The Recruitment Underground Blog

Career Skills, Training and Transitions

The Single Most Important Interview Question

Posted by jamesseetoo on September 16, 2009

I’m going to assume that anyone who is reading this has probably had more than a few interviews.  And when you think back on them, who controlled the conversation?  I say conversation because ideally, that’s what an interview should be.  There should be a give and take so the interviewer gets to know you as a person and not just a resume and at the same time you can get the flavor of the organization that’s interested enough to interview you.

I had a telephone interview recently where the conversation degenerated into “we want you but you have to make a decision right now.”  Wow.  I mean I didn’t even have any decent background information on the organization.  Now it’s easy to get stampeded into a decision when you’ve been looking for a while and this is a common technique with some recruiters, pitchmen (limited time offer) and pickup artists (I can only talk for a minute). Needless to say I passed.

But this recruiter couldn’t really answer the most important question that can be asked during an interview and it’s the question that allows you to take control of and set your frame around an interview: “What’s important for you in this position?”

Now just to clarify, the frame sets the parameters and direction of the conversation.  If you’re in a position of just answering questions at best you won’t be able to control the impression you make and at worse the interview turns into an interrogation.  And both you and the interviewer walk away from the interview unsure of what went on and probably thinking that it was all a waste of time.

But if you ask, “What’s important for you in this position?” or some variation on that, you’ll really get an understanding of how the other person sees the job, its position in the company and where you would fit in.  And it will promote a great conversation not only about the skills you listed on the resume but also about your experiences and the direction you want to go.  It allows you to control a behavioral interview and turn a traditional interview into a conversation.  But most of all, it gives you insight into what the interviewer really wants to know and guess what, you’ll find that when you interview with several people in a company they will say the same things on the surface but underneath they all view the job differently.

When you ask this question, you instantly create rapport with the interviewer and can then speak directly to his/her concerns which greatly enhance your value as a candidate.  Even more, if they’re giving you wildly differing visions of the job and the company, you may find that you’ve dodged a bullet.

Remember, your skills are your job security.


James Seetoo

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2 Responses to “The Single Most Important Interview Question”

  1. Anthony said

    I think more job seekers need to remember that, yes, the interview should be a conversation. You’re both interviewing each other and you need to ask these questions to see if you actually want to work there. I think a lot a job seekers forget how active their role really should be in the process.

  2. sk said

    Hey, Nice post. I have researched some Excellent HR interview questions and answers

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