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Interview Tip #1 -- Be sure to ask a question!

A two-part series on strategies for answering questions during a job interview.

Interview Tip #1 -- Be sure to ask a question!

My readers and students frequently ask me about strategies for answering questions during a job interview. There's no doubt that your ability to 'show your stuff' during a job interview is crucial to landing a programming job.

I'll be covering several strategies for answering questions in future articles, but today I want to discuss what I think plagues more job candidates than any other single issue -- failing to ask a question during the interview.

Not only do I teach and write books, I also own my own consulting firm, and although I do most of my own work, on occasion I do hire someone to help out during busy periods. Many of my hires come from a pool of candidate students provided to me by my University's Co-Operative Education program.

These students are highly recommended by the Chairman of the Computer Science Department and are extremely motivated. Choosing among two or three candidates can sometimes be very difficult.

So how do I make my choice?

That's easy -- I pick the candidate who asks me the best questions!

Asks questions? But isn't it the interviewer who should be asking the questions, not the job candidate?

Many job seekers are of the mistaken impression that the only role of the candidate is to answer questions during the interview. From the interviewer's perspective, however, you can't imagine the poor image conveyed by the job candidate who merely sits through the interview, politely answering each question, then when asked if they have any questions, simply reply 'no', as if anxious to leave!

Taking the time to ask a question or two during the interview demonstrates to the interviewer that you are enthusiastic and genuinely interested in the position and the company. Moreover, it shows that you can not only answer questions posed to you, but that you can initiate and carry on a conversation (a skill that is crucial when talking with end users). In short, taking the time to ask a question or two can land you the job!

Another benefit is that it gives you the chance to seek clarification on the job itself, the types of duties that will be required of you, and to learn more about the company and the people with whom you will work. These are questions to which you want answers before you show up for work the first day.

Next time: Questions to ask before saying "Yes, I'll take the job"

Written by John Smiley, MCP, MCSD and MCT, author, and adjunct professor of Computer Science at Penn State University in Abington, Philadelphia University, and Holy Family College. John has been teaching computer programming for nearly 20 years.

John Smiley is president of Smiley and Associates, a computer consulting firm located in New Jersey.

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