Monday, February 11, 2013

Questioning the Questioner, Pt. II


Of course, it is possible the silly question I addressed was intended to provoke conversation in much the same manner I described, but I doubt it. Regardless, if you don’t understand the question ask for clarification. It doesn’t reflect badly on you, instead it demonstrates you are paying attention to what’s going on, which is more than I can say about some interviewers. We’ve all heard, “There are no stupid questions” though I am of the opinion the issue is not so much the question as it is the ability of the questioner to formulate a coherent query. So yes, a poorly-formulated question, with no real understanding as to what it means or what the answer should be is a stupid question. As the applicant, you also have a responsibility to exploit the interview to take note of their competency as a representative of the company for which you seek to work. It’s not only about them needing a full understanding of your abilities, you’ll need to also make an informed decision; are the managers you’re meeting up to snuff; will they be qualified to be your manager. It is a little more interesting proposition when you consider it this way, isn’t it.  

So when you interview, have your how, what and why questions ready to go. Ask them anytime during the process you see fit and don’t be afraid to take plenty of notes, even if it means asking them to wait a moment while you jot something down. Most interviewers don’t mind answering your questions although they might ask if they can be addressed later; okay, no problem if it is mutually understood you’ll need the answers before a final interview stage. It’s actually rare when you will interview with a jerk that says or implies, “Hey, I’m the one asking the questions here.” But if this does happen to you be grateful, it will reveal what you could be getting yourself into.  

The most obvious sign an interview is nearing conclusion is when you are asked, “Do you have any questions”. If you’ve been interactive during the meeting it should instead be, “Do you have any final questions”. Unless you’ve just been a lump sitting there and nodding your head feigning involvement, there should have heard something you have questions about. Interviewers are more surprised and often disappointed if you don’t have any questions.  

Most of us are busy working and concentrating on our jobs and interviewing is something we worry about and do only when we must and it’s not something we choose to think much about in our spare time. On the other hand it is a process I have obsessed about for over 20 years. Do some preparation and believe in yourself, even if you think the interviewer is winging it, you can’t afford to and shouldn’t.   

Don’t get the impression I am mocking companies or those tasked with selecting new hires. From their perspective they meet what can seem like an endless line of applicants, it can become mundane and after a while people might all start to look and sound the same, so resolve not to be one of those. Make it count, nobody dragged you kicking and screaming into an interview, you’re there by choice. When you shake their hand recognize the pressure is not only on you and the sword of scrutiny cuts both ways. Confident (not cocky) and self-assured (not self-aggrandizing) people fare better during an interview process and, longer term, you’ll make better decisions when you evaluate and engage them - as much as they are - with you. 

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