‘JT & Dale Talk Jobs’ is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country and can be found at JTandDale.com.
Dear J.T. & Dale: Yesterday I had a phone interview. The interviewer asked me two questions: (1) What was a difficult situation you’ve experienced, and how did you handle it? (2) What computer programs do you have experience with? That was it. The rest of the time, she spoke about the company and position. I spent two days preparing for this interview, and she hardly asked me any questions. In fact, she kept asking me if I had any questions. It’s driving me crazy, because I can’t tell how it went. — Nadidra
Dale: The first thing to be aware of is that most managers are terrible interviewers. Because they misunderstand their role and come to see their jobs as answerers of questions, they lose curiosity. Eventually, they don’t know how to ask questions, so they end up blathering about themselves.
J.T.: Which is one explanation for why she was begging you to ask her questions. Or, it could have been her way of seeing how much you had prepared for the interview — I hope you asked some great questions.
Dale: Speaking of which, here’s an interesting question for our readers: If you’re getting ready for interviews, what percentage of your time should you spend preparing questions to ask? Most people never give it a thought. I, however, would devote 50 percent of prep time to questions to ask; after all, your goal is to have a good give-and-take conversation. What should you ask? My favorite is, “What kind of people do best here?” It will tell you a lot about the culture, about your prospective boss’s expectations, and will mark you as someone who wants to excel without resorting to braggadocio. Further, in addition to asking about the company, you’d ask why the job is open, about the people who have held the job previously and about your new co-workers. This is your chance to show that you are not just interested in yourself and your salary/benefits, but that you are interested in contributing to the team.
J.T.: As for trying to figure out how the interview went, I wouldn’t over-analyze it. There is nothing you can do now, except this: After a few business days, follow up to see where they are in the screening process. At that time, you could mention your preparation for the interview and say something like, “I didn’t get to convey all that I wanted to, so I hope I’ll have a chance to share more in the next round.”
Dale: And I hope what you’ll share is your curiosity — write down 20 questions and use 10. Put yourself in a position to be impressed, and they’ll find you impressive.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm, JTODonnell.com, and of the career management blog, CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com.
Please visit them at JTandDale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.
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