As you sit uncomfortably in the reception area, trying your best to look…well, comfortable – you go over the steps that led you to today; the interview:
- I arrived 10-15 minutes early (shows I am prompt, but not eager)
- I have my best power suit on (professional, credible, polished)
- I have 3 copies of my resume (even though you sent them a copy; best to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it)
- I have memorized answers to possible questions (to the point where the answers will flow naturally and not as if I have rehearsed them; even though I did)
You’re ready, right? Wrong.
You forgot the part where the interviewer asks you, “Do you have any questions?” That’s usually about the time your designed smile (friendly, but not scary) drops and that freshly dry cleaned suit gets a little tighter. Did someone turn up the heat? It’s getting h-h-h-hot.
You search your memory banks for a planned answer, but there’s none to be had. So, after what seems to be hours you say, “no, nothing…I’m good”. You could almost hear the sad trombone playing: wah, wah, wah, waaaah. You think to yourself, “I blew it.”
Maybe; maybe not. Here are three suggestions for your consideration. While I strongly advise you to cater your questions specific to the job you are interviewing for and to the company you are interviewing with – these will work in any situation:
1. We’ve spent time going over the job responsibilities and the necessary qualifications for the position. In the short time we have spent together going over my experience and getting to know each other; which areas of my background would you say are in line with the type of ideal candidate you’re looking for?
The answer to this question forces them to tell you what they like about you; the reasons why you were invited for an interview. It will also help you understand how interested they are in you by how much the interviewer quotes the line items in your resume, reiterates what you have already said (in regards to your experience) and of course the time they spend in answering the question (the more time, the better your standing vs. other candidates).
It also serves a second purpose. You can reinforce what they just told you and/or expand on it. In the end, the conversation continues to be about you and that’s always a good thing in an interview.
2. Without going into specifics or divulging any personal information, what qualities did the person who previously held the open position had that made he/she successful?
The answer to this question will help you once again to gage how good (or bad) your chances are at getting the job. The more you have in common with what the interviewer observed was positive and productive with the former employee – the closer you are at being his/her successor.
As in the first question, make sure you are reinforcing what the interviewer is telling you by making connections with your experiences.
Example: If the interviewer says that the previous employee worked well independently and in a team environment – make sure you first agree (that working independently and within a team is a positive attribute) and then use examples of how you too have been successful (by working independently and in a team).
It’s like a boomerang…make sure that every answer to the question you ask goes back to talking about you.
3. Again, not to cross any lines of privacy, but can you tell me what didn’t work with the former employee? What were his/her development needs?
“Development needs” is a better way of saying, “what did the person who was in this position do wrong?”
Once again, this question helps you measure your chances. If there are similarities with the person’s shortcomings and you….then you know what might keep you from getting the job. The beauty of this question is that you get a chance to distance yourself from the negative feedback by providing examples of how you agree (with the interviewer) on how those attributes can be destructive and how you (in the same situation) would act differently.
And there you have it; three questions that will help you understand how well you are doing in the interview. Of course there are many other questions you can ask, but I find these three keep the conversation focused on you (boomerang).
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Thank You - Hugo