it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

1.  “At the beginning of the year, my office received approval to hire for several positions across two departments, one of those departments being mine. We knew we were likely to have many strong candidates internally, and externally.

In a managers’ meeting, I advocated that we send our interview questions to all candidates being interviewed ahead of time. I was an asked to serve on hiring panels for two different departments for these hires. As we were planning our strategy for the hires, I again advocated for sharing the interview questions with the people we chose to interview and both of the hiring managers agreed.

Almost everyone we interviewed commented during the interviews how much they appreciated having the questions in advance. From my perspective, I think it lessened the stress candidates have when trying to answer questions off the cuff and allowed them to provide thoughtful and informative responses to our questions. I have been part of many hiring panels over my career. I would say these were some of the best interviews in which I have participated. One reason for this was because we shared the interview questions ahead of time.

We hired some fantastic internal and external candidates for these positions who are already making great contributions to our organization.

Thanks to you for the idea of sharing the interview questions in advance. I would do it in the future for any hiring in which I am involved.”

2.  “I’m so excited to be writing in for good news Friday! All of your advice has been so excellent for me!

I focused my resume on accomplishments instead of duties, like you always advise. I wrote out answers to likely interview questions and rehearsed them. I did a mock interview with a friend.

I asked the magic question and found out what accomplishments to focus on. One interviewer gave an audible ‘hmm!’ while I was talking, like he was happy to hear about that experience.

I used my thank-you notes to follow up on the questions asked by each specific interviewer.

After the interview, I started doing research for and preparing for a possible negotiation. I knew they would lowball me on salary, and they did.

During the convo where she offered me the job, I asked for a senior VP title (this job was set at VP level) and made the case that it was an international position with significant responsibilities, and the title needed to hold weight with the staff. I also explained that the job description was more in line with a chief officer job than a VP-level job, justifying asking for a $10k jump over what they offered me initially. I had done my salary research.

On top of that, both the title (this is a new position) and the name of the new department that I’d be heading up were outdated.

So I made the case for the title and dept name change by explaining how it would make my work so much easier if clients could look at the title/name and know exactly what my role was.

Well, they came back okaying the title bump, title change, and department name change, and $8k over the original offer.

I’ve been reading your blog for years, read your books, and it paid off.”

3.  “I emailed some time back because my job, which had been perfect for a partially disabled person who needs a flexible schedule due to other responsibilities, had become absolutely terrible: hours cut and cut again without diminution in my task load, unwritten management tree changed to include multiple bosses for just one me, reprimands for not doing things that were not in the job description that none of my new bosses had even read, extra work dropped on me out of the blue but God help me if I asked for the time I needed to get it all done, and managers taking me aside to give me nice little chats about improving my work efficiency while I was on the clock with a deadline looming. And also ‘making a place for’ important documents in the numbered filing system that I had created with my own hard work, without writing down where that place actually was. And so on.

Well! I have gotten a much better job by using your cover letter and interview suggestions. Higher pay, more hours now with a strong possibility that within two years I will be working as many hours as I can take on without endangering my health and no more, schedule still flexible, a clear (written!) chain of command, a job description that is reviewed every year, scheduled meetings, and everything filed, cross referenced, backed up, and updated using a system that runs like clockwork that I did not have to create in the face of indifference! There was already an emergency services manual when I got there! Already a manual for my job! I didn’t have to write any of it!

I just had my first quarterly review, which was a revelation. (I got one employee review over my years at the other place.) Measured, calm feedback and sensible, feasible suggestions for improvement. And they noticed the extra I was putting in. Glory hallelujah.”

{ 40 comments… read them below }

  1. Sara without an H*

    These are all wonderful, but I’m especially moved by #3. I know from experience that it’s so bracing to escape from a toxic workplace and start working for sane, well-organized people.

    Congratulations, LW#3, and I hope things continue to go well for you in the coming year.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I am curious if #3 had an exit interview and if management was Pikachu face or bitter or if they were thinking, no problem. We can find someone to work part time who will do everything.
      Is it “Unfallgaffen” ?
      I hope it was a pleasant exit and that any rude awakenings came later and far removed from OP. But I do hope they had an “oh crap moment.”

  2. OrigCassandra*

    These are fantastic. I especially appreciate OP1 writing in, because the change management involved in best hiring practices can be SUCH a slog, and I like seeing it be successful.

    1. Goldenrod*

      Agreed! Providing the questions ahead of time makes *so* much sense. Why should an interview be a “gotcha”? I hope this trend catches on!

      1. Willow Pillow*

        It’s a perfect example of how accessibility measures can benefit everyone, not just people with disabilities.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Jumping into the OP 1 thread.
      After sending the questions to candidates, did anyone bow out at any time stating, “oh, I see where you are going with this and that’s not where I want to end up?” or “oh, it’s far more X oriented than Y, no thank you.”

      1. OP1*

        No one bowed out in the hiring we were doing. Our job announcements are fairly detailed and clear (including salary info and work from home info). We also did a robust resume review which narrowed down the people we invited for interviews to those we thought would be a good fit.

    3. All the tea*

      My workplace has one question that they ask candidates to prepare in advance. It focuses on a past success they’ve had and it’s always my favourite part of the interview – people often become animated and it allows such a great insight into how they operate and what they’re passionate about.

  3. Goldenrod*

    Congrats to you all!

    OP 3 – Isn’t it amazing what a difference it makes to have a clear job description and logical chain of command?? So happy for you!

  4. I should really pick a name*

    It’s a very good question to ask, but I’m not sure why people call it “the magic question”.
    It’s a way to get information. It will help you with your decision, but I don’t think it’s as earth-shattering as some people make it out to be.

    1. OP1*

      I think the name comes not because of the information the interviewee gathers from the interviewer’s response, but because several people on AAM have reported positive feedback when they asked the question and also reported receiving job offers.

  5. Trippedamean*

    As an introvert with anxiety especially when faced with multiple people staring at me, the first one makes me so happy. Getting interview questions in advance would be amazing!

    1. OP1*

      One of the hiring managers is an introvert and said the same thing. They were happy to share the questions because they too don’t always do well with spontaneous questions.

  6. Insert Pun Here*

    The last job I interviewed for sent me the interview questions in advance, and honestly it was a bit of a mixed bag. It did seem to foreclose some avenues of conversation. On the other hand, some of the questions were the kind of thing that someone in my role would typically be asked to address in a written assignment (a plan for what you’d do in the position, basically), so it was at least more interesting to talk about those things than to write about them. I think I spent about the same amount of time preparing the answers as I would have spent writing the assignment so overall a wash, in terms of time commitment.

    On the balance I think I found it mildly offputting—not something that would cause me to turn down a job I was otherwise interested in, but kind of a yellow flag. But then my job does require a fair amount of public speaking, sometimes extemporaneously. Definitely see the value for entry level jobs and jobs that are less focused on those kinds of skills.

      1. Insert Pun Here*

        That the organization was inflexible, or overly formal or regimented. And/or that they were hiring for the wrong skills (my job requires a fair bit of improvisation, for lack of a better word.) More concerned with process than results.

        1. OP1*

          The intent in sharing the questions wasn’t for the candidates to have a written answer, but rather to allow them to be prepared with notes or whatever they wanted. Our organization has a formal hiring process that requires us to ask all interviewees for a position the same questions. Those initial questions are what we shared before the interview. This didn’t preclude us from following up on something an interviewee said during the interview with more questions. We also planned plenty of time for the candidates to ask questions of us.

          I have seen internal candidates who had the experience, skills, and knowledge absolutely bomb interviews several times because in the moment they didn’t think well on their feet and gave poor answers to questions. Some people, even good public speakers, don’t interview well and providing the initial questions in advance worked to alleviate some of the nervousness interviewees have.

          1. Insert Pun Here*

            Yeah, to my point: an org that requires interviewers to use the same set of questions for every candidate is one I would consider too inflexible. (For me, as a candidate.)

            1. Willow Pillow*

              Standardized interview questions are a common diversity tool used to reduce bias. This is the second instance of you taking umbrage with equitable practices… Try being more flexible yourself.

              1. Insert Pun Here*

                Again, companies can conduct interviews however they see fit (within the bounds of the law.) But I’m also interviewing them back, and if their practices result in a stilted interview where it’s hard for me to get a sense of the team, personalities involved, etc… that’s offputting to me as a candidate. Interviews are a two way street.

                1. nnn*

                  That’s about bad interviewers then, not the practice itself. Good interviewers can work from the same core list of questions but ask followups, still give you a sense of the things you want, etc. Sounds like that’s the part that wasn’t happening.

                2. Varthema*

                  My work style is very flexible, perhaps to a fault (too reactive), and that’s precisely why having a script and list of questions for every candidate is so important. My instinct (former teacher) is to find common ground and try to put people at ease and help them succeed at the task at hand, and while I’m sure all of that leaks through into my interviewing style (I do try to put them at ease) a lot of that is not necessarily a good thing. If I find common ground with someone because we grew up in the same place or went to the same college or both have kids the same age or enjoy the same hobby… those are going to make me view the candidate more favorably for reasons that have NOTHING to do with the work and introduces all kinds of opportunity for straight-up illegal bias. So it’s better for me not to have the chance to find out. As well, I spent a LOT of time writing out the interview questions to really target skills we want to have, but sometimes at the last minute I find myself tempted to skip one because based on other parts of the interview I’ve thought, “I don’t think this candidate can answer this one successfully and I don’t want to put them on the spot,” but when it’s written out I feel like I have to – and I’ve realized it’s SO important to give them the chance to prove me wrong, because on a few occasions they absolutely have.
                  As others have said, there’s nothing preventing me from following up (I do) or reword questions, especially according to the person’s resume. But pre-established questions *thoughtfully written by the hiring manager* is a really good practice.

            2. Helewise*

              This is true of most government jobs – all that I’ve interviewed for, anyway! It might be too inflexible for you, but it’s not uncommon.

            3. just some guy*

              I’ve done quite a few interviews where we provided questions in advance (though for us it was usually 20 minutes in advance, I get the impression OP1 was providing more time). It doesn’t preclude flexibility, because the question we send out is only the starting point for a discussion, not the end of our communication.

              As mentioned by Willow Pillow, standardisation is useful for reducing bias and ensuring that our decisions are defensible. But every candidate is going to answer a question in their own way – a good question will be designed so that there’s not just one right way to answer it – and the follow-up is highly interactive, informed both by their response and by my reading of their CV/etc.

              A great deal can be covered by brainstorming in advance about what kinds of responses we might get, and what we were looking for. But sometimes it’s still necessary to ditch the plan and improvise. I think I’ve done that once out of seventy-odd interviews I’ve conducted, when it became clear the standard question wasn’t going to be helpful in assessing this candidate. Occasionally exceptions are necessary, but the more one can avoid that through planning, the easier it is to keep things fair.

              And of course, the candidates still get to ask their own questions. The “questions in advance” bit is just from the panel side.

    1. Willow Pillow*

      My experience has been that getting interview questions in advance is supposed to enhance talking about the answers, not to replace such with written statements. I would come up with specific answers but I wasn’t just reading them out – I knew the key things I needed to touch on and then the rest was a conversation. I do the same with public speaking, and I get positive feedback on both.

      If the specific questions show you that the job isn’t right, then that’s a flag about the organization, not the practice of providing the questions.

      1. Insert Pun Here*

        I’m not saying that I pre-wrote the answers and then read them verbatim. I’m saying that the questions addressed things that, normally, a candidate for a job like mine would be asked to address in a written assignment.

        I think every deliberate choice indicates something about an organization, actually, though sometimes it’s hard to figure out exactly what it is. In this particular case it could have been that the org was inflexible, or it could have been that they’re just bad at interviewing. Like I said, a yellow flag (not red.)

        1. Willow Pillow*

          This is an accessibility measure for people who process communication differently – this can be an ADA-level accommodation. You’re no more obligated to use them than you are to use an audible pedestrian signal or a wheelchair ramp. Do you find those things offputting? Do they reflect badly on the places you encounter them?

          1. Insert Pun Here*

            If they’re done poorly, then yes, they reflect badly on those places. A poorly constructed ramp, e.g., or an audible pedestrian signal that’s not timed correctly (this metaphor is getting strained.)

            You’re right to note that I am not obligated to use these accommodations. That’s exactly what I’m saying: I found it mildly offputting, and might (in similar circumstances) decline to engage further.

  7. Office Skeptic*

    I tried using the “magic question” in a job interview and the interviewer was clearly NOT pleased or impressed with it. Just a warning that it doesn’t work with everyone!

    1. pope suburban*

      Yeah I’ve used it a few times and the response tends to be mild confusion. I’m happy for everyone who has had success with it, but it’s never really done all that much for me. I don’t think I even bothered with it when I interviewed for my new and current job. I did do a follow-up email, though, and that got me marks from the hiring manager, which was nice to know.

      1. nnn*

        Man, I would think an interviewer being confused about the difference between ok and great performance in the job you’re talking about would be a big red flag!

    2. Jam*

      Same, it might be cultural difference or something but it’s never worked for me. I’ve had it turned back to me in a suspicious way, as if to say, “surely you as a professional llama wrangler should already know what makes a great llama wrangler.” I think it might come off as a little gimmicky/salesy in my non-American context.

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        Late to the party and maybe you won’t see this, but do you live in a very “guess” type culture?

        Maybe your llama wrangling is much better-defined than my llama-wrangling, but at least in my field, a “great llama wranger” might mean someone who’s really good at putting the animals at ease, or someone who writes up clear detailed plans for llama care, or someone who’s very skilled at hoof and teeth cleaning, or someone who’s good at teaching the llama owners how to work with their animals, or…

        If I asked that question and got a “you know what it means” type answer, I’d be side-eying them A LOT. To me, that’s absolutely a question for determining a good fit — I know what *I* think a senior llama wrangler does, but those may not be the parts of the job that the interviewer considers most important.

  8. Books*

    I have participated in several interviews with government agencies where they provided the questions about 30 minutes in advance. Definitely helped my anxiety. I was able to write main points for each question and think of a relevant example.

  9. Office Gumby*

    Amen to receiving questions before the interview. Last month I had two interviews that had done that for me. One of them had sent me questions 24 hours before the interview (not that it mattered. They were truly awful questions, full of vagueness and most likely yoinked from the Internet. Reader, I did not get that job. All the time in the world would not have been enough to satisfactorally answer those questions).

    The other gave me the questions a half-hour before my interview. Granted, while that might not seem like a lot of time, they were highly-tailored to the position asking for specific examples. The half-hour before the interview was to give me some thinking time to come up with those examples. Because the questions were so very specific, it was easy enough to think of something within the time allotted. Also, gave me enough time to think about how I wanted to answer the questions without waffling on while trying to think on the spot. I appreciated the forethought they granted me. When I went into that interview, I was full of confidence, efficient, and did not make a fool of myself. It may have only been a half-hour, but that time made all the difference.

    They later offered me that job.

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