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The Ultimate Interview Question #JobSearch

November 12th, 2014

On LinkedIn there is an article proposing the ultimate interview question.  I don’t agree with the author.

Spoiler alert: he says the ultimate interview question is “What did you learn last week?”  The author makes a case for this being the ultimate question… but I’m guessing he is someone who really values learning and curiousity… both great things.  My experience, though, is that most interviewers aren’t even close to ready to ask that question, much less understand great answers to the question.

If I were to interview someone right now, I would ask questions about their skillset (we are a technical company and I need to know you have the breadth/depth of skills for the job) and experience and results (if it’s a sales role, I need to know you’ve been a rainmaker).  My series of questions, and their answers and attitudes, will hopefully help me understand if this person has integrity, will fit into my culture, and of course able to do the job.

But none of the questions I ask would be the ultimate interview question. Most of these questions will sound run-of-the-mill and boring.

The ultimate interview question, I think, will be the one that the job seeker asks.

You see, I’ve got my list of questions I’m going to ask the final 10, or 5, or 2 candidates… and after a while all the answers will sound the same. Once I get it down to the best of my list, you will all be admirable.  Each of you will have your own strengths, and some weaknesses, but overall, any of you might be the right hire.

If you really want to knock my socks off, and show me that you CARE, and WANT this job, then don’t wait for me to ask the ultimate interview question.  You should bring your own question.  Show me that you’ve done your research.  Show me that you understand my company, customers, competition, challenges, etc.  Show me, with your question(s), that you are a smart thinker, and anxious to attack some problems.

I want to hire someone who is, as my college programming professor said, “high speed, low drag.”  That means they aren’t going to sit around waiting for me to give them direction.  Show me that you are ready to take initiative, and you don’t need me to hand feed you your tasks.

Having laid that foundation, what are some great questions you could ask in an interview?  I’m not sure there is one question that will show all of those things… it will depend on the company, industry, culture, and how the interview is going (and how interested/engaged the interviewers are)… but what are some ideas of questions you might ask to position yourself as the right person to hire?

2 Comments »

2 responses to “The Ultimate Interview Question #JobSearch”

  1. LB says:

    This worked for me in landing my last job and obviously impressed the boss, but once I got into the position my colleagues at my level and above felt threatened. They proceded to block every initiative I launched or take credit for it if it succeeded anyway. They also spent inordinate parts of their day whispering in the boss’ ear that I was undermining him and would betray him by using company time for my own outside projects. None of it was true, but by the time I knew it was happening it was too late. Haven’t been able to get a job since…

  2. Jason Alba says:

    Hi LB, sorry to hear that. I would like to separate the interview techniques and tactics (and specifically this idea of questions you ask during the interview) from what happens after you land the job.

    I remember a new job I got where it took at least a year to move past some of the crap you are talking about… it sounds like the place you were at might have been the perfect job, but a horrible culture. I wouldn’t say that’s due to how you won the job, but instead how the boss and other leadership managed the employees.

    Good luck as you work on finding your next job. I know it stinks (understatement), but keep on working it…