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 curious case of the utter uselessness of interviews

On April 8th Jason Dana an Assistant professor of Yale came up with a provocative write up on NY Times titled – “ The utter Uselessness of Interviews”. His argument kicked up a fair bit of dust.

If you read the post right till the very end you realize that his title was misleading. It should have been ” The utter uselessness of Un-structured interviews”. In the post he argues for Structured Interviews as against unstructured interviews. But you realize this only at the very end , only in the second last para.

I read the post assuming that the argument was about the uselessness of interviews. But in a climactic twist the last scene revealed that the villain was actually the hero. Everything was right with interviewing(villain turned hero) – solution was to conduct a certain kind of interview( structured).

Then why this Title?

Misprint?

Cannot be – not on NY Times.

Possibly Mr Dana wanted to have some fun at our expense. Send us on a small wild goose hunt and maybe get some readership.

Life can get to be boring, at times.

 

Status Quo & Learned Behaviour

What is learned behaviour?

A behaviour or action that is acquired is called learned behaviour. For example children learn to tie their shoes by watching their parents or classmates. Eating with a spoon and fork is another behaviour that happens by watching and practice. There are many such instances which we learn by observing the environment.

Learned behaviours have played a key role in the survival and thriving of our human race. But there is a flipside. They say too much of a good thing can be dangerous and the same goes with these behavioural mechanisms.

We pick up and hold on to behaviours that have outlived their purpose. Theorists call it cultural baggage and organisations are littered with instances of systems and process which continue to be followed – without no apparent reason. The clichéd statement – it has been always done this way – is a key indicator of the existence of learned yet meaningless organisational behaviors.

Let share with you a story which brings out the stark nature of learned behaviours.

Monkeys-300x199
Image Courtesy – Google

This is a story of five monkeys – who found themselves in cage 30 ft by 30 ft square and around 15 feet in height. From the ceiling of the cage hangs a big banana bunch. And right under this juicy bunch of bananas is a folding type ladder. The kind you get in the home depot – used for doing work around the house.

So here is the scene – five monkeys, a bunch of bananas and a ladder.

What do you think the monkeys will do?

Only a matter of time one of them climbs the ladder and goes for the bunch.

Right. But here is the twist.

The moment a monkey touches the ladder  – ice cold water sprays on all the monkeys.

This monkey is zapped. Its totally startled – but the bananas are juicy – he goes for another try and – again ice cold water sprays.

Monkeys don’t particularly enjoy being sprayed with cold water. Now all the monkeys are wary. They don’t allow any monkey to move towards the ladder.

After a while another monkey gives in to the temptation and tries to go for the bananas. Immediately the other monkeys pounce on it – and prevent it from touching the ladder.

Pretty soon the monkeys become smart and stop any monkey from moving towards or touching the ladder.

Now we change the setting. The cold water spray goes. One of the monkeys is removed and a new one is introduced. The new one doesn’t know the story. He comes in sees the banana and off he goes. But to his surprise and horror all the other monkeys attack him and beat him up. Things cool off and the monkey makes another attempt – same result – he gets bashed up – and he has learnt his lesson.

Which is that if he tries climbing again he is going to be assaulted.   

Next we remove one more monkey and introduce a new one. The same situation repeats. Infact now even the previous new comer enjoys bashing up this poor fellow. Without knowing why. This is learned Learned behaviour at its best. 

One by one all the original monkeys are replaced with new ones and all the new entrants pick up the rules very quickly. They have no idea why they are beating up the new fellow , despite none of them have ever been sprayed with cold water.

The upshot is that no monkey approaches the ladder. The bananas are safe.

Suppose if we were to ask one one of the monkeys in – monkey language offcourse – as to why they were beating up the fellows who went for the ladder ? what would they reply ?

Any guesses.

The reply would most likely be “because that’s the way it has always been done.”

Perhaps all it needed to break this chain of events was for one of the later monkeys to ask why?.

But I guess that would be asking for too much.

We encounter learned behaviours everyday: processes, procedures, policies, best practices, design patterns, standards, etc. These are behaviors that developed as a result of a certain environmental need.

…but over time the environment changed. But the behaviour continued.

Only by challenging our old assumptions will we ever develop new ideas else it will be Status Quo.

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:

RECOGNIZE

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.

DIFFUSE

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.

TRANSFORM

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.