“Two critical questions”
Does it seem as if you’re at the mercy of companies when it comes to your job search? You are, for the most part – except at two critical times when you are in a position to influence by asking questions. Yet you probably don’t.
The first time is at the end of the first interview with a new company. The second is at the end of your tenure with a company – when you resign or are asked to leave.
First, let’s look at the job interview. Generally, you follow the interviewer’s lead. You wait for the right time to ask questions about the position and the company. Sometimes, they ask at the end, “Do you have any other questions?”
This is your cue. Some people say, “No, I think everything was covered” or ask something they’ve been wondering about. But very few use this time to further influence the interviewer by saying something like:
“This has been a great meeting. I have a better understanding of the position and what you’re looking for. Do you think I’m as well qualified for the position as I do?”
What’s the big deal? You’ve just opened up a huge opportunity. For one thing, you’ve asked the interviewer to tell you what he or she thinks of you and your chances of getting the job. Two, you’ve given her the opportunity to tell you where she thinks you fall short and for you to correct that perception. Three, you now can make more of a favorable impression.
For example, if they say, “I think you’ve got 80% of what we need, but I’m concerned that you don’t have much experience with customer relations,” here’s your chance to clarify. Without this feedback, you wouldn’t be able to address it, probably wouldn’t get the position and you’d never know why.
Employers are being very choosy these days and if they have a list of 12 qualifications and you only fit 10, you’re likely to get screened out.
You also now know where you stand. When I asked people how an interview went, many times they have no clue. When you ask this question, you can plan your next move. And, depending on the answer, you can close this chapter or move to the final question of the interview: What’s the next step in your interview process?
The other crucial time to ask questions is the day you leave your job at a company. Especially if you’re leaving on a sour note. Assuming you’re talking to your boss, you should ask what kind of reference they – as well as human resources – will be.
You need to ask, “What will you be telling a potential employer if they call?”
If more people did this I wouldn’t receive so many letters like the one I got last week from a woman asking: “What do you do when your previous employer is giving out bad references? I couldn’t understand why I was wasn’t even getting considered and now I know why.”
There are services you can pay $35 to $100 to call up and find out what your former employer is saying about you. But why not ask your employer before you leave the company? This way, you can talk about it and come up with something that’s mutually agreeable. Although there’s no guarantee of what they’ll say, it doesn’t behoove the company to bad-mouth you, either.
Most people don’t think to do this or aren’t willing to bring this up. And they miss out on two critical times to influence their future.