There are many reasons why people fail to progress during the interview process, but a significant mistake is their failure to ask questions during the interview and every subsequent step of the hiring process. Many fail to take full advantage of the event, learning as much as they can with the limited time they have with a hiring manager. A lot of people do only the bare minimum and engage only when it’s expected of them and then seem surprised when they receive no call-back or an invitation to the next step. Still others do all right but they always finish second or third and hiring officials will say, “We liked you, but…” if they tell you anything, at all. We all know that unless a company is conducting multiple hires, there is no prize for second or third-place finishers in the form of a job offer. If you are always close and almost get the job offer but don’t, you’ve got to look in the mirror and figure out, why not?
You might be qualified for the job you seek; perhaps you have a wonderful resume and the interviewer was friendly enough but, during the course of your meeting and near the end when they ask if you have any questions, this is the portion of the interview that in many ways counts the most. It is this question and answer repartee between candidate and hiring manager that will set the tone and afterwards be remembered most; not your resume.
Too much or not enough
Many job seekers mistakenly assume they’ll get on the interviewer’s nerves if they have too many questions – but this is patently silly.
My first piece of advice is: don’t try to anticipate the thoughts or reactions of the interviewer – it will only cause you to second guess yourself and creates self-doubt and that’s not a good impression to leave at an interview. Be yourself, ask the questions you think necessary to gain the level of insight you require, while providing the information they require. For your part, you have an obligation to yourself, in your own self-interest, so don’t be shy.
Most questions asked during an interview are for the sake of clarity and to flesh out details, about your abilities, the scope of the job in question or about their expectations of whomever they hire. Furthermore, we not only need answers but we need to understand the answers so there is no misrepresentation or misinterpretation. Generic answers are never good enough, for neither the interviewer nor the interviewee, informed decisions require more info and mutual understanding. We’re adults and as such we should communicate as adults amongst other adults; if you need more information, ask. Problems after the fact are usually linked to the failure of one side or the other to gain a full understanding of the job or one’s qualifications and abilities. I don’t have patience for complainers, both applicants as well as hiring managers, who failed in their obligation during interviews and later blame something or someone else.
For example: when a hiring manager tells me they are looking for someone senior, my immediate follow-up question is, “How do you define senior?” because their answer is far too vague, should not and cannot be taken at face value. Or when they say they want a self-starter, which is a great sounding cliché albeit it generic, I ask, “can you please share with me your definition of a self-starter?”
When I speak with a person I might represent they may say they are, “…looking for a career growth opportunity.” Without more information, it’s an empty statement with little or no value. But alas, this is the empty, fluffy sound-bite era we live in, full of empty rhetorical flourish.
Okay enough of that, so what’s the point? Hiring managers react surprisingly well to people who go beyond the bare bones minimal and bland question and answer checklist and actually communicate, engaging in a business conversation. Don’t doubt me - you’d be surprised about how many smart and highly-qualified people are very poor (and lazy) communicators. When you make a conscious effort of peeling back the layers of the onion this way, to both provide and extract the critical information you need to make a better-informed decision, you elevate yourself in the eyes of a hiring manager. In addition to what you claim on your resume, this is how you demonstrate your suitability. Don’t shrink away; get to the real substance, the meat and potatoes that will help you to help them. Isn’t that the whole point of the interview and presenting yourself as a solution to their wants and needs?