Successful Candidates Never Ask This Question
February 3, 2015

Successful Candidates Never Ask This Question

by Brian de Haaff

A few days ago, I wrote Why Perfect Candidates (Like You) Walk Away. It is the story of how good employers often scare off the best candidates for jobs that they both want to fill. It happens all the time, and is sad no matter which side you are on.

Hiring is a serious job. Forty-six percent of new hires fail within 18 months, and another 45 percent are only fair to marginal performers. We all want to be better than that — we want to accomplish incredible things and leave our mark at work.

Unfortunately, hiring managers and companies still think of people as ‘human resources’ to be exploited for their benefit. 

Over 40,000 people read my initial post on how managers frighten great candidates away. And over 200 shared comments including some remarkable stories of disrespect. Here are some of the most crazy comments:

I was once yelled at on an interview. A year later I was offered an interview again and said I’d only interview if that person had been let go. He had. I got the job.
I once went into an interview on a Monday and the interviewer came very late and said she had a long weekend in Vegas.

So, it’s true that many managers still don’t get that they need great candidates more than the candidates need them. But let’s imagine that you are interviewing for the job of a lifetime with a manager who really gets it.

At Aha! (which is product roadmap software), we are growing really fast and do our best to treat all candidates as top notch. So, after years of interviewing good folks, let’s flip this around and consider how great candidates damage their own chance of getting the perfect job.

Few words kill your chance of landing the plum job faster than these phrases:

“What does your company really do?” If you have to ask this question, you are not prepared. You would not like it if an interviewer did not do their homework before speaking with you, so why would you not extend the same courtesy? No matter the role you’re interviewing for, you should be familiar with the company and what they do. It’s your job to approach the interview excited to explain how your unique skills will help the team achieve it.

“How many hours would I be expected to work?” This question says a lot about a candidate’s priorities. The interview is your place to shine and show why you’re the best person for the role. Since the most successful workers are great at time management, you should be confident that you can prioritize to get the job done. Asking how much you are expected to work implies that you are only interested in the bare minimum.

“When would I get a raise?” This is another revealing question. Those who ask this show that money is their primary motivator. Employees earn raises through working harder than their peers and being strong team players. The best candidates know this and are willing to work for advancement. They do not expect it outright — or ask about it in interviews.

You do not have that many opportunities in your career to leapfrog forward. When the perfect job surfaces, it’s up to you to seize it.

The best candidates know how to identify roles that will be a perfect fit for their skills and interests. If you’re lucky enough to find one, do your homework and focus on what really matters. Dig in deep to find out how you would contribute, because the the best candidates know that achieving a shared sense of mission beats smaller, selfish goals.

Great businesses are powered by great employees. Terrific hiring managers know this. They invest in people who are intrinsically motivated and put the organization first. Understand this and prosper.

What have you heard a great candidate ask to lose the perfect job?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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