What was your last question to anyone?

As a recruiter, I “qualify” candidates daily according to both a boiler-plate template, profession-unrelated list and according to specific client/job requirements.  Q&A’s– even in all the human-variable elements– can get boring.

I once told someone that questions are more telling than the answers.    Whether or not that’s true, there’s really a tremendous power, a “catalyst”-quality to questions that goes highly under-valued.

Both the interviewer and interviewee is guilty of the above.   I tell interviewees all the time, go into an interview like you are going onto a date (under the hopeful assumptions that you approach dates in a way indicative of self-whole, self-loving, self-knowing self-development…notice how many times I felt “self” as an essential tag-element in going towards an activity less consciously associated with self than the other).  This is your time to size them up, evaluate if they/their company is a “fit” with your goals; personal/career mission; needs; wants.   The last five minutes, where at some point, the interviewer will ask you if you have any questions, is their gift for you to “tell” in the asking and  “take” in the asking at the same time.  Ask probing, creative (conventional or off-the-wall) questions; ask questions that engage, provoke, and inform all at once.

Anyways, it isn’t that my line of questioning is lacking.    But, I have a new room mate who came about in part of his job move.  We very comfortably batted questions back and forth to each other all week as we sifted through Walmart, Bed and Beyond aisles in search of crock pots and other domestic artifacts (which blew my undomesticated-to-a-heathenish-degree mind); as we stepped out onto the apartment balcony for post-work smokes; as we sat, with our laptops/mobile devices on adjacent sides of of the coffee room and sought sporadic punctuation from  our work/web-induced quiet.   I knew I liked the chap very quickly from his line of questioning;  how many people actually take the time to think creatively, wonder critically and conjure meaningful questions?   I don’t care what it is– if a topic is world peace, existentialism, your favorite color, or best, ad-lib food mash-ups…there are genius questions waiting to be birthed.

My point of bringing him up is that he reminded me that all exchanges– dating, friend or spousal conversations, job interviews, candidate screening– should, at least sometimes, be beyond the familial/spousal “How was your day?” or interviewee’s stump to the interviewer’s “Any questions for me?” or my screening of a candidate with the tried-and-true-but-somewhat-bland “Tell me about where you worked with xyz programming language” or “Can you, and how do you explain the difference b/w an interface and abstract class”– beyond, all that been there, done that crap that induces one to vomit up the same old “long day” or the worker’s beauty pageant-equivalent answer or induces me to listen the way recruiters do– reading between the lines, listening for technical and social competence, in the ‘what’ and ‘how’ and cadence of his speech, as I format another candidate’s resume.   (Clarifying, in regards to last scenario, I am not so bored that I’m going to stop completely “hearing” for the candidate’s competence; I can, quite well, while I’m attending to something else.) But, the fact is, we’ve all gotten so used to utilizing (and more importantly, enjoying) fractions of what we do, create, receive, and are…and that manifests in one example…that example, being the way in which we take the time to find out what we want to find out…and just how much we can actually find out.

I always look at my work as a playground to grow, explore, and daily recreate myself.   (One neat tip to career success: Re-define and re-visualize your work.  Another neat, tangent tip: Use interesting verbs to visualize what you do at work.  Example: “Slam” in deals versus get more deals. The very image, the imagined ‘whoosh’– Babe Ruth style– is so much more bad-ass and morale-lifting at the same time.)   So, new idea for my work day going forth: Add a new, fun, quirky question to the end of each screening process.  Because whether it’s something that jolts someone out of their comfort zone or brings them unexpected entertainment, whether it’s something as mind-throbbing as title of your hypothetical autobiography or as seemingly irrelevant as identifying your spirit-animal, there’s an art, a cheer, a telling, a life to the question.   (Another amazing thing: If you really think about it, a good question– as defined in last sentence– is one that you could ask a new prospective hire, date, friend AND romantic partner [separately, of course].   Try it: Think of that “good” question and visualize asking or actually asking your 3 or whatever number of folks in the different compartments of your life.   Whether you choose to ask interviewee, spouse, and friend to select a super power or recount an ethical dilemma, you’ll get something– and if they are smart enough, they’ll get something– of that true ? in their own way. )

If you had to interview someone (for a job, to gauge if date/marriage material, etc.), what are 5 questions you would ask?


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