Extreme Job Search Strategies
|Interview Q & As|
Here is a list of the types of questions that you’ll most likely be asked during your interviews. There are several different types of interview formats and we have included typical questions for the most common interview formats. Write out the answers to each until you’re comfortable with your response. Keep your responses short and to the point, and always showcase your strengths. Review your answers before each interview, but understand that you’ll probably have to modify a few to fit the particular situation. Additionally we have provided you some sample answers to the most common interview questions.
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Behavioral Interview Questions
The following is a list of questions that employers may ask when they are looking for certain traits/behaviors/skills from a potential new hire:
If They are Looking for Behaviors that Revolve Around Leadership
If They are Looking for Behaviors that Revolve around Initiative and Follow-through
If They are Looking for Behaviors that Revolve Around Thinking and Problem Solving
If They are Looking for Behaviors that Revolve Around Communication
If They are Looking for Behaviors that Revolve Around Working Effectively With Others
If They are Looking for Behaviors that Revolve around Work Quality
If They are Looking for Behaviors that Revolve around Creativity and Innovation
If They are Looking for Behaviors that Revolve around Priority Setting
If They are Looking for Behaviors that Revolve around Decision Making
If They are Looking for Behaviors that Revolve Around Ability to Work in Varying Work Conditions (stress, changing deadlines, etc.)
If They are Looking for Behaviors that Revolve around Customer Service
Traditional Interview Questions
Stress Interview Questions
Remember, stress questions are designed to determine how you manage yourself in pressure situations – be prepared and you won’t fumble!
These represent just a few questions—there are an unlimited number to ask. Just recognize what a “stress” question is so you can take a deep breath, gather your thoughts, and answer intelligently.
Informational Interview Questions
Familiarize yourself with the questions that can be legally asked… and those that can’t.
As you consider a question that seems to verge on illegality, you should take into account that the interviewer may be asking it innocently, and may be unaware of the laws on the matter. Your best bet is to be polite and straightforward, as you would in any other social situation. You also want to move the conversation to an examination of your skills and abilities, not your status. Next are some sample illegal questions—and some possible responses. Remember, your objective is to get job offers; if you later decide that this company is not for you, you are under no obligation to accept the position.
If the questions become too pointed, you may want to ask—innocently—“Could you explain the relevance of that issue to the position? I’m trying to get a handle on it.” That response, however, can seem confrontational; you should only use it if you are extremely uncomfortable, or are quite certain you can get away with it. Sometimes, the interviewer will drop the line of questioning. For more strategies about responses to illegal questions, please contact a Staffing Solutions, Inc. staff member!
SAMPLE ANSWERS TO THE MOST COMMON QUESTIONS
Why did you leave your last job?
Why have you been out of work so long?
Being out of work less than three months is not long. Simply reply, "It's interesting that you should think that --- months is a long time. I used to think that too, but I've been doing a lot of reading about this recently and I've learned that in today’s economy, being out of work for 3 to 5 months is the norm.
If, however, you’ve been out of work for many months, even up to a year, you'll need to come up with a more creative response, such as "When I first began my job search, I decided that at this point in my career I would only accept a position if it offered me the kinds of career opportunities I most wanted, such as a chance to be involved in a start-up situation where I could have a voice in the company’s direction. (Fill in your own goals, but try to tailor them to something you feel this company offers.) Thus far none of the offers I've had has filled the bill, and that's why I was so interested in your company and meeting with you.
If the reason you've been out of work so long is that you're making a career change, the questions “Why have you been out of work so long?” will be easier to answer. In this case, you'll want to say something like, "This has been a most exciting period in my career because I decided to redirect all my efforts toward making a career change. But doing it right is also very time-consuming. These past several months I’ve been researching the industry and meeting with many wonderful professionals who have been very helpful. I’ve had several interviews but to date, no offers that I felt were right for me. And that's why I'm so interested in your company and have looked forward to our meeting.”
What salary are you looking for? Or, what were you making at your last job?
Remember that you want to appear open and flexible. The idea is not to lock yourself into any specific figure. You can respond by saying something like “I’m looking for something in the thirties, but I’m open, because at this point in my career finding the right position with the right company is my top priority.”
The only way you’ll know for sure what the job pays is if a recruiter has sent you. Beyond that, you can only use your professional expertise or your contacts within the company to get a sense of the salary involved. So when you give that ballpark figure, make sure you would be happy accepting it.
Sometimes during a salary discussion, you will be asked what you were earning on your last job. Give a ballpark figure for your entire “compensation package,” that is, salary plus perks. Then offer to break it down. Don’t lie about your base salary – the interviewer can check it out – but don’t sell yourself short either. Keep in mind that more and more companies contact your former employer for salary verification.
But remember, your honesty won’t necessarily hurt you, even if you’re going for a sizable salary increase. If you bring important resources, skills and contacts to the new position, you’re a valuable asset no matter what you were earning previously.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
You may not get asked about both strengths and weaknesses, but be prepared just in case. First, let’s discuss strengths.
This question offers an ideal chance for you to discuss your strongest skills, but you should tailor your response to the specific position. For instance, if you’re interviewing for an administrative job, stress your computer skills, your ability to multi-task and prioritize, that you managed the calendar of three of your supervisors, and/or that you prepared reports and spreadsheets for last year’s annual company meeting. Your answers should be brief, professionally oriented and clearly demonstrate that you are the best candidate for the job.
Weaknesses are trickier to discuss. Sometimes you can use humor to take the sting out of it. When someone asks, “What are your weaknesses?”, think of something that really is a weakness but won’t risk your chances of getting this particular job. Then name that weakness and explain how you’ve either overcome or corrected it. One person used to say, “I’m not good with numbers, but thank heaven my calculator is.”
Or if you get so excited about a new project that you want everything done yesterday, you can share that, adding, “So I’ve developed a system whereby I map out all the pieces of the project on a calendar. Then I can look forward to completing each part rather than needing to go from zero to one hundred overnight.”
Tell me about yourself…
In interviewing language, this request is called an “open question" because, without directing you in any way, it forces you to make some revealing statements about yourself. But beware--you can sink or swim with your answer.
To reply wisely, bear in mind two important rules:
Also, don't lead off with "Where would you like me to start?” and PLEASE don't begin with where you were born. Even though the interviewer is sitting there with your resume, don't assume that he or she has read it thoroughly, or recently, for that matter. Use this opportunity to highlight your professional accomplishments.
If you were interviewing for the producer's spot on a network TV show, you might say, "For the first half of my career, I worked in front of the camera as a local weathergirl, interviewer, and newscaster. It was really exciting and I learned a lot. But I feel I came into my own when I stepped behind the camera as an assistant producer for KWIN. Even though my title was assistant producer, Alex, my producer, was involved in so many other projects that I was often left to my own devices. As a matter of fact, I actually wound up producing nearly half the shows. And every one of them was done under budget. Last year I was hired as the producer of my own local cooking show, for which I won my first Emmy. And now I feel I'm ready to make the move into network."
This entire response took less than a minute. Which goes to show you just how much you're able to say in a very short time if you’re prepared properly.
Do You Have Any Questions For Me?
Your answer to this one should always be a resounding yes. There are two types of questions that you should ask: one geared to give information; the other, to get it.
Questions that give information depend on all that pre-interview research and will make you stand out from all the other candidates. While they'll be asking ordinary queries such as "What are the benefits?” and "How many weeks vacation do I get?" you'll be asking questions that demonstrate your knowledge of the company and/or the industry. Ideally, your questions should have something to do with the area in which you'll be working. For example, if you're interviewing for a job as vice-president of operations, you could ask, "How much time is the company saving since the introduction of its new computerized shipping system?"
QUESTIONS TO ASK THE EMPLOYER
Job hunters have consistently stated they wanted more information on the company in the initial interview. It is interesting to note that many employers have also commented that candidates have not, as a rule, asked many well thought-out questions. With the many available research tools, a job hunter should have adequate information from which to formulate questions.
Job hunters should obtain as much information from the interviewer about the job qualifications and requirements as possible without being aggressive to the point that employer interest is discouraged. Use discretion in formulating your questions. Save any ticklish questions to ask until after you have built a good rapport. Initially, endeavor to obtain basic information regarding the position. Ask questions about the company's history and performance as the interview progresses. Be aware that it is difficult to determine how an interviewer may respond to some questions, particularly if they misinterpret your motive for asking the question. If you are in doubt about how a question may be received, hold your question until seserious interest is expressed or you receive an offer from the company. Some questions about the company might not be answered until an offer is made. It is important for job hunters to conduct a “due diligence” inquiry to obtain as much information as possible before deciding to accept a position. Don’t hesitate to ask questions of knowledgeable individuals not currently associated with the company, or current employers and/or vendors.
QUESTIONS TO ASK CHECKLIST
Check questions reviewed Check questions completed
___1. What qualifications are required and what are the general job responsibilities? Ask if you may review a copy of the job description for the position involved. (This is often not provided before the interview, but should be if it is available.) Check to see if the description includes the qualifications for the position. Find out some of the specifics of both the qualifications desired and the duties and responsibilities involved.
Such questions should cover:
___Experience - areas and specific type required and/or desired; the level required
___2. In terms of the organization, where is the job located? What are the reporting relationships (the person that the job reports to and other key individuals to which the position relates)?
___3. What is the organizational structure? Ask if there is a non-confidential chart to review. Many companies do not release organization charts. Some companies will release these without individual names and other confidential data, or they may provide one during the interview.
___4. What type of individual is desired? Include any special traits and characteristics desired to fit into the company's organization and culture.
___5. Why is the position available? Inquire about the history of the position, the individual now holding the position, and who previously held it. Has the position involved substantial turnover? Of those who left, what were their pluses and minuses? How well did they perform and was their performance up to expectations or beyond? The answers can be an excellent tip off to the next three questions.
___6. What accomplishments are expected?
___7. What are the expectations for the position and of the new person in the position?
___8. Are there any problems to be aware of and what problems would a new individual encounter in the job?
___9. How are individuals evaluated for this position?
___10. What is the future of the organization?
___11. What is the performance level and reputation of the department and division related to the position?
___12. How do the department, section, and division fit into the overall company hierarchy as to capability, respect, political clout, and ranking?
Additional Questions to Ask
Many additional questions will come up as job interest develops. Here are some that can be helpful as the interview and selection proceeds. It is often helpful to jot down a list of questions on note cards, which can be referred to immediately prior to the interview.
___13. Can you provide more information about the company's marketplace, its markets, customers, competitors, standing, and reputation?
___14. What is the financial condition/stability of the company?
___15. Are there any business conditions or reversals expected that would impact the viability of the position, the division, or business in the near future?
___16. What are the employee benefits and eligibility requirements for health care and life insurance?
___17. Is travel or potential relocation required?
___18. A parting question useful for some interview closings: After reviewing our discussion today, I may have an additional question. May I call you? When would be most appropriate?
___19. What are the promotional opportunities? How does one advance their career with the company and how does the promotion procedure work (formally and informally)?
CHARACTERISTICS EMPLOYERS ARE SEEKING IN YOU
Often a company is attempting to gather information about how you feel about yourself, your chosen career, and what type of culture suits you. Few of them will arise from direct questions—your future employer will search for them in your answers to specific job performance probes. The following words and phrases are those you should be able to project as part of your successful, healthy personal profile.
All companies seek employees who respect their profession and employer. Projecting these professional traits will identify you as loyal, reliable, and trustworthy.
Companies have very limited interests: making money, saving money (the same as making money), and saving time (which does both). Projecting your achievement profile, in however humble a fashion, is the key to winning any job.
Projecting your business profile is important on those occasions when you cannot demonstrate ways you have made money, saved money, or saved time for previous employers. These keys demonstrate you are always on the lookout for opportunities to contribute, and that you keep your boss informed when an opportunity arises.
As the requirements of the job are unfolded for you at the interview, meet them point by point with your qualifications. If your experience is limited, stress the appropriate key profile traits (such as energy, determination, or motivation), your relevant interests, and your desire to learn. If you are weak in just one particular area, keep your mouth shut—perhaps that dimension will not arise. If the area is probed, be prepared to handle and overcome the negative by stressing skills that compensate and/or demonstrate that you will experience a fast learning curve.
Do not show discouragement if the interview appears to be going poorly. You have nothing to gain by showing defeat, and it could merely be a stress interview tactic to stress your self-confidence.
If for any reason you get flustered or lost, take a breath, quickly regroup, and keep a straight face and posture; remain engaged until the interview concludes.
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