Job interviews suck. There’s no denying it.

You never know what you’re walking into. An interview may be a one-on-one affair, or it may be you seated across from six other people all staring at you like a jury eager to convict.

Or maybe you go through multiple interviews back to back. And there’s always the chance someone will join the interview late and ask questions you’ve already answered. Of course, the latecomers always ask the questions you had the weakest answers for.

As you’re doing all you can to impress the decision maker(s), you’re also deciding if this song and dance is worth it—if the job and the company are a good fit for you.

The worst is when you’re an hour into an interview and you realize you don’t want the job.

While you can’t eliminate these interviews, you can at least identify them quickly. Then you can cut the interview short, or at least not work to extend it. Or, if you can’t save yourself from wasting any more time, you can at least save yourself from wasting any more emotional energy.

One job interview question you must ask

There is one question you should be sure to ask in all future job interviews:

What about my credentials made you want to interview me?

Feel free to ask this question in your own words—don’t worry about asking it verbatim.

Why this question is crucial

Job interviews are not only about satisfying the needs of the employer; you need to know your value is recognized as well.

Never forget: You’re interviewing them just as much as they’re interviewing you.

You need to know they understand the skills and experience you offer. You need to know they’ve invested time in getting to know you, just as they need to know you’ve invested time in getting to know them.

Job interviews are a two-way street.

The potential employer’s answer to the question gives insight into what they’ll be like to work with. If they can’t appreciate your past work, there’s a good chance they won’t appreciate your future work either.

But if they answer in a way that shows they’ve paid attention, then you might be on a good path.

Don’t just assume they’re paying attention

Don’t be surprised if interviewers ask questions that show they haven’t been paying attention.

Recruiters in particular are notorious for reaching out because they saw one keyword on a résumé and thought they’d found their guy or gal. And then when they slow down and start thinking critically, they quickly realize you’re missing 90% of the crucial qualifications.

This question reveals whether they’re paying attention or are just hoping they’ll stumble upon the perfect candidate.

The credentials interview question in action

I asked a variation of the credentials questions during my most recent job search.

A little background:

I was interviewing for a content manager position after spending nine months as a marketing specialist. Before breaking into marketing, I had spent nearly 14 years as a petroleum landman.

My version of the credentials question went something like this:

I don’t have the traditional marketing background.

So what did you see on my résumé, or what feedback from the recruiter made you think I could be a good fit for this position?

My future boss said he had looked over my portfolio pieces and he found my writing to be simple and clear.

This feedback gave me confidence when completing an assessment, and also for my final interview.

Quickly qualify or quickly disqualify

Asking this question also tells you what you should focus on when selling yourself for the job. You will have identified what your potential employer sees as your most desirable assets.

On the flip side, if the interviewer values traits you don’t value—or traits you want to get away from—then the job may not be a good fit for you.

The unfortunate truth is that most jobs will not be a good fit. Too many factors go into finding the right job: timing, the company and its culture, your team and leadership, the responsibilities of the position itself.

Your goal in an interview should not be only to get a new job. Your goal should also include identifying the jobs that aren’t a good fit so that you can move on to those that may be worth the trouble.