Top performers don’t just have the right answers. They know the right questions, too. Getty
In the job interview process, what sets top performers apart is always an intriguing question. Because top performers aren’t afraid to ask intriguing questions. Top job candidates understand how to turn a job interview question into a dialogue. Do you?
As the quotation goes, “Fortune favors the bold”. It’s hard to gauge success if you don’t know where you stand. Top performers take initiative in responding to questions, in order to find out if their answers are really a good fit for the role. Imagine if an interviewer said, “You would be our top candidate, if only you had more skills in finance.” Is that response depressing? Or descriptive? Actually, it’s both – because that feedback is a gift. That insight gives you two opportunities:
- Share what you left out, so that you shore up any questions about your past experience in finance. Do you have additional training or examples that can help show what was missing?
- Look forward to find the skills you need: What can you do, right now, to show that your background isn’t a liability – and that your initiative is an asset? Explain how you would put a plan in place, to expand your knowledge of finance, and give yourself another chance at the finance question.
Top performers (and top job candidates) see the interview process for what it truly is: a conversation. Leaders use feedback for guidance, and as an opportunity for elaboration. Here are four questions that can help you to change the conversation:
- Culture Club: Remember this maxim of interviewing: general questions get general answers. “What’s the culture like around here?” is as broad as all outdoors, and doesn’t reflect any real interest or insight on your part. What specific element of the company culture would you like to know about? Based on your research, or your conversations with other employees, what suspicions do you need to confirm? Be directed and specific in your questions; that approach demonstrates a thoughtful approach to the issues you care about.
- Fit and Finish: once you’ve given your response, and you’ve addressed the skills question, or a hypothetical situation… aren’t you curious to know how you did? Many candidates stop with just their answer, breathe a sigh of relief, and wait patiently for the next question. But the conversation isn’t completed yet. Top performers realize that knowing where you stand is the first step towards landing the role. Consider finishing your answer with a question, to make sure you know where you stand: “How does my answer fit for the way you envision this position?” And then: listen carefully – and completely – to their answer. You might just find out what’s missing!
- Learn Not to Lecture: You can listen with your eyes, even when you are talking. Use your powers of perception to see if the interview is really flowing, or if you are just lost in a memory from 2016, when you listen with your eyes. If you sense that you’re veering off track, tune in to the body language of your interviewer. Slow down, and make sure you’re making your point. Are you answering a question that no one has asked? Or taking too long with your answer? Remember, it’s a conversation. Don’t lecture in the interview – even if you’re being hired as a lecturer. “Does what I’ve said so far answer your question?” can be a great way to find out if you are on track – or out of bounds. Listening with your eyes can help make sure you don’t overshare in your answers.
- Stack It Up: this option isn’t a fit for everyone, or for every interview. But, when you feel that things are going your way, and that there is a strong connection to your resume as well as your interview skills, consider the best way to advance in the interview. Maybe you’ve made it down to the final two or three candidates; wouldn’t it be great to know how you compare? There’s one – and only one – sure-fire way to know where you stand. You need to ask. Again, this may feel too bold, and it may not be right in every interview, but top performers earn the right to find out more than the rest of the pack. If you’re interviewing for a leadership role, where taking initiative is expected, why not start in the interview process? When the interviewer asks if you have any additional questions, consider this one: “If you are willing to share, I’d like to know: How do I stack up against the other candidates for this position?”
Either for your current interview, or your next one: the key to your success is knowing where you stand. Break up your monologue and check in with your interviewer – make it a conversation. Top performers don’t repeatedly over-ask for feedback. Yet you deserve to get a clear read on the interview, and the company. Otherwise, why are you sitting in the chair? Your questions matter, so make sure you know where you stand. Creating a back-and-forth dialogue is the goal for every top performer. A job interview is not an inquisition, or a lecture hall where you have the podium. Instead, consider the conversation as a balancing act. Don’t over-ask for feedback, or over-share in your answers – focus on your listener and make sure you are giving them what they need!
Top performers ask and answer with brevity, encouraging dialogue. Why? Because your interviewer can provide clues and guideposts for your story, if you tune in. Start listening with your eyes. Find out how your answers fit for their vision of the role, and you just might find yourself one step closer to filling it.