On Our Minds

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

filed under For Job Seekers For Organizations   |  posted on December 03, 2014