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!

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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 We Hire You?”


Play along we me here; you’re sailing along in the interview and feeling pretty confident about your chances so far. Then, nearing the end of the process you’re asked by one of the people on the panel, “Why should we hire you?”

Now this question can take various forms. It could be they say, “Why are you the right person for the job?” or “What makes you the perfect candidate over the others?” However they phrase it to you, this is opportunity knocking, and your chance to either wow them or leave them wondering how you got through the screening in the first place.

This is your chance to shine Sunshine. If the job is one you really want, you’ll be doing an imaginary fist pump at this point and your brain will silently scream, “Yes!” because you’ve been looking for a chance to tell them exactly how much you want this job and communicating genuine enthusiasm for the position will come naturally to you. Why? Because you really want this job and the fit with your skills, interests and qualifications is matched with the personal suitability.

If on the other hand, you hear them ask, “Why should we hire you?” and you’re doubtful that you are in fact the best person for the job because it’s not your dream position, you’re brain might not scream, “Yes!” but rather, “Good question..”

Okay so let’s look at the possibilities. First and foremost you want your body language to communicate some real excitement for the work you’ll be doing. You’ll want this enthusiasm for the work to be transmitted in your posture, your voice and your content.

Move your behind to the front 1/3 of the chair you’re seated in. You don’t want to be on the verge of falling off or getting in the personal space of the interviewer, but you do want to engage and look assertive as you deliver your answer.

Plant your feet solidly on the floor, smile and make solid eye contact; not the “I’m boring into the rear of your skull, mind-probing, wide-eyed crazy look, just good solid eye contact. The smile is important because you should be thinking happy thoughts as you relate why you should be hired. Your ever-so-close to getting this job you really want, and the excitement of just thinking about that should come across in a radiant smile. You want this job and it makes you happy just imagining it. What employer doesn’t want happy workers?

Okay, so you’re seated properly, your leaning forward slightly and you’re smiling. You’ve taken care of the non-verbal body language that is going to support the words coming out of your mouth. Great. Now remember one thing before you get to this point; the question, “Why should we hire you?” is not the same as the question, “Why do you want this job?” The first question is about how the company would benefit and the second question is more about why you personally would benefit. This process has never been about what you want but about fitting an employer’s needs so they are stronger overall with you than without you.

The research you do before ever getting to the interview will help you here. Know why the position was created if you can. Are they expanding or downsizing, are you there to fill a short-term need like a pregnancy leave or will you be in for the long-term on a permanent basis? Are they looking for someone to come in, work hard and go home or are they looking for a problem-solver who can turn things around? If you can identify the above, you’ll know the way to strategically answer this question and tackle it from the right point of view.

The second thing you should think about is that you can’t possibly know who you are up against; well most of the time anyhow. So comparing yourself to what you imagine to be your competition isn’t a good move. You don’t have the knowledge the interviewer(s) do so you don’t want to bring competitors into the conversation when this is your time. Focus on what makes you great.

Be authentic in your response. Here’s why I’m the perfect fit for you at this time. This ladies and gentleman, is not the time to remember what mom said when she told you, “Nobody likes a person who talks about how great they are.” Forget that advice. This is precisely the time for you to not brag but rather MARKET yourself as the best option to choose to meet the needs of the employer.

Break your answer into these pieces: Your education and experience, your personal suitability and what makes you unique. No one after all has had the same path to get to this point. So what have you done or accomplished that stands out, that gives you a unique perspective, that you could draw on in this position which would help you do the job better.

The absolute worse thing you can do is not think about this question until you are asked it in an interview and then count on your good looks and charm to wing it off the cuff. It may sound fabulous to you, but it probably comes across as spontaneous and like you’re thinking about it for the first time. Not good.

So, why do you want this job?

Talk With People In Jobs You Might Like


Some common advice given to people who are looking at a number of career options is to go out and ask people currently doing those jobs a number of questions. The hope of course is that by asking people questions about their jobs, you will get an honest idea of what the job is really like, (both the pros and cons). This information can then help you determine for yourself whether it would be advisable or not to pursue that line of work.

So supposing you took this advice. Would you know what questions to ask in order to get the answers you really want? When I say the answers you want, I don’t mean just hearing what you want to hear, I mean gathering the information you really need to make an informed decision on the appropriateness of a career for yourself.

Before we look at some of the questions you might ask, let me suggest one key thing you do. Make an assessment yourself of the person to whom you are posing the questions. If they appear bitter, tired, beaten down or even resentful of the situation in which they find themselves, their advice will be tainted. On the other hand, if they’ve been in the job only a few months, they may be in the ‘honeymoon’ phase where everything is wonderful and they themselves don’t have a full grasp of the job in its entirety and some of the heavy workload might be still awaiting them. So their advice and perception of the job even though they are doing it might be limited

Let’s assume then that you’ve contacted someone doing the job you might be interested in and you’ve requested 20 minutes or so of their time. You are now preparing for that interview in which you’re the one asking the questions. Do yourself a favour and go to the meeting with your questions written down in black and white. Don’t count on inspiration to hit you while you are there although you may come up with questions on the spot based on what you see and hear.

One question might be, “How did you get started?”, but I’d rather suggest the question, “How would you suggest someone today get started?” The first question might take you back in time 35 or more years, and their answer could be a long personal reflection. What you really want to know is how YOU would proceed today if you opted for this job.

“What do you like and dislike about the responsibilities of your position?”  Keep in mind as you listen that it is probable that just because the person likes or dislikes some aspect of the job, you yourself might feel the same or differently. If something strikes you strongly, you could zero in on that and ask what it is about something they have mentioned that makes it a like or dislike. It might be the way in which they approach the task not the task itself.

“What does a typical day look like?” The answer you get to this question is really the best chance you get to see the job for what it is. The answer you get might vary depending on the time of year you are asking, whether the job is routinely the same each day or not two days are alike. If you like consistent days that all look the same, you might be cautious about a job where the activities you do are always changing and evolving.

“What are some of the personal qualities of people who are successful in the job?” Here you are hopeful of comparing your own personal qualities and attributes with those the person describes. If you are creative, spontaneous and an independent type, you might find it revealing if the person says you have to be a real team player, work according to a structured plan and work within the guidelines of set procedures. Your creativity might be stifled or encouraged, so if it’s important to you, best you find out now!

Now after some questions about the job, the environment or culture, turn to whatever is really critical for you. If you are a single parent, you might desperately need job security or benefits. If you’ve been mistreated in the past, you might need a nurturing supportive atmosphere in which to work. You might be bitter about missing promotions because the company you worked for in the past went external instead of promoting from within. Ask the question(s) that matter most to you tactfully and respectfully.

As you listen to the answers to all the questions you ask, keep in mind this is one employee and one company. You will be well-advised to ask several people the same questions to get a balanced well-informed idea of the job or the company you are thinking about working for. Mind you manners, that the person for making their time available for you, ask them for others they might suggest you speak with, and whatever you do, sound and look interested in what they have to say!

Many people skip this entire process when job hunting. Fear of asking, being rejected, taking initiative – who knows why really. This is still a low investment, high return use of your time. You might get a tour of the place, a request to look over your resume from someone in the job you’d like. Who knows? It’s all good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things Affecting Interview Answers


Sometimes I’m asked by people for a specific answer they could give to a particular question that they anticipate having in an upcoming interview. While I can quite well give an answer to many of those questions, I know it is impossible to give all people an answer that is infallible in all interview situations.

The reason has to do with a number of factors that the interviewee needs to size up preceding the question. It might be useful to look at some of these factors which should influence a person in shaping their replies to questions.

The first factor is a person’s verbal skills. While some people are talkative and effectively communicate their thoughts with words easily, others are less able to do so. Their answers are generally straight forward and short. Vocabulary is closely related to this factor; some have a large vocabulary, know industry buzz words and technical terminology while some do not.

Of course the atmosphere being created by the interviewer often sets the tone for the kind of answer you can safely assume will be received by them favourably. This ability to read the interviewer based on your observations is critically important. If they are jovial, laid back, casually dressed, you might correctly assume some occasional tasteful humour, a smile and a laugh will be okay. A sombre, non-nonsense or even gruff interviewer might be better approached with caution and conservative answers.

Some interviewers read questions to applicants, thus ensuring each applicant gets the exact same question and there are few other words added. They ask, you answer, thanks for coming. This kind of interview restricts the applicant from picking up on information shared from the conversation because the interviewer is adding little to nothing in the process. While they may be friendly and smiling, your answer can’t appeal to anything you are picking up from their words as they are few and far between outside the formal questions.

Of course the number of people representing the employer affects how one answers a question too. A panel interview where you are facing several interviewers can result in an applicant connecting with one or more interviewers over others. Therefore your answers in this case might vary in tone and your words depending on the person you are addressing in answering the question posed. You might answer the Human Resources person differently than the person who will ultimately be your supervisor.

One of the most significant factors to consider affecting your answer to a question has to do with how you perceive things are going in an interview up to the current point in time when you get asked a particular question. If things are pleasant, your confidence high, you might answer a question differently than if you’re feeling the interview is going poorly and the job slipping away with every answer you give.

I hope you will agree that these factors influence how and what you might say in an interview. It’s not enough to have a pre-determined answer ready to a certain question and then just regurgitate it when the time comes. If this is all interviewers were looking for, they’d mail you the questions and read your answers.

Good interviewers and good job applicants read each other internally and constantly checking throughout the interview to confirm or change their opinion of each other. So what started off tense might soon change to a more comfortable experience, and therefore how you deliver an answer will vary depending upon the point during the interview when the question is asked. The opposite is true as well; you might have sensed things were laid back at the start only to find the interviewer has changed the tone of the interview to being more serious, more matter-of-fact.

Therefore it becomes impossible for one person to coach all people to answer all questions the same way and expect the same positive outcome. What one says and how one delivers it will vary from person to person and from situation to situation.

One thing you should reasonably be expected to receive if you are ever working with someone coaching you in advance of an interview, is some personal time. So, if you were working with me for example, I’d be most able to help you if I got to know you first. Knowing your vocabulary, confidence level, experience, assertiveness, communication and people skills are just some of the things that would go into my assessment of your ability to answer questions in the way which will work best for you.

Now if you take a group experience – say you attend a workshop on preparing for interviews, you’ll likely get standard good advice. Things to do before, during and after an interview which are common sense. You might or might not even get a chance to pose some of your own tough questions you’ve been asked. Giving you a personal answer that will work for you is hard though because of all the factors I’ve mentioned earlier. At some point you will need to assess things on the go in the interview and determine for yourself at that moment on how to best proceed.

Some interview better than others as we know. Like anything else, interviewing is a skill and it can be learned if you have the interest and see the value.

All the best out there.

 

 

“Hate” Is A Job Interview Killer


“Oh I hate it when people are like that; I really do!”
“Okay, well that about does it. Thanks for coming in, we’ll be in touch.” And they never are. What went wrong?

It’s likely that whatever you find annoying in other people that prompted you to make the comment you did cost you a real shot at that job. “Hate” is one of those words that people use more commonly than they really mean. For not only do people use it to describe extreme revulsion, but they also use it in 2014 to describe things they don’t like a little but can easily adapt to. So for example, “I hate this pudding!”, “I hate having to get up early!”

Odds are that pudding flavour or texture is something you don’t find to your taste, but you could just as easily have said, “I prefer vanilla instead thank you, the butterscotch isn’t a flavour I enjoy.” This may not be what you would say if you were hanging out with your trusted girlfriend, but it might be what you’d say if you were having dinner at someone’s house you were just getting to know and wanted to make a good impression.

“Wanted to make a good impression.” Hmmmmm……isn’t that what you’re trying to do at the interview also? Right! You see that interviewer across the table is trying their best to get to know you over a relatively short period of time; even when there’s multiple interviews to go through. And because they don’t know you, anything you say is magnified. They can’t tell if a comment like, “I hate people like that” means you really do hate others or you just find them mildly annoying but can still get along.

People are generally considered the most important asset companies have. Put the right people in place and the company thrives. Hire the wrong people in key positions and the company will flounder and possibly fail. It is for this reason and this reason alone that picking the right candidate(s) from the many who apply for a job takes time and has to be done right – the first time.

So there sits the interviewer. Whether you started off with someone in Human Resources or not, eventually you end up sitting in front of someone who knows not only the job requirements but also the people with whom the successful job applicant will be working with. It’s as if all those people and their various personalities are the individual ingredients in some breathing recipe. Find the missing ingredient in a job applicant and the result is a winning combination. However, make the wrong choice, and you may upset the mix that was so close to what Management was close to achieving, and you’ll be out before the end of probation and the process will start anew.

Okay so that comment, “Oh I hate it when people are like that; I really do!” What the interview has likely done is precede the response the applicant gave with either a question or comment about someone with a strong personality not everyone can work with. Could be, and likely is, that there is someone on the team you would be working with, or in the organization you’d have to deal with who has that very personality, manner, style or trait. And if there isn’t, it’s a test to see how you would deal with an angry customer or someone who rubs you the wrong way.

Being careful, thinking before talking, and coming up with an answer that is honest but ends on a positive rather than on a negative is the key. And you should always be thinking to yourself, “What’s really behind this question? What is it that’s really being probed? If you think it’s a question or comment designed to provoke a response, taking a moment to re-think your automatic response may save the interview and keep yours going. So perhaps you might say, “The great thing about meeting people, whether it’s customers, clients or co-workers is that we’re all so different and yet we find ways to get along, even when our differences sometimes create personal challenges. Whenever I interact with someone who has behaviour I personally don’t appreciate, I can separate their behaviour from the person themselves.”

After making this kind of introductory statement, I’d cite an example from my past where someone has initially rubbed me the wrong way, but I was able to work with them and produce a positive result. You know, kind of, “To illustrate this, it was when I was with such and such company, and I was tasked with working on a project with a person who constantly interrupted my sentences and didn’t appear to be listening. I refrained from saying something that would be hurtful, and asked if we could just pause a moment and talk. I explained how I felt when he interrupted constantly, (which he said he knows he does but is working on) and he said he’d really make an effort not to do that and hear me out because he values my opinion. We then resumed the project and came to a successful conclusion.”

“Hate” is a word you might want to drop altogether anyhow. Save it for extreme situations where it’s required but leave it out of your everyday vocabulary. Dropping it will serve you well.

At The Interview: Answering The Conflict Question


Just yesterday, I was conducting mock interviews with a group of people who are intensively looking for employment. In one of those interviews, I said, “Tell me about a time when you experienced conflict and what did you do to resolve it”.  The answer I got, and the interpretation of the question came as a surprise to me, and I found myself with an opportunity for one of those teachable moments, and that’s why I want to share this with you today.

First of all, I’ll tell you the person responded with this statement. “I have never experienced conflict”. Now in the past, I’ve always drawn from this response the impression that the person may a) be lying  b) not know themself that well or possibly c) drawn a blank where they cannot think of any conflict to describe. Now this struck me as peculiar too because the individual before me makes a good visual first impression, has a solid work history, and I believe would have at some point experienced situations involving conflict. So I probed, and asked her to think of any situation in a past job or her personal life where she had experienced conflict and share how she resolved it. She started to say that her personal life shouldn’t have any bearing on the job interview but then caught herself and stopped. Again she stated she had no conflict in her personal or professional life.

At the end of the interview, we re-visited her answers and I gave her feedback on the positive and areas to improve. With respect to this question, here’s how she viewed it. In her opinion, talking about conflict – any conflict – she had with another person where an argument ensued would give the interviewer a reason to pass her over, so she didn’t want to reveal anything, and thought her answer was satisfactory. She also couldn’t understand why a conflict with someone in her personal life would be appropriate to talk about in a job interview either.

The reason for the question is important for the applicant to understand in order to answer it correctly. The interviewer knows that any potential applicant once hired, will be spending up to 7 or 8 hours a day with other employees and customers etc. and therefore potential conflicts may arise from time to time. By sharing HOW you resolve conflict when it does arise, the interviewer gets an idea of how you will act working for their company if and when this happens.  The other point I’d make here myself is that even if you don’t like a question you’ve been asked, it’s still been asked and you have to respond in some way.

I reversed the situation and asked her to pose the question to me. What I responded with is this. “Sure, a time I experienced conflict was recently when I took my car in for service. As I start at 8:00a.m., I arrived at the dealership at 7:30a.m. and had arranged for an early ride to work so I’d arrive on time. The driver was late however, and the conflict I was experiencing was knowing I might now be late. So the action I took was to call the office, explain the problem and indicate I’d be there shortly. I also spoke with the Service Advisor, and fortunately he got another person to shuttle me to work. As a result of explaining my problem, I got the ride and arrived at work right at 8:00a.m. I know reporting procedures if faced with arriving late, and I’m confident in saying that my attendance record is excellent and something I’m constantly being  cited for. I believe I have the skills to resolve any conflict I may be experiencing to achieve a win-win situation.”

In this example, the conflict isn’t so much an argument with a person but rather a conflict in needing to be somewhere and being delayed in arriving on time. It’s important to paint a scenario for the interviewer so they can visualize the problem, see how you respond to the situation, and then finish by sharing the result. A positive outcome is always best. After doing this, the person I was sitting with understood much better that answering the question this way allowed her to answer the question from another perspective…and isn’t gaining perspective something to be valued!

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