Give me an example of your creativity (analytical skill…managing ability, etc.)
TRAPS: The worst offense here is simply being unprepared. Your hesitation may seem as if you’re having a hard time remembering the last time you were creative, analytical, etc.
BEST ANSWER: Remember from Question 2 that you should commit to memory a list of your greatest and most recent achievements, ever ready on the tip of your tongue. If you have such a list, it’s easy to present any of your achievements in light of the quality the interviewer is asking about. For example, the smashing success you orchestrated at last year’s trade show could be used as an example of creativity, or analytical ability, or your ability to manage.
Where could you use some improvement?
TRAPS: Another tricky way to get you to admit weaknesses. Don’t fall for it.
BEST ANSWER: Keep this answer, like all your answers, positive. A good way to answer this question is to identify a cutting-edge branch of your profession (one that’s not essential to your employer’s needs) as an area you’re very excited about and want to explore more fully over the next six months.
What do you worry about?
TRAPS: Admit to worrying and you could sound like a loser. Saying you never worry doesn’t sound credible.
BEST ANSWER: Redefine the word ‘worry’ so that it does not reflect negatively on you.
Example: “I wouldn’t call it worry, but I am a strongly goal-oriented person. So I keep turning over in my mind anything that seems to be keeping me from achieving those goals, until I find a solution. That’s part of my tenacity, I suppose.”
How many hours a week do you normally work?
TRAPS: You don’t want to give a specific number. Make it to low, and you may not measure up. Too high, and you’ll forever feel guilty about sneaking out the door at 5:15.
BEST ANSWER: If you are in fact a workaholic and you sense this company would like that: Say you are a confirmed workaholic, that you often work nights and weekends. Your family accepts this because it makes you fulfilled.
If you are not a workaholic: Say you have always worked hard and put in long hours. It goes with the territory. It one sense, it’s hard to keep track of the hours because your work is a labor of love, you enjoy nothing more than solving problems. So you’re almost always thinking about your work, including times when you’re home, while shaving in the morning, while commuting, etc.
What’s the most difficult part of being a (job title)?
TRAPS: Unless you phrase your answer properly, your interviewer may conclude that whatever you identify as “difficult” is where you are weak.
BEST ANSWER: First, redefine “difficult” to be “challenging” which is more positive. Then, identify an area everyone in your profession considers challenging and in which you excel. Describe the process you follow that enables you to get splendid results…and be specific about those results.
Example: “I think every sales manager finds it challenging to motivate the troops in a recession. But that’s probably the strongest test of a top sales manager. I feel this is one area where I excel.” “When I see the first sign that sales may slip or that sales force motivation is flagging because of a downturn in the economy, here’s the plan I put into action immediately…” (followed by a description of each step in the process…and most importantly, the exceptional results you’ve achieved.).
The “Hypothetical Problem”
TRAPS: Sometimes an interviewer will describe a difficult situation and ask, “How would you handle this?” Since it is virtually impossible to have all the facts in front of you from such a short presentation, don’t fall into the trap of trying to solve this problem and giving your verdict on the spot. It will make your decision-making process seem woefully inadequate.
BEST ANSWER: Instead, describe the rational, methodical process you would follow in analyzing this problem, who you would consult with, generating possible solutions, choosing the best course of action, and monitoring the results. Remember, in all such, “What would you do?” questions, always describe your process or working methods, and you’ll never go wrong.
What was the toughest challenge you’ve ever faced?
TRAPS: Being unprepared or citing an example from so early in your life that it doesn’t score many points for you at this stage of your career.
BEST ANSWER: This is an easy question if you’re prepared. Have a recent example ready that demonstrates either:
- A quality most important to the job at hand; or
- A quality that is always in demand, such as leadership, initiative, managerial skill, persuasiveness, courage, persistence, intelligence, etc.
Have you consider starting your own business?
TRAPS: If you say “yes” and elaborate enthusiastically, you could be perceived as a loose cannon in a larger company, too entrepreneurial to make a good team player…or someone who had to settle for the corporate life because you couldn’t make a go of your own business. Also too much enthusiasm in answering “yes” could rouse the paranoia of a small company indicating that you may plan to go out on your own soon, perhaps taking some key accounts or trade secrets with you.On the other hand, if you answer “no, never” you could be perceived as a security-minded drone who never dreamed a big dream.
BEST ANSWER: Again it’s best to:
- Gauge this company’s corporate culture before answering and…
- Be honest (which doesn’t mean you have to vividly share your fantasy of the franchise or bed-and-breakfast you someday plan to open).
In general, if the corporate culture is that of a large, formal, military-style structure, minimize any indication that you’d love to have your own business. You might say, “Oh, I may have given it a thought once or twice, but my whole career has been in larger organizations. That’s where I have excelled and where I want to be.”If the corporate culture is closer to the free-wheeling, everybody’s-a-deal-maker variety, then emphasize that in a firm like this, you can virtually get the best of all worlds, the excitement of seeing your own ideas and plans take shape…combined with the resources and stability of a well-established organization. Sounds like the perfect environment to you. In any case, no matter what the corporate culture, be sure to indicate that any desires about running your own show are part of your past, not your present or future.
The last thing you want to project is an image of either a dreamer who failed and is now settling for the corporate cocoon…or the restless maverick who will fly out the door with key accounts, contacts and trade secrets under his arms just as soon as his bankroll has gotten rebuilt. Always remember: Match what you want with what the position offers. The more information you’ve uncovered about the position, the more believable you can make your case.
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