The One Question I Always Get : Why is the Position Open?
As a recruiter at a retained executive search firm, candidates often ask me, "Why is the position open?" A good recruiter is going answer this question fairly and honestly. If the former occupant was fired, they will tell you. If it's a tough place to work, you have every right to know. If it simply wasn't a good fit, they should tell you that, too. If the previous occupant of the job was promoted or has an exciting new opportunity, they will be happy to share that so you'll be excited about what the job has in store. They will tell you how he or she grew and blossomed in the role and, most importantly, they will spend time talking about how you will do the same. But by asking this question you may be selling yourself short. You are only getting the perspective of why someone else failed or succeeded and the recruiter or interviewer is now looking to the past rather than into the future. You've shifted their attention from you to the previous employee. You asked the question because you want to learn from the last occupant and perhaps gain insight into the company and its culture. It's a legitimate concern, but you want to get the information without making the interviewer look at the past. So instead ask, "What are the challenges and opportunities I may face in this role?" or "Can you give me some advice on pitfalls to avoid in this position?" The focus now shifts to you rather than the former occupant and shines a light on what you can bring to the role and your ability to thrive.
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