Interview Guidelines - Part 8 - Online Article

Question 1

What are your goals?

TRAPS: Not having any…or having only vague generalities, not highly specific goals.

BEST ANSWER: Many executives in a position to hire you are strong believers in goal-setting. (It’s one of the reason they’ve achieved so much).They like to hire in kind.If you’re vague about your career and personal goals, it could be a big turnoff to may people you will encounter in your job search.

Be ready to discuss your goals for each major area of your life:career, personal development and learning, family, physical (health), community service and (if your interviewer is clearly a religious person) you could briefly and generally allude to your spiritual goals (showing you are a well-rounded individual with your values in the right order).

Be prepared to describe each goal in terms of specific milestones you wish to accomplish along the way, time periods you’re allotting for accomplishment, why the goal is important to you, and the specific steps you’re taking to bring it about.But do this concisely, as you never want to talk more than two minutes straight before letting your interviewer back into the conversation.

Question 2

What do you for when you hire people?

TRAPS: Being unprepared for the question.

BEST ANSWER: Speak your own thoughts here, but for the best answer weave them around the three most important qualifications for any position.

  1. Can the person do the work (qualifications)?
  2. Will the person do the work (motivation)?
  3. Will the person fit in (“our kind of team player”)?

Question 3

Sell me this stapler…(this pencil…this clock…or some other object on interviewer’s desk).

TRAPS: Some interviewers, especially business owners and hard-changing executives in marketing-driven companies, feel that good salesmanship is essential for any key position and ask for an instant demonstration of your skill.Be ready.

BEST ANSWER: Of course, you already know the most important secret of all great salesmanship – “find out what people want, then show them how to get it.”If your interviewer picks up his stapler and asks, “sell this to me,” you are going to demonstrate this proven master principle.Here’s how:“Well, a good salesman must know both his product and his prospect before he sells anything.If I were selling this, I’d first get to know everything I could about it, all its features and benefits.”“Then, if my goal were to sell it you, I would do some research on how you might use a fine stapler like this.The best way to do that is by asking some questions.May I ask you a few questions?”Then ask a few questions such as, “Just out of curiosity, if you didn’t already have a stapler like this, why would you want one?And in addition to that?Any other reason?Anything else?”“And would you want such a stapler to be reliable?...Hold a good supply of staples?”(Ask more questions that point to the features this stapler has.)Once you’ve asked these questions, make your presentation citing all the features and benefits of this stapler and why it’s exactly what the interviewer just told you he’s looking for.Then close with, “Just out of curiosity, what would you consider a reasonable price for a quality stapler like this…a stapler you could have right now and would (then repeat all the problems the stapler would solve for him)?Whatever he says, (unless it’s zero), say, “Okay, we’ve got a deal.”

NOTE: If your interviewer tests you by fighting every step of the way, denying that he even wants such an item, don’t fight him.Take the product away from him by saying, “Mr. Prospect, I’m delighted you’ve told me right upfront that there’s no way you’d ever want this stapler.As you well know, the first rule of the most productive salespeople in any field is to meet the needs of people who really need and want our products, and it just wastes everyone’s time if we try to force it on those who don’t.And I certainly wouldn’t want to waste your time.But we sell many items.Is there any product on this desk you would very much like to own…just one item?”When he points something out, repeat the process above.If he knows anything about selling, he may give you a standing ovation.

Question 4

“The Salary Question” – How much money do you want?

TRAPS: May also be phrases as, “What salary are you worth?”…or, “How much are you making now?”This is your most important negotiation. Handle it wrong and you can blow the job offer or go to work at far less than you might have gotten.

BEST ANSWER: For maximum salary negotiating power, remember these five guidelines:

  1. Never bring up salary.Let the interviewer do it first.Good salespeople sell their products thoroughly before talking price.So should you.Make the interviewer want you first, and your bargaining position will be much stronger.
  2. If your interviewer raises the salary question too early, before you’ve had a chance to create desire for your qualifications, postpone the question, saying something like, “Money is important to me, but is not my main concern.Opportunity and growth are far more important.What I’d rather do, if you don’t mind, is explore if I’m right for the position, and then talk about money. Would that be okay?”
  3. The #1 rule of any negotiation is:the side with more information wins.After you’ve done a thorough job of selling the interviewer and it’s time to talk salary, the secret is to get the employer talking about what he’s willing to pay before you reveal what you’re willing to accept.So, when asked about salary, respond by asking, “I’m sure the company has already established a salary range for this position.Could you tell me what that is?”Or, “I want an income commensurate with my ability and qualifications.I trust you’ll be fair with me.What does the position pay?” Or, more simply, “What does this position pay?”
  4. Know beforehand what you’d accept.To know what’s reasonable, research the job market and this position for any relevant salary information.Remember that most executives look for a 20-25%$ pay boost when they switch jobs. If you’re grossly underpaid, you may want more.
  5. Never lie about what you currently make, but feel free to include the estimated cost of all your fringes, which could well tack on 25-50% more to your present “cash-only” salary.

Question 5

The Illegal Question

TRAPS: Illegal questions include any regarding your age…number and ages of your children or other dependents…marital status…maiden name…religion…political affiliation…ancestry…national origin…birthplace…naturalization of your parents, spouse or children…diseases…disabilities…clubs…or spouse’s occupation…unless any of the above are directly related to your performance of the job.You can’t even be asked about arrests, though you can be asked about convictions.

BEST ANSWER: Under the ever-present threat of lawsuits, most interviewers are well aware of these taboos.Yet you may encounter, usually on a second or third interview, a senior executive who doesn’t interview much and forgets he can’t ask such questions.You can handle an illegal question in several ways. First, you can assert your legal right not to answer. But this will frighten or embarrass your interviewer and destroy any rapport you had.Second, you could swallow your concerns over privacy and answer the question straight forwardly if you feel the answer could help you.For example, your interviewer, a devout Baptist, recognizes you from church and mentions it. Here, you could gain by talking about your church.Third, if you don’t want your privacy invaded, you can diplomatically answer the concern behind the question without answering the question itself.

Example: If you are over 50 and are asked, “How old are you?” you can answer with a friendly, smiling question of your own on whether there’s a concern that your age my affect your performance.Follow this up by reassuring the interviewer that there’s nothing in this job you can’t do and, in fact, your age and experience are the most important advantages you offer the employer for the following reasons…

Another example:If asked, “Do you plan to have children?” you could answer, “I am wholeheartedly dedicated to my career“, perhaps adding, “I have no plans regarding children.”(You needn’t fear you’ve pledged eternal childlessness.You have every right to change your plans later.Get the job first and then enjoy all your options.)Most importantly, remember that illegal questions arise from fear that you won’t perform well.The best answer of all is to get the job and perform brilliantly. All concerns and fears will then varnish, replaced by respect and appreciation for your work.

Question 6

The “Secret” Illegal Question

TRAPS: Much more frequent than the Illegal question (see Question 55) is the secret illegal question.It’s secret because it’s asked only in the interviewer’s mind.Since it’s not even expressed to you, you have no way to respond to it, and it can there be most damaging.

Example: You’re physically challenged, or a single mother returning to your professional career, or over 50, or a member of an ethnic minority, or fit any of a dozen other categories that do not strictly conform to the majority in a given company.Your interviewer wonders, “Is this person really able to handle the job?”…”Is he or she a ‘good fit’ at a place like ours?”…”Will the chemistry ever be right with someone like this?”But the interviewer never raises such questions because they’re illegal.So what can you do?

BEST ANSWER: Remember that just because the interviewer doesn’t ask an illegal question doesn’t mean he doesn’t have it.More than likely, he is going to come up with his own answer.So you might as well help him out.

How?Well, you obviously can’t respond to an illegal question if he hasn’t even asked.This may well offend him.And there’s always the chance he wasn’t even concerned about the issue until you brought it up, and only then begins to wonder.So you can’t address “secret” illegal questions head-on.But what you can do is make sure there’s enough counterbalancing information to more than reassure him that there’s no problem in the area he may be doubtful about.

For example, let’s say you’re a sales rep who had polio as a child and you need a cane to walk.You know your condition has never impeded your performance, yet you’re concerned that your interviewer may secretly be wondering about your stamina or ability to travel.Well, make sure that you hit these abilities very hard, leaving no doubt about your capacity to handle them well.So, too, if you’re in any different from what passes for “normal”.Make sure, without in any way seeming defensive about yourself that you mention strengths, accomplishments, preferences and affiliations that strongly counterbalance any unspoken concern your interviewer may have.

Question 7

What was the toughest part of your last job?

TRAPS: This is slightly different from the question raised earlier, “What’s the most difficult part of being a (job title…)” because this asks what you personally have found most difficult in your last position.This question is more difficult to redefine into something positive.Your interviewer will assume that whatever you found toughest may give you a problem in your new position.

BEST ANSWER: State that there was nothing in your prior position that you found overly difficult, and let your answer go at that.If pressed to expand your answer, you could describe the aspects of the position you enjoyed more than others, making sure that you express maximum enjoyment for those tasks most important to the open position, and you enjoyed least those tasks that are unimportant to the position at hand.

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