Interview Questions

Posted on Tuesday, July 11, 2017

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS & BEST ANSWERS

1.  “So, tell me about yourself . . . .”

This truly is a loaded question, particularly for individuals with 20-plus years in a career. We don’t feel comfortable schlepping any interviewer through 20+ years of  failures and successes or how we problem-solved particular problems with Leigh in Requisitions. Your answer to this question needs to be concise and powerful.  “Customize your story to what is most interesting or relevant to that job interviewer.”

Be careful not to position your answer as lack of opportunity in the marketplace. “Look I reached this point where I thought it was time to explore other avenues.  I was financially prudent to save money to explore some other avenues in an industry I wanted to do, but the reality is that I want to get back to this.  This is what I want to do, and get back to the narrative of where you produced, where you delivered.  In order to weave that story, there has to be an element of truth to it.

That’s a decent tactic.  Don’t lie.  Remember, the people you work with prefer to build a relationship on trust after the interview.  The interview is about selling yourself.  Sell yourself pleasantly.  If you lie up front, you’re immediately cheating people of time. Don’t do it.  At the same time, don’t wax authentic about your failures and grief and how you gave up on this or that.  Instead, offer people the chance to get to know you.  Olivia explains that a lot of people are not going to appreciate authenticity; it’s just the nature of the environment.  So you’ve got to upsell yourself a little.

Write out a “30-second commercial” in advance. Think of examples where you applied your answer and got a positive result.  Or a negative result.  Sometimes you have to talk about both.

I’d love to talk to you about my background, but as you know I have over 20 years of experience and with that have covered a lot of ground.  Can you tell about the key areas that are crucial in the success of this position so that I can share my successes to help you best in determining if I am the right fit?

Tell stories about how you solved some problems.  And if your style fits with what’s going on at the company.

2.  What made you choose to pursue an MBA? Why do you feel your talents will be well-suited for a career in business?

3.  Describe a time when you were faced with problems or stresses that tested your coping skills.

4. Give me an example of when you’ve been part of a successful team. What role did you play and what contributions did you make?

5. Tell me of a time when you had to adapt to a difficult situation or one in which you had trouble accepting.

6. Give an example of a time when you had to repair or rebuild a relationship with a colleague or classmate. How did you handle the situation?

7. Tell me of a time that you noticed someone cheating or being unethical or dishonest; what did you do?

8. What qualifications and personal characteristics do you possess that have brought you success?

9. What are your limitations that have been a challenge to your success?

10. Describe your leadership style.

11. What are your short and long-term goals?

12. Where do you want to be in 5 years?” The answer should include something like “I see myself as a Manager, perhaps a GM, here at FedEx.” I wanted to get more skills and take on more responsibility.  It’s about them.

13. “Have you ever had to work under a tight deadline?”

Oh, yeah, we had 6 months where we had to get this proposal completed for a client who was relocating to Spain to start up another division of his business.  “Here was the situation.  We were going after a new, large client that would open us up into a whole new industry, a whole new area.  The task I had was I had to come up with a financial proposal.  Here is what I did and we got the account on schedule, and under budget.  Better than saying that “Oh, yeah, I had to work through the weekend.”  Stories!

14.  THE COMPENSATION QUESTION.

Specifics on salary may be uncomfortable for many to discuss.  Instead, talk about a salary range.

Interviewer:  How much are you looking for?

You:  Are you making me an offer . . . or are you just fishing?

Give them an opportunity to respond to that.  Again when they ask you about salary expectations, say

You:  I’m sure you have a salary range in mind.

Watch and listen carefully to Chris Voss on salary range.  He explains

Take the end of the range that favors you.  They’ll actually feel relieved that you’ve selected a specific figure and they’ll want to stay at that number.

Get that?

If they’ve given you a number that doesn’t work for you, your first response is the world-class way of saying no and keeping the conversation going, “How am I supposed to accept that?”  Which lets them know that it’s really a problem for you and empowering them by giving you the opportunity to make it better.

So, remember, “How am I supposed to accept that?”

It’s always important in any negotiation to be able to say no pleasantly.  They’re going to evaluate you in a job negotiation about how well you can represent them and represent their interests and be pleasant while you’re doing it.

It’s the best tactical approach I’ve heard so far.  So rehearse this.  Make it your own. Execute it extraordinarily.

This isn’t bad either, but Voss’ approach is on a whole other level.

Be Pro-active. If you can, you want to be pro-active.  One of the ways to do that is at the phone screen you tell them “I’m really glad you called. I’m really interested in learning more about the position and what the salary range is.”  Insert the key question in an innocuous, very generalized question and put it on them to let you know what the salary range is.  This is an excellent strategy.  You know that every job has a salary range.

I do like this too.

If they ask you what you’re looking to make, deflect it best you can. You don’t want to put the dollar amount on the table first.  It’s a negotiation, and negotiation for salary should take place AFTER they offer you the job.

 

Gary North has got great insight too:

I prefer this:

“I increased the net return to my division by 7% in 2015. Would you like to know how I did this?”

Let the interviewer ask questions about your successes. It reverses the nature of the interview.

When you have metrics, you don’t need to worry about canned questions by a personnel guy who is at a dead

15.  WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR GREATEST STRENGTH[S]?

The strengths you mention should fall in line with the needs of the company to which you’re applying.

Check the qualifications mentioned in the job posting, then be sure your answer hits on as many of those as possible.

Try to incorporate a few industry “buzz words” into your answer.

16.  “IF SELECTED, HOW WOULD THIS JOB FIT IN WITH YOUR CAREER PLANS?”

The best answer makes a strong case for what you find appealing about the job while also addressing future aspirations.

17.  “WHAT ASPECTS OF THIS JOB DO YOU THINK WILL BE MOST CHALLENGING FOR YOU?”

Actually, I don’t like this question.  If someone asks this, it means they’re looking for weaknesses and have effectively ignored your strengths and abilities that you’ve recorded on your resume.  It tells me that they haven’t read your resume.  It also tells me that they’re somewhat sadistic, putting this question to you during an event that is slightly stressful even in the best of circumstances.  This may not be the best answer, but it’s not a terrible answer

You should be honest and specific in your answer, giving an example of how you plan to tackle the challenge.  Consider discussing how you might prepare yourself to meet specific challenges, such as completing some online training or attending seminars on the subject.

18.  33 QUESTIONS WALL ST. IS ASKING ITS APPLICANTS.  Find them here.

19.  MORE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS here.  “Why Do You Want This Job?”

20.  WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE NEXT 5 YEARS? 

Don’t try to skip around this question with a vague response; doing so could lead interviewers to question whether you are truly invested in your career.  ANSWER IT THIS WAY: Connect your answer to the job you’re applying for and the needs of the company.

21.  YOU’LL GET QUESTIONS ABOUT TECH SKILLS, ABOUT SPECIFIC TOOLS & SKILLS.  [Posted Sunday, September 24, 2017]

Talk about your experience with it and how often you used it in your role.  If you’ve used the tool before, talk about your experience with it and how often you used it in your job position, include what specific projects you completed with it or.  If you haven’t used it, talk about your experience with a similar tool.  Mention strategies you’ve used to quickly learn new tools in the past to show your commitment to education.  Avoid talking negatively about a tool in case they use it at the company you’re interviewing with.

Posted on Saturday, November 5, 2016
One of the best seminars I’ve listened to on job interview questions.  Spend the time to watch it and you will be prepared.  Presenter’s name is Eric Kramer.  The presentation is from 2011 but boy is it relevant.  I transcribed a portion of it and posted those notes below. His site is called ActiveInterviewing and he’s authored books on the subject.  One of his books is titled 101 Successful Interviewing Strategies, 2011. Visit Kramer’s author’s page. He asks some pretty good questions here, too, if you have the time.  Don’t like reading? Then check out Kramer’s videos.

For telling stories, use this formula: STAR.
Situation: What was the situation?
Task: What was your task?
Actions: What actions did you take?
Results: And what were the results?
Any time you’re asked a question, you want to tell a story. If you use this format, it will keep you on target and you won’t meander around and eat up more than a couple of minutes. Accomplishment titles in your resume, a STAR story behind it.

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INTERVIEW ATTITUDES
1. ALWAYS BE POSITIVE in your response.
2. FOCUS ON THEM. Where do you want to be in 5 years?” The answer should include something like “I’d like to be a general manager here at FedEx.” I wanted to get more skills and take on more responsibility.  It’s about them.
3. TELL STORIES & GIVE EXAMPLES. “Have you ever had to work under a tight deadline?”  Oh, yeah, we had 6 months where we had to get this proposal completed for a client who was relocating to Spain to start up another division of his business.  “Here was the situation.  We were going after a new, large client that would open us up into a whole new industry, a whole new area.  The task I had was I had to come up with a financial proposal.  Here is what I did and we got the account on schedule, and under budget.  Better than saying that “Oh, yeah, I had to work through the weekend.”  Stories!
4. HOW TO ANSWER BEHAVIORAL QUESTIONS
a. Tell me about a time when . . .
b. Give me an example of . . .
c. Tell me about a time when you were working on a time that wasn’t functioning well.
d. Tell me about a time you had a disagreement with your boss.
e. Tell me about a time you had to get a project done with a lack of resources.
f. Tell me about a time when you had to let somebody go.
Whereas Kramer says an interview should be about a conversation, companies will simply run through a list of, say, 25 questions, and there’s nothing you can do about that.  That’s just their style of interviewing.  But the assumption is that it’s your past behavior that will tell what your future behavior is.
5. COMPETENCIES. Questions will come up in reference to the company’s competencies.  If a company is looking for persistence, they’ll ask behavioral questions to evaluate how persistent you are.
6. HAVEN’T BEEN THERE OR DONE THAT. “I’d never done that.  However, should I be in that situation, here’s what I would do,” and then you take them through that sequence.  Out of those 2000 behavioral questions there will be things that you have not faced.  On REQUIREMENTS.  Let’s say you’ve accomplished 80% to 90% of the requirements, but there’s one thing that you don’t have where they’re asking for a specific skill or task.  How do you rate yourself given the absence of that particular requirement?  If you’ve gotten the interview, it means that that 1 or 2 specific requirement is not a big issue for them.  but they’re trying to assess your other strengths, like soft skills of personality, problem solving, rapport building are in existence to see if they compensate for what they’re not getting from you.  If it is an issue, you want to address that directly.  “Do you have experience with Quicken?  No, but on my last job I didn’t have experience with Excel, but here’s what I did to get and learn it and within 6 months I was pretty proficient, and withing 8 months to a year I was as an expert with it.

MOTIVATION

  1. Do you enjoy challenges at work?  if so, what kinds of challenges have you recently faced?
  2. Do you work to achieve your objectives? If so, describe how hard?  Funny question.
  3. How important are promotion and advancements to you?
  4. This is how they express the behavioral questions. Motivation or Creativity would be the competencies.  What competencies are they getting at?

CREATIVITY.  These questions get at the Creative Competencies.

  1. Did you implement any new procedures in any of the positions that you’ve held?
  2. What are some of the most creative things that you’ve done?
  3. How would you get subordinates who didn’t like each other to work together?

WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WEAKNESS?  3 Ways to Answer This:

  1. I don’t have any weaknesses relevant to this job.” Bold but true.  “Based on what you’re looking for me to do I don’t think I have any weaknesses that is going to affect me on this job.
  2. A weakness is a strength.  “I am so concerned that everything is done correctly and getting things right the first time, that it takes me a little bit longer to get a project done but it’s so important for me to get it right.”  Can’t go wrong with that, right?
  3. Weakness being corrected. Come up with a weakness and explain how you’re correcting it.  “I tend to focus on the big picture and sometimes I miss the details.  But what I am doing to compensate for this is that I am writing out a list of details and ‘To-Do’ lists, and I am finding that as I am writing this list out, I’m not missing out on the details and I’m still able to focus on the big picture.”

PUZZLER QUESTIONS.  These are becoming more popular, mostly in the IT field.  The interviewer is not necessarily looking for the right answer.  What they’re looking for is what you’re thinking is and how you go through the reasoning of it.  You want to talk through “this is how I figure this stuff out” and it isn’t necessarily one right answer.

  1. How many golf balls can fit on a school bus?
  2. You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and thrown into a glass blender. The blades will start moving in 60 seconds.  What do you do?
  3. How many trees can you plant on earth so that each tree is planted equidistant from any other tree?

SCHEDULE YOUR INTERVIEWS IN THE MORNING.  People are fresher.  Fewer fires going on.  Sometimes they’ll just assign you a time.  Mornings are best.

DON’T BE OFF-BEAT OR QUIRKY.  Wait until you’re on the job to be off-beat or quirky.

REMEMBER: YOU’RE IN AN INTERVIEW.
1. Stay alert.  Don’t get hurt.
2. Danger Area.  Stay alert.
3. Sometimes interviews will take place at lunch, and if the interview is going well they’ll invite you into the office. “Would you like to see the office?”  You’re in the interview.  You’re going to meeting people, potential co-workers.  You want to connect with them.
4. Good handshake.
5. Good eye contact.
6. A little bit of conversation.
7. And you don’t want to say anything negative. “Oh, this is a really nice cubical.  You wouldn’t believe the last cubical that I had to work out of: it was drafty and no light.
8. You want to stay positive.

THE COMPENSATION QUESTION.  The salary.  Here’s the strategy.
Be Pro-active. If you can, you want to be pro-active.  One of the ways to do that is at the phone screen you tell them “I’m really glad you called. I’m really interested in learning more about the position and what the salary range is.”  Insert the key question in an innocuous, very generalized question and put it on them to let you know what the salary range is.  This is an excellent strategy.  You know that every job has a salary range.

If they ask you what you’re looking to make, deflect it best you can. You don’t want to put the dollar amount on the table first.  It’s a negotiation, and negotiation for salary should take place AFTER they offer you the job.

RESOURCES LISTED FROM THE PRESENTATION
1.  InterviewBest.  This is a perfect sales interview tool for the job you want.
2. Strategy around recruiters, care and feeding recruiters.
3.
4.
5.

Posted on Sunday, October 30, 2016

RULES, RULES, RULES

Rule #1:  DON’T LIE
Never lie in a job interview.  Someone at your job will find out.  You might feel comfortable one day over a beer with a co-worker and spill the beans. So don’t lie.  If your co-workers do find out and it gets back to the hiring manager or the owner who hired you, they’ll want their piece of flesh.  So be very careful and simply tell the truth.  Even if people don’t like the truth that you tell them, they will appreciate the candor and that will buffer some of the distaste of unpleasant truths.  Omissions, I believe, are okay.  Not everyone needs to know your life’s story.  They’re interested in your skills and talents. Deliver on these and people will leave you alone.
Rule #2

Rule #3

Rule #4

Rule #5

CONTEXT

Context #1
Currently employed.

Context #2
Currently unemployed.

TOUGH QUESTION #1
Why did you leave your last job?
Perhaps the most difficult question for me to answer in an interview is “Why did you leave your last job?”  And you can tell that it is intended to put you on the spot and a chance for the new employer to find out who you really are.  And by that I mean it gives the employer insight on how you talk about former employees or former managers.  This more than any other questions gives the prospective employer insights on whether he wants to work with a personality like yours.  So be careful and minimally do not say anything negative.  Keep your tone upbeat.  “Oh, great bunch of guys over there at FedEx. And it was hard for me to leave, but I felt I needed a position that would challenge my sales skills.”

“Well, didn’t FedEx have any sales positions for you to apply to?”

“They did but I would have had to put in another 2 years before applying.”

There are rules and then there is context.  Rule #1: Always try to answer in the positive; try not to throw negative anywhere–on you or on your former company.

Now for context.  Context #1:  You’re not working and you’ve left your last employer.

If you’ve already left your previous job, here is an example of answering in the positive. Always answer in the positive even if it strains you.  Rehearse this answer.

For example, instead of saying a company “laid off good people” and “hires lazy workers,” you might say, “I believe I am better suited to work in an organization that has a strong commitment to mentoring and developing executives, where there is a strong sense of loyalty on both sides and a culture that fosters career development and growth.” You could further say, “I realize that there are some companies that are in highly intense growth mode, or have over-arching financial or business pressures and problems that can’t possibly foster this type of culture. While this is all well and good for some, I don’t want to work for the latter. It just does not feel like a good fit for me.”

Context #2:  You’re still with your current employer but are looking for a new job. Pamela Skillings writes

The general rule here is that you should always be leaving to move toward a better opportunity. You should never position it as fleeing from a bad opportunity.

Your interviewer wants to feel like her company is wooing you away from your current employer. The ideal answer from their perspective: You are only thinking about leaving because this new opportunity (and the company offering it) is just SO awesome. Maybe you weren’t even looking. Maybe you’re content in your current role, but just could not resist this interview because the position is your dream job.

Here is some extra help.

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