Proactive Interviewing: The First Mover Advantage (and other tips)

The process of interviewing for a new job can be an onerous one.  The questions can feel canned and we believe we have to perform on command, reciting a series of rehearsed answers to the most common questions. Both parties are hoping that the process will be enjoyable and informative. The good news is that it can be, as long as you are comfortable taking an active role in driving the process. Your answers to the hiring agent’s questions are important. Just as important, however, are the questions YOU ask during or after the interview.  In fact, it is your ability to ask thoughtful, relevant questions that is your ticket to a job offer.

The good news is that it can be, as long as you are comfortable taking an active role in driving the process.

Good questions build rapport – Having watched hundreds of interviews between hiring authorities and candidates, I can tell you that the job seekers who ask effective questions build better rapport with the hiring authority, are more memorable and are seen as better informed and insightful.  He/she who speaks first WINS! Successful candidates, in my experience, set the agenda of the meeting by asking what the interviewer would like to cover. This question drives engagement and creates real opportunities for rapport building.

…in my experience, set the agenda of the meeting by asking what the interviewer would like to cover.

Look for common ground – Build momentum and rapport by asking the interviewer about himself/herself. Finding common interests can reduce social tension. This allows for true information sharing to begin. A good sign that you have established rapport is that the interview is now a conversation instead of a seemingly routine exchange of information.

A good sign that you have established rapport is that the interview is now a conversation instead of a seemingly routine exchange of information.

Ask questions to uncover the key deliverables – Ask questions that show you are interested in the specific goals of the position. For example, what are the different milestones that the hiring authority or interviewer would like to see hit in the first 3, 6 or 9 months?

Do your research – Turn the interview into a problem solving session by asking probing questions about the business and the competitive landscape. Ensure that you have done your homework as you are likely to have the client ask for your opinion once you engage. If you do not know the major competitors then you will look uniformed and remember that the more senior the position the more insightful your questions need to be.

 Ensure that you have done your homework as you are likely to have the client ask for your opinion once you engage.

Here are 10 great questions that you can ask during the interview process.  Take the time to write them down and make sure that you do research to inform yourself where necessary:

  1. What do you see as the key measures of success in this job?
  2. What would constitute a big win for the person in this role?
  3. What is the composition of the existing team?
  4. How do you see my skillset as relevant to the challenges you are facing? What do you think would make for a better fit?
  5. Who is the top performer on the team and why is he/she successful?
  6. Is there a recipe for success that I can follow?
  7. What quality do you value the most in an employee? Why?
  8. What are the opportunities for professional development?
  9. What tools are available for us to collaborate?
  10. 10.In this position what are the different milestones for the 3 month mark? 6 month?

In any interview it pays to be informed.  Take the time to learn about the company you are applying to.  Educate yourself about the competitive landscape they operate in.  Understand the challenges that are currently facing their industry.  Then use your research to ask thoughtful, perceptive questions. Focus on building rapport and engagement. Find common ground and let the interview evolve into a conversation.  This will allow you to win the interview and land the job. I would wish you good luck, but I don’t think you are going to need any.