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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

Really Hard C-Suite Interview Questions

Really Hard C-Suite Interview Questions

Will you really ever be asked them?

You have received the phone call. Your prospective employer would like to meet with you for an interview. Nice work! But then, before you are even done with the happy dance you were doing around your living room, the fear sets in… an INTERVIEW! Your mind starts swirling through all of the variables. What should you wear? Are they friendly? And most importantly, what kinds of different questions will they ask you? How can you nail this interview, even the really tough questions? Read on, and I assure you, you will be well prepared!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Preparation is the Key for Hard C-Suite Interview Questions

I know, you have heard this phrase so many times. But, I would like to remind you that any situation that we face becomes easier if we are prepared. It is those moments (or questions) that catch us completely unaware that cause us to falter. We are valuable, we are assets to the company and are worthy of the time they are taking out of their busy schedules to meet with us. Now, all we have to do is convince them of that. Review possible questions. You should focus on appearing prepared but not seeming to be rehearsed. Study the company. Talk to other employees where possible. If you are given the name of the Interviewer, see what you can find out about them. Don’t assume that just because they are doing the interview they are good at interviewing. Be prepared to own the conversation and keep it focused in your direction, shining on your accomplishments. Be confident and do the work necessary to gain the reward you seek.

Below are some of the tough questions you are likely to be asked along with some advice on how to answer them.

Tell me about yourself.

Here is the often heard, sometimes dreaded, opening question…It’s tricky, open ended and an easy question to handle incorrectly. They are looking for a quick, two or three-minute summary about you, your history and why you would be a good match for the position. Don’t go any further than that! Save it for the remainder of the interview. The famous “Tell me about yourself” question isn’t an invitation to tell your life story… just tell them what makes you the best candidate.

What do you know about our company and why do you want to be a part of it?

This is where they are checking you out to ensure that you have done your homework. Make sure you have! Have as much information as possible about the company and position that you are applying for. Demonstrate your knowledge and use what you have learned to show the amount of respect for and interest in their company you truly have. This is a great place to show how well your experience will add to and blend in with their needs.

What is your greatest strength? What is your greatest weakness?

These are such unfair questions! Who likes to revel or even discuss their weaknesses—or brag about their strengths? It may play well to come up with a somewhat clever answer for these questions, such as,” I can’t think of any reasons not to hire me, but I have many reasons why you should!”
Give them those reasons! As far as addressing the weakness aspect, be honest. Maybe let them know about an area that you have been working on and improving in, perhaps something that you turned into a strength.

Don’t present the often advised trick of turning a strength into a weakness, such as working too much. This is a tired response; they have heard it countless times before. It also misses the point of the question.

Talk about a time you failed. What happened? What would you do differently?

We tend to make this question harder than it really is. You know where you have been and what you have experienced. As long as you have an event in your mind that you have reviewed, thought through, and are prepared to discuss in your interview, you will be fine. Think of a situation that went differently than planned, that is all it really is. It needn’t be a catastrophe. People make mistakes, everyone knows that so don’t pretend that you never have. Own it, discuss the solutions and lessons learned and move on. It shows experience and demonstrates that you would not make the same mistake in the future.

 Why we should choose you over the other applicants that we have interviewed?

Don’t let this be your undoing. This is a very common question. Re-visit your strengths with added enthusiasm. Show them that you are professional yet personable and friendly. They want to know that you are dependable and competent.

They will undoubtedly ask, “Do you have any questions for me?”

Of course you do! They are not the only one trying to determine if this position is a good fit for you. You need to be doing the same. These questions should be important to you. There are things that you really need to know, such as:

  • What type of candidate are you looking for?
  • Why did this position become available?
  • How would you define success for this person who receives this position?
  • What are the most important skills needed to be successful in this position?
  • What would my first several months be like if I were offered this position?
  • Is there opportunity for growth and advancement in this company?
  • Are you aware of any major changes coming that I may need to be informed of?
  • How do you see this company growing, changing, etc. in the next five years?

    Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Negotiating Compensation

Before the interview be sure to do your research into possible, realistic compensation for the position. You won’t know ahead of time if you will reach this level of discussion, but in case you do, be ready. Be aware of your “walk-away number.” You may not realize it, but the income of top executive’s is often public information. Try checking Salary.com or Glassdoor.com.

What NOT to do…

There are, of course, some guaranteed ways to make a negative impression on these important decision makers. Let’s be sure to avoid the following mistakes:

  • Don’t be arrogant. Acting as if you are better than any lower level candidates, assistants, receptionists, etc. will be certain to leave a negative impression. Instead, impress them as well, with your kindness and genuine interest in them.
  • Don’t “dress down;” be dressed and groomed appropriately for the position.
  • Don’t be negative in general but especially about the economy, the company, or even the competition. A positive attitude will always leave a better impression.
  • Don’t exaggerate or over-sell your skills, work history or abilities. Be honest.
  • Be direct and decisive. Don’t give long, rambling answers to questions. Every minute counts.
  • Let them know that you are genuinely interested in the job. Playing hard to get doesn’t usually pay off in the end.

Final Thoughts about Hard C-Suite Interview Questions

The only guaranteed way to make an interview harder is to not be prepared. Interview questions are not hard if you have anticipated what they may be asking and prepared sincere answers. Know detailed information about the company, the position and most of all yourself! Be relaxed and articulate. Even though there are really no wrong or right answers, there are definitely memorable answers that leave a positive impression.  Demonstrate you vision, your drive and your complete confidence in your abilities. They are sure to be impressed!

By Brandy Higginson, Five Strengths Contributor

Man holding sign reading "unemployed."

How to Proceed after a Layoff: 5 Practical Strategies

How to Proceed after a Layoff: 5 Practical Strategies

Companies have ups and downs with the changes in the economy, and your employment status depends on the company’s stability. Being laid off is not the end of your career, as the layoff is not for cause—the job simply ceases to exist. Consider the following strategies to help you after a “separation,” an umbrella term for the various reasons you and your company part ways:

Take care of you.

Whatever the reason for the separation, it is never a pleasant experience. Allow time to heal; don’t waste your time being angry at your previous employer. Think about where you might have the ambition to work next, and prepare for your future rather than dwell on your past. You will find another job in your career field, provided it may take time. The best course of action, in the meantime, would be to work on yourself. This means you can allow yourself to grieve the loss of your former role while focusing on your future.

Reconnect with or build your network.

Man holding sign reading "unemployed."

Unemployment isn’t the end of your career. Start rebuilding with these 5 practical strategies for recovering after a layoff.

When you are ready to return to your career field, you will want that network to build on and rely on for opportunities. Branch out with contacts via LinkedIn or other business social media, and turn those online connections into phone calls and meetings to support your new job search.

Building your network:

  • Enhances skills you can bring to a business
  • Supports fresh ideas for your current or new organization
  • Develops an improved understanding of the business environment

—all helping you become a stronger leader and finer follower. It takes time to build a successful network, especially if you have not used this strategy before, yet it will be worth the effort.

One caveat: Don’t assume they understand your immediate needs or ask those contacts for a job. This is a binary, dead-end question that only can be answered “yes” or “no.” Instead of asking this closed question, use your networking opportunities to generate deeper, broader insights into your contact’s experience and expertise.

Volunteer in your career field or in your community.

Volunteer work adds skills to your personal knowledge bank and meat to your resume. It can also provide you with an activity to fill your time while you are in job limbo. Volunteering supports your current passions or demonstrates work you aren’t fit for. There are plenty of reasons to volunteer: to benefit others, to make a difference, to develop additional skills, to feel better about yourself, to explore other areas of interest, and numerous others. And, this volunteer experience can become a line item on your resume, which explains fruitfully what you have been doing since the time you separated from your company.

Learn a new skill.

Don’t just pass time — build on your abilities and enhance your skills. Maybe there is a computer program you’ve always longed to learn or a communication skill you recognize you need to improve on. Consider this time now available to build new skills and complete that course or certification you have been thinking about. Work on that new skill and add it to your knowledge bank.

Prepare your resume.

A resume is not just for earning your next job. It allows you to highlight your accomplishments and the skills you earned from those accomplishments. You can either use the time to reflect on your career and the skills you have and prepare a sparkling resume yourself or, as recommended, you can hire a professional resume writer to give your resume that extra polished feel.

Remember, a layoff reflects no fault of your own. The majority of layoffs involve mass groups of the company’s employees, not just one, not just you. Employers take the time to consider each individual they layoff, your being on the list is chalked up to crummy luck. Who is laid off has little to do with work ethic and competence and more to do with the budget or politics of the company’s situation. Dust yourself off and strive toward getting back out in your field.

By Kaley Buck, Five Strengths Contributor

Image by winnond at FreeDigitalPhotos.net