17 April 2012

There’s no two ways about it - job interviews are incredibly stressful affairs.

Everything from the application process to the preparation period to actually sitting down to fight for your employment will fill you with anxiety, intimidation, and more than a little raw fear.

Complicating job interviews even further, you will also feel your share of surprisingly positive emotions surrounding the proceedings - relief that you earned an interview, excitement at the prospect of starting a new job, and brief pulses of extreme confidence. To call job interviews "emotionally intense" is a vast understatement!

If you're going to be able to set all of these conflicting responses to the side and ace your interview, then you need to create a fool-proof gameplan for how you're going to "wow" your interviewer. And the cornerstone of ANY successful job interview lies in making sure you ask this one simple, yet incredibly powerful, question.

Why you should ask your interviewer anything in the first place

Most people are taught that a job interview is a one-way street, little more than an interrogation where you are put on the spot and forced to present a high-pressure explanation of why exactly, you are the perfect candidate for this particular position.

This perspective is understandable, but it is also wrong. Job interviews aren’t interrogations, they're conversations. Like all good conversations, by the time your interview wraps up you should have talked just about as often as you listened, and there is no better way to even out the scales during an interview than by asking a few questions of your own.

When you ask questions you will break the one-sided rut that most interviews fall into. When you ask questions you will gain some measure of control over the situation. When you ask questions, you gain the opportunity to personalise your interview in a manner that vastly increases your chances of landing the job.

The one question you NEED to ask during all your interviews

Ideally you will ask many different questions over the course of your interview. But if you only get the opportunity to ask one question, you better make sure it’s this one:

"What are YOUR biggest challenges at work?"

The goal of this question isn't to try and find your interviewer's weaknesses so you can exploit them. No, the point of this question is much more compassionate than that. You want to ask your interviewer about their challenges because you want to let them know you understand what this open position is really about. This position isn’t about making you look better, it’s about helping your boss.

In most employment scenarios the person interviewing you is going to be your future boss, which means learning what their problems are, and showing a keen interest in solving those problems, will automatically make you the best candidate for the job. Even in scenarios where your interviewer isn't your direct boss your interviewer will be one of your superiors, and they will want to hire someone who wants to make everyone's life easier.

Asking this one question proves that you’re interested in a whole lot more than just your own self interest. In a sea of candidates eager to cram every single second of their interview with facts about why they are so awesome, showing a simple willingness to reach out and care about one of your future co-workers will immediately put you in a unique, and powerful, position.

At the end of the day every hiring decision is made by a person, and that person will be much more interested in how you relate to others than if you have a shade more experience than the candidate before you.

The article was written by Wilson Campbell. He is an HR expert, who has devoted around 20 years in developing policies related to team building and team building activities. He is also a career counsellor.