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Job Seekers Need to Control the Interview with These Questions

The key is to focus on the career opportunity inherent in the role.

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Shutterstock

I tell hiring managers that if a candidate accepts an offer largely based on the title, compensation and location a Win-Win Hiring outcome is problematic. Job seekers need to be equally concerned.

A Win-Win Hiring outcome requires a definite yes from both the hiring manager and new hire 6-12 months into the job when asked if they’d still make and accept the same offer based on what they now know. 

Bad decisions are easy to predict before an offer is made by asking candidates to explain why they want the job without considering the compensation package. Most explanations lack convincing detail and are filled with mostly hope, rationalizations and vague promises. Convincing details include clarity about job expectations, why the work is intrinsically motivating, details about the hiring manager’s leadership style and how the job puts the person on a stronger career trajectory in comparison to other opportunities.

Unfortunately, most hiring managers don’t provide enough information for candidates to even make a proper decision.

Here are some ideas that can help hiring managers and job seekers achieve more Win-Win Hiring outcomes.

Define the Job as a Series of Key Performance Objectives (KPOs)

What does the person need to do to be successful in this role?

Understanding real job needs starts by having hiring managers define success as a series of key performance objectives rather than a list of skills, experiences and generic competencies. For example, it’s far better to say the new product manager will lead the development of the product roadmap collaborating closely with the engineering team rather than demanding a bunch of “must-have” prerequisites like a specific degree, X years of experience and strong team skills.

Assessing the person’s ability to handle these KPOs involves asking candidates to provide detailed examples of major accomplishments most comparable in scope, scale, complexity and team size and role to what’s required. It’s obvious that if the candidate has successfully handled similar challenges the person has all of the skills, experiences and competencies required but they’ll be different than what’s on the job description.

Despite the fact that clarifying expectations up-front has long been known to be the #1 driver of employee satisfaction (e.g., this is #1 in Gallup’s Q12), hiring managers are still reluctant or incapable of doing this before the person starts. Job seekers can easily get around this problem by asking the interviewer to describe some of the performance objectives of the role at the beginning of the interview. They then need to describe accomplishments that are most comparable to these actual job requirements. If most are comparable, the person is likely going to be considered a semi-finalist for the role. Of course, answering these questions takes some practice but it’s a surefire technique for better understanding real job needs and if the job represents a worthwhile career move.

But this assertive approach might still not be enough.

Asked Forced-choice Questions

I urge candidates to prepare thoroughly before the interview by converting each of their major strengths into two-minute stories. Doing this starts by finding examples of accomplishments that best demonstrate how the strength was successfully used on the job. It’s important to write down these details (i.e., dates, big changes made, outcomes) to ensure they’re easily recalled during the interview.

If any of these core strengths are not adequately covered in the interview the candidate needs to force the issue. This starts by simply asking the interviewer if a critical strength, like team collaboration or some technical skill, is important in the role. Most often the interviewer will say yes. Then it’s up to the candidate to tell a convincing story ending with a question like, “Is this the type of effort you think would be required to be successful in this role?”

Asking questions like this is a proactive way for candidates to ensure they’re being assessed fairly rather than hoping the interviewer asks the right questions. Just asking the questions will also brand the candidate as assertive and confident. This is just as important as having appropriate stories to tell.

Focus on the Career Opportunity, not the Compensation

Even when interviewed fairly, it’s important to avoid the tendency to focus too much on the offer package and not enough on the career opportunity inherent in the role.

In my recruiting days I would review the worksheet shown here with my candidates as they compared the pros and cons of different career opportunities emphasizing the need to get real clarity around the Year One and Beyond criteria. This was rarely obvious yet essential for achieving a Win-Win Hiring outcome. It’s also essential for any job seeker who is looking for more than just another job.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.com

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