Monthly Archives: January 2013

How to Ace the 50 Most Common Interview Questions

I recently laid out the year’s most oddball interview questions. The Glassdoor list included queries from companies like Google, Bain & Co., and Amazon, which are notorious for their perplexing and unusual job interview questions.

In 2012, the search giant asked a candidate, “How many cows are in Canada?” while Bain challenged an interviewee to estimate the number of windows in New York. Amazon asked a candidate, “If Jeff Bezos walked into your office and offered you a million dollars to launch your best entrepreneurial idea, what would it be?”

The moral of the story was that job seekers need to anticipate less conventional interview questions, and that they should think of oddball queries as an opportunity to demonstrate their thought process, to communicate their values and character, and to show the prospective employer how they perform under pressure.

But as it turns out, most companies will ask more common interview questions like “What are your strengths?” and “What are your weaknesses?”—and it’s important that you prepare well for those, too.

Glassdoor sifted through tens of thousands of interview reviews to find the 50 most common questions.

The 50 Most Common Interview Questions:

  1. What are your strengths?
  2. What are your weaknesses?
  3. Why are you interested in working for [insert company name here]?
  4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
  5. Why do you want to leave your current company?
  6. Why was there a gap in your employment between [insert date] and [insert date]?
  7. What can you offer us that someone else can not?
  8. What are three things your former manager would like you to improve on?
  9. Are you willing to relocate?
  10. Are you willing to travel?
  11. Tell me about an accomplishment you are most proud of.
  12. Tell me about a time you made a mistake.
  13. What is your dream job?
  14. How did you hear about this position?
  15. What would you look to accomplish in the first 30 days/60 days/90 days on the job?
  16. Discuss your resume.
  17. Discuss your educational background.
  18. Describe yourself.
  19. Tell me how you handled a difficult situation.
  20. Why should we hire you?
  21. Why are you looking for a new job?
  22. Would you work holidays/weekends?
  23. How would you deal with an angry or irate customer?
  24. What are your salary requirements?
  25. Give a time when you went above and beyond the requirements for a project.
  26. Who are our competitors?
  27. What was your biggest failure?
  28. What motivates you?
  29. What’s your availability?
  30. Who’s your mentor?
  31. Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss.
  32. How do you handle pressure?
  33. What is the name of our CEO?
  34. What are your career goals?
  35. What gets you up in the morning?
  36. What would your direct reports say about you?
  37. What were your bosses’ strengths/weaknesses?
  38. If I called your boss right now and asked him what is an area that you could improve on, what would he say?
  39. Are you a leader or a follower?
  40. What was the last book you’ve read for fun?
  41. What are your co-worker pet peeves?
  42. What are your hobbies?
  43. What is your favorite website?
  44. What makes you uncomfortable?
  45. What are some of your leadership experiences?
  46. How would you fire someone?
  47. What do you like the most and least about working in this industry?
  48. Would you work 40+ hours a week?
  49. What questions haven’t I asked you?
  50. What questions do you have for me?

How to prepare for common job interview questions:

Do your homework. “One of the biggest complaints of hiring managers is that many job interview candidates know very little about the company they’re interviewing for,” says Andy Teach, author of From Graduation to Corporation: The Practical Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder One Rung at a Time, and host of the YouTube channel FromGradToCorp. Google the company you’re interviewing with and read some of the articles that pop up; study the company’s website; know the company’s mission, its products and services, its locations, and who their top executives are. Go to the Public Relations tab on their website and print out some of their latest press releases. “Study them so that you can talk in the interview about what’s going on with the company now,” he says.

Prepare a list of likely questions. Shweta Khare, a career and job search expert says getting a list of common questions for an interview is easier than ever before. “You can never underestimate the importance of preparation. It’s the first step and the most important,” she says.

Identify what the organization wants and needs. “While the focus of ‘Why should we hire you?’ (and other similar interview questions) is on ‘you,’ the interviewee, it’s important to remember the answer isn’t all about you,” says Miriam Salpeter, job search coach, owner of Keppie Careers and author of Social Networking for Career Success and 100 Conversations for Career Success.

The most successful interview responses focus on the hiring manager’s needs. “Framing replies that demonstrate you understand their problems, or ‘pain points,’ makes a big difference when competing with many other qualified candidates.”

Prepare by identifying the skills employers are looking for. “Use their in-depth job descriptions, view videos the employers post about their organization, and visit their Facebook page and Twitter feeds,” she suggests.

Google yourself. Find out what the company knows about you, Teach adds. “See what they see. If there’s anything negative about you, have a response ready as to why it’s negative but don’t get too defensive. Respond and then move on.”

Interview yourself for the position. Before every interview, ask yourself: “Why am I a good fit for this job?”

“I tell my clients to post the question, ‘Why should we hire you?’ on their bathroom mirror, refrigerator or anyplace they will see it during the day,” Salpeter says. “I instruct them to answer, out loud, keeping different companies in mind each time. Rehearsing this way will help you hone in on what you have to offer.”

Identify what is unique or special about you. How have you gone above and beyond the call of duty? What did you accomplish that no one else managed to do? Did you volunteer to tackle a problem and solve it? “Don’t underestimate the value of looking at yourself, your skills and your accomplishments and outlining the key points you will want to share with a prospective employer.”

Practice and plan. Role play answering typical interview questions with a friend, colleague, or coach, says Anita Attridge, a Five O’Clock Club career and executive coach. “Be prepared for the typical interview questions by thinking about what your response would be to them before the interview,” she adds.

If you are a college student, set up an appointment with your career center and have them conduct a mock interview with you. “Even if you’re a recent graduate, many college career centers will conduct mock interviews to help alumni,” Tech says. “Request that your interview is filmed so that they can critique you and you can study the film. Don’t worry if you’re nervous or you screw up. You’re much better off screwing up in a mock interview than in the real thing.”

You don’t necessarily want to memorize responses—but try to have a general strategy for answering common interview questions. “Today many organizations are using behavioral interview questions to better understand what you have done,” Attridge says. “They usually begin with, ‘Tell me about a time when…’” She suggests briefly describing what the situation was; how you handled the situation; and what the result was.

To prepare for these, you’ll want to think about workplace experience stories that describe your accomplishments or show how you dealt with a tough situation, Khare says. “If you don’t have any stories that you can recall now, set aside a few hours to think and write down at least two or three stories. A simple question like, ‘Tell me about a time you made a mistake,’ can take you off-guard and it is not easy to recall unrehearsed. Having a repository of work experience stories written down before an interview will make it easier to recall.”

Reflect on previous interviews. Keep a computer or paper record of your interviews, Teach says.Keep a record of the time of your interviews, how long they are, your impressions of the hiring manager, and perhaps most importantly, what questions were asked of you, what answers you gave, and record any questions they asked you that you felt could have been answered differently. “ Study these elements and your interview skills will improve, he says.

Figure out how to articulate your goals. Most of the commonly asked questions during an interview either dig into your previous experience or want to explore your future goals, Khare says. “Prepare and articulate your goals, and remain honest here.  Inconsistent answers won’t get you the respect and credibility that is a must to impress an interviewer.”

Be positive. When preparing for an interview and anticipating likely questions, plan to answer all questions positively. “Even if you were in a bad situation, think about how you can talk about the situation positively,” Attridge says. You always have a choice. It is much better to talk about a glass being half full then to talk about it being half empty. It’s all about your perspective, and in an interview being positive counts.

Never say anything negative about your prior employers or bosses, either–no matter how bad the situation may have been. “A negative answer actually is a reflection about your judgment and business acumen, and not about the employer or manager.”

Get comfortable. “Preparation and practice aside, the most important tip I would like to suggest to job seekers is to feel comfortable with the interview process,” Khare says. “You can read all the advice in the world about acing the interview, but none of the tactics will work out of you are not yourself during the process.”

Feeling comfortable and relaxed positively influences your confidence. “And interviewers always appreciate a relaxed and confident candidate, as opposed to a heavy promoter and edgy one,” she adds.  Practice calming your nerves, and focus on how you can prove you’d be a valuable asset to the company.

How to answer 7 of the most common interview questions:

“Tell me about yourself.” While this isn’t exactly a question, answering this the wrong way could really hurt your chances of getting a job, Teach says. “I was once told by an HR executive that this can actually be a trick question. Hiring managers can’t ask you certain questions legally but if you go off on a tangent when answering, you may tell them some things about you that are better left unsaid.” The worst way to approach this request is to tell them your life story, which is something they’re definitely not interested in. The best way to approach this is to only discuss what your interests are relating to the job and why your background makes you a great candidate.

“What are your strengths and weaknesses?” It’s easy to talk about your strengths; you’re detail oriented, hard working, a team player, etc.–but it’s also easy to get tripped up when discussing your weaknesses, Teach says. Never talk about a real weakness unless it’s something you’ve defeated. “Many hiring managers are hip to the overused responses, such as, ‘Well, my biggest weakness is that I work too hard so I need try to take it easy once in a while.’ The best answer is to discuss a weakness that you’ve turned around, such as, you used to come in late to work a lot but after your supervisor explained why it was necessary for you to come in on time, you were never late again.”

“Where do you want to be five years from now?” “What employers are really asking is, ‘Is this job even close to your presumed career path? Are you just applying to this job because you need something? Are your long-term career plans similar to what we see for this role? How realistic are your expectations for your career? Have you even thought about your career long-term? Are you going to quit after a year or two?’” says Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of FlexJobs.

Show them that you’ve done some self-assessment and career planning. Let them know that you hope to develop professionally and take on additional responsibilities at that particular company. “Don’t say something ridiculous like, ‘I don’t know,’ or “I want your job,” she says.

Teach says no one can possibly know where they’ll be in their career five years from now but hiring managers want to get a sense of your commitment to the job, the company, and the industry. “In fact, I would even mention that it’s hard for you to know what job title you may hold five years from now but ideally, you’d like to have moved up the ladder at this company based on your performance. You’re hopeful to be in some management position and your goal is to help the company any way you can.” If you give the impression that this job is just a stepping stone for you, it’s unlikely the hiring manager will be interested in you.

“Please give me an example of a time when you had a problem with a supervisor/co-worker and how you approached the problem.” “I think that the hardest thing about work isn’t the work, it’s the people at work,” Teach says. Most employees have a problem with a supervisor or co-worker at some point in their career. How they handle that problem says a lot about their people skills. If you can explain to the interviewer that you were able to overcome a people problem at work, this will definitely help your chances of getting the job, he says.

“What are your salary requirements?”  “What employers are really asking is, ‘Do you have realistic expectations when it comes to salary? Are we on the same page or are you going to want way more than we can give? Are you flexible on this point or is your expectation set in stone?’” Sutton Fell says.

Try to avoid answering this question in the first interview because you may shortchange yourself by doing so, Teach says. Tell the hiring manager that if you are seriously being considered, you could give them a salary range–but if possible, let them make the first offer. Study websites like Salary.com and Glassdoor.com to get an idea of what the position should pay. “Don’t necessarily accept their first offer,” he adds. “There may be room to negotiate.”

When it is time to give a number, be sure to take your experience and education levels into consideration, Sutton Fell says. “Also, your geographic region, since salary varies by location.” Speak in ranges when giving figures, and mention that you are flexible in this area and that you’re open to benefits, as well. “Be brief and to the point, and be comfortable with the silence that may come after.”

Why are you leaving your current job?” Hiring managers want to know your motivation for wanting to leave your current job. Are you an opportunist just looking for more money or are you looking for a job that you hope will turn into a career? If you’re leaving because you don’t like your boss, don’t talk negatively about your boss–just say you have different work philosophies, Teach says. If the work was boring to you, just mention that you’re looking for a more challenging position. “Discuss the positives that came out of your most recent job and focus on why you think this new position is ideal for you and why you’ll be a great fit for their company.”

If you’ve already left your previous job (or you were fired), Sutton Fell suggests the following:

  • If you got fired: Do not trash your last boss or company. Tell them that you were unfortunately let go, that you understand their reasoning and you’ve recognized areas that you need to improve in, and then tell them how you will be a better employee because of it.
  • If you got laid off: Again, do not trash your last boss or company. Tell them that you were let go, and that you understand the circumstances behind their decision; that you are committed to your future and not dwelling on the past; and that you are ready to apply everything that you learned in your last role to a new company.
  • If you quit: Do not go into details about your unhappiness or dissatisfaction. Instead, tell them that while you valued the experience and education that you received, you felt that the time had come to seek out a new opportunity, to expand your skills and knowledge, and to find a company with which you could grow.

“Why should I hire you?” A hiring manager may not ask you this question directly but every question you answer in the interview should contribute to helping them understand why you’re the best person for the job. “Stay focused on why your background makes you an ideal candidate and tell them how you are going to contribute to that department and that company,” Teach says. “Let the interviewer know that one of your goals is to make their job easier by taking on as much responsibility as possible and that you will be excited about this job starting on day one.”

Salpeter suggests you print and highlight the job description, looking for the top three or four most important details. “Do they include terms such as, ‘cross-functional team,’ ‘team work,’ and ‘team player’ several times?” If so, your answer to, “Why should we hire you?” (asked directly or as an underlying question) should mention and focus on your abilities as they relate to teams.

 


5 Powerful Career Drivers for The Future of Work

Have you come up with any worthy New Years’ resolutions yet? Are they already broken? If not, or if so, relax and stay positive. It’s never too late to make a few career-focused resolutions. I’ll be bold and propose that 2013 be the year to resolve to take charge of your career, your destiny and your life story. If it sounds like a real stretch, it is. I’m encouraging everyone to take action. Take heart, though – like all resolutions it’s a process, a combination of problem identification, ideas/ideation, search for solutions, and actions. Resolutions aren’t absolutely binding, so it’s not a mental trap; it’s an opportunity to allow yourself to consider what’s been holding you back, what you’re really interested in doing/being, and how to move in the right direction.

Why is this important? Why now? Because the world of work is changing, and changing fast. If you want to have a career, not just a job, you’ll need to be prepared to change as well. We’re not talking who-moved-my-cheese here: we’re talking being the maker of cheese. It’s a weird analogy, maybe, but it gets at the central challenge we all face as we work to stay ahead in our careers in times of rapid innovation and change.

When I began my career, the most important things were mastery (education and experience), talent, work ethic, character, intelligence and flexibility. Today it’s different and it’s exciting and it’s challenging and it’s never going to be the same. Those factors are still critical, but they’ve been disrupted by the forces of social connectedness, communication, and collaboration.

Here are five ways to innovate in your career – think of this as part 1 for formulating career resolutions to put you back in control of your most passionate destiny. Why wait?

1) Become a social connector of people, ideas and intent. People who are connectors have immense power in their social networks. They’re the glue. Connectors are the new Oracles (Delphi-style, not Redwood Shores style), the passionate influencers who create trends, create links and create awesome relationships.  Becoming a connector is the best way to manage the forces of connectedness in our hyperconnected world. Live the brand.

2) Master effective communications. Even connectors aren’t necessarily good communicators. Among the skills you’ll need are empathy, self-awareness, curiosity, patience, the ability to really listen, and care. Superb communicators often say the least; they draw out others and create an environment (aka Culture) which allows the exchange of ideas and lots of them if necessary. And don’t forget to apply your skills via social media, which can be tricky indeed – we’ve all sent emails we regretted or posted something awkward or too personal on social sites. Live the brand.

3) Collaborate. It sounds odd but collaboration skills are a competitive differentiator. We’re used to thinking people who are fierce competitors have the advantage; my take is collaborators now have the edge. Being a collaborator doesn’t mean you opt out of being competitive; it means you understand the limits of competition. It can be hard to be intensely competitive while being productive in most organizations. Live the brand.

4) Create and manage your personal brand. I know a lot of people who’ve resisted this step, or found themselves blocked somehow. Don’t wait any longer. People with brands (as others have pointed out) simplify what they represent; they weed out the irrelevant bits of their lives or skill sets and focus in on a few key, career-value-based attributes. Some people would even argue that brand now trumps intelligence, experience and talent, which is a scary thought for some people I’ve talked to about careers. Live the brand.

5) Curate everything. Relationships, acquaintances, work product, books, tech tools, clothes, skills; anything that touches your work life or career space. Be a relentless editor of your skills and experiences. Curation is an expression of good judgment, not evidence of controlling behavior. Curating the right career experiences will help you push forward in your career without compromising yourself. Live the brand.

I will be digging deeper into connectedness, communication and collaboration in the next few months. If you’ve thought about what they mean to you, and how they’ll help you innovate and create career resolutions, please let me know. It’s a journey everyone in this globally connected world is on right now. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghanbiro/2013/01/06/5-powerful-career-drivers-for-the-future-of-work/


Be The Man Your Dog Thinks You Are

My two Jack Russell terriers are so ecstatic when I come home that one quivers uncontrollably with glee while the other rolls onto her back and pees. It is quite the welcoming committee. They both think I’m the greatest thing since Milk-Bones.

Now contrast this to the lukewarm (if any) reception my family gives me when I walk through the door. My wife of many years has long since stopped wagging her tail at me, and my daughter, who recently moved back home after graduating from college, is just generally pissed.

This got me thinking. What do my dogs see in me that people don’t? And, most important, is there a way to make the fine qualities that my dogs sense and respect more apparent to people I want to impress? What would it take to be the man my dogs think I am?

Experts in canine psychology—yes, there is such a breed—say one of the reasons dogs worship humans is simply that we feed, shelter, protect, and pet them, providing all the necessities of life. But I like to think dogs are more than just lovable parasites. In fact, if my dogs could talk, I believe they would describe me as generous, kind, dependable, affectionate, strong, intelligent, fair, playful, forgiving, articulate, trustworthy, successful, valuable, a great cook, a born leader, impressively tall, and a terrific driver. And I bet any dog would use the same words to describe you. (Click here to find out what the breed of dog you own says about your personality.)

Stanley Coren, Ph.D., a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of British Columbia and the author of Born to Bark, says the secret to understanding canine behavior is realizing that dogs have the brain of a 2-to 3-year-old child. They can’t label specific traits, he explains, “but they can still sense and appreciate us on many levels. They’re very perceptive.”

So even though your family, friends, and coworkers may not lose bladder control when they see you, you no doubt possess many impressive characteristics that inspire loyalty. You are a diamond in the ruff. And to make these traits more broadly evident, all you have to do is start treating people like dogs. That’s right, you heard me. Your dog responds to specific behaviors that you exhibit. Act the same way around people, and soon you’ll have them eating out of your hand too.

Sound plausible? Atta boy!

1.) WHAT YOUR DOG THINKS YOU ARE
Dependable and trustworthy

MAKE SURE PEOPLE SEE IT
Be consistent

The people in your life look to you for support just like a dog does. They all want someone to be the anchor in their storm. And the key to filling this role, says Coren, is predictability. If you show up on time and deliver what’s expected of you, people will come to rely on you. Reliance strengthens bonds and promotes the illusion of control. That illusion,” says Coren, “is extremely important to their having a normal, non-neurotic life.” So establish patterns of behavior. If you’re a dad, come home at a consistent hour and resolve problems in consistent ways. Likewise, be there when your boss barks, and be sure to meet deadlines. This isn’t sucking up; it’s taking away the boss’s bite. (Fresh to the workforce? Make sure you know The Rules New Employees Must Follow.)

2.) WHAT YOUR DOG THINKS YOU ARE
Forgiving and fair

MAKE SURE PEOPLE SEE IT
Never carry a grudge

In any social pack, it’s permissible to snap as long as the disagreement is forgotten a few minutes later. If it isn’t, you risk reducing pack integrity and efficiency, at home or in the office. “There are no Hatfields and McCoys among dogs,” says Coren, “and there shouldn’t be among people.” So when someone makes a mistake, tell the person about it in no uncertain terms. (“Billy, it’s unacceptable to play dermatologist with Jessica.”) Then move on. But try to find something to compliment or reward a few minutes later. (“But I will tell Jessica’s mom about that irregular-shaped mole you spotted on her chest.”) This approach helps people accept your criticism and see you as benevolent.

3.) WHAT YOUR DOG THINKS YOU ARE
Kind and considerate

MAKE SURE PEOPLE SEE IT
Give treats

Bestow small, thoughtful tokens—an ice cream for your nephew, a shout-out for a coworker in your monthly report, a book for your girlfriend. No special occasion necessary. “We don’t do enough of that,” says Margie Ryerson, M.F.T., a marriage and family therapist and the author of Treat Your Partner Like a Dog: How to Breed a Better Relationship. She recommends “people training.” Pick a family member you haven’t been getting along with or someone at work who isn’t friendly. Compliment that person, share something, or simply show interest in what he or she is doing. “Once a week, just give them some attention,” says Ryerson. You’ll see that everyone responds to a head pat. (This can be especially helpful in bed. Click here for the 30 Sexiest Things to Say to a Naked Woman.)

4.) WHAT YOUR DOG THINKS YOU ARE
Compassionate and affectionate

MAKE SURE PEOPLE SEE IT
“Pet” them more often

Many men resist platonic hugging or touching or being physically close because they feel awkward or fear it might be misinterpreted. We should all relax: Such behavior, when it’s genuine, triggers the production of oxytocin, also known as the bonding hormone. And just as when you pet a dog, these gestures can lower your own blood pressure and stress. Everybody wins. Here’s an experiment: Next week, start giving your significant other a hug and kiss before you part ways each morning and again when you meet up in the evening. At the end of the week, see if the two of you don’t feel closer. “Even small efforts can make huge differences,” notes Coren. Start small, then add in these 16 Tricks for Hotter Monogamy.

5.) WHAT YOUR DOG THINKS YOU ARE
Happy and fun loving

MAKE SURE PEOPLE SEE IT
Play more

It’s not a waste of time; it’s an important form of social interaction, says Coren. From Fido’s perspective, it builds predictability (you throw, he fetches, you throw again) and reciprocity (he’s doing his part). Plus, it’s just plain fun. Humans of all ages experience play the same way, regardless of the game. Men need to find a balance with their play, which they can do by scheduling social time with others, Ryerson says. “Many women can get a break for themselves just by talking,” she says, “but men often prefer doing an activity together, like watching a game or shooting pool.” Got that? A therapist just encouraged a night of shooting pool with the guys. You’re welcome.

Having a living, breathing, barking alarm clock can help you stick to a routine and maintain your progress.

6.) WHAT YOUR DOG THINKS YOU ARE
Adventurous and resourceful

MAKE SURE PEOPLE SEE IT
Go for a walk

Successful social packs, canine or human, demonstrate “shared dependency,” Coren says. It’s like teamwork, and it’s a powerful relationship builder. So just as you might explore new territory with your dog, do the same with people. Invite your buddy from accounting on a mountain-bike ride. Or ask your kids to help you assemble your new grill. “When you’re doing or learning something new together, you’re sharing a life experience and viewpoint,” Coren says. A recent Stony Brook University study of 274 married couples found that one of the most important predictors of long-term intense love for both men and women was sharing “novel and challenging activities.”

7.) WHAT YOUR DOG THINKS YOU ARE
A strong leader

MAKE SURE PEOPLE SEE IT
Impose discipline

Dogs need it and so do people, especially children. But not the punitive kind; spanking actually promotes aggression in kids, a Tulane University study found. Instead, Coren says, simply withdraw your attention. “The easiest way to stop a dog from jumping up on you is to turn your back on it,” he says, “and that works with people too.” A pack leader is calm and assertive, so never impose discipline when you’re upset. Your line: “I don’t want to see you again until the situation has been corrected.” This timeout means there’s no close contact with the dispenser of treats and goodies (that is, you). That’s usually pretty effective,” Coren says. And don’t forget to encourage good behavior, Ryerson adds. (Are you boss material? Find out here.)

8.) WHAT YOUR DOG THINKS YOU ARE
A best friend

MAKE SURE PEOPLE SEE IT
Lower your expectations

“One of the main reasons we get along so well with our dogs is that we don’t expect very much of them,” says Ryerson. “Try doing that with people more often.” Quit wishing your wife had a body like Sofia Vergara’s and love the figure she has. Or accept that your kids may misbehave in restaurants because, well, they’re kids. Lowering expectations helps you criticize less and appreciate more, which gives those you love the freedom to be themselves and feel comfortable with you. “We are our best selves when we’re with our dogs,” Ryerson says. “We’re considerate, thoughtful…we’re magnificent with our dogs. Now think how rewarding it would be to feel that way around other people.” Go get ’em!