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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

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
Job Seekers Succeed for One Simple Reason

Job Seekers Succeed for One Simple Reason…

Job Seekers Succeed for One Simple Reason…

Networking is the best way to learn about new positions.

Even though job search networking may sound intimidating, it is one of the most successful ways to find a new job. It is more common than you realize to be offered a job or to find a contact simply due to a friend or acquaintance knowing your background and skills. If you are serious about finding the best position for your next career, move as quickly as possible, you must reach out and network.Job Seekers Succeed for One Simple Reason image 1

What are the Benefits of Networking?

To be successful as you network, you must find the hidden, unadvertised job market and use every resource available to you.

Networking, when done correctly, will lead to plentiful contacts and friendships that can help you in every aspect of your career, including job hunting and your future career endeavors. It can prove to be more important than any other facet of your search.

Before Networking – Review Your Goals

What do you want others to know about you? What do you need to learn from them?

  • What kind of job are you looking for?
  • Do you want to look for jobs in one city/state?
  • Are you focused on a certain industry?
  • Do you want to find a job at a particular company?
  • Have you attained the skills and experience required for this type of position?

Effective Networking Strategies

When starting out, remember, it’s never about blatantly asking for a job. It’s about talking things over one-on-one with someone you know (or someone who has been referred to you) about common interests and how you might be able to help them and their company.Job Seekers Succeed for One Simple Reason image 2

Before diving into a lengthy narrative about yourself, be sure to ask common questions to get warmed up. Ask about family, friends, interests—topics that you wouldn’t mind discussing yourself. Once the conversation is flowing, you can shift gears the real reason for the call.

 “I’m calling because I’m planning to make a job change soon. I am looking for a new opportunity that will both challenge and expand my skillset. Do you happen to know anyone who works within my target field who may be able to lead me in the right direction?”

Using this simple script as a guide may give you the confidence you need to open up and freely discuss options and career paths that may be available to you in the future.

Career Networking Tips

  1. Create an inventory of your educational background, accomplishments and work history. You never know when a casual interaction may lead to a contact.
  2. Your career network should include, but not be limited to family, friends, members of neighborhood associations, past or present co-workers, supervisors, and colleagues from other business connections. If you are part of an alumni club from your college or university, you may also find leads there.
  3. Use sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and other online communities can help you get in touch with other networkers. Maybe those with college affiliations or that are in a certain geographic area. Also, keep in touch with your network often. This can be as simple as sending a quick note or email to say hello and to ask how they are doing. You want to make an impression and be remembered.
  4. Attend networking events. If you belong to any professional associations, attend a meeting or social function. Many of the attendees will have the same goals you do and will be glad to exchange information.
  5. Add notes to business cards or organize electronically, so you’ll remember the details of who you have just met. Also, follow through with referrals, and always thank contacts in writing or email.

Career Networking Works!

As you can see, career networking isn’t as hard as it seems and it really does work! Knowing how to ask for, and receive, the valuable information you need is the key to finding the right job or career position. It is important to have a solid network in place throughout your career and to use your network whenever possible, when job searching or exploring career options.

Don’t forget to look for opportunities to help others along the way. Through searching for your own needs to be met you may come across a position that would be a great fit for someone else in your network. Share the love and pass it on! Others will remember your thoughtfulness.

4 Reasons Your Name Keeps You from Getting Called for the Interview

4 Reasons Your Name Keeps You from Getting Called for the Interview

Your name might be the most important piece of identifying information, but it might be getting in your way as you apply for jobs. Read on to learn how to fix the top 5 ways your name could be preventing you from getting interviews for the career you want.

1. Your Name Is Common

When you look in the phone book for your name, are there a dozen other John Smiths before and after your own John Smith? You are unique among your colleagues, company, and industry, but your name might be so common that a quick search of LinkedIn for your name does not immediately bring your profile to the top of the list. Thus, new networking contacts do not know how to learn anything about you via your LinkedIn or other social media profiles.

The Quick Fix: Start using your middle name or middle initial to differentiate yourself.

2. Some Unsavory Character Has Your Name, Too

Does a quick search of your name bring up a mug shot–that is not yours (if it brings up your mug shot, that’s a different question, of course). Do people believe that the mug shot or court case record might be yours, just because you happen to have the same name as someone with less integrity than you? Certainly, a purported criminal or civil case history, the records for which are all available online, can interfere with your ability to get proper attention from hiring executives, if the mix-up between names is easy to make.No calls?

The Quick Fix: Use your first initial and last name, plus your credentials, in every instance of social media, across all uses and profiles on the Internet. Also use this name configuration on your resume, business cards, phone messages, and voice mail. Do not use it on job applications, as you will need to use your full legal name for those documents.

3. Your Name Is Unusual

Recently, I learned of a client of a fellow resume writer whose complex hyphenated name, matched with her given name, had an unintended and humorous meaning. You might know that your name is perfectly normal, but if you have a suspicion that the words or syllables of your name have an unintended humor to them, you might not be receiving interview offers due to this subtlety.

The Quick Fix: If your name provokes an inadvertent response, perhaps using only part of your hyphenated name, adding your middle name or initial, or using your first and middle initial plus last name only will help your audience focus on your expertise rather than your name proper.

4. Your Name Is MISSING

If your resume starts with the word “Resume” on the first line, then this quick fix is for you. Applicant tracking systems–called ATSs or online application systems–require you to upload your resume online for job postings. If the word “Resume” is at the top of your document, the word “resume” will populate the name field or fields of the system. Thus, to the company to which you are applying, your name will be “resume”–just like the rest of those whose resumes did not start with their names and addresses.

The Quick Fix: Take the word “Resume” off your resume–even if you never plan to upload your resume online. It is poor practice regardless.

Executives, There Is No Such Thing as “Not Part of the Interview”

Executives, “There is no such thing as ‘not part of the interview’.”

In just the last week, we heard on the news two stories about high-profile people and their inadvertent publicizing of more or less private information. In the case of Duchess Kate Middleton, compromising photos of her were leaked to the media. Clearly she must have thought she was completely alone when these photos were shot. She could not have believed that her very public persona would go unnoticed no matter where she was or what she was doing. Similarly, the campaign of presidential candidate Mitt Romney discovered that a speech he gave was recorded when it should not have been. Whether you agree with his conservative approach or not does not discount the fact that as a public person, he should have been aware that he is always under scrutiny. And whether you believe that a newlywed can or should behave any way she wants privately doesn’t discount the fact that the Duchess should be aware of what she’s doing all the time due to her high profile.

The same is true in the executive interview. Let me tell you another story, a very personal one. Two decades ago, when I had just finished a master’s degree program, I was in job search mode. I had achieved an interview for a job that I was interested in, and was sitting before the hiring executive. He asked me all of the usual interview questions, which I answered to the best of my ability. He also asked me something tangential, I believe about my thesis and the way I did the data analysis. He post-scripted this question with “This is not part of the interview.” Without thinking I knee-jerk responded with, “There is no such thing as ‘not part of the interview.'” I suppose I also answered the question about the data analysis. I didn’t get that job–in fact I got another one that I was much better suited for. But I never did forget, and I have repeated many times, that there is no such thing as not part of the interview.

When you are applying for an executive position, you will have to go through many interviews. You’ll interview with executive boards, CEOs, CTOs, CMOs, potential colleagues, and even subordinates. You walk through the company’s hallways, you’ll sit at desks, in conference rooms, in lobbies, and maybe even in restaurants. None of these locations are private, and none of the people with whom you interview are obligated to remain quiet about your conversations. Even if your executive interviewer suggests that your conversation will remain private, he or she has no obligation to remain circumspect about what you say. In fact, the more inflammatory your comments are the more likely someone will repeat them in the form of gossip about your level of professionalism or in the form of a polite letter declining to evaluate your candidacy further.

Thus, it makes sense for you to measure every word and sentence that you utter not only from the perspective of your executive accomplishments and your executive role, but also by the dimensions of whether you are comfortable with your words being repeated by people you don’t know well to people you don’t know at all. Here are a few guidelines for you as you move through your executive interview:

  • Treat everyone you meet professionally, including administrative personnel. You might even earn some goodwill points by writing a quick e-mail to the receptionist to thank him or her for the kindness shown to you on the day of your interview.
  • Do not let your guard down during your interview, no matter how comfortable you feel with the interviewer. This might be especially true if you know one of the panel members well. That person is not your friend in this context: That person is evaluating you the same way he or she is evaluating every other candidate that walks into similar interviews.
  • If you are asked and uncomfortable for even the legal question, be prepared either a) to answer the question as asked, or b) respectfully decline to answer it based on its level of appropriateness. Do know, that if you answer an illegal question you open up a tremendous can of worms and the opportunity for your interviewer to probe the issue more deeply.

In conclusion, remember that as an executive in an executive interview you are as famous as Mitt Romney and Kate Middleton. You are on stage and being evaluated at every turn. Anything you do can and certainly will be used against you. By monitoring your behavior and behaving like the professional executive that you are, you can avoid being caught saying something you can’t defend or doing something you wish you hadn’t. Remember: There is no such thing as “not part of the interview.”