“Do you have any questions for me?”
That’s been the standard way of closing an interview for decades.
What many people don’t realize is that, if used right, this can be the most valuable part. Research by Dr. Diana Tamir shows that the pleasure center of our brain lights up when we talk about ourselves. It’s delightful – and addictive. So before the interview is over, be sure to ask some insightful questions that will get the interviewer sharing their own perspective.
In this article I am going to teach you a proven question-asking model that will make you stand out ahead of every other candidate applying for the job. It’s called the Gravitas Model.
Gravitas is a quality of substance, of depth of personality.
It was one of the virtues expected of every ancient Roman citizen, along with duty, dignity, and justice. You don’t have to wear a toga to recognize it, though. Have you ever known someone with the capacity to dramatically change the course of a discussion or the energy in a room? Someone who asks the most revealing questions and makes bold, insightful observations that stick with you long after the conversation is over?
This is gravitas at work. It’s the ability to go deep, to have a dialogue with substance, add value on any topic, and encourage others to let you help them. When used in the confines of an interview, it will set you miles apart from the competition.
The Gravitas Model consists of three axes, each with two sides, for a total of six question-asking categories.
To cultivate gravitas, your goal is to converse across as many dimensions in this model as possible. The more you cover, the deeper the conversation will go. As you talk, think through each of these axes to draw unexpected connections and ask penetrating questions that open up new lines of thought. Let’s explore each axis in detail.
Time consists of asking questions about both the past as well as the future. Looking at the past provides input for current and future decisions: What was the most important experience you had that landed you this role? What drew you to the role and company? What’s the most important experience you’ve had in this role? Looking to the future spurs creative thinking: How do you see this team/group evolving over the next year? What do you think the industry will be like in a year? How do you see that affecting this role? What’s the number one priority you’ve got this year?
Perspective consists of asking questions that elevate the conversation as well as questions that get to the root problem. Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. At the elevated end of the axis, you adopt a ten-thousand-foot view of the topic you’re discussing: How does this role fit into the company’s overall strategy? What are the most important performance metrics, and what does success look like with regard to them? Meanwhile generalities alone can often miss a critical detail. To unearth the root problem, get granular: What do you believe is the one most important trait for this job? What obstacles do you foresee anyone with this role having to overcome?
Questions related to connections can be divided into who/what exists as well as who/what is missing. Approach the subject holistically by drawing connections. On one end of this axis, you seek to discover the people and activities already associated with the topic: Who are the most critical people on your team? What other projects are they working on, and what would they say about their priorities? What resources do you have that are key to success? On the other end, you explore the connections that haven’t yet been made: Who else should be on this team? What additional steps should be taken? What resources do you need, but don’t yet have, to be successful?
Used systematically, the gravitas model broadens and deepens conversations in ways people will immediately notice. Often we’re only comfortable conversing along one or two of these axes. As a result, our conversations end up in the same ruts. In an interview setting, it might not be appropriate to ask numerous questions along every axis. But using the Gravitas Model to think of a few insightful questions before walking in the door can pay dividends. Once you learn to integrate the gravitas model into your interactions, you’ll see how much richer and more rewarding all your communication can be.
Get the interviewer’s pleasure center lighting up. It’s ironic that interviewing the interviewer might land you the job you want.
Mo Bunnell is the Founder and CEO of Bunnell Idea Group, who has taught sales skills to over 12,000 people. You can learn Mo’s other techniques for growing influence in his new book, THE SNOWBALL SYSTEM: How to Win More Business and Turn Clients into Raving Fans, at snowballsystem.com and get a gratis, 8-part video training on creating demand at createdemandcourse.com.
For further exploration of Tamir’s research on how it feels to talk about yourself, see this study: Tamir, D. I. and J. P. Mitchell (2012). “Disclosing information about the self is intrinsically rewarding.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109(21): 8038-8043.