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Questions Open Doors

I can still hear my Nana’s sing song voice calling me Bossy Lady over the comforting noise of Jeopardy emanating from the television in the late afternoons of my childhood. Considering my sister ended up with the name Bad News Bear, I felt pretty lucky to have my moniker. While at first glance, Bossy Lady could sound like I wanted to control every situation. You may not be wrong. But it’s not the full picture. It truly stemmed from my sometimes-problematic inquisitive nature. I felt the uncanny desire to ask everyone questions. When I say everyone, I mean everyone. Much to my Nana’s and parents’ annoyance, any adult that made it into earshot fell victim to an onslaught of questions: the poor mailman, the startled lady stuck standing next to us in grocery store line, anyone. For a young child, questions opened doors to understanding and insights. Everyone encountered was an instant teacher.

Interestingly, I’ve not changed much from my early days of watching contestants answer in question format under Alex Trebek’s guidance. I think about the power of questions all the time, which isn’t surprising given my choice of career as a recruiter and job consultant. My journey is an odyssey of questions. Questions are a powerful tool. A tool that I find endless joy in cultivating.

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As Gary Zukav said, “When you ask one set of questions, one set of doorways open before you, and when you ask other questions, other doorways open.” Asking questions in an interview defines the critical dynamic between interviewer and interviewee. Want to know a little secret? That unwelcomed knot of anxiety generated the half-second before a new question is launched your direction in an interview, it’s felt on both sides of the conversation. Yes, not joking. The person asking the question isn’t immune from anxiety in the exchange. They’re freaking stressed that their question isn’t a good question. Even worse their question could be entirely lame. Everyone is totally uncomfortable. When you really think about it, interviewing is insanity. You’re basically asking people who don’t know one another to sit down face to face to judge each other on a single momentary exchange. Pure lunacy.

What makes a good interview? The same thing that makes a good conversation. Great questions that prompt open dialogue surrounding a topic, which in an interview is often YOU. I know you’ve spent hours researching through blurry eyes and the feeling of discouragement the TOP 100 HR Questions. Thinking that preparation and memorizing well organized answers to a roulette of these questions will guarantee you the winner. Dear god they are dreadful. I even find myself apologizing before asking these damn behavioral-based questions to others. News flash, my industry tries to make interviewing into an elaborate dance. You’re freaking out trying to learn the ChaCha and hell, you only need to keep up with the beat and energy of the dialogue. Who’s been in this situation? For eff’s sake, most of the American population.

The worst is when you’re the hiring manager and an individual shells out this contrived, keyword-laden response to these types of questions. Heck the only reason you asked it was because your HR team put it on your docket. Now, both of you are staring at each other across the table melting in the uncomfortable - sweat beads emerging on the brow of the poor soul who took the bait. Disrupted by crap questions. The magic has been crushed for this moment when both parties are acting out roles.

As a child, I never used preestablished questions during my interrogations of the public at large. No, I used pure curiosity. I desired to know more about the person. My intention was to learn, not to test the other person. Isn’t that the true goal of an interview? Of a question in an interview? Is this the reason why companies continually fail at selecting the right person to join their teams? Frankly, I believe so. We’ve shifted the intentions in the interviewing process dramatically away from the core goal: getting to know one another. How could we possibly make the right choice if we aren’t open to truly meeting the person on the other side of the table?

Could it be that we are doing interviewing wrong? I think it’s worth a consideration as an industry. Let’s explore new ways to do this. Perhaps we need to rethink our questions so that new doorways can be opened. In the memory of Alex Trebek, “Please phrase your answer in the form of a question.”