Does your ego get in the way of building relationships in finding a job and building a career?

Do you find yourself advocating your view of the world more often than enquiring about other people’s perspectives?

How can you get a better balance by taking a curious and inquisitive approach and still sell yourself to an employer?

Most people I meet just love to talk about themselves. Start talking about yourself in response and you run the risk of competing or showing you are not listening. The shutters come down.

A questioning approach is both a mindset and a skill. It means you are no longer the centre of attention. It can feel like turning off the personal spotlight, letting go of control and holding back. It can be uncomfortable. The type of question you ask can shape the answer you seek.

Here are 4 common situations where asking the right questions at the right times in the right ways can help in building relationships for your job and career search.

Networking event

I was at a university event last week where students met recent alumni to find out about their jobs and how they had made the successful transition to the workplace. A student admitted to me he was “intimidated” by the situation and did not know what to say to anyone.

Take the pressure off yourself by asking simple questions like “what do you like best about your job?” and “what are your top tips for engaging with your employer?”

Ask open questions to get a conversation going, to explore new areas, to gather information and to encourage the other person to open up – What? When? Where? How? Who? Then show your listening skills.

Be careful about your use of Why? It’s OK in the right tone of voice where the relationship is good. If not, it can sometimes come across as judgemental or evaluative and lead to defensiveness. An alternative is to say “What makes you say that?” or “Tell me more”.

Social media

Savvy engagers know that asking questions can tap into the wisdom of the crowd and the giving nature of so many people on social media. People love to help others on Twitter. Asking questions in groups on Linked In shows interest to recruiters and employers.

Job interview

job interviewYou have a golden opportunity at the end to make an impact when the interviewer asks “Do you have any questions for us?” You can rescue an average interview or find out something to help you decide if this employer is the right one for you.

Ask probing questions to dig beneath the surface of an issue – “Exactly what does that mean for my career?” Closed questions are useful when seeking a yes or no answer for clarification – “So, are you saying that…?” or to get a fact – “What is the starting salary for this job?”

Check out my post Crush Your Job Interview: 50 Brilliant Questions To Ask.

Assessment centre

assessment centreGroup activities are a common feature of assessment centres. Inexperienced candidates can get sucked into the task and lose sight of the process. How you do things is often more important that what you do. Successful candidates understand that by asking a relevant question at the right time they can stand out from other people who dominate or appear to contribute more than them.

Hypothetical questions are great for shaping a discussion, testing an idea or an alternative situation – “What would happen if….?”

You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.  Naguib Mahfouz, first Egyptian Nobel Prize Winner for Literature

What could you do more of or less of, stop or start doing? What type of questioning approach will help move you towards your goals?