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 How to Ask Your Qualifying Questions

By Joe Stein

One of the emerging trends that I have observed has Job Seekers becoming much more comfortable in asking their own qualifying questions during the early portion of the process. Previously, Job Seekers would patiently wait for the prospective employer to bring up key items such as compensation, benefits, schedule, etc., often not until much later in the process.  The challenge with this, however, from a Job Seeker perspective, is precious time may be spent pursuing a position that does not meet the minimum requirements needed.

This all seems on the surface, to be a positive, not only for the Job Seeker but perhaps also for the Hiring Manager.  For example, this action by the Job Seeker may save the company from pursing someone that is not a match.  Unfortunately, what (in theory) could be a positive becomes a negative, mostly due to the lack of finesse displayed by the Job Seeker when asking the question(s).

Like most things in life, there is a time, place, and way to ask your qualifying questions.  Furthermore, like most things, common sense reigns in this area and should guide you in how to handle yourself in these situations.

There are some basic tips to consider when preparing yourself to ask qualifying questions. Let’s review some of these items now:

• Take Your Cue From the Hiring Manager – Conducting a job search can be a time consuming exercise, so it is tempting to want to jump into your qualifying questions right at the start of a phone screen to determine if there is an interest.  This, most likely, will place the Hiring Manager on-guard as you attempt to wrestle the questioning away at an early stage.  Try to weave your questions into the conversation while it is in progress (in particular, if you are on a topic).  For example, when asked about your reliability, you can answer about your attendance awards won and how dedicated a worker you are, then transition to asking about work schedule.  If you can hold off, it is best to wait until the Hiring Manager asks for questions, as this prevents the impression that you are not really interested in the position or that you are overly aggressive.

• How You Ask the Question is Critical – This is where the real finesse comes into play.  How you ask a question can generate a completely different reaction from the Hiring Manager.  Do it correctly, and you are likely to receive your answer.  Do it incorrectly and the Hiring Manager will probably start to shut down, due to your aggressiveness or rudeness.  For example, if you want to ask about schedule, there is a huge difference between, “I will only work 7-4pm, do you have this schedule?” and “I know you are a 24-hour operation, what schedules are you hiring for at this time?”  One way is perceived as demanding and inflexible, while the other is open-ended and conversational.  You may get the same answer from both, however, the latter will leave a much more positive impression.

• Prioritize What to Ask –You probably don’t want to ask every qualifying question that you have in mind.  This is true for several reasons, such as not wanting to dominate the conversation or avoid giving the impression that you are overly demanding.  Instead, prioritize the question or two that is the most important to you.  If it is benefits, then this should be your priority and focus.  Keep in mind, when prioritizing, that Hiring Managers tend to be more sensitive to some questions than others.  Compensation inquiries tend to make the person the most uncomfortable, while schedule questions generally carry little stigma to them when asked.

Your reaction to an answer can be as important as how you asked the question.  For example, if you are bold enough to ask about Compensation and hear a rate that will not work for you, there is a best way to answer.  Rather than abruptly telling the Hiring Manager that “this is not enough”, you can answer that “based on the market and my experience, I believe my value is higher.” “Is there room to your salary range?”  One response closes the door immediately (not only for this position, but most likely others), while the other one may lead the discussion in an entirely different and positive direction.

Asking some basic qualifying questions can be a good idea and assist both you and the Hiring Manager.  There is, however, a way to do it and timing is essential in order to avoid coming across as pushy or someone that is truly not interested in the position.  With a little strategy and finesse, you can find out what you want to know without leaving a bad first impression.

As always, best of luck in your job search!