Job interviews are often a “one-sided grilling” session, which may leave you with just a few minutes at the end of the interview to ask your questions, says Liz Wessel, a 26-year-old startup CEO.
But starting the interview off with a question for your interviewer can be a great way to establish a two-sided conversation, right from the get-go, she says. “However, you should be strategic. If the interviewer clearly has a script of questions and wants to get back on track, don’t push it.”
Wessel, the cofounder and chief executive of WayUp, a site used by hundreds of thousands of college students to find jobs at places like Microsoft, Uber, The New York Times, Disney, and Google, where she worked for two years, says the one question you should always try to ask at the beginning of a job interview is: “What have you been working on today?”
“This question is one that can help an interview go more smoothly at the beginning, so while it may not be the perfect thing to ask every time, it’s a surefire way to learn about the person and the company in an unscripted manner,” she says.
Wessel believes if you want to break the ice, then asking a question like “What have you been working on today?” will get the interviewer to go off-script and reflect on their day, giving you a chance to get them in their comfort zone, “which should hopefully set the right mood for the rest of the interview,” she says. “After all, an interview should go both ways. It’s a time for the interviewer to gather information about you, but also for you to gather information about the role and the company.”
This particular question is the perfect go-to for a few reasons, says Wessel: “It’s casual and conversational, and not too intense for the first question; it works for anyone at the company, and also fills you in on the real work going on that day; and it shows the hiring manager that you’re genuinely interested in them, as well.”
You may find that the interviewer uses this opportunity to vent, “which can be both informative for you and cathartic for them — just in case they’re entering the interview with a lot on their mind,” she says. “You may also find that the interviewer responds by highlighting certain projects that they’re particularly excited about.
“Either way, the answer should give you a good feel for your interviewer, as well as the types of projects on his or her plate — information that can be used later in the interview to inform your answers.”
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