Q. What’s an effective question that you use in most interviews?
A. What’s the best and worst career advice you’ve been given in your career? That gets to the underlying point about what people think is important. The best career advice part gets to what they think is important; worst career advice kind of tells you whether the person is trying to snow you. I want to know if you’re trying to snow me under the stress of the interview and try to tell me things that you know aren’t true — that you don’t make bad decisions, that you haven’t gotten any bad career advice, that type of stuff.
The point is that the interview is uncomfortable, but so are budget review meetings and so are a lot of meetings in day-to-day life. We’re not a bunch of perfect people who work together. We’re all people with flaws. I want to know if you’re somebody who feels comfortable enough to talk about dumb things that you’ve done or dumb advice that you’ve taken. Phrasing it in the form of, “Hey, what’s the worst advice you got?” at least gives you a half-step of distance to it. It tells you something about the character of the person.
Q. What’s the best question people should ask in an interview?
A. When they ask you, “Hey, do you have any more questions?” ask them, “How do I help you get a gold star in your review next year?” The person who’s interviewing you had to go through a lot of effort to get this opening, particularly in this economy. Be empathetic and realize that they are hoping that this position is going to make their life better. Ask them how you can be a part of that.