One Question You Must Ask at the End of Your Interview
When I applied for my Postdoc position, I knew I had some deficiencies as I had no experience with a key organoid technology needed for the job. However, this technology was something I had read about and thought it would be a vital part of my career goals as an independent investigator in academia.
Still, I sent in a carefully-crafted application that solidly highlighted my strengths in other areas. Luckily, I got to the interview stage.
We had a good conversation during the interview. As expected, I was asked if I had any knowledge of this key technology. I gave an honest answer but immediately followed it up about my willingness to learn due to its importance for my future goals.
I couldn’t tell if that helped my case. For the most part, I thought my interviewer had a flat effect all through the interview. My perception of him could as well be clouded by my hidden nervousness that comes with the interview terrains.
With my weakness in mind, I thought I would like to get instant feedback during the interview. So when it was my turn to ask questions, I made this my very last question:
“With our discussion today, do you have any doubts about my ability to excel in this position?”
“Hahaha…”, my interviewer laughed. Just like that, the aura of the interview changed.
Still, with a wide grin, he adjusted himself in his seat as he tried to think of an answer to my question.
“You know, nobody has ever asked me that question”, he said.
I smiled, albeit cautiously, with the hope that he would be honest with me.
“Well, at this stage we are down to two candidates who we think are capable of filling the position. Though, one of them has some good experience with the organoid technology and…”
I couldn’t grasp whatever he said after that as I was dejected for a minute.
Then I thought to myself; assuming I am one of those two candidates, that is a 50% chance of getting this job. Darn it! I can’t mess this up now.
When he finished talking, I tried to do some damage control.
“I definitely understand your concerns”, I replied. “I know it may be easy to go for the experience, but I am a quick learner and a very productive one”.
Then I reiterated how I have always learned and used new technologies to achieve desired results in the past. I told a short story of how I started graduate school without ever seeing or knowing how to use a pipette. I named specific techs I learned during this period, the results I achieved with each, and the paper(s) that resulted from each.
Now, I could see that I was probably through to him. With a little smile, he was nodding to every point I made. I did this for the next two minutes.
The interview ended and we exchanged pleasantries. I sent him a note immediately after the interview thanking him for the opportunity.
In the end, I got the job offer — two months before graduation. It was one of the best days of my graduate school life. As an international student, it felt so good and peaceful to go into your dissertation defense knowing you already have a job.
In any case, I believe the key to this approach was your ability to “re-justify” my qualifications and strengths for the position. Since this was the last subject we discussed, this would have been an important take-home message on the mind of the interviewer.
Hence, for your next interview, prepare to ask questions — lots of good questions. If the shoe fits, consider the approach here as your last question. You may be able to get a sense of your standing at this point of the application process.