Editor’s Note: This blog is a modified excerpt from professional “headhunter” and bestselling job-hunting book author Skip Freeman’s next book in the “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets series of job-hunting books, Career Stalled? Publication is scheduled for late fall.
In virtually every job interview you’ll ever have, after you have already been asked—and answered—numerous other questions, you can almost be guaranteed that the hiring manager will ask you a closing question that goes something like this:
“Now, do you have any questions for me?”
Almost unerringly the unprepared or ill-prepared job candidate will respond with something inane like this:
“No, not really. You’ve pretty much answered all of my questions.”
At first glance, you may conclude that there really doesn’t seem to be anything particularly “wrong” or ill-advised about such a response. After all, you may reason, aren’t you actually paying the hiring manager a strong compliment by suggesting that he or she did such a superior, thorough job of interviewing you that virtually every one of your questions has already been answered? I can assure you that an answer like this usually will not be received in such a positive light by most hiring managers. Let me explain why that’s true.
To succeed in a job interview in today’s job market, you, as a candidate, must continually be engaged and thoroughly and actively be involved in the interview process from start to finish. The way you demonstrate that engagement, that involvement, is by asking pertinent questions at appropriate times, by probing for more information. And nowhere is this approach more important than at the end of the interview, when the hiring manager asks what questions you have for him or her. If you take the approach just mentioned above, the approach most candidates take, by the way, you seriously risk coming across as someone who…
- Really didn’t pay all that much attention and/or apparently wasn’t all that “engaged,” during the entire interview;
- Is essentially apathetic and apparently totally lacking in curiosity;
- Is not really all that interested in the position.
How You Should Answer the Question
In my executive recruiting firm, Hire to Win, here is just one way we coach all of our candidates to answer the hiring manager’s closing question (“Do you have any questions for me?”):
“First, thank you for taking the time to interview me today. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity and am even more excited about this position after having talked to you today.
“I do have a couple of questions. The first one concerns your performance standards. If you look down the road one year from today, what would the candidate you ultimately select for this position have had to accomplish during the year to make you say that you made a good hiring decision?”
Obviously, you would wait for the hiring manager to answer this question, and then you would follow up with what may be the most crucial thing you can say at the end of any job interview:
“Well, at the risk of sounding too proud, you have just described how I will approach this position, if I turn out to be the candidate you select. That’s the kind of dedication and commitment I will bring to the job.
“And my final question is, what are the NEXT STEPS in the hiring process? What will I need to do in order to stay ‘in the running’?”
For obvious reasons, this final question from you is what I (and other hiring professionals, of course) refer to as the “NEXT STEPS” question, and it is key to your leaving a positive, final, lasting impression at the end of a job interview. Asking this question will brand you as different from and better than the overwhelming majority of other candidates who will also be interviewed for the position. Not only will most of these other candidates not ask the “next steps” question, most won’t even think of asking it! Instead, most will simply say that, no, they really don’t have any questions for the hiring manager, that he or she has answered ALL questions they may have had (or ever will have!) about the position and career opportunity!
Hiring Manager ‘Feedback’
There are no “magic” words to use in your closing, “next steps” question, of course, and the words used in this blog are merely suggestive of how you can effectively phrase your question. The important point is that you would be well advised to commit to taking this approach at the end of each and every job interview you may have during your job search. The payoff can be significant and substantial. Here, for example, is what a hiring manager told me over the phone recently, in a routine “after-action” report, about one of our candidates who effectively employed this approach at the end of her job interview:
“She interviewed very well, answering all the important questions thoroughly and satisfactorily,” he said. “The thing that I was most impressed with, though, were some of the questions she asked at the end of the interview. By the end of most interviews, the majority of candidates can’t seem to wait for the interview to be over and usually have no questions whatsoever. Or if they do, I am somewhat less than impressed with the questions they ask.
(She ended up getting the job, by the way!)
And, of course, this isn’t the first and only time I have received this kind of feedback from hiring managers regarding our candidates employing the “next steps” question approach. Why is this approach impressive to so many hiring managers? Because, as this hiring manager said, it is so unusual for a candidate—any candidate!—to ask even ONE question at the end of an interview. And, even if they do ask questions, the questions usually come across as frivolous and non-responsive and end up doing the candidate more harm than good! Or—worse yet!—the final question some of these candidates do ask might be along these lines,
“Yes, I do have one question. What does this job pay?”
Now, that question is usually a real “deal-killer”! But that, however, is grist for a future blog!
Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.