What you Should and Should NOT ask During a Job Interview

What you Should and Should NOT ask During a  Job Interview

Resumes have been sorted and you have been fortunate enough to find yourself in the interview pile. This means it is time to show this company why they need you on their team. There are many great ways to do so; there are also many ways to literally destroy your chances. Nearly every word spoken plays a part in the success or failure of an interview. The interview is the most important key to open the door to your future employment. How can you best put into words how valuable you are? What should you avoid saying during the interview? Here are some guidelines you may find helpful.

What You Should Ask

The ultimate goal of an interview aside from providing detailed information on experience, education and work history is to show a company that your goals and direction align well with the position that they are hiring for. This is an all-encompassing win. They want to see that you are on track with their vision for the company and the role they need to fill. To demonstrate this alignment the following questions or discussions may provide some insight.

  • Ask about how good performers are able to grow in the position in question. You want to demonstrate your interest in long-term employment and show that you are eager to do all that is required of you. You are also willing to go above and beyond what is asked and show that you are interested in professional development opportunities, additional education and so on.

*This discussion may open the door for the potential employer to discuss advancement opportunities and potential increases in pay which may otherwise not have been talked about at this point, thus helping you gauge whether or not this is the position you are searching for.

  • Asking about the traits that would be ideal in an employee hired for this position can also lead into a positive and helpful discussion. They will see the desire you have to not only be a good fit for them, but for the company and position to be a good fit for you. This also helps the hiring manager to be able to speak more freely as they are speaking in the abstract and not about anyone in particular, only of their “dream” employee.
  • You should ask what the employer truly wants to accomplish with this position above and beyond the core duties. What would they desire you to be able to achieve? Again, this enables them to speak freely and may give you some great insight into how to get a solid foot in the door.
  • If it feels appropriate, you may also want to ask about the positives and negatives of the company culture. This is mostly for your own information and to help you gain insight into whether you would fit in well.


What you should NOT ask

At some point during the interview you will inevitably be asked, “Do you have any questions for us?” This can be dangerous territory. We have all been told there are no bad questions, this is simply not true. Avoid uncomfortable moments by not asking questions or saying things such as:

  • Nope, no questions! I think you have already answered everything.

That is just not acceptable, not if you are truly interested and have researched not only the company but the position as well. Be prepared with some questions that demonstrate the level of interest you have. Prioritize them in your mind. You may only get to ask one or two, but be prepared with a couple of extra questions, just in case. Not having any questions can be a display of lack of motivation and drive. You will be hard pressed to find employers that are looking for those qualities.

  • Do people usually like working here?

You want to be more specific than this. So many day to day issues are perceived differently by different individuals. Would they really say no? Give them a better question to work with.

  • I haven’t really done this type of work before but I think I can learn quickly.

Because they have already reviewed your resume, they will be aware of that fact. They are interviewing you anyway so don’t draw extra attention to any negatives. Obviously they were not worried about that, if they don’t bring up any lack of experience than you should not either.

  • I had a horrible boss, have you heard of him?

Anything negative will leave a bad impression. Avoid criticism of any kind. While you may critically evaluate your former position, don’t critically evaluate anything or anyone else. You want to be positive and friendly. These are very important components of personality that you can be sure they are looking for in a future employee.

  • Wow! That is really a great question!

This, while friendly enough, causes you to sound surprised by what you have been asked. It actually shows a lack of preparedness. If you have done your homework, you shouldn’t be caught off guard by questions that are asked of you.

These suggestions should help keep you on track and assist you in having a successful interview experience. Leaving a great impression ultimately comes down to having common goals, being prepared and friendly and doing your homework. You don’t want to land a position that is not a good fit any more than they want to make a mistake in hiring. Be honest and confident (not over-confident) and stay tuned into the social cues around you and you will be amazing!

By Brandy Higginson, Five Strengths Contributor
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Think About it: What if Interviews are Like Dating and the Job Offer is like Marriage. . What’s the Difference between the Two?

Think About it:  What if Interviews are Like Dating and the Job Offer is like Marriage. .

What’s the Difference between the Two?

You are in your best clothes. You took extra time getting ready for this outing, paid attention to every detail. This is not an average day. You are sitting across from someone that you have either never met or know very little about. But you do know one thing; they hold your very future in their hands. You are sizing each other up, on every imaginable level. You are both on your best behavior, determined to make an impression. So, is this a date or a job interview? Do you see the similarities? Interesting perspective, let’s compare further.

First Impressions

As you have heard over and over, the value of a great first impression cannot be stressed enough. It matters! Going back to our idea about interviews being a lot like dating, we can see the similarities. We take extra time to get ready and select our clothing, we look our best, we come prepared with our A game. We should be using this strategy with interviews as well.

Check into Your “Date/Interviewer”

Just as we wouldn’t head into a date with absolutely no information about that person, we shouldn’t head into an interview without doing a decent amount of homework. We need to know about the position, the company and even the interviewer if possible. While there may be “blind” dates, there shouldn’t ever be a “blind” interview. Both are highly likely to fail.

Good Conversation

One of the best outcomes of a first date is being able to say that there was great conversation! You want this to be part of your interview as well. You want to be able to be yourself and communicate your thoughts just as you would hope to be able to do on a date. Just remember that the motivations of many interview questions aren’t as innocent as on a date. The interviewer is constantly playing a game of hide-and-seek. There is an additional question that hides behind nearly each initial question asked. You need to stay aware of what they are really trying to determine and then keep your cool. Not to say that questions on a date aren’t the same, but hopefully you are able to loosen up and relax a little bit more in that setting.

Saying Goodnight/Goodbye

Whether it is the end of a date or an interview, the way you say goodbye is very important. I will leave you to decide how to end a date properly and will discuss how to end an interview on the best terms possible, although, you may find they truly are similar. You want to leave with a positive impression. You want to interviewer to have felt your good energy and enthusiasm for the position as well as good information on your work history and skills. You want them to be thinking about you after the interview is over. They should be thinking about what you could bring to the table and that you could be what they have been looking for all along (still sounds a little like a date, right?).

Marriage/Job Offer

While this may seem like a bit of a stretch, it actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it. To hire you, means to bring you into the interviewer’s life and their business. This involves a lot of trust in you. They need to feel certain that what they have felt about and learned about you is the truth and will serve them well in the future. They are looking for commitment. No one wants somebody to come in full of hopes and dreams only to get bored or be under-qualified and have to leave without seeing things through. As a marriage takes two, so does a work relationship. You must be ready to jump in with both feet and say I do!

By Brandy Higginson, Five Strengths Contributor
Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Are you stuck in a cycle of countless interviews but no job offers or callbacks?

Why Most People Fail at Job Interviews

Why Most People Fail at Job Interviews

Are you stuck in a cycle of countless interviews but no job offers or callbacks? There are so many of us who truly have the drive to succeed but have not. Chances are this is due to mistakes we have made before the interview has even concluded.

The basics are well known; as an interviewee you should give detailed examples of your work history, maintain eye contact and be very punctual. Still, there are other potential mistakes that can be easily made. If you are determined to improve your odds, it is time for you to seriously evaluate what is going wrong for you during the interview process.

Are you stuck in a cycle of countless interviews but no job offers or callbacks?

Are you stuck in a cycle of countless interviews but no job offers or callbacks?

The Interview Begins before You Even Arrive

• If you think about it honestly, the interview begins with the phone call or email that you receive to schedule the appointment. Be aware of yourself from the very beginning. On the phone, use your best voice; speak clearly and concisely in a friendly voice. Whether your contact is online or in person, be polite and accommodating. Do not be difficult to schedule with, show them right up front that this interview is important enough to prioritize on your calendar. You will be remembered for your social skills.

• Prepare, prepare, prepare. Be sure to know details and facts about the position, the company and even your interviewer if possible. Practice common questions out loud or even with an observer. You will feel much more confident if you have put in the time to be ready for whatever comes your way.

• Even as you have been preparing, odds are that they have been too. As you have been looking into your perspective employers business, they have been looking into yours through social media outlets. Always remember that once something is posted and online, it is difficult if not impossible to take back. Social Media has become a huge part of the hiring process whether you think it is fair or not. Don’t provide them with a negative opinion of you before you have even met. Keep a clean, positive online presence.

You Are Being Watched

• From the moment your car door opens, behave as though the interview has already begun. And it goes without saying, be on time, no exceptions. Also, don’t arrive in the middle of a chat on your cell phone. Don’t cut someone off on your way to the door, hold it open instead. Be mindful of your manners. Smile and be friendly. Try to appear at ease even if you are not.

• Greet receptionists or office staff as if they are part of the hiring committee, honestly, they may well be. These small displays of kindness are easy to overlook when trying to appear important, but they show as much as your resume who you really are and what it may be like to work with you on a daily basis. Give this crucial first impression the attention it deserves.

You Never Get a Second Chance…

• We all know that impressions are formed faster than is fair, especially in today’s job market with social media ever present in the background. Give yourself every opportunity to make a positive impression. Smile, give a firm but not to firm hand shake. Remember to maintain eye contact without over doing it. Basic human interaction skills matter. You should also wait to be offered a seat. Don’t plop down in the first chair you see, you are in their territory and need to wait until you are asked to sit and shown where to do so.

• You know you need to dress the part, but don’t forget to dress the part you are applying for, not the one that you are coming from. Sometimes there is a vast difference. Thinking that you will dress up more once you get the job could prove to be a fatal error; the evaluation time is now, not later. Even if the workplace is new-age or trendy, it is better to be over-dressed than under-dressed. And don’t forget the iron! A nice dress shirt doesn’t count if it is wrinkled and untidy. Show you care enough to be your best.

The Most Important Part of the Interview

• As the interview begins, don’t be unnecessarily nervous. This person is ultimately trying to help you, not hurt you, so give them that opportunity. Use common sense as you answer questions, don’t try too hard and come across tricky or desperate. Don’t start spewing information or details about your life that they didn’t ask for. Just give them an honest sense of who you are and what drives or motivates you.

• Have a couple of questions ready to ask them. The majority of interviews end with, “do you have any questions for us?” You should. Being prepared with some relevant questions will show the recruiter that you are genuinely interested. Keep it simple and inquire about additional aspects of the job role as well as the future or progression that should be expected.

• Don’t ask about salary at an initial interview. It may seem like a good idea, but chances are you have a good idea of the ballpark you are in with the position. Asking about money to soon can make it seem like you are only interested in monetary gains and not the company or what they do. Hopefully there will be a time and place for that later on.

• Don’t exaggerate your skills in a way that could lead to trouble. There is nothing worse than having something expected of you that you have no knowledge or understanding of how to complete. Be honest.

• Attempt to build some kind of rapport or find common ground with the interviewer; this will make you more memorable. It never hurts to show interest in them and their position with the company either. Most of us consider it a compliment when others are interested in us; they are bound to feel the same way.

Closing the Interview

• Ending the interview, of course, is in control of the interviewer, not you. Watch for cues, don’t overstay your welcome. Be sure to thank them for their time and leave the door open with a statement such as, “I hope to hear from you soon.” Starting and ending an interview on the right foot can make all the difference on the path to success.

The Takeaway

• Come prepared with knowledge about the company and position. Control your social media presence.

• Be alert and polite from the moment you enter the property until you leave.

• Look the part. Prepare a smooth introduction and connect with them throughout the interview. Don’t exaggerate your skills.

• When the interview concludes, always thank them for their time.

Proper use of the advice given above is sure to provide you an advantage as you work toward making your dream job a reality.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
By Five Strengths contributor Brandy Higginson
Man leaning over table aggressively

Interview Body Language: How to Interview without Breaking a Sweat

Interview Body Language

How to Interview without Breaking a Sweat

As important as what you say is during a job interview, the way you communicate with body language also needs to be given some serious attention. You may be an interviewing pro or maybe the nervous type in stressful situations, whatever the case, you must make sure that your body language doesn’t speak more loudly than your words. Using these general body language tips will help you communicate that you are a great fit for the job, rather than drawing attention away from your skills.

Do this in Your Interview…

  • Smile. A warm smile can be contagious and create a comfortable environment for an interview. Think of the effect just receiving a smile from a stranger on the street can have on your day. It matters, a lot.

    Man leaning over table aggressively

    Interview body language counts!

  • Shake hands. Always start an interview with shaking hands. This will open a friendly door and set the tone between you and the interviewer. Use a solid grip while shaking hands without being aggressive. Practice if needed before the interview.
  • Make good eye contact. Employers want to know that they can trust you. Maintaining friendly eye contact is a great way to show that you’re trustworthy. Holding eye contact while shaking the hand of your employer and occasionally throughout the interview will make the interview more personal.
  • Be bright eyed and bushy tailed. Walk with energy and purpose. Sit erectly with good posture, but don’t go overboard and look to stiff. Enter with the appearance of confidence, even if you are feeling everything except confident! Sitting up straight conveys confidence, intelligence and honesty.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings. Notice what is around you as you follow the interviewer through the place of business. If someone else is watching you, make eye contact and smile. Remember, these could be future colleagues of yours. It is imperative that you leave a good impression with all those whom you cross paths with. You never know who is taking notes on your behavior.
  • Nod and occasionally lean in. One of the best ways to appear attentive, engaged and interested in a conversation is to lean in and nod occasionally. This shows that you are agreeable and understand what is being discussed. All of which are crucial in an interview. If this is not normal behavior for you, you may need to work on these skills beforehand so that they do not appear uncharacteristic for you.
  • Share attention equally. You may end up with several different people conducting your interview. Remember to move your gaze from person to person and do not become fixated on any one interviewer. Do address the person asking the questions directly initially and then move along to include all interviewers that are present.
  • Leave a positive, comfortable impression. Be calm and cool as the interview closes. Be prepared to stand with your interviewer. Gather your things and be ready but don’t rush. If you are a slightly delayed, this is a great time for a little small talk. Lastly, no matter what, do not forget to thank the interviewer for the opportunity and for their time. Everyday manners and common courtesy always count!

Not This…

  • Don’t slouch, yawn or seem bored, tired or uninterested. Lounging in your seat makes you appear uninterested and that you don’t take things seriously. Slumping also makes you look shy, stressed and un-confident. This appearance is not going to bode well for you in the interview.
  • Don’t plop down. When asked to take a seat, don’t strut to your chair. Also, be sure not to fall into your seat. Sit calmly; be as graceful as you can. This will help you to appear to be comfortable. Don’t go too far with this and dramatically throw your arm over the seat or anything however. This will make you appear arrogant. Aim for a middle ground.
  • Don’t be intimidating with eye contact. Constant eye contact can be intimidating and cause anxious feelings from your interviewers. Look away from time to time and be sure to not hold their gaze for too long. Respect personal space as well remembering that about 20 inches is the normal comfort zone for most people.
  • Don’t cross your arms or legs. Body language 101, these positions make us appear defensive and guarded. Be cautious about these signs.
  • Don’t fidget. Have a place in mind to put your hands. You don’t want to wildly gesture throughout the interview. If you require something to keep you from doing this, consider keeping a pen handy. You could even have a notepad with it to take quick notes during the interview if needed.

There are many elements to a successful job interview but don’t neglect to give body language the attention it deserves. We have all heard it said time and time again, actions speak louder than words. Remember that and use your body language as an additional help rather than a hindrance as you interview to gain your desired position.

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
By Brandy Higginson, Five Strengths Contributor
What? You've never had an informational interview?

What? You’ve Never Had an Informational Interview?

What? You’ve Never Had an Informational Interview?

You’re practically giving away your dream job to your competition.

Informational interviews can be tricky to schedule or plan, but can be productive and help you understand the career field you want to go into. You should be prepared to talk about yourself, but know when you should switch to asking questions. During this conversation, you’ll have the chance to make a positive impression as long as you are well prepared. Informational interviews may seem like a waste of time, depending on the industry, but they do have benefits.


Specific information about a prospective career can’t always be found online. The best way to find out what you need to know about a new career is to actually talk to someone working there. So, getting that informational interview and spending that time asking questions will grant you a peek into that window. A few of the things you could learn would be:

  • Tips for how to enter a career
  • Potential career paths you haven’t thought about
  • What it’s actually like to work at the interviewee’s organization
  • How to tap into a new network through the professional relationship you just initiated
  • Know what you need to put on your resume, say during an interview for a position, and anything else you want to know about getting a job in that field

While those are all wonderful benefits to the outcome of an informational interview, but is it possible to get a job with this kind of interview alone?


The preparation begins before you schedule the interview. Identify what you want to learn and have a list of questions ready, with room to take notes. Take time to research the person you will be interviewing with – know their background and have a general idea of the career field you’ll be interviewing about.

When you arrive for the interview, most likely, you will check in with the receptionist. Once the interviewee arrives, if you don’t already know them, be sure to introduce yourself and thank them for the opportunity. Make sure you emphasize, again, that you are there to gather information and learn about the career field. During the actual interview, you should be professional but relatively informal as you are simply there to obtain information. It should feel more like you are asking for advice, rather than for a job. Take notes and listen.

After the interview is over, make sure you thank them. An email or handwritten card, regardless of the result of the conversation, sent within 48 hours of the interview, adds additional personal touch to show your appreciation. Include specifics about what you enjoyed about the encounter – this will make you more memorable. Stay in touch and, when appropriate, take advantage of their network.

Outcomes of the Informational Interview

Informational interviews can  be powerful. Displaying your interest with the right amount of research and asking the right questions makes a great first impression. While the objective of these interviews is not to ask for a job or discover job openings, with the right combination of what you can do for the company and how you present that information could prove more fruitful than getting answers to your questions. It is uncommon to be offered a job afterwards however, if you play your cards correctly, a position can be created. Your cards start showing their worth from the moment you say ‘hello.’

If you are lucky enough to schedule an informational interview, take advantage of the benefits that can present themselves. The answers to your questions are just the beginning what you can gain from this interview. You’ll be able to expand your network, improve your resume, and know if the career is right for you or if you should have a backup plan. Keep in mind that it is unlikely a job will be gained from this experience, but it is a beneficial technique for starting a relationship with people within a specific field. Informational interviews are developmental opportunities that should not be disregarded.

By Kaley Buck, Five Strengths Contributor
Image attributed to graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.



The right answers will make or break your interview. Don't blow it!!

7 Interview Fails that Won’t Get You the Job

How to Blow Your Interview: 7 Interview Fails that Won’t Get You the Job

We all hope to leave an impression when we walk out of a job interview. We want the prospective employer to remember us. But the question is, what kind of impression do we really leave behind? Read on to get some tips on what you do not want to be remembered for.

What NOT to Say: Don’t Do these Interview Fails

We work hard to get our foot in the door and have that chance to actually show an employer who we are and what we have to offer. With that in mind, there is nothing worse than blowing that opportunity by having a less than impressive interview. Not only will we miss out on the opportunity that we were applying for, but with Networking as it is, we run the risk of getting a “bad name.” Here are some examples of what not to say in that situation to ensure this doesn’t happen to you.

The right answers will make or break your interview. Don't blow it!!

The right answers will make or break your interview. Don’t blow it!!

  • Tell me about your strengths?

Don’t answer with something simple like, I am a hard worker, I like to learn, etc. You don’t want to be vague and boring. They really want to know what specifically makes you a strong candidate for the position, talk about those exact skills instead of being general and non-specific.

  • Tell me about a weakness?

Don’t be silly with this question, it matters. Don’t blush or stammer, be prepared. They also don’t want an arrogant employee; do not say that you don’t have any weaknesses. We all do and they know that! Also don’t be over-indulging with phrases like; I don’t know how to pick just one. That is just scary. Shoot for somewhere in the middle. Pick a weakness, but offer a solution with it. Something like, in the past I have tried to help others in the workplace get along and finish projects, etc. Although this can be a good thing, I have learned at times it is often wiser to prioritize and handle myself and projects well first before worrying about outside issues.

  • What do you know about our company?

This is often a kick- off question and can be easy if you are properly prepared. Saying something like, I hear you pay well will prove to be a costly mistake. Also, avoid answering with things like, I saw you were hiring so I thought I would check things out. You also don’t want to look as if you are there spur of the moment and have no information. You are capable and valuable and therefore you have options. Because of this fact, you have, of course, done your homework and should have plenty of information about the company and position.

  • Do you work well with others?

This is not an opening to explain how you struggled in your last position but you are sure that it was because your co-workers were intimidated by you. Don’t do it! Trust me; this is not what they want to hear. Do not bad mouth past bosses or fellow employees, it will get you nowhere. No employer wants to hire someone that is difficult to work with. If you give them reason to worry about your social skills, chances are you won’t be hired on.

  • Why would you like to work here?

It is just a short drive from my home. Ouch! Not good enough. Hearing that a job is “convenient” for you is not going to leave a positive impression. Irrelevant information, such as being excited about employee discounts or benefits, is not helpful. This is a better place to offer some kind words about the company, the people and its reputation. Leave it at that.

  • Do you have any questions for me?

How about, how much vacation time would I get? Or would I have to work overtime? These are equally as bad as saying that you don’t have any questions for them. You should ask some questions that actually relate to the position or what you would be doing on a daily basis. Asking about the benefits of the position can be done after you have an offer.

A Little Common Sense

Remember, there are plenty of ways to ruin an interview and annoy an interviewer. With a little time, practice and preparation you can avoid doing just that. Bad responses in an interview can truly damage your chances of a call back or even a position in your field. Tread carefully and think things through. You will surely be remembered for the good impression you make.

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
By Brandy Higginson, Five Strengths Contributor

Cracking the Office Dress Code

Cracking the Office Dress Code: Interviews, Office Wear, and Looking Your Best

Recently, I visited a very professional company. Imagine the reception I would have received if I showed up in jeans! Have you ever felt underdressed and unprepared for your job or your interview? Don’t make this mistake in your job, and certainly don’t make this mistake in your interview.

For great tips on mastering the perfect interview or professional ensemble, take a look at this infographic, which lays it all out for you. Dressing confidently for your job or your job interview can make the difference in the way you present yourself, so knowing the right way to dress professionally can improve your self-presentation, which, of course, can make all the difference in your interview.



No matter the work environment or situation, whether you plan to master the upcoming interview, apply for that recent promotion, or uphold your professional image, T.M.Lewin has a range of men’s shirts, sharp suits, and classic women’s wear for today’s driven workforce.

How to Take Control of Your Own Executive Job Interview

How to Take Control of Your Executive Job Interview

Why is “What haven’t we asked you that we should have” is so important in your executive job interview?

The job of an interviewer is to meet with prospective executive job candidates, ask detailed, preplanned, and specific questions and decide whether or not this candidate should move on to the next round of interviewing. Throughout your executive job interview, there is one move that you are sure to experience, they will attempt to “rattle your cage,” at least once, possibly more. They won’t push you too far, just far enough. They want to throw you off balance and see how you react under pressure. One of the questions that seems to be designed especially to do this is, “What questions haven’t I asked you?” This can be a make it or break it moment, it is up to you. If you are prepared, this can be your chance to seal the deal and thoroughly impress the interviewer.

How do you plan to take control of your executive job interview? Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How do you plan to take control of your executive job interview? Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Organize Your Thoughts BEFORE the Interview

·       Be Ready for the Question

Try as we might, it is nearly impossible to be prepared for every single question that will come our way in an interview. But, even so, it is in our best interest to do all that we possibly can. You should practice your answers to the hard questions in front of a trusted friend, or even take video yourself (this is so easy with smartphones!). Watch what you have recorded to be sure that you do not appear to be unprepared. Make sure you appear calm and not flustered or frustrated. Keep your voice steady and remember to smile and not look or act like you are in pain–even though you might be! There will be no surprise element to your executive job interview because you will be prepared–more than half the battle won.

·       No “Cookie-Cutter” Answers: Be Creative!

While it is great to have some practice under your belt and be prepared, be sure that you do not seem to be completely rehearsed. You will need to think outside the box. This can sometimes become easier when you have actually been chatting with the interviewer for a few minutes. You will not be able to preplan that person’s temperament or personality. You may need to tailor your responses to meet what you feel they are looking for to some extent, but remember to be true to who you are. Chances are the interviewer is hoping to discover how quickly you think on your feet without tripping over your own words and thoughts. That’s why thinking creatively along with your preparation will be essential. It would serve you well, as you prepare to spend some time researching unique questions that may be asked during an interview. They may even go so far as to ask questions such as: what book are you currently reading? Your answers to these unexpected questions can really make a difference in the overall impression you leave them with.

·       So, “What haven’t we asked you that we should have?”

As far as an actual example of an answer, try something like, “We have covered a lot already, but I was hoping to expand on my experience with…” If what you bring up leads into a more detailed discussion on your level of experience and qualifications, then that’s a good thing. If not, you can simply conclude with something like, “I, of course, just want to tell you again how excited I am about this position.” That will leave the conversation with a positive conclusion.

What You Already Know…

In summary, keep in mind that for the most part, prospective employers are simply interested in what YOU truly think your strengths are. They would like an idea of how you handle different situations including disappointment or failure. With that said, your interviewer most likely, would like to give you a chance to speak freely about anything that they may have neglected to ask you. Use the opportunity to highlight your skills and accomplishments. Don’t be afraid to accentuate the positive. Your response to that final question will provide them with the information they need to determine whether you can handle high-pressure situations and respond effectively or not, so show them you are capable. If you remember to always think in advance about where your words will lead the discussion, you will be able to effectively focus the interview in the direction you want it to go. Interviews aren’t fun, but with proper planning and preparation you can maintain at least some control and keep the focus on your positive qualifications.

By Brandy Higginson, Five Strengths Contributor

Informational Interview: Questions and Successful Strategies

Informational Interview: Questions and Successful Strategies

The informational interview… this may be uncharted territory for you. What is it? An informational interview is a meeting where a job seeker searches out advice on their career or the entire industry of a potential workplace; while a currently employed professional learns about the job seeker and determines their potential or fit in that workplace, and by so doing increases their candidate pool for future hires. It can be tricky to get your foot in the door and schedule an Informal Interview with a perspective employer; however it can prove to be time well spent.

Strategies for Requesting the Interview

Requesting the interview may not be as difficult as you originally thought. People generally love to talk about themselves and you need to take advantage of that. Warm them up. Be friendly and inquisitive about what skills they have and what is required to get a foot in the door. Get a conversation going with questions like, how did they get their start in this field and what is an average day like. Then move onto the reason you would like to meet with them. Using phrases such as, “would you be able to help me with this?” may prove to be powerful as most people generally do like to help one another. It is harder to tell someone that you can’t help them, right?

Informational interviews can help speed your knowledge of new industries and positions, helping you with your job search.

Informational interviews can help speed your knowledge of new industries and positions, helping you with your job search.

You should also be prepared to talk about yourself, your experience and goals right from the get go. You never know when they are going to turn the tables and start asking you questions to ensure that it is worth their time to meet with you. Go into this conversation well prepared. This is a great chance to make a positive first impression.

Worthwhile Questions for the Informational Interview

Upon arriving at your Informational Interview, don’t forget to thank the Interviewee again for their willingness to take the time to meet with you. They are doing you a favor; it’s as simple as that. Be gracious and thankful. It wouldn’t hurt to also remind them that you are hoping to gather all the information you can about this industry and career field, remember to be informal.

As the interview begins, don’t forget that time will fly, you won’t have the time to ask all the questions that you have. Try to keep the conversation focused, however, use every minute wisely. As you prepared for this interview you should have organized your questions by priority and importance. Make sure to get at least the most helpful and pressing questions answered first.

Example Informational Interview Questions:

  • How did you become interested in this line of work?
  • How did you get started?
  • What other employment or past experience proved helpful to get into your current position?
  • What are the skills you find to be the most important in this field?
  • What made you choose this particular company?
  • What is your typical day like?
  • What types of responsibilities and duties do you have?
  • What kind of problems do you deal with on a day to day basis?
  • What are the best parts?
  • What are the worst?
  • Approximately what is the range of salary for a similar position?
  • Is the work steady and consistent or does it vary from time to time?
  • What is the most satisfying part of your job? Do you find it fulfilling and challenging?
  • What types of hours or time constraints are involved?
  • What demands are placed on your time outside of the average work week?
  • Is there any flexibility with scheduling, dress, vacation times, etc.?
  • Are there opportunities for advancement and growth? What are your long term goals?
  • What types of opportunities for professional development does the company provide?
  • Does the future of the company look bright?
  • What is the atmosphere like in the company? Is it friendly or cut-throat, etc?
  • What is the average length of time that people stay with this company?
  • Are there incentives for staying long-term?
  • With the information you have about me, what other fields or positions would do you recommend I research further before making a final decision?
  • Do you have any information about possible future job openings?
  • What types of benefits are offered by your company? Is that above or below normal for this industry as far as you are aware?
  • If you could do it all over again, is this still the path that you would take? What would you change?
  • What advice would you give someone looking into this profession or field?

Wrapping Up Your Informational Interview

As you can see, the questions could go on and on. You need to keep them focused on what is important to you. What stage of life are you in? Are you a student just trying to get that first important position right out of college or are you attempting to make a career change years after entering the work force. You know what matters the most to you personally and those are the areas that you need to focus on. Don’t make the mistake of just assuming that the conversation will flow once you are there and then hoping to remember all that was discussed. Be PREPARED with your questions, take notes, and tune in. This type of opportunity doesn’t come around often, make it count. And, of course, don’t forget to follow your informational interview with a kindly worded, heartfelt thank you note!

By Brandy Higginson, Five Strengths Contributor

Creative Compensation Suggestions: Five Things to Negotiate for Compensation

Five Things to Negotiate for Creative Compensation

Salary can be a tricky thing to negotiate. When walking into a new job, or even re-evaluating your current contract with a company, an increase in salary may not be an option. However, there are several things you could request in place of a raise. It never hurts to ask and the worst thing your employer can say is ‘no.’



Paying someone to take care of your child while you work is not inexpensive. Ask about what childcare options your company offers. Some of the time there will be an on-site facility or an allotted amount that employees with young children have access to. If those aren’t already in place, make the request for company reimbursement for at least a partial amount of your daycare costs.

Five Things to Negotiate for Creative Compensation Image by Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Five Things to Negotiate for Creative Compensation
Image by Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Commuting can be expensive. Some companies already pay for business travel so this may not be something you can add to your compensation. However, day-to-day travel is probably not part of that agreement. To inquire about this, you should calculate your monthly travel expenses and propose a stipend that will ease the expense.


Not everyone starts a job with multiple degrees already under their belt. You should feel comfortable asking about reimbursement for bettering your education. Not only will you gain the knowledge, but your company will be making an investment in you. The education could be things as small as workshops and seminars, but as large as an associate, bachelor, or master degrees. Education equals career enhancement. Many companies already have these programs in place and if your company does not already offer this, sell it to them.

 A New Title

‘Secretary’ is just a general title for someone who does all the administrative work in the office. In this example, ‘administrative/corporate executive assistant’ says more about what you do as a ‘secretary.’ Asking for a title that accurately reflects your work will help you feel more content in your current position, but will also display your talents when you are looking for another position in the future.

Flexible Schedule

This is a great thing to ask for as far as a non-salary related perk is concerned. If you’re a morning person, you could negotiate to work from 7:00AM – 3:00PM instead of the typical 9:00AM – 5:00PM. You can also look into telecommuting as an option. It probably won’t work out so that you work full-time from home, but part-time telecommuting can cut down on your drive time and your travel spending. Hopefully, that balance – having a more relaxed schedule and not commuting every single day – will make up for the lack in increased salary.

Guaranteed Severance Package

There is no guarantee that the job you currently have or are being hired for will still exist a year or several years from now. Establishing a severance package in your contract will add extra security should the company go out of business. With this severance package, you company will think twice about the possibility of laying you off or removing your position.

More Vacation Time

Whatever vacation time the company offers, you can ask for things that will sweeten the deal. One thing to address, if you don’t have it already, is paid vacation time. You could also see if the vacation time can be doubled. Having more vacation days, whether you take days to rest at home or travel to relax on a beach, could be worth not having a higher salary.

You will never know the answer if you don’t ask and again, the worst thing your employer can say is ‘no.’ Increasing your salary may be out of the question, but there are other things that can fulfill your compensation needs. When working on your contract, initial or renewal, with your employer or human resource manager keep non-salary related compensation options in the back of your mind.

By Kaley Buck, Five Strengths Contributor