Since I work on recruitment activities with various companies, I sometimes encounter truly interesting interviews. Actually, questions from interviewers to candidates are prepared beforehand to prevent unfairness, so candidates rarely give exceptionally unique answers to our standard questions. Frankly speaking, interviewers’ questions are just to exclude obviously unsuitable candidates and not that important. Instead, what matters the most is a question from candidates. This might sound arrogant, but the quality of the question certainly reflects the quality of the candidate.
Let me give you some examples
Common questions we receive during job interviews are “How much should I work overtime a month?” or “What is the average age of the employees?”
To tell the truth, these are not good. Of course, interviewers will answer as accurately as possible, but such candidates won’t amaze the interviewers. “Do those figures matter to you?” Honestly, this is our true feeling. Well, we understand they are asking those because they don’t want to work overtime too long or they are afraid their co-workers are too-older or too-younger than them. But these factors vary over time and are never fixed at all.
Further, we get confused when candidates ask us about something like the atmosphere or the culture of the company. These questions are also not good because the atmosphere is very difficult to describe with words and also it is largely derived from each individual’s subjective perception. Why in the world do they want to know such a thing? Pointless questions only reveal they are just acting serious.
Another candidate might ask, “What is the strength of your company?” To such questions that are likely found in interview manuals, I always get tempted to ask him/her back, “What do you think?” Those who raise this kind of question haven’t researched the company enough, so dare I say it, what they say is generally off the mark.
If a candidate have studied the company in depth, he/she would ask, “I think your company’s strong point is *** as shown on the web site, but I feel *** is losing the advantages over its rivals today. What do you think?”
Well, this is smart enough.
Then, let me introduce the latest question I was overwhelmed by.
Me: “Then, we are done with our questions. Do you have anything to ask us?”
Candidate: “Yes. May I ask something a bit personal?”
Me: “Of course. Go ahead.”
Candidate: “How long have you all been working at this company?”
Interviewer A : “For 12 years.”
Interviewer B : “For 8 years.”
Candidate: “Thank you. Mr. A, may I ask you why you have stayed in the current place for 12 years?
Listening to him, I was indeed amazed.
The answer will show the qualities of the employees at the company as well as what they value at work. In short, the answers will be as effective as if he were having a face-to-face interview during his own job interview.
After pondering on the question for quite a while, Interviewer A said, “I have never questioned myself why in 12 years. You stunned me!” And finally Interviewer A answered, “It is because I like the president.”
The candidate continued with another question. “May I also ask you why you like the president?”
He kept putting those questions to Interviewer A and next did the same with Interviewer B. In other words, he was gathering real voices from a company he seeks to join in such an efficient way.
In the end, he did not join us although we wanted him to. He turned down our offer because he achieved a job offer at another company.
The case has made me keenly realize that we cannot attract someone cleverer than ourselves.
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