How do you define success…and how do you measure up to your own definition?
TRAPS: Seems like an obvious enough question. Yet many executives, unprepared for it, fumble the ball.
BEST ANSWER: Give a well-accepted definition of success that leads right into your own stellar collection of achievements.
Example: “The best definition I’ve come across is that success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal.” “As to how I would measure up to that definition, I would consider myself both successful and fortunate…”(Then summarize your career goals and how your achievements have indeed represented a progressive path toward realization of your goals.)
“The Opinion Question” – What do you think about …Abortion…The President…The Death Penalty…(or any other controversial subject)?
TRAPS: Obviously, these and other “opinion” questions should never be asked. Sometimes they come up over a combination dinner/interview when the interviewer has had a drink or two, is feeling relaxed, and is spouting off about something that bugged him in today’s news. If you give your opinion and it’s the opposite of his, you won’t change his opinions, but you could easily lose the job offer.
BEST ANSWER: In all of these instances, just remember the tale about student and the wise old rabbi. The scene is a seminary, where an overly serious student is pressing the rabbi to answer the ultimate questions of suffering, life and death. But no matter how hard he presses, the wise old rabbi will only answer each difficult question with a question of his own. In exasperation, the seminary student demands, “Why, rabbi, do you always answer a question with another question?” To which the rabbi responds, “And why not?”
If you are ever uncomfortable with any question, asking a question in return is the greatest escape hatch ever invented. It throws the onus back on the other person, sidetracks the discussion from going into an area of risk to you, and gives you time to think of your answer or, even better, your next question! In response to any of the “opinion” questions cited above, merely responding, “Why do you ask?” will usually be enough to dissipate any pressure to give your opinion. But if your interviewer again presses you for an opinion, you can ask another question. Or you could assert a generality that almost everyone would agree with. For example, if your interviewer is complaining about politicians then suddenly turns to you and asks if you’re a Republican or Democrat, you could respond by saying, “Actually, I’m finding it hard to find any politicians I like these days.”(Of course, your best question of all may be whether you want to work for someone opinionated.)
If you won $10 million lottery, would you still work?
TRAPS: Your totally honest response might be, “Hell, no, are you serious?” That might be so, but any answer which shows you as fleeing work if given the chance could make you seem lazy. On the other hand, if you answer, “Oh, I’d want to keep doing exactly what I am doing, only doing it for your firm,” you could easily inspire your interviewer to silently mutter to himself, “Yeah, sure. Gimme a break.”
BEST ANSWER: This type of question is aimed at getting at your bedrock attitude about work and how you feel about what you do. Your best answer will focus on your positive feelings.
Example: “After I floated down from cloud nine, I think I would still hold my basic belief that achievement and purposeful work are essential to a happy, productive life. After all, if money alone bought happiness, then all rich people would be all happy, and that’s not true.
“I love the work I do, and I think I’d always want to be involved in my career in some fashion. Winning the lottery would make it more fun because it would mean having more flexibility, more options...who knows?” “Of course, since I can’t count on winning, I’d just as soon create my own destiny by sticking with what’s worked for me, meaning good old reliable hard work and a desire to achieve. I think those qualities have built many more fortunes that all the lotteries put together.”
Looking back on your last position, have you done your best work?
TRAPS: Tricky question. Answer “absolutely” and it can seem like your best work is behind you. Answer, “no, my best work is ahead of me,” and it can seem as if you didn’t give it your all.
BEST ANSWER: To cover both possible paths this question can take, your answer should state that you always try to do your best, and the best of your career is right now. Like an athlete at the top of his game, you are just hitting your career stride thanks to several factors. Then, recap those factors, highlighting your strongest qualifications.
Why should I hire you from the outside when I could promote someone from within?
TRAPS: This question isn’t as aggressive as it sounds. It represents the interviewer’s own dilemma over this common problem. He’s probably leaning toward you already and for reassurance, wants to hear what you have to say on the matter.
BEST ANSWER: Help him see the qualifications that only you can offer.
Example: “In general, I think it’s a good policy to hire from within – to look outside probably means you’re not completely comfortable choosing someone from inside. “Naturally, you want this department to be as strong as it possibly can be, so you want the strongest candidate. I feel that I can fill that bill because…(then recap your strongest qualifications that match up with his greatest needs).”
Tell me something negative you’ve heard about our company…
TRAPS: This is a common fishing expedition to see what the industry grapevine may be saying about the company. But it’s also a trap because as an outsider, you never want to be the bearer of unflattering news or gossip about the firm. It can only hurt your chances and sidetrack the interviewer from getting sold on you.
BEST ANSWER: Just remember the rule – never be negative – and you’ll handle this one just fine.
On a scale of one to ten, rate me as an interviewer.
TRAPS: Give a perfect “10,” and you’ll seem too easy to please. Give anything less than a perfect 10, and he could press you as to where you’re being critical, and that road leads downhill for you.
BEST ANSWER: Once again, never be negative. The interviewer will only resent criticism coming from you. This is the time to show your positivism. However, don’t give a numerical rating. Simply praise whatever interview style he’s been using. If he’s been tough, say “You have been thorough and tough-minded, the very qualities needed to conduct a good interview.” If he’s been methodical, say, “You have been very methodical and analytical, and I’m sure that approach results in excellent hires for your firm.”In other words, pay him a sincere compliment that he can believe because it’s anchored in the behavior you’ve just seen.
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