Friday, May 22, 2009

The Questions You Ask

In this tough economic time, every "event" I attend seems to be overrun by folks looking for a job. I can't blame them. I'm sure I'd do the same thing. and everyone always asks what advice you'd give to a job seeker. That's fair. Meanwhile, I'm heavily involved in an interviewing process right now, so the dichotomy is interesting. It's like instant feedback loop.

I have plenty of advice for job hunters - most of which is probably the wrong sort (what you *should* have done before you lost your job... no one needs to hear that). But, I do have a particular piece of interviewing advice for those looking for jobs. Ask questions.

I judge a candidate, particularly a senior executive, by the questions they ask. I can't ask a VP of something-or-another what their hardest work situation was. Or what their career goals are. If you can't answer those questions glibly by that point in your career, you're just silly. It's always an informal conversation to try to get at someone's personality, thought process, etc. 

Meanwhile, I can pay attention to the questions they ask. No questions? That's a red flag. Divisive questions? Questions that seek to "get the answer" for future interviews? Stupid questions that just pay lip service to the questioning formality? All a bad idea. 

As always, when asking questions in an interview, it is best to ask about the perspective of the interviewer, because that information is unknowable elsewhere. Company's annual revenue is on their income statement. Bob's opinion of new growth opportunities is not. 

Here's my favorite interview question today:  What would you like to be aware of, if you were in my shoes, interviewing for this position?

It's one of those questions where dishonesty seems almost wrong. You have to give SOME indication of what might be amiss in the role, organization, etc. Usually, you'd have to read between the lines on the answers, but it will be telling.   

And meanwhile, the interviewer knows you're awake, and interested.

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