Friday, February 05, 2010

Questions (Not) To Ask During an Interview

assertTrue( ) has a list of 9 question to ask during an interview on their website but I figured it would be a good idea to expand on their list of questions not to ask from the candidate and the interviewer. Here are 5 for each:

For the candidate:

1. Don't ask about time off. If you have a vacation planned after you're supposed to start the new position, there's a time and a place about it. But don't start your relationship with a hiring manager or human resource professional by talking about how much time you won't be spending in the office

2. Be careful about how you talk about your last/current employer. There are good reasons why you want to leave your job and then there are reasons that will send up huge red flags at your new company. Don't hide anything from them that they need to know...but don't start by talking about the body odor of your current boss.

3. Don't ask any question about the company you can find out on the website. There is a fine line between being interested about a company and finding out more and being lazy and just not searching the company's website before the interview. Actually, it isn't a fine line. Do your research before you step into the office.

4. Leave something non-essential off the resume. I feel that some question will come up that's best described by something that's not essential to be on the resume, but something which will describe you well. If you were president of an organization but that was years ago, you can talk about the initiative you took to climb up the ranks without having it as one line in a resume. Also, if there's something on your resume just to pad it, it may look like you're confused about your career path and/or using a generic resume. Don't do that.

5. Don't go in without any knowledge of who you'll be speaking with. Not everyone has a bio up on the website, but if they do, give it a little study. If they don't, ask the person who sets up the interview to tell you a little bit about who you'll be interviewing with. Eventually you'll get a chance to ask a question and you don't want to be totally stumped/totally unoriginal. If you've done the research into them, it'll pay off.

For the HR Professional/Hiring Manager

1. Don't be nervous. I guarantee the person sitting across from you is 100x more nervous that you are. If you're nervous, it'll make them nervous and make for a very awkward interview. Some people hate operating in this type of setting but you need to find a way to feel comfortable doing this.

2. Force the interviewee to go off script. Basically, don't ask only generic questions. Ask them something they will have to think about for a few seconds and show some creativity/problem solving skills in thinking. Maybe talk about a problem and see how they would solve it or ask them how they feel about something in current events relating to the job (or to something else). In one of my interviews for my current role, I spent more than half the time speaking about A-Rod opting out of his contract with the Yankees. It had nothing to do with the role, but it allowed me to show how I spoke, how I solved problems and my creative side. But most importantly, it forced me to go off script.

3. Read the resume before the interview. I've had way too many interviews where I could tell the person interviewing me had no clue anything about me. If you're expecting the candidate to be prepared and do research on the company, you should provide the same courtesy and do the minimal amount of research required to read their resume. It can also help you frame questions for #2.

4. Keep the interview moving. You're like the producer of a radio show. If the host or callers get off topic for too long, you're job is to move it along to the next step. Don't cut anyone off, but you can't allow an interviewer to just ramble. Part of any job is fitting what you need to say within a timeframe and this is great practice for it. Also, you don't want the interviewee veering into too many personal details, so keep it on track.

5. Know what the position requires. This seems like it should be above for "candidates" but I think this is just as important for interviewers. I had an interview where the job description, HR representative and hiring manager all gave me a different shpeel about what the position required. There's no easier way to confuse a candidate than not being all on the same page. I was asked about certain licenses that had nothing to do with the job and the HR rep thought I was wholly unqualified by the time she got done speaking with me, when, in fact, I had all the requirements listed on the job description. It's not considerate to the person being interviewed.

Hope those are some good hints. I figured it was a few non-obvious Dos and Do Nots for the interviewer and the interviewee.


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