already in trouble. You want to interject your questions into the flow of conversation from the very beginning straight through to the close of the interview.
Why are questions so important and effective?
- It shows you have done your homework
- It shows you are prepared
- It demonstrates your ability to look beyond the job description and find out the reality of the position
- It highlights your communication abilities, which are frequently a major determining factor in a job – even for heavily technical roles
- It gives you a sense of control in the interview
- It brings balance to the interview. A good interview should be a balanced conversation, with both parties speaking in nearly equal amounts. If you find that you are doing all of the talking, it’s time to ask a good question
I know what you’re wondering — what questions? Honestly, there are a million good questions and more than I can cover in this article. Also, I’m not going to let you off the hook. Rolling up your sleeves and developing your own questions is important. There are several good books on the topic, and once you get the hang of it I guarantee you’ll feel a sense of empowerment. (If you’d like to email me directly, I’d be happy to send you a handful of my personal favorites.)
There you have it. If you can bring this weapon into your interview and use it successfully, you will greatly tilt the odds in your favor. The best part of all, you can practice your questioning skills anywhere, with anyone. The benefits of great questioning skills will help advance in your new job, as well as in life.
Now go forth and interview with confidence!