Interview Guidelines - Part 4 - Online Article

Question 1

Why aren’t you earning more money at this stage of your career?

TRAPS: You don’t want to give the impression that money is not important to you, yet you want to explain why your salary may be a little below industry standards.

BEST ANSWER: You like to make money, but other factors are even more important.

Example: “Making money is very important to me, and one reason I’m here is because I’m looking to make more.  Throughout my career, what’s been even more important to me is doing work I really like to do at the kind of company I like and respect. (Then be prepared to be specific about what your ideal position and company would be like, matching them as closely as possible to the opportunity at hand.

Question 2

Who has inspired you in your life and why ?

TRAPS: The two traps here are unpreparedness and irrelevance. If you grope for an answer, it seems you’ve never been inspired. If you ramble about your high school basketball coach, you’ve wasted an opportunity to present qualities of great value to the company.

BEST ANSWER: Have a few heroes in mind, from your mental “Board of Directors” – Leaders in your industry, from history or anyone else who has been your mentor. Be prepared to give examples of how their words, actions or teachings have helped inspire your achievements. As always, prepare an answer which highlights qualities that would be highly valuable in the position you are seeking.

Question 3

What was the toughest decision you ever had to make ?

TRAPS: Giving an unprepared or irrelevant answer.

BEST ANSWER: Be prepared with a good example, explaining why the decision was difficult… the process you followed in reaching it…the courageous or effective way you carried it out…and the beneficial results.

Question 4

Tell me about the most boring job you’ve ever had.

TRAPS: You give a very memorable description of a very boring job. Result ? You become associated with this boring job in the interviewer’s mind.

BEST ANSWER: You have never allowed yourself to grow bored with a job and you can’t understand it when others let themselves fall into that rut.

Example: “Perhaps I’ve been fortunate, but that I’ve never found myself bored with any job I have ever held. I’ve always enjoyed hard work.  As with actors who feel there are no small parts, I also believe that in every company or department there are exciting challenges and intriguing problems crying out for energetic and enthusiastic solutions. If you’re bored, it’s probably because you’re not challenging yourself to tackle those problems right under your nose.”

Question 5

Have you been absent from work more than a few days in any previous position?

TRAPS: If you’ve had a problem, you can’t lie. You could easily be found out. Yet admitting an attendance problem could raise many flags.

BEST ANSWER: If you have had no problem, emphasize your excellent and consistent attendance record throughout your career. Also describe how important you believe such consistent attendance is for a key executive… why it’s up to you to set an example of dedication… and why there’s just no substitute for being here with your people to keep the operation running smoothly, answer questions and handle problems and crises as they arise. If you do have a past attendance problem, you want to minimize it, making it clear that it was an exceptional circumstance and that it’s cause has been corrected. To do this, give the same answer as above but preface it with something like, “Other that being out last year (or whenever) because of (your reason, which is now in the past), I have never had a problem and have enjoyed an excellent attendance record throughout my career. Furthermore, I believe, consistent attendance is important because…” (Pick up the rest of the answer as outlined above.).

Question 6

What changes would you make if you came on board?

TRAPS: Watch out! This question can derail your candidacy faster than a bomb on the tracks – and just as you are about to be hired.

Reason: No matter how bright you are, you cannot know the right actions to take in a position before you settle in and get to know the operation’s strengths, weaknesses key people, financial condition, methods of operation, etc. If you lunge at this temptingly baited question, you will probably be seen as someone who shoots from the hip. Moreover, no matter how comfortable you may feel with your interviewer, you are still an outsider.  No one, including your interviewer, likes to think that a know-it-all outsider is going to come in, turn the place upside down and with sweeping, grand gestures, promptly demonstrate what jerks everybody’s been for years.

BEST ANSWER: You, of course, will want to take a good hard look at everything the company is doing before making any recommendations.

Example: “Well, I wouldn’t be a very good doctor if I gave my diagnosis before the examination. Should you hire me, as I hope you will, I’d want to take a good hard look at everything you’re doing and understand why it’s being done that way. I’d like to have in-depth meetings with you and the other key people to get a deeper grasp of what you feel you’re doing right and what could be improved. “From what you’ve told me so far, the areas of greatest concern to you are…” (name them. Then do two things.  First, ask if these are in fact his major concerns. If so then reaffirm how your experience in meeting similar needs elsewhere might prove very helpful).

Question 7

I’m concerned that you don’t have as much experience as we’d like in…

TRAPS: This could be a make-or-break question. The interviewer mostly likes what he sees, but has doubts over one key area. If you can assure him on this point, the job may be yours.

BEST ANSWER: This question is related to “The Fatal Flaw”, but here the concern is not that you are totally missing some qualifications, such as CPA certification, but rather that your experience is light in one area. Before going into any interview, try to identify the weakest aspects of your candidacy from this company’s point of view.  Then prepare the best answer you possible can to shore up your defenses. To get past this question with flying colors, you are going to rely on your master strategy of uncovering the employer’s greatest wants and needs and then matching them with your strengths.  Since you already know how to do this from Question 1, you are in a much stronger position. More specifically, when the interviewer poses as objection like this, you should…

     
  1. Agree on the importance of this qualification.
  2.  
  3. Explain that your strength may be indeed be greater than your resume indicates because…
  4.  
  5. When this strength is added to your other strengths, it’s really your combination of qualifications that’s most important.

Then review the areas of your greatest strengths that match up most favorably with the company’s most urgently-felt wants and needs. This is powerful way to handle this question for two reasons.  First, you’re giving your interviewer more ammunition in the area of his concern. But more importantly, you’re shifting his focus away from this one, isolated area and putting it on the unique combination of strengths you offer, strengths which tie in perfectly with his greatest wants.

Question 8

How do you feel about working nights and weekends ?

TRAPS: Blurt out “no way, Jose” and you can kiss the job offer goodbye. But what if you have a family and want to work a reasonably normal schedule? Is there a way to get both the job and the schedule you want ?

BEST ANSWER: First, if you’re a confirmed workaholic, this question is a softball lob.  Whack it out of the park on the first swing by saying this kind of schedule is just your style.  Add that your family understands it.  Indeed, they’re happy for you, as they know you get your greatest satisfaction from your work. If however, you prefer a more balanced lifestyle, answer this question with another:  “What’s the norm for your best people here?” If the hours still sound unrealistic for you, ask, “Do you have any top people who perform exceptionally for you, but who also have families and like to get home in time to see them at night?”  Chances are this company does, and this associates you with this other “top-performers-who-leave-not-later-than-six” group.

Depending on the answer, be honest about how you would fit into the picture. If all those extra hours make you uncomfortable, say so, but phrase your response positively.

Example: “I love my work and do it exceptionally well.  I think the results speak for themselves, especially in …(mention your two or three qualifications of greater interest to the employer.  Remember, this is what he wants most, not a workaholic with weak credentials).  Not only would I bring these qualities, but I’ve built my whole career on working not just hard, but smart.  I think you’ll find me one of the most productive people here. I do have a family who likes to see me after work and on weekends.  They add balance and richness to my life, which in turn helps me be happy and productive at work.  If I could handle some of the extra work at home in the evenings or on weekends, that would be ideal.  You’d be getting a person of exceptional productivity who meets your needs with strong credentials.  And I’d be able to handle some of the heavy workload at home where I can be under the same roof as my family.  Everybody would win.”

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