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The Compass – Navigating the Interview

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Nov 1, 2011 in Interviewing Skills

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Successfully navigating an interview is like trying to find your way through a jungle: You prepare for the expected and bring the tools to cut through unexpected obstacles. Feeling your way from one question to the next can seem like swinging from tree to tree, tentatively landing on each branch and narrowly escaping a fall or a trap. Knowing what to expect can help you make your way through the thicket a little easier. Preparing answers to some common interview questions — What are your weaknesses? How do you handle stress? — is a good place to start, but you should also be prepared to answer that most common final question: “Do you have any questions for us?” Not having questions prepared can leave your interviewer with a lasting negative impression. Here are some reasons why you should always have thoughtful questions prepared, as well as some tips on what kinds of questions to ask:

Questions Show Off Your Knowledge

If you have properly researched the company and the people who are interviewing you, it will show in the types of questions you ask. Begin your questions with phrases like “I read an article about your company…” or “After I read over your sales reports from last year…” You will let the interviewer know that you have taken the time to learn more about the company and to reflect on how you can contribute to the present and future goals of the company.

Questions Demonstrate Your Commitment

Asking thoughtful questions that reflect additional research or critical thinking demonstrate your commitment to the company and enthusiasm for the job. Asking questions shows that you are serious about learning more about the company and the role you can play. If you ask throwaway questions that could have been answered by looking at the company Web site or other literature, you display a sense of apathy or, worse, a lack of effort.

Ask Conversational Questions

Don’t ever ask your interviewer questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no.” You will waste an opportunity to open up a discussion that can help the interview learn more about you. Instead of asking questions like “Is your company worried about the economic climate?” or “Have you had any layoffs in the last year?” ask open-ended questions like “How has your company adapted to the current economic climate?” and “What has your company done to avoid layoffs that have been seen at other companies?” You will learn more information about the company, and your responses will tell the interviewer more about you.

Ask “Opportunity” Questions

If the interviewer has not asked you the questions that you would have liked to answer during the interviewer — questions whose answers could have explained more about your skills and experience, for example — find ways to create opportunities for these conversations with your own questions. For example, ask questions like “Why is the position vacant?” or “How do you define success for the person hired to fill this role?” After the interviewer answers, you can explain how you would be the successful candidate for the job.

Ask “Future” Questions

When you ask your interviewer questions that look toward the future, you are expressing interest in a long-term relationship that will benefit both you and the company. Ask questions about the company’s goals and future projects, as well as questions about opportunities for advancement within the company or how the interviewer sees the evolution of the position for which you are interviewing.

There are many more types of questions you should not ask during your interview — most of them concerning salary, benefits, vacation times, and other specifics that should only be discussed once you are offered the job. Think carefully about the types of questions you ask, and remember that what you ask says as much about you as what you answer.

Let your questions be your guide and led you through the interview to a successful job!

This guest post is contributed by Erinn Stam, the Managing Editor for a website offering the best nursing careers. She attends Wake Technical Community College and is learning about online flight nursing programs. She lives in Durham, NC with her lovely 4-year-old daughter and exuberant husband.

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