You’ve finally got that job interview, and now the nerves are starting to kick in.
Nothing feeds those butterflies in your stomach like an interview for a job you’ve been dreaming about.
And now, you’re mentally racing through those standard job interview questions you’ve been hearing about, trying to prepare for them in your head.
- “Tell me about yourself?”
- “What’s your greatest weakness?”
- “Why do you want this job?”
What if we told you that it’s not answering questions, but asking them, that will make all the difference?
After all, you’re just the job candidate, right? Isn’t it the hiring manager’s job to ask all the questions and you are to obediently answer them.
You want the hiring manager to remember you after the interview.
Having an interesting conversation with the manager will do just that.
All of a sudden, you’re not just “Candidate #3” anymore. You are someone the hiring manager can trust.
Good conversations have one thing in common – they start with an interesting question.
This post is going to be about that one golden question that’s going to set you apart from your competition and kickstart a conversation that will keep you in the hiring manager’s mind till the moment s/he has to decide who to hire.
Ever wished you could read the hiring manager’s minds?
This question will help you do just that.
Ready to know what that question is?
“If I’m fortunate to get this job and we are sitting down in 12 months for my first annual review, what are the three things you’ll want me to have done for you?”
(This question was crafted by career expert Mac Prichard of Mac’s List. See credits at the end)
Let’s break it down.
“If I’m fortunate to get this job…”
If there is one personality you’d want to bring to an interview, it would be humility.
Yes, confidence is important. So is preparedness. Attention-to-detail.
Essential traits no doubt.
But humility above all else will help keep you from crossing the line to overconfidence, cocky, know-it-all and rubbing off as hard-to-manage
You kick off the question with a good dose of humility when you consider yourself “fortunate” to get this job, “if” you get it.
You are also expressing a genuine interest in this role, a key ingredient that hiring managers are looking for.
We were once impressed with a candidate who had all the right credentials and even came prepared with case studies that she had tackled in her past.
She held our interest right until the end when the interview turned sour as she started assuming she already got the job.
She was shown the door when she concluded the interview saying “I don’t have any questions, I’ll just see you Monday.”
The opening words to the question set the stage of how it’s perceived to the listener. You can’t go wrong with this opening.
“…and you and I are sitting down in 12 months…”
“12 months,” tells the hiring manager you’re in this for the long haul.
Hiring is a painful process for a manager.
They have to break away from firefighting and dedicate an entire day to speaking to 8-10 job candidates, while they stress over the emails and meetings that are piling up.
It’s painful and annoying.
And they don’t want to repeat the process for the same position anytime soon.
By explicitly stating a 12-month vision, you are effectively reassuring the manager that you will save them the agony of re-hiring anytime soon.
You say “12-months..”, they go “Phew!”
“…for my first annual review…”
Imagery is a powerful advertising tool.
Ever notice how a pizza commercial on the radio goes into explicit details of how savory that slice is going to be?
When you’re talking about “sitting down for your first annual review”, you are creating an image in the manager’s mind of what it’s going to be like working for you.
After all, you are advertising your skills to them right?
The hiring manager is going to unconsciously imagine what it’s like working with you, and that’s what is going to stick.
The fact that you’ve chosen to talk about the annual review also shows that you welcome feedback about your work.
Among many things, a critical thought that goes through the hiring manager’s mind is whether or not you will be easily manageable.
The manager wants to know that s/he can give you open and honest feedback, and you are essentially providing that assurance through this question.
“…what are three things you’ll want…”
This is the most critical part of the question. The element that’s going to spark the conversation to come.
You are asking the hiring manager about three things they want, showing that you are interested in their needs and their problems.
It will uncover golden nuggets about what will impress the hiring manager that no other candidate will be aware of.
You’ve potentially forced the hiring manager to think about your role in a light that they have never thought of before.
Don’t worry, it’s a good thing.
You’re not stressing them out. Rather, you’re (sort of) reading their minds.
The hiring manager is about to get to the root of the problem s/he is trying to solve with this new position and expose that deep dark secret to you.
“…me to have done for you.”
The tail end of this question brings you back into the picture, where you will confirm your services as a solution provider.
You are reiterating that your goal is to deliver on the three problems that are nagging the hiring manager that s/he expects this role will correct.
The Likely Response You Will Get
This question is surely going to catch the hiring manager by surprise (in a good way).
As stated earlier, the most critical benefit this question will deliver is that it will expose hidden gems about this job that the job description undoubtedly failed to answer.
The hiring manager may say something like “Hmmm. Let me think about that.” Roll their eyes upwards as they dig deep into their brains.
Inevitably, they will answer this question by revealing the department’s objectives.
You’ve found the gold!
Every department, without fail, has objectives. They may be explicitly stated, or ingrained in the minds of managers.
- Save x dollars in the next financial year
- Reduce technology outages by x% in the next year
- Collect x% receivables every quarter
- Improve customer satisfaction by x%
- Maintain x points on quality assurance scores
- And so on
These objectives are never clearly articulated in job descriptions, and ironically, they are at the forefront of every manager’s minds.
Why? Because their jobs are to deliver on those objectives, and they welcome all the help they can get.
Now that you will be armed with the most critical information of all – the department’s objectives, you are ready to turn this interview into a conversation. One that the hiring manager is going to be switched on about because their own jobs depend on meeting these objectives.
You can now start using examples, stories from your past experience, skills you have that can benefit those objectives.
You can dig deeper with more questions about those objectives:
- “What’s the biggest problem holding you back from these achieving these objectives?”
- “Which of these objectives has the great visibility to senior management right now?”
- “How does not achieving these objectives impact the business?”
Pretty soon, the hiring manager is going to feel like this isn’t an interview anymore because it’s the same kind of conversation that’s had with other employees.
Once again imagery will work its magic.
Give Yourself a Confidence Boost
The most prepared job candidate is the one who gets the job.
While a majority of your prep work will be formulating answers to the most common job interview questions, let’s face it. You might screw it up.
But you don’t have to beat yourself up. We’ve all been there.
And chances are, your competition is also going to screw up as well.
But what your competition does not know is this question.
No matter how good or bad you answer those standard questions, this final question you will ask at the end of the interview is your safety net.
It can turn the tides in your favor should things turn sour during the interview.
I’m not suggesting you can now slack off with your prep work for the rest of the interview, but knowing you are armed with this killer question should calm your nerves.
Hiring managers ultimately have the same standard humdrum questions at every interview, and they get the same humdrum answers thrown back at them from your competition.
Those are the candidates that they are likely to forget.
But not you.
Once you shoot this question at them, they’ll wake up and realize just how important this role is, and you were the one that made it happen.
While the start of the interview sets the stage with first impressions, it’s how it ends that will decide if you will be remembered by the hiring managers.
And at the end, when they will inevitably ask you “Do you have any questions for me?”, your response to this question with what you’ve just learned in this post will set you apart from the crowd.
You will be remembered, come decision time.
And chances are, that next job will be yours.
Arm yourself with this question at your next interview, knowing that no matter how it goes, you’ll have this ace up your sleeve.
Credit to this question goes to career expert Mac Prichard.
Mac is the founder and publisher of Mac’s List and helps thousands of job seekers find their dream job.
His question was discovered on a podcast hosted by Careermetis, a multi-award-winning career blog created by Nissar Ahmed that helps job seekers help and grow their professional and freelance careers.
If you’re looking for your next career opportunity, listen to their enlightening podcast here, and get sage advice from Mac and Nissar that will land you your next dream job.