When interviewers don't interview - A contractor's view

One of the hazards of going for contracting interviews is that you often meet clients who have no idea what they are doing. So much for your preparation, some interviewers need to prepare themselves, and they often don't bother. In a hot sweaty room, they shuffle their paper work, stare at your CV, ask a series of yes and no questions, then rely on a hopeless technical test they put together five minutes before you arrived. It really is not uncommon.

In this situation, you have to show your professionalism and help. You must conduct the interview in a way that doesn't offend, tread on their toes, or seem unnatural, and the best way of doing this is to ask a series of open ended questions.

Yes, it's another sales technique. And it's a good one.

An open question is one that does not have a yes or no answer. Typically, they begin with:

  • How
  • Why
  • What
  • When
  • Who

What skills will your ideal candidate have? How is the project organised? Why do you think xWidget is appropriate for you project? What questions would you like to ask me?

Ask open questions

The real beauty of these open questions is that while answering the interviewer will gain confidence and begin to think straight. They will be flattered that you are taking an interest in them and listening to the answers. If you can neatly take control in this situation you will have a distinct advantage over others going for the same role.

You should always have a list of open questions ready in any case. They show you are interested in the role and the company, and give the impression you are taking the interview seriously.

William Knight

Monday 23rd Feb 2009
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