When It’s Your Turn to Ask the Questions

August 17, 2010 at 1:05 pm 1 comment

Hiring experts stress the importance of researching an organization and asking smart questions throughout the interviewing process. This not only shows that you’re prepared and indicates your interest in a position yet allows you to facilitate a real two-way relationship with the hiring manager — which has been shown to increase the likelihood of receiving a job offer from that company.

And it’s also a way, obviously, to obtain important information before they make an offer. Sometimes that information will cause you to end your candidacy as the organization, pay or duties may not at all match what you’re looking for — and better to do this earlier rather than later to avoid wasting your time and that of the hiring manager.

Yet the types of questions you ask and the way in which you ask them are crucial to your success in the interview process. Many otherwise well-prepared and qualified job candidates blow it at this stage by botching their questions in both the style and substance categories.

Here are some tips for succeeding when it’s your turn to ask the questions:

*Adopt a friendly, conversational questioning style. Think of your favorite TV talk show host (I prefer the Johnny Carson method — warm and boyishly funny, and he always made the interviewee look good and appear smart) and prepare your questions with him or her in mind. Modulate your voice so it doesn’t sound like you’re cross-examining the witness. Smile and look directly at the interviewer when asking questions, and give them plenty of time to answer. Actively listen when they’re talking (though avoid taking notes as this can be distracting) and follow up only when they’ve clearly finished with what they’re saying. The more they talk, the more you’re engaging them in conversation so even if they don’t answer your question completely, don’t worry. You can follow up later — and this gives you a good reason to email them after the interview — with specifics, what you want now is some good give-and-take, like that of a well-handled TV interview.

*Don’t be too aggressive in questioning. Again, they’re not the witness and you’re not Perry Mason or those crafty lawyers on “The Good Wife.” (great show if you haven’t seen it!) As your questions likely will come at the end of the interview, you don’t want the lasting impression of you to be as a bulldog who is trying to trip them up. Also, though at some point in the hiring process you’ll need to ask questions about salary and benefits, etc., be careful not to ask this too early in the process. Timing is everything with questions. It’s better in your initial interview or two to ask about a timeline for the hiring process — how many interviews there will likely be, and with what managers, and when finalists will be asked for salary requirements. That way, you can refer back to this information in a subsequent interview by saying, “I believe this is the point at which we’ll be discussing salary and benefits. I have a few questions about salary details, as you can imagine, and I presume you’ll have some questions about my expectations. Is this a good time to discuss them?” Let the hiring manager remain in charge of the process, even when it’s your turn for Q in the Q&A.

*Ask open-ended questions. Again, while there are times you’ll have specific inquiries for the hiring manager, it’s usually best to pose inquiries that will get them talking. And these tend not to be yes and no questions. Good topics are always about the company’s goals, their expectations for the position and their vision of the job and how it fits into the company. Here would be some good questions to get a hiring manager talking at an initial interview: “What are the organization’s top priorities and challenges, as you see them, for the coming year? What are the priorities for your team, and how does this position fit into that mission? What are the most important ingredients for success here? What do you think are the most important qualities for succeeding in this position?” Obviously, you’ll want to tailor your questions to the specific job and organization, but open-ended questions like these are a good starting point.

*Listen and be flexible. Just as when interviewing a source for a news story, it’s important to be willing to change your questions based on their answers. Show that you’re listening — with a slight nod or through your facial expressions — and then follow up with good questions based on what they’re telling you. This may cause you to toss out some of your carefully prepared inquiries, but that’s okay. The questions you’ve researched should be a guide and you shouldn’t stick to them at the cost of appearing inflexible or worse yet, looking like you haven’t been paying attention to the hiring manager’s answers.

*More evidence that the D.C. job market — though it may not always appear this way to those on the hunt — is much better than others. According to the Washington Business Journal, the search engine Juju.com again (I’ve noted this here in previous months) found that among 50 large U.S. cities, the D.C. metro area scored the best in its Job Search Difficulty Index. The index takes into account the ratio of jobless workers in a  market to  job openings advertised online. So I guess we’re better off than it may seem sometimes!

Read more: Juju.com: D.C. is best city for job seekers – Washington Business Journal

*Consider this opportunity for journalists and other creative thinkers. AOL wants to award some money:

AOL is launching a grant program, 25 for 25, to award twenty-five, $25,000 grants to tomorrow’s ground breakers and visionaries.  We are looking for the next generation of journalists, artists and innovators who believe in the power of ideas.  AOL is searching for those at the top of their fields and want to reach them through top-notch art programs /tech programs for innovation and other relevant  institutions throughout the country.

Please visit the website, www.aolartists.com/project-on-creativity for more information regarding 25 for 25 and the entire Project on Creativity or feel free to contact AOL with any questions at 25for25@teamaol.com. The 25 for 25 website will be open until September 1, although postal applications via the required branded envelopes AOL provide will be accepted through until September 15.

*And here’s some fresh leads to check out or pass along to others:

*CureSearch for Children’s Cancer, a non-profit group in Bethesda, is looking for a vice president of communications who will also serve as an editor:

Vice President, Communications
CureSearch for Children’s Cancer – Bethesda, MD
communications support for organizational initiatives and employee communications. Communications Programs… Serve as editor for communications materials…
From NonProfitJobs.org

*Kaiser Health News (KHN) in D.C. has an opening for a senior Web producer for KaiserHealthNews.org:


*The American Red Cross in D.C. is seeking a manager of its corporate partnerships unit:


*The Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Directorate of Management in the Defense Department in D.C. is seeking an editor:


*Americans for Financial Reform (AFR) in D.C. is looking for a communications director:

Americans for Financial Reform (AFR) is seeking a Communications
Director. AFR is a coalition of more than 250 consumer, labor, civil
rights, senior, community, business, academic, and other groups
working together to hold Wall Street accountable and to reform of our
financial system so that it serves our families and our communities.
AFR played a leading role in strengthening and winning passage of the
Dodd Frank bill, and is now focused on tough and effective
implementation to fulfill the promise of that legislation, and on
continuing efforts to transform our financial system.

The Communications Director will develop and carry out a
communications plan for AFR and work with AFR and our partners to
craft messages for the campaign, Candidates should have excellent
writing skills; be comfortable translating complicated policy issues
into clear and simple language; have experience in the online
communications world and working with progressive advocacy campaigns;
be good at multitasking and comfortable working in a fast paced and
diverse environment, and have the ability to provide leadership and to
work closely with staff and partners as members of a team. The
position will be supervised by the AFR Director.
Job Responsibilities include:
– Collaborating with AFR Director and staff, and with AFR partners, to
develop communications strategy for AFR and for specific issue
– Helping to develop – and to disseminate – campaign messages
– Building and maintaining relationships and working collaboratively
with AFR partners in general, and partners’ communications staffs in
– Maintaining a vigorous online presence for AFR, including through
our website, through blog posts, and through relationships with
bloggers and other online communicators
– Growing and maintaining communication with AFR’s email list
– Building and maintaining relationships with reporters and bloggers
– Writing press releases and statements
– Creating communications materials, including statements, editorial
board memos, op eds, LTEs etc, for AFR and AFR partner use
– Publicizing and promoting the financial reform work of AFR partners
Salary: Salary commensurate with experience;
AFR is an equal opportunity employer and encourages applicants from
diverse backgrounds.
To Apply: Please send a letter of interest, with a resume, writing
sample and three references to Wendi Wallace:
Wendi@ourfinancialsecurity.org. Send a notice of your interest while
you are preparing the material.

*Though this isn’t in the D.C. area, thought I’d include it anyway as Newsday on Long Island, N.Y., is doing quite a bit of hiring. Here are the details:

Newsday’s newsroom is hiring! 

In a big step forward on boosting our local coverage, during the next six months we will hire 34 new journalists for our newsroom and digital teams, and add 2,600 pages of additional news and opinion to our newspaper annually. I’m very excited to announce that we are making this significant investment in people and pages to provide more and stronger coverage for Long Islanders.

Many initiatives will increase town and local coverage in print and provide our online audience with more updates and faster coverage of breaking news around the clock. They include:

  • Adding to the number of town reporters
  • Doubling the number of Long Island news pages in Newsday each day
  • Upping the number of regional zoned editions of Sunday’s LI Life to provide more localized town news and information
  • Hiring community journalists who will hit Long Island’s streets in search of local features and personalities that define each community as we launch hundreds of hyper-local pages later this month
  • Gathering and building even more databases to become the definitive online source of local data for LI communities
  • Expanding our “community watchdog” role by increasing local investigations and enterprise reporting staff to dig into key topics that matter most to Long Islanders
  • Cross-training staff to enable them to cover news in both text and video

We also plan to expand our business and feature sections by:

  • Adding space to our daily business section, with more local, useful information for and about the Long Island business community
  • Introducing a daily e-mailed business newsletter
  • Boosting pages in LI Life to include a weekend Explore LI component for planning the week ahead
  • Creating a weekly in-depth profile story that will highlight the life, lifestyles and trends of Long Islanders

The Opinion section will grow as the editorial board under Rita Ciolli’s leadership adds three new positions and increases its weekly space in the newspaper by nearly 80 percent. This section will offer a full page of readers’ letters every weekday, along with more opinion pieces from across Long Island and beyond, representing a broad spectrum of viewpoints.

In sum, we will add 37 people to our teams as part of our commitment to be the indispensable source of news and information for Long Island.

If you know journalists interested in applying for these positions, please have them send their resume and clips to maryann.skinner@newsday.com.

*And to wrap up today’s leads, Bloomberg is significantly expanding its D.C. staff through its Bloomberg Government (BGOV) operation. The next wave of hiring will include 20 editors and 13 editorial analysts. Here are the listings; select Bgov under job section pulldown:


And the following link is to a Forbes.com piece with more details on the BGOV expansion:


Happy hunting today!



Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Tips for Polishing Your Resume Avoid These Job-Hunting Sins at All Costs

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. John Donland  |  August 17, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    I had some good advice once, ‘Handle yourself as though your acting as a consultant for the person you’re speaking with.’


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