It’s Friday, and that means we have a winner in the Talk to the Work Buzz! Contest.
This week’s topic was interviewing, and we had several readers submit excellent questions. (Thanks!) Alas, we could only pick one, and it came from Janet Jansen. Here’s what she asked:
“Is it appropriate to read from notes in an interview? For example, questions I would like to askthe prospective employer about the job and company.”
This question is excellent for a few reasons, and upon reading it, we realized we should’ve address it before. So here’s our chance.
We and other experts advise job seekers to be prepared. Do your research, ask questions about the company, make eye contact, look interested, don’t fidget. In other words, be as perfect as you can be. Sounds easy, right?
A few problems naturally arise from this expectation. Everyone is a little (or very) nervous on a job interview. Therefore you’re likely to forget some of the questions you wanted to ask or some of the factoids about the company that you wanted to bring up. Plus, taking notes during an interview is recommended because it shows you’re interested and paying attention, as long as you jot a few things down and don’t attempt to transcribe ever word. There you sit with pen in hand and some paper in front of you, taking some notes and trying to show the interviewer that you’re engaged and excited. It’s your turn to ask questions, if you haven’t been sprinkling some in throughout the interview, that is.
“Uh….uhm…I was wondering…” and then you forget what you wanted to ask. That question you thought of last night before bed has slipped from your mind. If only you’d written it down. Well, you should have written it and other questions down and brought them with you. Here’s why:
1. Writing down questions as they come to you keeps you from forgetting them. You might later decide it’s not a great question or you already know the answer to it, but better to edit your questions down later than to have none to reference.
2. Having questions ready to ask proves you’ve thought about this interview and the job. Interviewers like to know you are interested and that neither of you is wasting time. Questions that reference the company in some way are nice ways of showing that you’re not using stock questions for every job interview. Use your research and the information you learned so far in the interview to form such a question. For example, “Could you talk a little more about some of the people you introduced me to today? Would I be collaborating with the director or the area vice president on a regular basis or only on certain projects?” The question doesn’t have to be brilliant or complex, just inquisitive enough to get you the information you want and to show you’ve been paying attention.
3. Pausing to check your notes gives both of you a chance to breathe.A quick glance down to look at your questions, which could be full sentences or just random phrases to remind you of a topic, allows you to relax for a moment. A few seconds of silence allows you to gather your thoughts, and the interview is probably relieved for the same reasons. Don’t stare at the page for five minutes and then robotically read off the question, of course. That’s just boring…and creepy.
4. Questions that came to you during the interview are better answered now than later.When the interviewer is talking, you’re likely going to think of something related that you want to ask. If you have an opportunity to ask the question at that moment, do it. However, if the conversation is flowing so that asking the question isn’t appropriate, scribble a note down so you can ask later. During the Q&A portion, you can say, “Following up on something you mentioned earlier, I was wondering…” You show that you’re interested and you get an answer right then as opposed to thinking about it later that night when you can’t get it answered. (Interviewers don’t like you calling them at 9 p.m. to ask follow-up questions, FYI.) Also, you can steer the conversation to issues you care about. The interviewer might have glossed over some of your management duties, for example, and this allows you to dig deeper and signal to the interviewer that you’d like to hear more about this part of the job. You learn more about the job and the interviewer learns more about you. It’s a win/win.
Congratulations, Janet, and thanks for asking such a great question. We’ll be sending you a copy of Career Building!
Check back on Monday for a new topic so you can submit your question and have a chance to win your own copy of Career Building.