By the time you hear this line in a job interview, you are so relieved that it is almost over that you might be tempted to think that it is time to relax a little. WRONG! Your response to this question can make or break the interview. Truly. I’ve seen it dozens if not hundreds of times.
I’ve probably conducted over 1,000 interviews in my years as a hiring manager. Lately, I’ve noticed applicants posing the following question in response: “What qualities are you looking for in the person you will hire into this position?” Or some variant of that inquiry.
Why would someone ask that? If you have read the job description, studied the web site, read the mission and vision of the organization, written a good cover letter that addresses the needs of the role and the firm, and paid attention during the past 45 minutes of the interview, you should already have a pretty good idea of the qualities we are looking for, or? This is hands-down the most annoying question I get. Pay attention and do your due diligence, and this question is completely ridiculous. If someone asks me this, I just think they haven’t done their homework. At all.
What are some of the best questions I have gotten?
My all-time favorite is: “What would you ideally like the person in this role to accomplish in the first three to six months? In the first year?” So far, the interview has focused on you, your past, your skills, preferences, education, professional goals and what you can bring to the organization. If the short- and longer-term goals for the role haven’t come up, this is the moment.
Another favorite is when the interviewee asks a question that shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have really done their homework. On me. Something like: “I noticed that you also worked at [company abc]. How would you describe the difference between that company and this one?” Interviewers are always flattered that you took the time and energy to pay attention to their career trajectory.
If you are dying to know what the rest of the hiring process will look like, you could finish up with that, but only if you are quite confident that it went well. This, for example, would suffice: “What is your timeline for this search?”
You do not want to waste anyone’s time. Be mindful of the interviewer’s busy schedule and let them know how much you appreciated their interest and time.
Finally, write a thank-you note IMMEDIATELY. It could be hand-written or sent via e-mail. It depends on the industry. Do not wait 24 hours if you are really interested in this position. Some candidates wait days. That is totally unacceptable.
Hiring processes are a grind. Hiring managers are always working under unrealistic deadlines and urgent operational needs. Make their lives as easy as possible. Come prepared knowing exactly what you can contribute to their organization. Don’t be long-winded. Speak succinctly and clearly. Dress impeccably. Have a firm handshake. Be confident. And good luck.
For many years, as a dean at three Ivy League colleges and now as an AVP at a university with an extraordinary mission, I have had a front row seat to the obstacles to success that college students and their parents confront every year. Even at so-called elite, highly selective colleges such as Princeton, Harvard, and Columbia, where I spent some of my career, students struggle on a daily basis to remain healthy, happy, grounded, and to stay in school. I am dedicated to helping them.