So, you’ve made it through the first round of interviews for that new position. Now it’s the second — or third — round. “Tell me a little about yourself” has been asked. Maybe you’ve even been asked, “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” You know, all the important stuff.
Remember that job interviews are not only your opportunity to “sell” yourself, but are your chance to evaluate whether the job is actually something you’ll like and be good at. To figure that out, you have to do more than give the right answer to questions — you also have to ask the right questions.
To that end, I’ve come up with The Best Job Interview Question Ever. And it has nothing whatsoever to do with trees.
Ready? Here it is:
“What’s the first task you’d like me to accomplish in this job?”
Whether you’re interviewing for a CEO position or a job on the loading dock, the beauty of this question is multi-fold.
If everyone you interview with responds with “We need you to streamline our HR processes and make sure we’re in compliance with OSHA guidelines”, you can be certain that the organization is clear on what the job is about.
But, if the guy in accounting says, “You need to clear up the spreadsheets”, and the woman in marketing says, “You have to make new collateral materials”, and the CEO says, “We’re looking for someone to clean house”, and the gal in sales says, “I have no idea what you’re here for,” you’ve got a problem. The organization may be disorganized, lack leadership or not function well as a team. Here’s what you do in this situation: exit, quickly, stage left.
When you ask The Best Question, you might find that the expectations expressed are completely unrealistic. “I want you to drive up share prices by 50%, reduce the workforce by 30%, acquire companies more profitable than we are, and find the Holy Grail.” Again, this is your tip-off that the job may not be right for you. Or for anyone.
Having a clear sense of organizational priorities allows you to snag what writer Michael Watkins calls an “early win.” His book The First 90 Days has great advice on making the most of a new job — in short, when you meet or exceed expectations early, you are guaranteed success.
The interview process is fraught with anxiety and stress — but discovering how your colleagues and bosses will judge you as a winner before you take the job is a surefire way to insure you have less stress and more success.