The Question I Wish Interviewees Would Stop Asking

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I had an uncomfortable thing happen to me during an interview. Towards the end of the interview, I said to the interviewee, “What questions can I answer for you?” Questions about the company, team structure, specific projects, my favorite thing about the company– those are all things that I am all very comfortable talking about. Those are questions that I expect to be asked. That, however, is not the question that they asked. “How do you think I did in this interview?” HUH? I was a little stunned. It’s just a terrible question to ask your interviewer. I thought it was a one off. But then several interviews later, it happened again. Different candidates, same question. I’m not sure who is telling candidates to ask this during an interview but I’d wish that they’d stop. Opinion as a hiring manager or being on an interview panel –  AWKWARD!

First, its off-putting to your interviewer and literally drives the momentum of the interview to a screeching halt. They are not expecting this question so it totally ruins the flow of the interview, no matter how good or how bad the things were going. On the surface, it seems like you’re fishing for a compliment. Realistically, the hiring manager or interviewer hasn’t had a chance to think about your interview in relation to other candidates or get feedback from any other panelist. My point, you’ve introduced an element of negativity to your interview and there is little if anything to be gained from it.

Secondly, your interview is all about selling yourself and putting your best “you” forward. You have limited time with an interview panel or hiring manager. Spend that precious time talking about your skills and the position or making a positive, memorable impression. This is especially true if you are having a panel interview or multiple interviews — you may have one bad interview, but ace the other interviews which may go a long way when the panelists get together to discuss the candidates. Talk about the things that you’ve done, the things that you can do, the things that you want to do for the team and for the company. Talking about the interview itself is not a high priority – -its like having a meeting about the meeting.

Finally, you kinda know if you have rawked an interview or if you have tanked it. You don’t need someone else to validate what you already know in your gut. What you may not know is if the other people who interview had great interviews or if they had terrible interviews. You can’t control that and so don’t dwell on it.  Be positive. Be happy.  Keep the focus on you.

If you want feedback, in my opinion, its appropriate to ask for feedback after the interview, preferably after a decision has been made. Its an easy way to say “thank you for your time and consideration” and show that you are open to feedback and continuous improvement even if you were not offered the job. You might be tempted to ask the manager and everyone who interviewed you, but start with the recruiter and ask them for their feedback first and if they think its appropriate for you to reach back out in this way to the hiring manager.

… and what do I say when I get asked that question?  “I’m happy to follow up with you at the end of the interview process with the recruiter. You’ve been in the hot seat answering all of our questions, its now your turn to put us (me) on the spot and ask me anything that you want to know about the process, the positions, the team, the company, or anything else that may have come up in the interview process. What questions can I answer for you? :)

Do you have a question(s) as a hiring manager, HR manager, or recruiter,  that you wish interviewers wouldn’t ask?

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Comments

  1. I think that they have to ask, so many company recruiters leave candidates with little or no feedback. If you have invited them in for an interview and they have traveled, taken the day off work, got childcare etc, they can ask how they have done there and then, shows tenacity and enthusiasm for the job. We like to be upfront and honest with our interviewees and sometimes even say in an interview ‘we don’t think this is right for you’, and take the time to explain why and how they could improve. All candidates have been so respectful of this and I generally get an email to thank me for the feedback. All part of a good candidate experience, which all recruiters are trying to create, especially being a SME. If someone asks, just say ‘we will give feedback to all candidates after we have seen everyone’, I would think this is a better solution than looking stunned. I like that someone has the guts to ask me what I think of them, its confidence a lot of us need!

    Indi P |
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  2. I would prefer a question more along the lines of “What are the next steps after today’s interview,” versus the “how did I do” question.

    Shannon |
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  3. Great post! I’ve known career coaches and resume writers who suggest that job seekers ask this question during the interview. Having been the one interviewing behind the desk, a question like that is a death sentence. Of course, having been the one being interviewed many times, I left the interview knowing I totally rocked it only to never receive a call or any feedback.

    This confusion and frustration that happens as part of the hiring and selection process is the original reason I started this blog. My company’s legal team has advised me to not provide feedback to the candidate as it puts them in a potential discrimination situation if I give the wrong feedback or send an impression that leads the candidate down the discrimination path.

    Asking the above question is just like asking at the end of the date, “What do you think? How was our date?” It just sends the wrong impression.

    JMM

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  4. Rephrase the question. Ask what skills and qualities are important to the position applied for. What the team culture is like and get spacific. How much overtime is normal, don’t ask how much is expected. Whether they show up to work on time or half an hour early. How strictly employees stick to the dress code. Any policies or examples of how management gives employee feed back. Reasons for which employees have been promoted.

    I’m always tempted to ask where management struggles the most when they ask me what my worst quality is but I’m not suggesting this.

    Cathy |
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  5. I asked this question on a recent phone interview, kind of as a humorous ice breaker, because the interviewer was cold as ice. I couldn’t see her face, couldn’t hear any inflection in her voice. I really wanted the job, so I was nervous to boot. What I have been told by HR professionals is that they forget how nervous a candidate is. If this simple question is the “kiss of death,” then the HR professional isn’t very professional and may lose out on a candidate that would be perfect for the job and the company. I believe a simple “you are doing fine” would have been perfectly calming and would in no way incite a legal situation. I agree, the HR professionals I know absolutely hate this question, however, they have also understood that this is not about them, it is about the company and who is the best for the job.

    Megan P |
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  6. First of all, there seems to be a discrepency on what a job interview actually is. More than anything else it is an exchange and gathering of information between the interviewer and the candidate. This process should not be mutually exclusive. I think the candidate has just as much right to ask whatever he or she wants just as the interviewer does. With that said, there are better ways than others to ask a question, especially if you are a candidate hopping to land a job. In this situation I would suggest taking this approach: At the end of the interview if the interviewer asks the candidate if they have any questions answer the following way: ( Say this with confidence, conviction, not arrogence, and smile, remember they asked you if you had any questions.) Yes Mr. Ms. I do. Now that we have had a chance to meet face to face and talk about the position in more detail do you have any concerns related to my experience that might prevent you from taking me to the next step in the hiring process? Think about it this way, what is the worst thing that could happen? You don’t get an answer or maybee he or she says I’ll be discussing it with so and so and a decision will be made next week. You might actually get them to tell you something you did wrong or a concern they have about your experience/resume that you can address before you leave. This approach might or might not work but one thing is for sure, if you never do it then it will never work. As for the idea that an interviewer would be put off by such a question I feel that it shows them that the candidate is very serious not only about the job but about being successful at it. For those of you that are not familiar with sales its called “clossing the deal” I believe that if done right it can be very effective.

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  7. Mark,

    Unfortunately, in my case, all of the “steps” had been laid out for me. She had told me what was going to happen if I was chosen prior to me asking. I think if I had asked it in the way you recommend, I would have been out for not listening or still would have been stonewalled due to liability.

    I agree, it is very much “closing the deal.” Furthermore, in every aspect of every job, we are expected to receive feedback in a quarterly/yearly review so that we can do more of what is right or work on the weaknesses. Interviewing for the job should be taken in the same light as having it. Perhaps the writer of this article can spread the word and make this a positive and not a negative.

    Megan P |
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  8. One question that I’ve heard job seekers ask, after asking all of anticipated questions about the company, position, etc. is “what in my qualifications and background would give you pause to not hire me?” Bold? Yes. But I kind of liked the approach. It gives the interviewee a chance to address any concerns before leaving the interview.

    In this case, the interviewee said that the recruiter was caught off guard by the question, but said “that’s a great question!”

    As with all interactions, I think it depends on the personalities involved.

    Kelli |
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  9. This is where I teach my clients differently. I believe a interview is about just having a conversation, nothing more and nothing less. Most Interviewees are too robotic and too nervous to set themselves apart. Be prepared, not robotic. With that said I believe that this is a very awkward question to ask the Interviewer. If you would like some insight into the interview I would advise my clients to ask, I am very interested In this position, what are the next steps in the process.

    Jason |
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  10. I agree 100% with the writer. If the candidate is that clueless about what credentials or experience the company is looking for, or that clueless about the words, posture, responses, and questions that just took place, then the candidate is wrong for the position. It can be frustrating, but with most companies receiving nearly 1000 applicants per position, it might help folks understand why they could not possibly reply to everyone who applies, nor the dozens who interview. Welcome to the New Age, where we seem to all work in front of a C.G.I. Blue Screen, but never get a chance to view the finished film. Though we are detached from person-t0-person contact ever-more, we need to be far more cognisant of how the overall interview, face-to-face, is going.

    Courtney |
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  11. Hi Courtney,
    What would you suggest when it is a phone interview and the interviewer give no feedback or voice inflection so that you can see if you are on track with what the interviewer is expecting to hear? When you can’t see them, you can see their facial expressions or posture to get a feel for how they are responding to you on the phone, you cannot. By the way, I was approached by the recruiter due to a LinkedIn connection. Early in the phone conversation the interviewer told me what the steps in the process were so asking about the “next steps” would have made me look like I wasn’t listening.

    Megan P |
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  12. I’ve loved reading all the comments and responses over the past couple of weeks about the article :). I held back a little because I wanted to see where it might go. As a job seeker, its your call to make if you want to try this during the interview or during another place in the interviewing process (IMHO, there are opportunities to get “feedback”, I’m saying, just don’t do it in the interview). You may impress your interviewer with assertiveness or you may turn them off – job seekers need to know that and then make the call. Also, I know that we’ve been using this in a “negative” context in regards to a bad interview – but frankly you could have an AWESOME interview but the person after you has one that is even better — or perhaps your skills or experience aren’t the best fit for that role at that time. There are many factors OTHER than the interview that go into the hiring process. Its a process with many steps in it – for both sides of the table.

    Andrea Devers |
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