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Ask A Lot of Questions....

Ask A Lot of Questions....

I submit that a well thought-out, relevant question is better then a good answer.   Well, okay … maybe not a GREAT answer.  In any case, relevant questions are critical in distinguishing yourself from the pack.  By asking good questions, you challenge your interviewer to THINK rather than forcing them to reiterate the company line.  Whenever you can cause another human being to think, you will immediately create the perception of intelligence.

What is a good relevant question?

A good, relevant question must demonstrate one or more of these attributes: attention, intelligence, capability, motivation, and personality.

Attention:  Unfortunately, this attribute is most often overlooked … yet it is incredibly vital to success.  For some reason, individuals enter interviews with good questions and demonstrate some of the attributes mentioned, but will fail to utilize the material being covered.  In my opinion, they are missing the "gimme" questions and are not addressing the interviewers’ obvious hot buttons.  YOU MUST UTILIZE THE MATERIAL BEING COVERED.  By asking a well thought-out question and utilizing the material being discussed, you demonstrate an interest in and attentiveness to each topic.  Furthermore, your interviewer will be convinced that you embody the principles or beliefs that they have set forth; whether you do or not is irrelevant.  Everyone wants to believe that when they speak, others will agree with him or her and are “on board.”  Use your questions to demonstrate that you have been listening and are in agreement with their principles.

Intelligence:  As stated above, when you cause someone to think, you create the perception of intelligence.  Before you create your question, think about what your interviewer’s response will be.  Does your question require reasoning, comparison, and analysis … or just recitation?  Form your questions so that your interviewer must draw on their own experience and expertise before answering your question.  For Example:  If you are applying for any sales positions, you could ask the following: "What sales techniques have you found to be the most successful for your current representatives?  Are there any techniques you have found to not work as well as others or have not yet been explored to their full potential?"  These are simple questions that make your interviewer reason, compare, and analyze.  But more importantly, what do they do for you?  These questions will demonstrate that you are interested in learning about what works for the team, avoiding the mistakes made by your predecessors, and learning the areas which your interviewer believes could be improved upon.  This would be one less thing they would need to teach you after you’re hired.  Make your interviewer think!

Capability:  Capability is really tricky!  You’re either capable, or you're not.  If you're applying for a Java position, and all you know is Visual Basic, then you're not really capable.  However, that doesn't mean you're incapable of getting the job.  All it means is that your current strengths need to be expanded.  Your questions here must demonstrate that you’re capable of learning and becoming a productive member of the organization quickly.  Ask questions that would show common themes to each developmental platform, while also demonstrating your current knowledge of software development.  If on the other hand you are capable, don't forget to get that point across.  Don't rely on your resume to serve as your only recommendation.  Ask questions that demonstrate your knowledge of the development language and prescribed practices or methodologies.  Never assume that someone thinks you're capable. Prove to them that you are capable by posing good questions.

Motivation:  Although I never uttered the phrase, "Is their going to be extra credit" during school, I have since learned that in interviews, the implied "extra effort" is an important selling tool.  Your questions should not only demonstrate your acceptance of the defined responsibilities but they should also go beyond and address additional opportunities.  By acknowledging the defined responsibilities and moving on to the additional opportunities, you remove any concerns held by your interviewer about you addressing the most important areas.  However, be careful. You must demonstrate your motivation to meet the DEFINED RESPONSIBILITIES before addressing your interest in additional opportunities.  For Example:  If you are applying for a help desk position, you could ask the following: "After I finish my shift, will there be an opportunity for me to sit down with another help desk person and listen to how they assist customers?”  I know this sounds a little sappy, but I’m sure you get the point.  Ask questions that demonstrate your desire to meet their current needs and beyond.

Personality:  The cliché is still the best advice, be yourself. But be yourself on a first date … your best self.  Don't be afraid to interject humor (if it’s applicable).  Don't believe that the only thing important to them is to learn about you … learn about them!  Try to smile and nod a lot.  Cover the spectrum of positive emotions (i.e. happy, funny, enthusiastic, sincere, etc.).  Regardless of how your interviewer acts, stay your course and continue on with the positive emotions.  Ask questions that would demonstrate positive emotions.

Make your interviewer THINK and you will make them THINK better of you!





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