What Should I Ask At An Interview?


Some interviews are fluid conversations actually; a true exchange of information where the interviewer and the applicant equally ask questions and provide answers throughout. This discussion style of interview is used to evaluate an applicant when the organization feels they can best draw out information and determine the fit of a person to their needs in this way.

It interests me a great deal when someone I’m working with experiences one of these interviews. They typically tell me how suspicious they were of the interviewer because they knew they were being evaluated, but had a hard time figuring out exactly what the interviewer was evaluating them on during the chat. Some applicants leave with a belief that the interviewer wasn’t very professional; simply because they’d expected a traditional interview and the conversation style threw them completely off guard.

Now, while the actually format of the job interview can vary, there are some things that remain consistent; you’ll have questions to answer, and you should be prepared to ask a few of your own. The questions you choose to ask are not just going to provide you with the answers you seek, they too are going to be evaluated by the interviewer, helping them discover what’s really important to you. So it’s vitally important that you come prepared with a few questions in advance of the interview and equally important that you pay attention to everything you learn while at the employer’s, because something may come up that peaks your curiosity or you wish to have clarified.

So I ask you, what information would you like to know from the person interviewing you that will best help you evaluate if this opportunity will be the right fit? If you’ve had outstanding or devastating relationships with your former bosses, you would probably appreciate some insight into the style of your potential supervisor. Knowing what they are like before you make a decision to accept a job or not may be of paramount importance to you. While this could be a strong determining factor, you have to realize that the company might move people around at any time, and so the person you get introduced to at the interview as your new boss might be reassigned, promoted, transferred etc. at any time; maybe on your 3rd week on the job. So perhaps in retrospect, you’d like to have inquired about organizational stability?

The thing about asking questions really comes down to this; while asking questions is great advice; there are no ‘best’ generic questions to ask. Why? Well, the reason is simply that what’s important for one person to know isn’t necessarily of the same significance to another person. You have to determine for yourself the thing or things that are of the greatest significance for you to know so you can proceed or withdraw from the competition; accept or decline a job offer.

For many people it’s the money and benefits issue, and you’ll get varying advice on when to ask or whether to bring it up at all. Me? I feel you should avoid asking if you can easily find this information such as in the job posting, their website or online. However, if you can’t track down the salary, I believe it’s not only understandable that you’d want to know, it’s one of the key pieces of information you have to have to make an educated decision on whether to accept, decline or negotiate. What a waste of your time and theirs if you accepted a job you’d really enjoy but end up crippling yourself financially to the point where in a short time you have to quit and go back to job searching.

One thing I’ve always enjoyed asking is if I could arrange a brief tour of the workplace at the conclusion of the interview. You see for me, I like to visualize myself working there, and even if the area I’d work in is on another floor or at a completely different address, I can pick up some clues as to the culture of the business and observe the faces of the employees. Are they generally happy or stressed? Are they friendly and welcoming or aloof? Is it loud or could you hear a pin drop? Are there windows bringing in natural light or is it fluorescent fixtures only? Hey, if I’m considering investing years of my life, I’d like some indication of what I’m contemplating becoming part of.

Good advice is to ensure the questions you pose are also attractive to the interviewer; recall I said they’ll be evaluating you on the questions you pose. Ask questions only about salary and benefits and they’ll be left with the impression your only concerned with yourself. Ask questions to get at the job itself, how what you do affects end users in ways which they’ll find most beneficial and you come across more favourably. Questions posed about how to maximize the businesses bottom line profits may be ideal in some cases and off the mark entirely in others.

If you were expecting a list of the top questions to ask, you won’t get it here today. Those, ‘Top 10’ lists aren’t the answer for every applicant. You’re best advised to focus on your own needs. Maybe work location, teamwork, opportunities to lead and be cross-trained are important and maybe their not.

What do you need/want to know?

#1 Desired Trait? ENTHUSIASM!


If skills, experience and academic education alone were all it takes to impress upon an employer that you’re the right person to hire, there wouldn’t be any need for interviews. Employers would simply look over the resumes that come in, and presumably the first one that checked off all of their needs would get selected and the rest put aside. That is not how it works.

Interviews are held of course, most often in person, but in some cases are held over the phone, via a video link, or in a screening test or questionnaire which both lead up to an in-person get together.

The reason those employers set up meetings between applicants and their own representatives – pegged as interviewers – is to size up the person in areas that aren’t indicated on the résumé. Essentially the employer wants to meet to assess your personality, attitude, friendliness, ability to engage with them, your communication skills, first impression; all in an attempt to decide as best as possible if you’re the kind of person that will fit into their organization.

It might seem obvious to you that you want the job. I mean, otherwise, why would you have applied? People who apply for jobs however have varying degrees of excitement and enthusiasm for the work to be done. Some apply out of desperation, some are just kicking tires, seeing if they get any response, others are genuinely interested in the jobs while others are running away from the jobs they have now and almost anything else would seem to be preferable. So one’s motivation for applying in the first place is often a key question for an interviewer to determine.

This idea of determining ones motivation is why questions like, “Why are you applying for this position?”, “What do you know about us?” and, “Why are you leaving / Why did you leave your current / last job?” of interest. These kinds of questions are designed to have you respond in part to your motivation for wanting to work for this company you are being interviewed by.

So if for example you don’t know much about the company you are applying for, this could show you don’t actually know or seemingly care if the job and company will be a good fit for you or not. Your lack of interest in putting in any effort to find out before applying tells them you might just be on a fishing trip – trying to see if you can get a job offer by putting in a minimal effort. Is this an indication how you’ll go about things if they did hire you too? Probably. After all, if you aren’t investing much energy in finding out something that should be pretty important to you personally, you’re not likely to invest much energy in the work the company expects you to do on their behalf now are you?

Showing a high level of enthusiasm for the opportunity before you is first and foremost what an employer wants to hear and see in the people they hire. When you are genuinely enthusiastic about the job or career you’re interviewing for, you send a very appealing message. You’re going to work with enthusiasm, enjoy what you’re doing, make an investment of your physical and mental capacities and in short, you’ll be connected to the work you do.

So you’ll show up on time, be present mentally when you’re there physically, get along with your co-workers, and your overall energy and work ethic will add to and not draw from the overall goals of the organization. Let’s sum things up by saying you’re going to be an attractive addition to the team.

How do you convey enthusiasm? Ah, good question! Look and sound positive, sit slightly forward and make good eye contact. Ask questions throughout that show a real interest. Mention things you’ve discovered through your earlier research about the job, their clients/customers. Identify any opportunities you’re aware of that your uniquely qualified to respond to. Ask about future challenges, culture, expectations and reply to what you hear by thoughtfully adding how you will enjoy engaging with these same things.

You can tell when someone isn’t really engaged in what they’re doing and so can an interviewer. Ever been on a date where the other person doesn’t seem invested but is going along until they can finally get away? You can tell by their glances elsewhere, their lack of conversation about anything meaningful and their posture that this isn’t a good fit for either of you. Pretty much the same thing with a job interview.

You might actually see the word, ‘enthusiasm’ in a job posting or you may not. It’s never a bad idea to bring it out right from the first moment of contact, all the way through to the handshake you respond with as they say, “Welcome aboard!”

Having said that, continuing to show enthusiasm for your job on a daily basis will help keep you in mind as a positive person and influence on others you come into contact with. Who knows? Could be that your genuine enthusiasm for what you do will gain you respect and perhaps even lead to being considered for advancement as opportunities arise within the organization in the years to come.

With Enthusiasm as always,

Kelly Mitchell

Explaining The Gap In Your Resume


So you’re feeling pretty good because you’ve got yourself a job interview! You feel you’re off to a good start having made a really solid first impression, and your advanced preparation has paid off in the first 4 questions they’ve put to you. Just as you feel your confidence growing, one of the interviewers furrows his brow and asks you about a gap in your résumé; those years that seemingly can’t be filled in with work, volunteering or education.

Like any other planning and preparation you do ahead of a job interview, you also need to anticipate as best you can, where you might be exposed or weak. When you look at your résumé with an objective eye, you’ll be able to spot such issues, and a gap will stand out. Remember that you’re likely to be interviewed by people who are experienced interviewers; who dissect resumes on a regular basis, looking for both the strengths someone will bring to the position and potential liabilities.

To best respond to questions about a gap on your résumé, you need to first understand why this is such an issue for some employers. A gap on a résumé could show a variety of potential issues; and by issues, I mean problems. Any number of things could be the reason; a mental health breakdown which required you to quit your job, taking time off to have children and raise a family, being fired and unable to land another position, relocating from one area to another requiring you to quit a job and set up yourself all over again. There could also be time off to go back to school and school didn’t work out. In this latter case, the applicant may not have put school on the résumé because they dropped out of the 3, 4 or 5 year program after 2 years and decided not to put the incomplete schooling on the résumé. The same could be for omitting to include several short-term jobs; positions that didn’t work out and aren’t relevant to the job you’re after now.

Understand that while you know yourself extremely well, the people you’re seated before in a job interview may no absolutely nothing about you other than what they might get from looking you up on social media. When an organization is considering making an investment via hiring you, they want to know as best they can what exactly they are going to receive in return. They know at the moment you’re at your best, both in clothing choices, posture, grooming and of course the way you talk and the content of your answers. It is in the end, a performance of sorts. Questions that probe are designed to get beyond this polished image and get an idea of the real you.

Now if you’ve been off to have a child or two, saying so will be definitely honest, but it will possibly raise new concerns about your absenteeism to care for sick children, attend school functions, and limit the amount of focus you have on your job even – if you’re the type of parent who is going to be having your child check-in with you several times a day when they have a question, get home from school, go to a friend’s house, or even just to chat. Such concerns accelerate if you happen to be a single parent, for now you have no one to share required trips to the school and all those distracting phone calls. It’s not that companies dislike children and are prejudiced against employees that have them but rather, they have a business to run and the business requires employees who are focused on doing their job and consistently present to do it.

If your children are now school-aged and you’ve got a reliable childcare provider – and a back up provider, say so. Address their potential concerns and prove you’re fully aware of the commitment the job before you demands and you’re up for it.

If you took time off to care for someone and that person no longer requires care, say so. Maybe they are now in a long-term care facility being cared for, they’ve passed on, or you’ve got other people providing the care freeing you up to work. Again, you’re attempting to prove that the reason you weren’t working is no longer an issue, and you’re in a place to focus fully on yourself and committing to work.

Now, it could be that you’ve taken more time off from work than you had originally planned. In the case of say, being terminated, needing to rebuild your shattered ego and find some new line of work because your former job was too stressful or you just weren’t very good at whatever it was. While this may be the case, best not to share absolutely everything!

Consider explaining that you took time to look at what direction you wanted the next phase of your work life to look like. Perhaps you gave yourself the gift of time to reassess your strengths and interests and instead of just taking any old job which you weren’t invested in to fill a gap, you researched where you’d be most happy and where your skills and experience would serve you best. In the end, what you learned and discovered is both the job you’re applying to and seated before the person in front of you.

Anticipate the question, prepare your answer.

3 Interview Questions: What Would YOU Say?


All this week I’m in the process of conducting mock interviews with a select group of people who are hunting down employment opportunities. Mock interviews in which one can practice their skills and get valuable feedback and support is extremely helpful in increasing the odds of landing a job offer. Understandably then, I’m proud to see such an enthusiastic group putting in the effort to make sure this opportunity before them is one they get the most out of.

Yesterday I conducted three such interviews; each one about an hour in length when you factor in the interview and summarizing how they’ve performed with both verbal and written feedback. While I asked each 8 or 9 questions, I’m sharing 3 such questions with you here, as well as some tips on answering the question better than your competition.

Question 1: Impress Me. 

This is actually the last question I pose to most of those I interview. So before you read further, how would you respond? Resist the urge if you can to ignore thinking about it and just forging on to read more. Where would you go and where would you take me as you respond?

One purpose of the question is to give the applicant, (in this case you) the opportunity to wow me as the employer. Use this opportunity as your one chance to make  a strong final impression on those interviewing you. For just as an interviewer is impressed or not with your first impression, they will be similarly affected one way or the other when you leave them.

The second purpose of the question is to gauge how you can think on your feet with something you may not have prepared for. Best to look thoughtful, pause and then launch into whatever it is you want to say. Good advice is to smile, look positive, entirely engaged and proud as well as emotionally connected to this answer. It is after all how they’ll remember you as things wrap up.

Question 2: Tell me about a time you’ve made a serious error and what you did to overcome it. 

Built on the premise that we all make mistakes, this question is one you should expect. Why? It’s likely you’re going to make at least one mistake if not more in this new job if offered it. So the interviewer is asking to hear not so much the error itself but rather how you reacted to the mistake and what you’ve learned from the experience so it’s chances of being repeated are lowered or eliminated. In an interview you are working hard to come across as polished and confident, marketing your strengths and assets as best you can. So this question is designed to expose a potential problem, perhaps some training needs or where you might benefit from support. Whatever you do, by all means don’t offer up a fatal error where the outcome remained a negative.

Question 3: Describe the position you are applying for as you understand it. 

Whereas the first question I’ve shared with you is actually one I ask last, question 3 here is one I typically slot in at number 2 in a mock interview, following on the heels of the famous, “Tell me a little about yourself.”

As the interviewer, I pose this question to find how well the applicant actually knows what it is they are being interviewed for. Surprisingly, there are many people who go to job interviews with only a vague idea of what they’d actually be doing in the job they are applying for. So do you know how this job fits in with the organization? Knowing how this job or role connects with other positions in the organization is critical. Does it support other positions? Is it a mentoring or leadership role?

Do more than just regurgitate what is in the job posting under the heading, “Duties” or “What You’ll Do In This Role”. Yes, if you zero in on what’s under these headings you’ve hit on the right things to share, but your competition can memorize bullet points too. So if you just repeat back what the job ad says and stop talking, while you’ve technically answered the question, you won’t score as high as the applicants who add more.

So what to add? Excellent question! After having summarized what the key things are, the best applicants then prove how they have actually done what the job entails in one or more of their earlier jobs. Even in situations where the applicant hasn’t had that same experience, the best will talk about how their past experiences use transferable skills which they’ll bring to this place.

Believe me, if you’ve got a wealth of experience and skills and you undersell yourself and your accomplishments, you are gifting your competition and making it highly likely you’ll be passed over. Those with little to no experience will benefit if you fail to illustrate and prove you’ve got what it takes.

If you answered these questions well, congratulations. If you don’t know what to say, bring these three questions with you and put them before whomever you’re working with to help prepare for upcoming interviews. Together, perhaps they can help you compose 3 solid responses.

While job interviews cause anxiety for many, when you practice, you lower your aversion and grow in confidence. While you may never love them, you’ll fear them much less.

Can You Answer These Job Interview Questions?


There are many questions that you might be asked in a job interview. While the questions themselves will vary, the thrust or point of the questions asked is identical; get to know you enough to find if you’re the best candidate. The best candidate in their mind might be the one who fits in with the existing team chemistry, the one who will be able to do the job with the least amount of training or perhaps the one who will bring creativity and innovation.

As the job applicant, you may say this is exactly why job interviews are so stressful; you’re not sure what they’re looking for which makes it impossible to present yourself in the best possible way; and you know you could if you could just figure that out.

So the questions I’m putting down here are not guaranteed to be the ones you’ll get asked. There’s no way someone could guarantee such a list. These will give you a good sense though of what you might be asked. If you can answer these strongly with examples from your past to provide proof of your skills and experience, you’ll be well prepared.

So, can you? Here goes:

Tell me about yourself.

What is your understanding of the job functions for the position you are applying to?

How does your combination of education and experience uniquely qualify you for this job?

In what area(s) would you need training and support to become fully productive if hired?

Impress me.

How would you define customer service excellence and give an example from your past when you’ve provided it.

Share a weakness of yours as it relates to the job and what have you done to improve on this?

Share with us two local and two international stories in the news at the moment.

Describe your experience working productively in a group or team setting.

How would your previous supervisor describe your performance?

Please explain this 3 year gap on your résumé.

Do you have a criminal record? (Sure it’s illegal to ask, but if it is, you’ve got to say something!)

What are your salary expectations?

Tell us about an experience you’ve had working with a co-worker who was difficult to get along with.

Describe the steps you’ve taken to resolve a conflict.

Describe your filing system.

Which is more important, a clock or a compass?

Describe your ideal supervisor.

You’ve got 45 minutes to convince me you’re the right person to hire. Go!

It’s 10 minutes to quitting time and someone has just arrived who will need at least 20 to serve. What do you say and do?

What are the qualities you’d ideally look for in a co-worker?

What qualities annoy you most in others?

Tell us about a time when you made a mistake. What did you do?

What comes to mind when I ask you to share your proudest moment?

Describe your personal availability and willingness to work a variety of shifts.

When I call your references, what will I learn about you that might surprise me?

Are you bondable?

Give me an example of a conflict you’ve had with a co-worker or supervisor and the steps you took to resolve the situation.

Where do you see yourself in 2-5 years?

What are your future plans education-wise?

What are you reading at the moment?

Where do you stand on the issue of __________?

When can you start?

Describe a recent experience in which your patience was severely tested.

So how did you do? I suppose you may have wondered at some of the questions; why they’d ask this one or is that one even legal? If you can figure out the purpose of the question asked; what the question is designed to get at, it makes it easier to respond in such a way that the interviewer(s) are impressed. If on the other hand you’re stumped and can’t figure out the purpose or reason they’d ask, you might flounder a bit which could shake your confidence.

These are of course only a small sample of what you might be asked. The best way to prepare for the real questions you’ll actually be asked is to go over the job posting or ad. Highlight exactly what skills and  experience as well as look at the job responsibilities, (what you’d be doing) and you’ll predict with some certainty what they’ll ask.

If you read over the list here and don’t understand the purpose of a question, feel free to comment and ask. While there may be an odd one asked of you, my advice is not to dwell on the one weird question; focus on answering the questions you can prepare for, and do your best with the off-the-wall one you couldn’t have predicted. That question is really designed to see you think on your feet. So for example, “Tell me a story.” You might think, “About what?” The point of the question though is to see how quickly you get your brain in gear and just do it, and what does it show or say about you in terms of what you share.

Oh and please, feel free to share questions you’ve had asked of you or that you ask of applicants if you interview. Each of the questions I’ve provided here have actually been asked in the real world. So come on, share a little!

About This Gap On Your Resume


Have a gap on your résumé? If so, you might be feeling some anxiety heading into the job interview, dreading the moment when the interview peers across the table, looks you squarely in the eye and pleasantly says, “I’m interested to hear what you were doing that explains this gap in time on your résumé.”

So there it is, out in the open; that slap in the face moment when you feel trapped between wanting to tell the truth and knowing if you do your chances of getting this job are gone. There just doesn’t seem to be a good answer to your personal situation. Well, let’s see if we might come up with some helpful suggestions.

Before we get to the content or what you’ll actually say, I urge you to deliver this particular question with confidence. Interviewers you’re no doubt aware, are well-trained to observe people’s body language and facial expressions. Whenever you are telling an outright lie or exaggerating the truth greatly, a person’s body language gives them away.

It’s highly likely that because this question is one you are uncomfortable answering, you might naturally mimic the same body language as those that lie or greatly stretch the truth, and this you want to avoid at all costs. So do your very best to speak with confidence, look the interviewer in the face as you answer the question and squash any sheepishness in your delivery.

The second thing I’d like you to remember is that times have changed. In the past, anyone with a gap in their résumé stood out more. Individuals often worked at companies for decades and there was greater pressure on people to keep working while dealing with personal problems. Things have changed though; it is more common these days to have a gap as more people are experiencing lay-offs, plant restructurings, downsizing and people themselves are just more mobile than ever. Changing jobs is much more common. So it  isn’t necessarily the huge disaster you might think it is to have a gap on a résumé.

Okay so you need a good answer. The key here is to be truthful and at the same time feel good about the answer you deliver. Coming up with a good honest answer can dramatically change the entire interview largely in part because you won’t be waiting in a heightened nervous state for this question. This is going to have a positive impact on the rest of the interview as a result.

Now honestly, to best coach you through this question, I’d need to know – (and so would anyone you are consulting with for help) the real reason for the gap. Knowing the truth helps tremendously to tailor a response that is personal, believable and deliverable. So no matter who you are working with, open up, lay it out and then with the worst on the table, you can together build an answer that you can confidently deliver in the real world.

So, not knowing your specific reason for the gap, here are some common situations: time off to raise a child, previously fired and unable to mentally cope with the experience, marriage breakdown, significant death in the family, uncertainty over career direction. Now you might have one of the above or you might have something else like jail time, caring for an ill family member, recovering from surgery or a health scare or possibly you just stopped looking altogether due to some depression or frustration.

For a number of the answers above, something could have been simultaneously going on in your life; trying to figure out what your next career move would be. There is and always has been a number of people in most people’s lives who unknowingly cause us anxiety asking us constantly what it is we are going to be; what we are going to do with our lives. While we’re busy just trying to stay afloat and cope with things in our Life, we’re just not ready to plan out the road map of our next 30 years when everyone else seems to have their own master plans perfected.

Herein could be part of our answer to the gap period; time spent figuring out what steps to take re. career direction. Could we honestly say something like, “The period in question is time I took to check what it was I really wanted to do moving forward. Rather than take a short-term job which would have robbed me of the time to thoroughly research my next move, I pulled back and put my energy into assessing myself, including my interests, skills and experience. I found that what I really want to do is __________ and after further investigation this organization emerged as a good fit for me personally. This is the reason I sit before you today.”

If this works for you, I’m glad and feel free to extract what you can. You see, an answer like the one above might actually be some of what was really going on even though it’s not the only thing that was going on. You might well have had a personal issue to walk through, but there’s nothing that says you have to share 100% of all the reasons you have a gap on your résumé. Not unless you had to swear on a bible to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth at any rate!

 

 

Interviews: Asking Nothing Yourself Looks Bad


A key recommendation I always make when preparing people for upcoming job interviews centers on asking some questions of your own. Whether you are extroverted and confident or naturally shy and reserved, you would be well-advised to pose some questions during the process.

In our economic times, out of necessity there are a growing number of people who unfortunately find themselves in the position of applying for work they aren’t entirely or, let’s be honest, even moderately passionate about. For example, the well-educated Physician who finds credentials obtained internationally aren’t recognized in the country they now reside in so they look for a job to pay their bills outside of Healthcare. At the other end, a General Labourer who has never felt true passion for any job they’ve ever had period, who’s once again testing the job market looking for a job.

Then too there are the folks who are extremely excited about upcoming interviews and the opportunities they represent; a chance to do something and make a real difference in the world they know. For example the recent graduate who is excited at the prospect of putting their Business Administration Degree to use looking at an upcoming interview with what they see as their dream employer.

In either of the two situations above – and any other scenario – as I say, I believe asking questions yourself at an interview is not just a good idea but absolutely imperative should you wish to positively influence those interviewing you and increase the odds of receiving a job offer. Of course the opposite is just as true; ask no questions at all and you leave a poor impression and significantly reduce the odds you’ll land the job.

I’ve said many times before that I stress framing the job interview as a conversation where both parties involved agree the topic of conversation is an opportunity; a job for you and a potential new co-worker for them. So imagine a conversation where you asked questions of the other person in an effort to get to know them better and they in return asked none of you. You’d be left with the strong impression that they aren’t interested in you or even getting to know you. The same is true in a job interview scenario; ask no questions and you’re really saying, “I’m not all that interested in learning anything you could tell me.” So why then would an employer hire someone who has no interest in either them or learning more insights into what the job entails, the atmosphere you’d be working in etc.?

For starters, prepare a few questions ahead of time. Before you stress about how you’ll come across or how to exactly phrase the question itself, just identify what you’d most like to know that you haven’t been able to determine through some research. Are you most interested in knowing the hours of work, any overtime requirements, the percentage of time you’d be expected to be on the road vs. in the office, whether or not the organization promotes from within or the style of the person you’d report to? Jot these things down first; don’t worry how to ask, just write down all the things you’d really like to know that might influence your decision to accept the job or not.

Okay so you’ve got a few or a good number of things you could turn into questions. Take each thing you want to know and write it down as a question. Are some of these things you’ve put down more important to you than others? If so, put them in the order which for you personally goes from the most important to the least; the things that would be nice to know yes but aren’t critical to accepting or declining the job if it was offered to you.

If you took these questions to the interview, be listening attentively so you avoid asking one of these which they’ve previously answered. When you listen closely to the interviewer and keep your eyes open to your surroundings, you may discover during the interview itself that your interest is piqued about something you see or hear and this could also form the basis of a question you didn’t think of previously.

Here’s another thing that can be helpful. Once you’ve asked a question and the interview is answering it, focus on them and listen. After they’ve answered, think about making a comment building on their answer. “I like that; I agree that promoting people from within the company gives everyone the opportunity to advance with a sound understanding of the company from the ground up. My second question is…”

Questions to avoid tend to be those that reveal or suggest problems. If you only ask about health benefits and sick leave, it strongly suggests you may have an undisclosed health issue or your own. If you only ask about money and advancement, you appear to be only self-invested and looking beyond the job you are actually applying for right now. Make sure you emphasize that this is the job you are motivated to achieve and dedicate your energy to in the here and now and that you’d like to believe at some point in the future you’d be in a position to take advantage of other opportunities as they arise.

So here’s a question (ironically); what do really want to know?

 

“Why Should I Hire You?”


When preparing for employment interviews, we’re often told a number of things in order to be at our best; be enthusiastic, demonstrate your abilities through specific examples, be honest, etc. Honesty is often exactly what we’re hoping the interviewer would be with us too.

Sometimes we end up feeling that exactly the opposite is the case however. We feel cheated or lied to if we find out later that the job was offered to another candidate and the interviews were a smoke screen to make the process appear legitimate. We can also leave feeling we’ve been deceived if we lose an opportunity because of our age or disability when the job ad clearly stated this employer doesn’t discriminate. Seeing as we’re being honest with the employer, it sure would be nice if we felt they were similarly being honest with us.

There is a question that the job interviewer is never far from thinking the entire interview which is, “Why should I hire you?” True that some interviewers seem to turn the question around in their minds and seemingly ponder, “Why shouldn’t I hire you?” in order to pinpoint problems and hiring issues. Some interviewers do seek to rule out candidates and plan on offering the job to whomever is left; this being the person they are least concerned will present them with any issues.

“Why should I hire you?” is also what you the job applicant should consciously be thinking of both before and during the interview as well as after the interview and right up to the extension of the offer itself. When you keep this question foremost in your mind, you market yourself consistently; focusing on the value you represent to them. Make no mistake, those who interview successfully know that if they truly demonstrate what it is they are able to do for the organizations they interview with, their odds rise of receiving job offers. Those that approach the interview with any other mentality and focus do not share the same success numbers.

Here’s where you’re offered the chance to respond to the employer’s needs. It is for this reason many job seekers who are preparing their cover letters and resumes first do some homework into the organizations they are applying to work for. Often they focus on finding out the mission or purpose of an organization and then the culture or ‘how they go about getting the job done’ mentality. In order to be a good fit, it would be great to know if they want the new hire to assimilate into the mix seamlessly or are they looking for someone to come in with a fresh perspective and different ideas. Do they want someone to shake things up, or if not shake things up, are they looking to add someone with a different set of skills than the people they already have in place? If they’d tell you this ahead of time, it sure would make things easier.

It is for this reason some applicants will ask the interviewer point-blank, “What are the qualities of the person you are looking for?” right in the interview itself. They reason that if the person they are looking for is close or exactly the same as they are themselves, then the thing to do is affirm how well the job fits. If the person described is not who they’ve been presenting themselves as up to this point, then there’s some time in the present moment to take a different strategy if they really want the job and stress other skills and attributes.

Have you ever wanted to say, “Look just be honest with me okay. What concerns do you have about me specifically so I can address them?” You’re seldom going to get that kind of honesty in an answer however because interviewers generally keep their cards pretty close to their chests. They might be afraid of future litigation; you’re too inexperienced, you’re too old, we’re looking for someone with your experience but who is more attractive.

Ah but sometimes they do lay it on the line. “Look here’s my concern; I’m not sure with your education and experience that you’ll stick around if I did hire you.” Our response to this information might be to become exasperated; we’ve heard this before at other interviews and we feel the opportunity slipping through our grasp again. This however, is just the information we need now so we can make our best pitch directed right at their prime decision-making issue.

A good strategy is to acknowledge their concern as legitimate. When an employer says they are concerned we wouldn’t hang around long enough for them to get a return on their investment in hiring us, it has probably happened to them in the past with at least one other applicant. Your job at this moment is to come across as sincere and make your case as best you can regarding the one thing – commitment in this case – they are concerned about.

Should you ever feel an interview is slipping away, you’re being dismissed far too quickly, etc., consider going on the offensive and asking them to lay their reservation(s) about hiring you on the table so you can respond directly to their thinking. Listen with respect for their point of view and empathize with them. Give them in return your honesty and best answer; tell them why they should hire you.

Scared Of The Odd Interview Question?


There are many things you should be thinking of and working on in preparation for your upcoming interview. Worrying about the possibility of a bizarre, weird and just crazy interview question shouldn’t be one of them.

Most experienced interviewers know that the face-to-face interview is a time-sensitive precious period in which to get to know the applicant who may become a member of their organization. In the time-allotted, they need to find out how your past experience, your present skills and your personality are going to fit – or not – with the organization. Knowing this, the experienced interviewers tend to concentrate their few questions to discovering how you respond to their core needs. The core needs they have are typically found in the actual job posting under some heading like, ‘Responsibilities’.

That oddball question you may have heard some interviewers inject into the process happens less than you may have been coached on. That bizarre question is usually introduced by interviewers who are new to the game and want to exercise some smug sense of power as they anticipate it throwing you off, or it could be legitimately asked if the interviewer wants to see you think on your feet and feels your answers up to a certain point are coming at them as rehearsed, scripted or coached.

The most often cited weird question used as an example has to be the question, “If you were an animal, which one would you be and why?” This is such an over-used example of the absurd that most applicants are somewhat prepared for the question should it be asked, and therefore it isn’t as it’s lost the impact it once had. Most people now know they shouldn’t use some animal that is generally associated with negative traits. So a snake is a bad choice as is a spider. The dog is overused and too safe not showing much imagination, and the horse is as well if you’re looking at hardworking as a trait.

How much energy should you really invest in preparation for an upcoming job interview in the off-chance they ask you something peculiar? None. Seriously. After all, if the point is to ask you something you couldn’t possibly have prepared for in order to see how you think on your feet when confronted with something unusual, by its very definition, how could you prepare for it? How likely are you going to prepare for the question, “17 rosebuds about to bloom are in your garden. How many do you pick? There’s a right and a wrong answer.”

The best advice you can really receive is to spend your time focusing on preparing for the questions you can make solid assumptions on actually being asked in the interview. Knowing that a bizarre question could be thrown at you but likely won’t and doing your best by using your wits is what might serve you best. Even if you do get asked one such question, it’s not going to be a multitude of odd questions but one if any.

So how then do you prepare yourself for the questions that are most likely to be asked of you? Look at the job posting and read carefully over two sections: Job Responsibilities and Qualifications. It is here that the employer says straight out, “Here’s what we’re looking for; you have to have these qualifications for us to consider you and you have to have the experience that matches the experience the job requires in order to be considered.”

Looking at a job posting; (and yes you can pause here and grab a real one that you are considering applying for or are awaiting the upcoming interview for), check out the details. Grab a highlighter or use the computer’s highlight function to focus on what the employer states as qualifications and responsibilities. Go do this now.

Done? Great. Suppose you highlighted something about teamwork, team player or working with others. It is highly likely that you can now predict with certainty that the interviewer may pose a question to you that will ask you to share your past or current experience working with others in a team setting. They will be listening for words like: collaborated, cooperated, pooled resources, listened, compromised, led, initiated, successfully implemented etc. The bottom line? You work well with others and have a specific story from your past that makes this experience believable when related to them. Get across your cooperative attitude and your productivity. If it’s in the job posting, you should never claim you weren’t prepared for the question.

Just yesterday a woman I was preparing for an interview highlighted all the key words in the job posting and we noted how the word, ‘filing’ was highlighted 6 times! That to me comes across like a key aspect of what she can expect to be doing in the job, and therefore having examples from her past that prove she has filing skills and could find key documents as needed quickly would be useful to have ready.

Oddball questions do exist and yes you might get asked what colour you’d paint your co-workers toes, who has the best pizza in town or with whom you might most want to share a vacation with. Don’t overthink these. Just don’t kill your chances with a smug, “Why do you want to know?” or “I don’t think this is a useful question.” Just answer and move on.

“Why Do You Want This Job?”


“Why do you want this job?” is typically asked of a job applicant when the job applicant themselves hasn’t come right out and made it clear why they are actually applying for the position. Even when it’s not asked straight to the applicant, the employer is always evaluating your words and your body language in an attempt to find out why.

Look, employers don’t want to undergo a frequent turnover in their employees. When they do, that takes time away from what they’d otherwise be doing, and of course it costs both money to advertise and then train a person. So it stands to reason then that they want someone who truly wants the job and who understands the job so there’s no miscommunication and they know each other’s expectations.

Now you might sit there reading this blog and say to yourself, “I know why I want this job – I don’t have one and I need to work!” That answer isn’t going to get you the job 99% of the time. What the interviewer is really hearing when you answer like that is that you are desperate for work – any kind of work – and have no real investment in the job or the company itself. Once hired and less desperate, you’ll realize this isn’t the best spot for you, and you’ll immediately start looking for a job that better suits you now that you have the security of ‘some’ job. In short, they’ll hire you, turning away other candidates, then you’ll be trained to do the job and shortly in this process you’ll quit. The employer will be left to repeat the entire process and get no return on their investment in you.

There are some people who during the interview itself become very excited about the job but fail in any way to show it. Their voice remains monotone, their body language is so conservative or stiff there’s no hint in it that they are really motivated, and so they are assumed to be fairly neutrally invested in the opportunity. If they land the job, good, and if they don’t land it, well, no big deal really. At least this is the impression they’ve left the employer with. Later on of course when they don’t get hired, they may say how disappointed they were, and if the interviewer was honest, they’d say to the applicant, “Really? I didn’t get the impression you really cared one way or the other.”

Now the best thing you can do is first let your body language show some enthusiasm for the job. Sit slightly forward in your chair, smile and be connected with the discussion that’s going on by looking the people who are interviewing you in the eye. Make sure the tone of your voice varies; stress different words as you talk so that those words are emphasized and you become more interesting to listen to. When you answer questions about your achievements and successes, show by your body language that you are indeed proud of those moments. When you speak of past employers that you got on with well, communicate that happiness with your face the same way you’d look remembering some pleasant memory.

Know why you want the job. Is it about a rare opportunity that brings together your past experience, qualifications and the chance to work in a smaller, tight organization where you can provide leadership and have many responsibilities? Or is this the chance to specialize; focus solely on a few responsibilities in a larger organization, where your expertise and the job description seem made for each other?

Are you out to make a difference? The short commute is a definite asset, as is the chance to bring your creativity to a company known for its openness to new ideas. Maybe the reputation of the organization as a magnet for cutting edge technology or their investment in local charities you support is part of your reason for wanting to be a part of their team. Maybe too you’re just attracted to their benefit package and you just want to disappear into a cubicle there for the next 7 years – no wait! Don’t use this last one – even if it’s true!

The key to answering this question about why you want to work for the company is to know how they’ll benefit from having you onboard and matching that benefit with some need they have you will answer.  So what do they gain by hiring you? Are you a problem-solver, risk-taker, new age philosopher, traditionalist or negotiator? If they need a problem-solver and you’re positioning yourself as a traditionalist who doesn’t rock the boat, there’s a place for you – but not with this company. You failed to do your homework and provided yourself a solution for a problem they don’t have; thanks for coming in.

The key will be found in the job posting; ‘what we’re looking for’ or ‘what you’ll do’. Make sure this is what you’re up for in the first place, and can you really be happy doing what the job entails? Don’t even pursue the job if you know you’re a poor fit. You don’t want to be out of work again in 3 months or less and again job searching.

At any rate, this question of why you want the job should never appear to come as a surprise in the interview; know why you’re there.