On Our Minds

Working with so many organizations across multiple issue areas gives us a unique view into what’s happening in the social sector. This is where we share our insights and ruminations.
The worst question to ask during an interview (and how to answer it)
There is a moment near the end of every interview when the interviewer asks if the candidate has any questions he or she would like to ask.  In the past month or two, I have witnessed a notable uptick in the following exchange:

Interviewer: Do you have any questions for me?

Candidate: How do I stack up compared with the other people you are interviewing?

I am not sure why this response has been so popular lately. Perhaps some well-meaning author has just written an article encouraging people to ask this. Whatever the cause, it needs to stop. This question is problematic on multiple levels. Reason #1 – The candidate has just demonstrated that, rather than learning about the organization, the hiring manager, or the role, the candidate would prefer to talk about him or herself. Reason #2 – Feedback is a gift, and the candidate has just demanded that gift, on the spot, right NOW NOW NOW.  When sharing feedback, I like to be prepared – equipped with examples of the skills and interests required for the role and where the fit and/or gap between the candidate and the role lies.  I cannot do this for all interviews all the time, but if and when I do share this kind of feedback, I like to be thoughtful about it. Reason #3 – This question is often a set-up for an even more frustrating follow-up: refuting anything the interviewer cites as a gap in his or her experience, coupled with a sales pitch for why this candidate believes he or she is absolutely perfect for the role.  Please trust me when I say that this typically comes off as passive aggressive and self-interested.  In a situation when the interviewer is uncertain or needs time to process, pressuring that interviewer is not likely to help the situation. Recently, a candidate put one of my clients on the spot like this, and she was not sure what to say in response.  We recommend the following:  “Great question. We are still in the middle of interviewing a number of people so it’s too early to say.” I am curious – have others noticed an uptick in candidates asking this question?  If so, what do you say in response? Email info@on-ramps.com with your thoughts.

- By Michelle Kedem (she/her/hers)