Final Question in the Initial Interview

The average initial interview lasts about one hour. I've been involved with employers who spent as little as five minutes and hired the person on the spot, and others who spent four hours in an initial interview, told the candidate she was perfect for the job, then neither of us ever heard from them. Your goal is not to eat the elephant all in one bite. You do it one bite at a time.

You want to sell yourself to the next interview. You are asking questions so that you can make yourself look better to the hiring authority. Any question that puts you in a position to sell yourself helps.

The final question you need to ask in an initial interview is: "What do I need to do to get the job?"

Yes, blunt and to the point. You can preface it with something like, "This is a great opportunity for both of us. I'm a great fit for your job. What do I need to do to get it?"

Forget the namby-pamby, weak questions like, "Well, what is the next step?" "Where do we go from here?" "When can I expect to hear from you?" Yuk! Terribly weak! You are supposed to be a decisive businessperson who can ask the cold, hard business questions. So, act like one! Ask the ultimate initial interviewing question.

Questions to Ask Related to Subsequent Interviews

The average interviewing cycle involves three to four interviews with decision makers (five, if you count screeners, H.R., etc.). The cycle usually includes an initial interview with the hiring authority, an interview with his or her superior, and, once in a while, depending on the level of position, that person's superior. (I have been involved with cycles that had as many as ten interviews and took six months.) Often there are committee interviews with three or more people at a time.

If you are promoted up the interview chain by the hiring authority, you now have the opportunity to ask tougher, more qualifying questions, while you sell yourself at the same time. There is still a delicate balance of selling yourself and getting information you may need to make a decision about the job, should you be offered it.

The first thing you need to do, once you get the word that you are moving up the chain is to ask the initial interviewer, probably the hiring authority these questions:

What is the next person (or groups of persons) I will be interviewing with like? How old is he or she (i.e., what generation in the workforce?)

Get the person to describe the role and personality of the next interviewer or group. Try to get him or her to tell you everything he or she knows. If you hear something like, "Well, my boss has been my boss for ten years and he and I think alike," you know the hiring authority will have most of the decision power. If you hear, "My boss is new to the company. This is the first position we have worked on together," you aren't sure if the hiring authority will have a lot of input or not.

What is his or her role in the company? What is his or her role in the interviewing process?

It is the second part of this question you want to really listen to. The hiring authority might say something like, "I send people to him with no comments. He interviews them, then we get together and talk about it." Or she might say, "My boss simply 'kicks the tires' just so we have two people talk to you. I'm really the decision maker."

Don't trust this last comment. If the superior couldn't say "no" to any candidate, he or she wouldn't be interviewing you. I can't tell you the number of candidates over the years who believed this, and thought since they had such a good interview with the hiring authority, they were a cinch for the job. Wrong! So, be careful of the "tire kicking" line. No superior simply "kicks tires." There is a reason he or she is in the interviewing cycle.

So you have to sell yourself just as hard as you have done before. Take nothing for granted. Keep asking the questions below.

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