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 firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts.
– By Michelle Kedem