Today we cover the art of chit-chat with a job interviewer and how some thoughtful questions could help you differentiate yourself from other candidates. We also will focus on the 10 questions CEOs are asking themselves as they prepare their organizations to prosper under a challenging regulatory environment.

We talk a lot on the podcast and in our career management/leadership blogs about preparing for a job interview.

As I have reported to you in the past, recruiters from across all business sectors say that one of their biggest frustrations is that candidates show up and they are not prepared. I have seen that happen more than I would like in our own searches. It is frustrating when the candidate arrives and then begins asking questions that were covered in some detail in the comprehensive Position Prospectus, a document we provide to all qualified candidates.

The Position Prospectus is a detailed overview of the position and the search process. It includes the selection criteria, the performance deliverables, an overview of the organization, the cultural profile and information on the search process, including a schedule. This document takes a lot of work so it is disheartening when, at the start of the face-to-face interview between the candidate and the search partner, all the front-end chit chat is centered on topics that were fully explained in the Prospectus.

If you are looking to get off on the wrong foot in an interview, that is a good way to do it.

Instead, let’s focus on some questions you can ask, that will reinforce that you, have, in fact, done your homework prior to showing up for the meeting.

Rachel Gillett, associate careers editor at on-line Business Insider, recently posted “11 Brilliant Conversation Starters to Use In A Job Interview.”

I am not sure brilliant is the best description for the questions but they are worth considering. Here are the best of her list. You can read her entire post at BusinessInsider.Com.

This is a point where Ms. Gillett and I do agree: Building rapport with the interviewer before getting down to the substantive questions is a good way to connect with that individual and help you differentiate yourself from the other applicants. But here is a cautionary note: DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Being ham handed is not an asset and you certainly do not want to get off on the wrong foot by asking an inappropriate question.

Gillett says that career experts say that it is best to have one or two good open-ended questions that will require the interviewer to talk. Gillett refers to‘s J. T. O’Donnell who believes that this is one way you can demonstrate your good listening skills. But he says you need to be watch your body language and maintain eye contact to demonstrate you are giving their response your undivided attention.

So here are a few of the questions:

  1. ‘It is a pleasure to meet you. How was your weekend?’ OK, that one certainly falls outside the brilliant question category but it is relatively safe if your interview was on a Monday. You would not want to ask that question on a Friday. This is a question that provides for some chit chat without getting too personal.
  2. Now here is one I do like but will require some finesse if your goal is to ask it on the front end of the interview: ‘What is the most pleasantly surprising thing about working here you learned once you were on the job?’ Here you are keeping the focus on the interviewer and you are emphasizing your interest in all things positive.
  3. ‘Congratulations on winning that big award,’ or ‘What an interesting piece of art.’ As to the former, you would have had to do your homework to uncover something like that. If you find something regarding the interviewer about which you can compliment them, be sure you understand the circumstances and the approximate time the award was made. Congratulating someone for some very old news is not impressive. I am less enthusiastic about her art question unless the art is in the individual’s office and it is something truly interesting otherwise you may come across as fairly lame and scripted.
  4. ‘I really enjoyed your company’s latest blog post.’ While not a question, it is a fairly safe topic to comment on but be specific about what you liked about the post.
  5. Now here is one I do endorse: ‘What is the most memorable thing that has happened to you since joining the company?’ Now, again, I do not think this is a conversation opener, but it is definitely one you should work into the interview, even if you wait until the end when the interviewer hopefully asks if you have any questions.
  6. If the interviewer has written an article you read or conducted a webinar you listened to and you can credibly speak to what you enjoyed or learned, then good. But here, as is the case with other questions or comments, you do not want to come across as scripted or uninformed. That will do more damage than good.
  7. And finally, thanks to LinkedIn, you can tell how long someone has worked for a particular company, assuming they have posted a profile on that professional networking platform. Some organizations impose limitations on social media participation, but if you can find the interviewer’s profile and it does provide information on their work tenure, Ms. Gillett says that you can ask a question such as: ‘I see you have worked here for five years. What do you like the most about working here?’ Or you can include the often overlooked question about the organization’s culture. Sometimes current employees get uncomfortable with this question because they are not sure how to answer it, but it is still a worthy and important inquiry because being out of touch with a company’s culture, or not understanding the performance priorities are two primary reasons new hires are terminated.

Aside from some interesting conversation starter questions, I think your biggest takeaway should be that it is important to be prepared, to do your homework and then to execute. Poor execution can hurt your performance and chances of winning the job.

10 Questions CEOs Are Asking Themselves About Employee Engagement

As we begin to think seriously about what the US healthcare delivery system is going to look like over the next five to seven years, the importance of developing and empowering our employees is becoming an increasingly important strategy. I think it is very important for CEOs to be able tap into that reservoir of knowledge and passion for the success of the organization.

As CEOs ponder various strategies — and fads — as they look for clues to discern which path to pursue, and as they consider the role their employees can play in helping advance the organization, here are some important questions to ask:

  1. How do you describe your organization’s culture and would more than 75 percent of the employees agree with you?
  2. How would you describe your leadership style and would your leadership team and employees agree with your description?
  3. Describe your organization’s reputation as an employer — your recruiting brand. Do know, based on market research and anecdotal feedback, what that brand is?
  4. Is your HR function transactional — focused primarily on employment, records management and benefit administration — or is it transformational — a highly dynamic, innovative and visible service center, that your employees value and trust?
  5. How do you recruit? Are you attracting and keeping the top talent?
  6. Do you have a transformational onboarding program or a traditional transactional employee orientation where employees essentially learn the rules of how to get fired?
  7. What is your organization’s rate of mis-hires and do you account for this, financially speaking? Do you hold people accountable? This is important because if you are an organization with 400 nurses and your turnover rate is 25%, which, surprisingly, is still not that uncommon given the competitiveness of the market, your costs of turnover in that one department is about $4.5 million a year. I know one national investor-owned company which churns through CEOs, CNOs and CFOs with great gusto and pride. They believe that their rigorous — some would say unrealistic — performance expectations and robust approach to accountability is the key to their great performance and why Wall Street loves them. I wonder if it would be true love if those analysts calculated that the company was unnecessarily spending between $15 and $2o million on this churn?
  8. Does your organization consistently conduct exit interviews?
  9. Does your organization systematically evaluate your employees each year — not for the size of a raise in pay or bonus, but for what kinds of support they may need to be more successful? If your annual evaluation begins with a department manager rating an employee and recommending a raise and ends with the CEO or some vice president approving it, you are missing an unbelievable opportunity to tap in to an amazingly powerful resource — employee input.
  10. Are you getting the 100 percent effectiveness from your employees that you are paying for, or the 65 to 70 percent that your competitors are getting?

An Important News Story to Follow

If you are in healthcare, here is a news story you need to monitor. The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to hold a vote next week on the Senate’s iteration of the GOP version of healthcare reform, an initiative that some are already calling it Trumpcare.

According to reports on Sen. McConnell’s plan, there will be limited debate so it will important to pay attention this discussion because this will be the first opportunity any of us will have had to know what is in the Senate version. To date, the Senate has not held one hearing, nor have they sought input from healthcare policy experts, and the Democrats have completely shut out of drafting sessions. Everything until now, has been done behind closed doors.

Healthcare executives and employees should take notice because if the Senate plan resembles the House plan, which has proven to be hugely unpopular with Americans if you believe polls, it could have dramatic impact on our industry, including declines in revenue and a loss of jobs.

Today, it is still too early to tell what the Senate plan will be like, but when we finally do know, it may be too late.

Tomorrow in our SelfPerspective Blog post, Embrace Your Failures, I will look at the importance of being prepared to answer negative questions in a job interview. You know they are coming. Check out the blog post tomorrow.

If you missed Tuesday’s post, Career/Life Balance Paradox: Promising No Relocation I examined the problems that confront senior leaders who, ideally, do not want to make job changes that will disrupt the lives of their children. With a contracting industry and shorter CEO tenures, this parental wish may no longer be realistic. You can find that post at www.JohnGSelf.Com. I urge you to read this post.

If you have any questions, you can reach me at

That’s it for this week. Join us next Wednesday for another edition of SelfPerspective, The Podcast, and for our latest career management video is available on Saturdays on JohnSelf TV on YouTube.

Remember, good leadership is built on a foundation of trust. Without truth, there can be no trust. And truth is not a term of convenience.