I am working on filling a Senior-level consultant position for a client. A few weeks ago I had a phone interview with a candidate, Eric. He did very well in the phone interview so I brought him in to meet with the hiring Manager and a few peers. Again Eric performed well in the interview, with one caveat - everyone who met him thought he was highly qualified, but questioned if maybe he was "a bit arrogant." They concluded that perhaps he was just reserved and elected to bring him back for a final interview with the hiring manager, myself, and one of our Board Members.
When I was arranging the interview, I told Eric who all would be present and made a point of telling him that this was his time to ask questions about the organization, the mission and how the consultants fit in. I actually make a point of telling most candidates, "You will have a chance to ask questions during this interview..." because I am testing them to see if they come prepared with questions.
During the interview, our Board member asked Eric if he had any questions he would like to ask, and to my amazement, Eric, simply said, "No." He offered no explanation for his lack of curiosity and the conversation went dead. Eric had a Board Member and the hiring Manager in the room, and he failed to take advantage of the opportunity to build a collegial relationship with them. Needless to say, this behavior came across as arrogant, the rest of the interview fizzled, and we decided not to offer him the position. But here's the strange thing...when I called to tell him that "at this time we are pursuing other candidates", he was genuinely surprised. He thought he had the interview locked up and couldn't imagine why we didn't pick him.
Here's why asking good, relevant, business questions is so important in an interview situation:
- Asking questions demonstrates an interest in building a relationship. If you are going to work for a company and be successful there, you will have to build strong collegial relationships with the folks you work with and with your customers.
- Asking good business questions gives you a chance to demonstrate that you have already been investing yourself in the position - that you have done some research and you have been thinking about how you can make a contribution.
- Asking questions demonstrates respect. Especially in a situation where a high level Manager, the President, or a Board Member is taking time to meet with you, you want to respect their position and the fact that they have knowledge and insight that you don't have.
- Asking questions shows intellectual curiosity and a willingness to learn. No one wants to work with someone who already knows it all (especially in this case where we were hiring someone to work with clients, we needed to know that they didn't try to "have all the answers" but could build rapport).
- Asking questions demonstrates good social skills. Mary Kay Ash (founder of Mary Kay cosmetics) built an empire on the simple premise that it's good business to assume that everyone is walking around with a sign on their chest that says, "Please make me feel special!"
So if you are going in to an interview situation, be prepared to ask good questions about the company, about the position, and about the people who are interviewing you. Brazen Careerist has some great advice on how to ask good questions in an interview. The questions you ask in the interview tell people what type of employee you will be - so put some effort into preparing your questions, and let your best, talented, most productive self shine through!