Interview: How not to Suck when asked “Do You Have any Questions”

6a0133f30ae399970b014e88179ee5970d-piTowards the end of interviews it is the norm for the interviewer to ask “Do you have any questions?”. The common response from candidates is a “ No, not right now” or something to that effect.

Per-se there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with that answer. It seems to be polite, courteous and modest. All good traits to display.

But think about it, why wouldn’t you have any questions?.

You will spend a chunk of your waking time at this place if things work out. Would’nt it be good to have complete clarity on what you will be doing, how you will be doing and maybe even why?

It is an opportunity. Take it.

So, lets get into the details of the Why, What and How to respond to the query “ Do you have any questions”

Lets start with Why?

Why you should have questions to Ask? The benefits are multiple, and the three most important ones are –

  1. These questions help to build clarity on your role, the company, and your boss.Interview is a 2 way process. As you are being interviewed you have an opportunity to evaluate the company environment, and the work. These questions will help you do just and put you in a position to take a more informed decision.
  2. Building rapport with the interviewer is a major objective for any candidate. Rapport happens with engaging conversations and the right questions asked sincerely are the lubricants to ensure a smooth conversation.
  3. The third point is a by-product. Relevant questions will mark you out as a well-prepared and keen candidate, who has done his homework.

Those are the 3 key reasons as to why you should use the opportunity to Ask. Now lets move on to the what?.

What to Ask?

Once there is clarity about the objective of asking questions – deciding on what to ask becomes simple. These questions fall into 3 broad categories

  • Role related.
    • Ask questions to get clarity about the role in case there are areas that you feel have not been thoroughly covered in the earlier part of interview. Sample questions could be –
      • Can you share more about the day to day responsibilities of the position?
      • If I am hired, what would be expected of me in the first 90 days? ..
  • Culture related.
    • We spend a majority of our waking hours at work. You are more likely to enjoy your time at the workplace if you fit into the workculture. You are likely to develop better relationships and be more productive at work. A few sample questions are –
    • Can you share your thoughts about the company culture?
    • What is the culture like?
    • What do you enjoy most about working here?
  • Boss/hiring manager related
    • These would be questions relating to your prospective Boss’s working style, how does he prefer his reports whether email or face to face, or phone. How often does he prefer being reported to. Is he a micromanager or a hands-off chief . A straightforward question to ask would be –
    • How would you describe your working style?

And as he responds you could ask questions to probe further.

These are just a few sample questions to ask, they are not an exhaustive list. You will find enough resources on line which provide such lists. The thing is that with a clear understanding of why you are asking – the what to Ask becomes easy. Infact the best questions come to you as you answer the questions the interviewer asks. So when a question pops up, jot it down in a pad to ask at the end.

What not to Ask?

Just like there are questions that are good to ask, there are also questions to avoid asking. This would be –

  • Question relating to Personal topics, family or last working assignment.
  • Queries about happy hours, non- work activities, lunch and vacation times.
  • Salary is a topic which is best left to the interviewer to bring up.
  • Filler questions. Avoid asking questions for which you can get the response by Googling.
  • Lastly avoid too many questions. And what is too many? If the interviewer is getting restless or is subtly giving indications of the interview being, take the hint. At best 2-3 well thought out questions should be good enough.

That brings us to the How?.

How to Ask?

Let the questions be open ended. For example you could phrase the questions as .. “Can you tell me about …?, “How would you describe ….?. Framing the question in such a manner makes it easier to probe further, thus opening up the conversation. Avoid yes and no questions.

Further, open ended questions set you up for follow up questions. Based on the interviewers response these help you to dig deeper. Follow-up questions give us greater insight, letting us form a clear opinion.

A key aspect about asking questions is waiting for response. A thing to remember is that it is not just about asking questions it is about building conversations. Let the interviewer take his time in responding. Don’t interject or try to fill in the silence in anyway. Get comfortable with silences. And don’t interrupt when the interviewer is speaking. For one it interrupts his train of thought and the other it is disrespectful. Not quite your objective.  deer-in-headlights

Moral of the story is when asked “Do you have any Questions” – don’t be like a dear caught in the headlights. Be prepared with a list and ask 2 to 3 relevant questions. Art of the Ask is in engaging the other person in this case the interviewer. It is about building rapport and getting clarity.

Prakash Francis is a Talent Acquisition expert based in Bangalore.

The Secret to a Great First Impression

People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

First impressions are not about you!

They are about the person you are trying to engage with.

And as to the question  ” How to make a great First first impression?” the Best response is “Don’t try to impress.”

Engage the person and get interested in him/her.

Trying to impress will get you the opposite result of what you desire.

When we go to social events we come across some people who appear fake. These people are worried about impressing you rather than being genuinely interested in you. It is a turn-off.

On the other hand, what about people we do like. People whom we like to speak to, to engage with? What is it about these people that we get impressed with?

In my opinion, it has a lot to do with being natural, being comfortable in our own skin. Being genuine.

Broadly the traits that lead us to get impressed can be classified into two categories :

  1. Non Verbal
  2. Verbal

These two aspects form the microcosm of our impact on people when we meet them for the first time.

Non Verbal

The cornerstones of good Non-Verbal engagement are –


They say Eye contact begets eye contact. Typically people are comfortable in holding our gaze for 2-3 seconds but with mutual consent this gaze gets prolonged. Scientifically it is proven that there is a neurological connect, during good eye contact, ( activation of mirror neurons), which creates a bond. This ability to maintain a good eye contact has a huge impact on how we are perceived by others. Good eye contact paves the way for the next key factor of Non Verbal impact The smile.



The transition from an eye-contact to a smile takes just a few milli-seconds. First the eye contact , followed by a smile then perhaps an imperceptible nod. The smile here refers to a “genuine” smile. A smile that involves all the muscles around the mouth and the eye. Infact scientists even have a name for this smile , it is called the ” Duchenne” smile after the neurologist who goes by the same name.

Both eye contact and the smile do not involve a tactile touch. The next cornerstone of non Verbal engagement involves a physical touch, that is the Handshake.


The rules for a good handshake are simple. A firm clasp, a gentle shake and a confident stance. The duration would not be more than 3-4 seconds. Again it is based on mutual consent. More than 6-7 seconds and things can get weird. Mentioning your name during the handshake leads to better name retention.

These are the fundamentals for good non – verbal engagement and this entire routine (Eye-contact , Smile and Handshake)would take less than 10 seconds. These 10 seconds pave the way for the next stage which is the “Conversation”.

Conversations are the “Building Blocks” of a relationship. Infact they are the life blood of healthy relationships. Business or personal. While the Eye-contact , Smile and the Handshake help in creating the initial “impression” it is the actual conversations that will determine what impression you leave the person with.

Having a good engaging conversation is not about being witty, or in cracking jokes. If it comes naturally to you well and good. Else stay clear. Don’t try to be funny.

Engaging in conversations is as simple as showing genuine interest in what the other person has to say and in response, sharing your thoughts in a positive, non-intrusive manner. It is all about giving the other person the “Gift of your Attention”.

There is a ton of literature online about how to become a good conversationalist. The advice revolves around asking questions, active listening, nodding your head appropriately etc. Perfect advice no doubt. But if it doesn’t come naturally to you, don’t do it. People see through the fake stuff. Often we fall into the trap of showing these outward signs of listening to the person, while actually we are thinking about what to say next. We get in to an auto mode. That ultimately kills conversations.

The key to good memorable conversations is to stay true to yourself and be genuinely interested in the other person. It is about how you make the other person feel. Because that is what they are going to remember. Nothing is worse than a person realizing that he was speaking to a wall.

Incase you are not interested in what he/she has to say – politely dis-engage. Move onto the person you find interesting to talk to.

Best way to get better at conversations is to have more of them.

I am reminded of an old story of a wise man named Chidananda.

Chidananda was a great writer and once he was called to speak about writing to a bunch of college students. He went on stage and asked “How many of you really want to be writers”?

All hands went up.

“In that case” he said “ I suggest you all must go home and write”

With that he left.

So, if you want to genuinely engage with people for the first time or the nth time – meet more people and start having more conversations.

I do the same.

Prakash Francis is a Talent Acquisition Expert based in Bangalore.    




Immersive Theater

unnamedA month ago i had the chance to attend a short immersive  theater workshop as part of an NHRD monthly meeting. It was really engrossing and Aruna Ganesh had the audience in a spell.

Visual Respiration the organization founded by Aruna organizes regular workshops on Immersive Theater. There is one such being conducted on May 21st . This is an introduction to immersive theater.

If you are trying to create a greater impact on your audience , either at work or any other aspect of your life – don’t miss this workshop.

Image Courtesy: Visual Respiration



A case for Interning

What does Steven Spielberg has to teach us about Interning?

intern_nation_are_we_exploiting_a_generation_of_workersSteven Spielberg was a movie fanatic who was desperate for a job in the film industry. One day he landed at the Universal Studios , looking for a job. No one had one for him. So he just hung around. He showed up day after a day even though no one wanted him there. But he hung around and volunteered to do anything that was required to be done.

By doing unpaid jobs at the studio he got to watch movies being shot. He learnt by watching  and interacting with folks in the industry.

Eventually the studio invited him to do a short film. And rest ….. well you know it.  

Employer Branding – the missing peg.

guitarpegWhen you send out your recruitment adverts are you pleased with the response? Do you feel that your vacancy should bring in far more applicants or far better quality applicants.

The problem could lie in your brand perception. A firm with a compelling employer brand will get significantly more responses than one for a company that does not have that level of brand presence.

A remarkable Brand identity can help to Attract and Retain the Best Talent in your company. And it need not cost an arm and a leg. With a basic understanding of social media – brand presence can be created on a Shoe String Budget.

Here’s how –

1.Rev up your profile.

Make it a habit to update your profile on linkedin or Facebook with industry relevant inputs.

2.Motivate your current employees

Your current employees can be your best employer brand ambassadors. Encourage them to share with their network and generate referrals. The options of how and where all to share is enldess and growing every day.

3. Be Social

Make sure you build an active presence on social media. Encourage employees to generate interesting content that can be showcased. Social media is a great platform to showcase employee culture.

4. Write

Share your expertise. Produce content for your company blog, share your opinion on industry events and topics that might be of interest to people in your industry.

The Skill Paradox

What got you here won’t get you there.

Marshal  Goldsmith wrote a book on this topic to highlight the importance of letting go of the delusions of success. Typically this book was targeted at the Leaders and CEOS who were successful and who were under the belief that since they accomplished so much there way is the right way and things will straighten out to their favour. But that is not the case. Else we might not see such successful CEOs and the organisations they represent biting the dust. Think Paul Allen.

The Skill ParadoxBut my reason for writing this post is directed to the aam junta – the lesser mortals who make up for 90 % of the employed – the minions.

The queer fact is that the minions of today will turn out to be our future Leaders – some of them atleast.  I think we can say with a reasonable amount of assurance that some of the minions we will take up key roles – 5 years / 10 years down the line.

Hence the statement from Goldsmith – addressed to us minions

What got you here won’t get you there.

I like to call it the skills paradox. The skills that got you here won’t get you there.

As new entrants to the work force your skills in languages , technical know how and qualifications help you step through the door or break through the threshold. But, increasingly organisations are realising that Managerial roles call for a certain different set of skills. Which, you may choose to ignore at your own peril.

No doubt an organisations’ success depends on the individual skill levels of their employees. But, if those highly skilled and highly paid employees are not able to work in sync as a team – then the teams’ and by extension the organisations performance levels suffer. This is especially true for the manager. If the manager is unable to resonate with his team a lot can get forsaken. There are  umpteen instances where an exceptional performer gets promoted and we soon find the overall performance of the team nose dives.

The irony is that our educational curriculum on which over 15 of our learning years are spent, is geared towards developing our Intellectual Skills – memory and analysis. Almost negligible importance is given to building our social skills – communication, giving and taking respect, self awareness, self belief, etc. Life habits that build character are not touched upon. The reason could be that these skills are not easily measuarble. How do you measure discipline? Or for that matter your ability to negotiate? Tough .

So that gives rise to a situation where we have ultra smart, tech savvy students with data on their finger tips – aces at number crunching. But place them in a social setting – they break into a cold sweat. Promote such an individual Top Performer to a Managerial role and you are likely to see the whole team performance suffer

What are the abilities that separate a leader from an individual team player-

According to an article by the Guru of Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goleman – the five abilities that distinguish a good leader are

  • Self Awareness
  • Self Regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

Ironically – these are the very same skills that are not taught at school.

The good News is that leading organisations have woken up to the importance of interpersonal skills.

Over the past couple of decades the trend has been increasingly towards gearing up the employees with skills to work better in concert in the work place and helping them to improve their emotional quotient.   But still a not needs to be done to take these learnings to the grass roots.

Lets hope the coming years will see a speedy tapering of the skills Paradox.

Wishing you all Happy Holidays and Warm wishes for a Fantastic New Year!!

Manushya Ko Gussa Kyoon Aata Hai?

93-airtelmobile-rs1-mein-video_newdelhi-110513 (1)

Hello Hello!Toot Nahin Raha Hai Kya? I guess most of us will recognize this line from Airtel’s recent video for Re 1 ad campaign.Hope you enjoyed this ad as much as I did.

The video Link to the ad is here.

The transcript is available at the end of the post.

Airtel cleverly used a common everyday emotion and weaved a punchy  storyline around it. Wonderful ad no doubt – but lets spare a thought for the young man. He lost his rupee plus he got some unwanted gyan. Was he justified in kicking the machine? No, Absolutely not. But, was he justified in experiencing anger? Perhaps yes. If we were in the same situation we too would have felt anger or perhaps irritation – though, we might have reacted to the situation differently.

So that brings us to a key question –Why do we get angry ? and more importantly- Is anger Bad?

Turns out that anger is not at all bad. It is just another emotion. It can even be considered healthy. Problem lies in the way we display anger.

Given that anger has benefits – How do we harness this emotion? How do we make anger constructive?

The solution is a three step process Recognize, Diffuse , Transform:


Each of us has an individual anger thumbprint. Maybe you raise your voice, withdraw, clench your jaw or sneer. Here a certain level of self-awareness helps. Knowing you are angry and the reason why you are angry can prepare you for what you do next.


Once you know that you are angry – the next step has to be that of response. As Stephen Covey states. Between response and reaction the difference is one of choice. The decision to respond takes time. A few seconds at least to chart out a proper response. A well thought out response will mark you out as a level headed person.


Can you modify your environment in some way such that you don’t have to face such anger generating situations? Can you pre-empt it in some way. A fellow member in a community group I am part of had this habit of putting down people publicly. I pre-empted it by discussing it out with him in person telling him that it was leaving a bad impression among the other members.The result has been +ve.

So next time you feel angry , a) don’t ignore the emotion b) recognize why you are getting angry c) channelise it in a positive manner. 

In case you dont want to get into all that hassle – you could download Babaji Ka Video 🙂 Just kidding.

The transcript of the ad :

A young guy at a railway station puts a coin in a weighing machine. It does’nt work leaving  his one rupee stuck inside. He starts to kick the machine to coax out the rupee.

An office goer standing nearby looks over to see the young man in the act

Office goer – in a slightly irritated tone – “Hello Hello toot Nahin Raha hai Kya” (Isn’t it breaking?)

The young man: In an agitated tone – thod kaun raha hai yaar. Ek rupya phans gaya hai mera.( who is breaking it friend, my one rupee is stuck)

Office Goer: Chod na yaar – Ek rupya hi tho hai ( it is only a rupee )

The young man: Acha ek hee rupya hai, tho tu dey. ( Oh is it – Its only a rupee, so you give

Office goer: goes blank for a fraction of a second- pulls out his mobile and displays a Guru – saying “ Manushya ko Gussa Kyoon Aata Hai?) (why does man get angry? ) . The ad ends with the airtel slogan of any video 1 re.