Who’s in charge here?

Do you have any questions for us?

I hate, hate, hate that question. Hate it. Loathe it. Cringe when it comes.

This is a horrible thing for a journalist to admit but I quite often HAVE NO QUESTIONS to ask a prospective employer in an interview — or at least, no questions that strike me as suitable to ask in the interview itself. My questions tend to be things that are more appropriately addressed after the offer has been made — like vacation allocation and salary. Sometimes I’ll have questions but the interviewers will have answered them all  by the time we get to the question portion of the show, and I’m left looking like a dolt, smiling and saying “No, you’ve answered them all.”

Mostly,  the questions I’d like to have asked come to me hours later, or the next day, just like the perfect retort. Frustrating as hell.

But still I’m intrigued by suggestions by the Brazen Careerist, Penelope Trunk, that one way to ace an interview is to ask questions before they ask you if you have any. In fact, Trunk seems to advocate taking the interview into your own hands, starting out by asking about the job — and then spending the rest of the interview explaining how you’re perfect for it.

Another way of taking control, Trunk suggests, is to present your interviewers with a plan of what you’d do for your first three months on the job. “Show some humility —  say, ‘This is just something I came up with that we might use to get the interview started.’ Of course, you can only do this if you know a lot about the job. But the best way to get the job is to know a lot about it.”

The very idea blows my mind. For me, the interview is a torture, whereby I put myself forward to be poked, prodded and ultimately judged by a panel of one or more people. It would never even occur to me that I could turn that whole paradigm on its ear. It’s not particularly in my nature to assert myself with strangers, I tend to sit back and assess the situation and then make my move when I’ve got it sussed. (The validity of this approach was brought home to me when at one workplace a new supervisor swore he was going to “fix” everything that was wrong in a very smooth-working and highly productive office — and this before he even walked in the door.  Never was a man so quickly and universally hated.)

But what if you had that kind of cojones? Just imagine it. You’d have to be very certain of  having done your homework, and I suspect that approach would work better in some industries than others — some industries reward the brazen advance, others punish it. But it would be worth it just to see the faces of the interviewing panel as you thwart their interview plan, carefully structured to elicit answers to their pre-determined questions, spoken and unspoken.

And who knows, it just might work, particularly if the company was hoping the new person in the position would put their own stamp on it.

Hmm. Tempting. Perhaps to be labelled: For supremely confident adrenaline junkies only.