You’d like to believe that when you’re meeting with a hiring manager, they’re prepared, well-trained in the art of interviewing and spent an inordinate amount of time researching your résumé and constructing pertinent questions. I’m sorry to be the one to disappoint you, but this doesn’t happen too often-or at all.
For some reason, management feels that a supervisor can easily segue into the role of interviewer without any advanced training. Since they’re not skilled in the art of interviewing, they’ll usually default to asking cliché-type questions. They won’t deviate too outside of the box, as they don’t want to get in trouble or be accused of saying anything too controversial, inappropriate or violative of rules and regulations.
The questions deemed safe are routinely asked. If you’re prepared, these questions can be your best friend. When you get what they’re driving at, you’ll know how to appropriately answer them. If you prepare ahead of time, it’s like being pitched a slow softball right over home plate and you could hit it out of the ballpark. Here are some commonly asked questions that could trip you up, if you’re not careful.
“Why do you want this job?”
An employer wants to learn about the job seeker’s motivation to interview for this specific job. The hiring manager wants to dig deep into whether or not you really want this role. They desire to determine if you’re simply seeking out any old job, escaping from a bad situation at your current company, only interested in the compensation or covetous of the prestige associated with the firm and having it on your résumé.
What the interviewer is actually asking is, “Are you really interested in this particular role?” If so, here’s your chance to sell them on why you’re the right person with the appropriate skills for this position. By framing the question in this fashion, you can then come up with a carefully crafted answer to address their concerns.
You can lean into your elevator pitch. Offer a clear and concise statement on how your specific skills, experience, education, talents and background match up perfectly with the requirements of the job description. Then, provide solid reasons as to why the company appeals to you, including its culture, reputation, respect and admiration for its products and services, the ability to advance within the organization and other reasons that attracted you to the opportunity. Close the pitch by saying you’re excited that you will be intellectually challenged and afforded the opportunity to learn a great deal, grow your career and create value to the organization.
“How did you learn about the job opening?”
At first blush, this question seems harmless. Don’t be fooled. It’s easy to be tricked by this seemingly innocent question. There’s a shrewd underlying calculation hidden behind this innocuous-sounding query. You’d be naive to believe this is a nice question designed to help the interviewer get to know you. The real reason is much more insidious.
One of the major goals of a hiring manager is to ascertain if you’re serious about this specific job. They want to probe into your rationale for choosing this particular role and company. The hiring manager wants to figure out whether there is a genuine interest in the position or are you desperately scouring all of the job boards, corporate career pages of numerous companies, submitting applications to a large number of LinkedIn job advertisements and combing over all of the job aggregation sites. They’re determining if there’s a sincere interest or you are just fishing and hoping that someone would bite.
If the interviewer feels that you’re shotgunning your résumé everywhere, it will make the interviewer feel that you’re not the right fit, as you don’t have any real connection to the position and company. They’ll presume that this was just another stop on your slapdash indiscriminate search for any job anywhere. The manager will feel that you are not truly interested in this specific position, as you are probably randomly meeting with anyone and everyone to get the best offer.
With this in mind, here’s what the hiring manager would like to hear: “I’m relatively happy in my current job, get along very well with my manager and am well-respected at the office. I’m not currently active in a job search; however, I’ve told some trusted people that I’d be open-minded to hearing about a great opportunity with a top-tier company.” You could follow up with, “I’m doing very well in my current position, my boss greatly appreciates my work. I heard about your open role from a well-respected recruiter who shared the position with me, spoke highly about you as a terrific manager and offered positive accolades about the company.” Then, say something like, “After conducting my own research and due diligence, I recognized that this is a wonderful opportunity and my background and skills are very relevant for the position. While I did not even have a résumé prepared, I quickly put one together, believing that it would be a worthwhile endeavor to at least have a meeting with you.”
This answer reflects that you are highly desired and your company thinks fondly of you, but was told about a role by a knowledgeable source and became genuinely intrigued and interested in the new opportunity. This will make you seem like an attractive candidate who has done their homework and has a legitimate interest in the role and organization.
“Do you have any questions for me?”
I’m routinely asked by apprehensive job seekers, “What should I do when the interviewer asks me, ‘Do you have any questions for me?’” This question seems to stress out candidates to such a degree that they can’t focus on the actual flow of the interview, as they’re busy thinking of a question to ask at the culmination of the meeting-instead of focusing on the questions at hand.
This is a standard question for an interviewer to ask when wrapping up the meeting. It’s become a throwaway question, similar to when someone asks you how your weekend was or how’s the family. You’re not terribly interested in the answer, but feel it’s the nice thing to ask.
Don’t worry about this question, as it will take care of itself. First, view the interview as a natural give-and-take conversation. It shouldn’t be a robotic sequence where the interviewer asks a question, you answer dispassionately, the interviewer asks another question, you answer again-and so on until it’s over.
Think of how you carry a conversation in real life and apply it to the interview. If you are sincerely interested and excited about something the interviewer says, feel comfortable enough to offer a passionate answer with specific thoughtful follow-up questions.
The conversation will flow naturally and you’ll really get to know each other. Think of it as two professionals talking shop. It will become an interesting, engaging, informative and passionate back-and-forth conversation.
The interviewer will learn much more about you because you will truly open up and talk freely. With this more natural approach, just like in everyday conversations, your personality will shine through. They’ll also tend to like you more because you helped them with the difficult task of being an interviewer.
By the time it comes to the dreaded question, you won’t even have to worry. At the culmination of the interview, the interviewer may not even inquire if you have any questions because you have already asked a number of intelligent ones.
If they do ask and you don’t really have anything left that you would like addressed, you can reply by saying, “You have been very gracious in taking the time to answer all of my questions. I appreciate the open and informative dialogue. It was helpful for me to gain an understanding of the company, the job and its requirements. I feel confident that I possess the skills, background, experience, ability and desire to succeed in the role. What do you think?”
If you have a few remaining questions, since you’ve already established an open dialogue, you won’t feel uncomfortable asking another genuine question or two.
Another approach would be to rephrase some of the questions you asked and sum up your understanding of the answers. This will illustrate that you were listening to their answers. Then, if you’d like, you can turn the tables and ask, “Do you have any questions for me?”
Originally published at https://www.forbes.com.