You know it’s coming. The dreaded interview question.
“What’s your greatest weakness? or “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
Questions like these set you up to be tongue tied. How can you answer them and seem like you’re giving a true-to-self answer, while still pleasing your interviewer?
One thing to note: questions like these are often asked by untrained interviewer. It’s a typical question that usually generates a typical response. It’s easy to say that your greatest weakness is being a perfectionist, or wanting to take on too many projects at once. Isn’t that the answer that the hiring manager wants to hear? Not always.
How do you answer these questions other than to give the interviewer what you think she wants to hear?
Go Into Your Interview Armed with Answers
If you know what to expect in terms of questions, you’ll be less likely to draw a blank for an answer. Read up on the most commonly asked interview questions so you know what to expect. Then, before your interview, sit down and consider how you would answer some of the commonly asked questions (even the dumb ones). Practice your answers in front of a mirror. Aim to make eye contact and be confident in your answer. Repeat this until you stop laughing at yourself!
Aim for the Diplomatic Truth
Sure, you may be applying for a job simply because you need a job, but that’s probably not the answer that will get you hired. Find a better way to word the truth.
Why are you interested in our company?
The truth: They pay well and have a killer bonus structure.
The better truth: Explain that you’re looking to expand your experience. You like the structure. You feel it’s a place where you can help make a difference and find that your core values align with theirs (make sure you know their core values and you’ve read their mission statement!).
What did you leave your last job?
The truth: Your boss had it in for you.
The better truth: You were ready for a new opportunity that would allow you to grow.
What’s your greatest weakness?
The truth: You have none! Of course….
The better truth: Be honest. Pick your true weakness, but be ready to show how you have worked to improve it and how it can also be a strength. Maybe it’s that it’s hard for you to delegate, or the fact that you’re no good at multitasking (that’s actually not a weakness, despite what employers would have you believe). Shape your answer so that the hiring manager sees that you are aware of a weakness, but are ready to make it work for you.
Realize that the interviewer may be trying to bait you to see if you’ll talk negatively about a former employer. Don’t fall for it. Never show your emotion or frustration for a previous employer in an interview.
Also, an employer might present these difficult questions simply to see if you have a realistic sense of self. Telling them with what they want to hear may not score you points. Be true to yourself and don’t pigeonhole yourself into a place you don’t want to be in. If you get the job, you certainly don’t want to have presented yourself falsely in the interview.
Anita Bruzzese recently wrote an awesome post on her blog, 45 Things, about being a good interviewer. If there was any doubt, the title says it all: Being a Hiring Manager Doesn't Give You the Right To Be a Jackass. I've too heard my fair share of stories from candidates on the job search. Lack of common courtesy and outrageous expectations
seem to be recurring themes these days. The interviewee-interviewer mistake ratio is 1:1.
Anita outlined five rules for being a good hiring manager.
1. When you post a job, be prepared.
2. Be on time.
3. Clear a chair.
4. Pay attention.
5. Be honest.
Read her commentary and the entire post here.
Each rule is equally important, but number 4, Pay Attention, is the one that bothers me every time. It's also the rule even usually good interviews break the most.
An interview is not the time to be checking your email and Blackberry. It doesn't matter how "busy" you are. Think about it—you’re about to be adding someone to your payroll software for an undisclosed period of time—is this really a time when you want to be distracted? Please turn off the cell phone and the computer monitor. The silent buzz in your pocket is distracting you, and, even if you don't check it, we know you want to! If a candidate answered his phone during an interview, it would be considered inappropriate - the same rules apply to the interviewer.
I'd also like to add a couple more good rules for the interviewer to follow:
6. Read through the candidate's resume prior to starting the interview. I've heard of situations where the interviewer didn't even know the candidate's name. Optimize the time available for the interview by preparing questions prior to meeting the candidate. If there is more than one person involved in the process, make sure each interviewer is not asking the same questions.
7. Tell the candidate about the position. Candidates are expected to walk into an interview prepared to show how all of their experience matches the job. Often they are only provided with a generic job description such as "seeking candidates with excellent communications skills" or "seeking individuals with strong attention to detail". These generic descriptions are often quite vague when it comes to explaining what the person will actually be expected to accomplish in the role. It's important to feed the candidates specific information about the job so they can demonstrate how their most relevant skills and previous experiences prove to you they are a viable candidate in the short amount of time they have.
Remember, even if you don't hire the candidate in the end, his or her experience interacting with your company can either build or slowly kill your employer reputation. This same candidate could be your future customer, client, or even your employer.
What would you suggest be added to the list?
Last year Oxford University researchers published a list of the Top Ten Most Irritating Phrases. Thanks to Steve Roesler at All Things Workplace for the reminder in his recent blog post. It's a good review, especially for those of you actively interviewing.
The top ten most irritating phrases:
- At the end of the day
- Fairly unique
- I personally
- At this moment in time
- With all due respect
- It's a nightmare
- Shouldn't of (it is "shouldn′t have")
- It's not rocket science
I'd add "thinking out of the box" or any other variation of this overused expression. What would you add to the list?
Photo credit: Shtikl
About once a month, I check out the Google Analytics statistics for this blog. It's always a mixture of entertainment and enlightenment. As I was combing through the keywords section, I noticed a strange pattern. Several people who landed here searched "no bathroom break" or "bathroom break during an interview."
I don't know the actual story behind these visitors attempts to find information about bathroom breaks and interviews, but I assume these hits came from job seekers who have fallen victim to the etiquette oblivious interviewer. Sadly, it happens more often than it should as this blog reader described in a recent experience
Hiring Managers: I'm concerned. Let's treat candidates the same way we would if we were to invite them to our homes. If you keep a candidate sitting in a conference room for a marathon interview, offer a restroom break. It's common courtesy and a small, but important detail that determines how a candidate perceives your company and your overall employer brand.
I see how this can happen. Each interviewer has 30 minutes to an hour with the candidate and when the interviewer's time is up, he's back to work and on to other priorities. The next person comes in and starts with their business. And so on...
My suggestion: Assign one person on the team the responsibility of taking care of the candidate. This person is the first and the last person the candidate will see on interview day. This one person walk the candidate through the process, making sure that everything runs smoothly, the interviews start on time, and proper attention and courtesy is extended to the candidate.
Something I've always wondered about is how to handle the "salary chat." What do you do/say when asked how much you made and how much you want to make? I always found the second especially confusing when you know the job you are applying for has a wide range of salary options.
A specific instance that I'd love to know how to improve is what to do when switching from a lower paying industry to a higher paying industry. You know that you could make more at the second job, but it's hard to say well I used to make $100 dollars and now I want to make $300 (the going rate for the new industry job) -- how do you justify the jump and/or not wind up getting paid less than others would for the same position.
It's hard not to panic when asked about salary during the interview and it'll inevitably come up during the interview process. How you choose to respond to salary questions with your prospective employer is a determining factor in the compensation package you'll be offered.
Your future employer understands that you have expectations and a base you must maintain. When it comes to the salary game, if you're the first party to name a price, you're putting yourself at a disadvantage. You'll give the company the power to make an offer based on your previous salary, not your fair market value. If you're underpaid, you risk the hiring manager devaluing your skills and not being considered for the job. If you state a number too high, you risk pricing yourself out of the job before the company fully understands your value.
So be careful with what you say and how quickly you jump into these negotiations.
Penelope Truck give us some suggestions on how to handle salary questions in her post, The Answer to the Toughest Interview Question.
What salary range are you looking for?
"Let's talk about the job requirements and expectations first, so I can get a sense of what you need." That's a soft answer to a soft way to ask the question.
What did you make at your last job?
"This position is not exactly the same as my last job. So let's discuss what my responsibilities would be here and then determine a fair salary for this job." It's hard to argue with words like "fair" and "responsibilities""”you're earning respect with this one.
What are you expecting to make in terms of salary?
"I am interested in finding a job that is a good fit for me. I'm sure whatever salary you're paying is consistent with the rest of the market." In other words, I respect myself and I want to think I can respect this company.
Avoiding these questions makes most people nervous, so rather than step around them, they answer them and spend the next week beating themselves up over it while they wait to see what they're offered. It's understandable that you and the company don't want to waste time if salary expectations are too far off. Just remember that these details tend to become more flexible as the interview process progresses.
If you find yourself in that position and you feel like you need to give an answer to the question, try to find out the budgeted range first and then keep it open for discussion. If all else fails, it's certainly okay to give a range, but don't pinpoint a specific number. You could say "I assume [name of company] in [geographical region] pays between $80,000 to $95,000 for a position with these responsibilities. Is that what you had in mind?"
Preparation is key for these types of discussions. You'll find the best salary data through specific industry salary surveys. Recruiters with whom you have relationships may also be good sources. Be careful with the general salary sites - I find they are usually off a bit from what the industry pays. Same goes for those cost of living calculators if you are considering relocation, especially in a high cost city. The real salaries simply do not meet the difference.
The rules change if you work with an outside recruiter for the position. A recruiter will require your most recent salary history. Their clients expect them to handle your salary negotiations and it's important for them to know where you are and where you want to be to make the offer process move forward smoothly.
Photo credit: Roby72
I have been in PR for the past two years. I have pitched stories to radio and TV producers and hosts, written press releases, and devised story angles. While I have not worked for an "agency," the clients I worked with were mostly large, well-known agencies. I also have seven years of TV producing experience under my belt. Yet, I still seem to get (from recruiters) that they will not even consider me because their clients want "agency" experience. I have the right experience and know I can do the job, but how do I get over that hurdle?
Remember how recruiters are typically compensated - contingency-based recruiters are only paid if they make a successful placement. A company gives a recruiter specific requirements for screening candidates prior to engaging in a search. These skills are not just based on specific work experience, but also soft skills and cultural fit. By submitting candidates who do not meet all of their qualifications, the recruiter puts his relationship with the client at risk. Too many interview rejections is a sign that a recruiter isn't evaluating his candidates properly.
Companies choose to use recruiting services because they have either exhausted their own resources or realize the time and monetary value engaging with a specialized recruiter to fill an open, urgent position. These services are not cheap (although in comparison to the cost of not filling a position quickly, it's a steal!), so the companies hold a recruiting firm to high presentation standards. If the recruiter can source three or four candidates who have the exact experience, he isn't going to gamble on someone who doesn't meet all the specifications.
Recruiters are also careful about how many candidates they present to a client for a position. A recruiter will choose his top candidates to present for the position - the candidates with the highest chances of landing the position. Providing too many candidates to select from causes the company to delay the hiring decisions and results in losing qualified candidates who have already interviewed in the process.
Bottom line: If having public relations agency experience is important to the agency, the reality is that a recruiter is not going to present you for the position, even if you possess the transferable skills. Your best bet if you are looking for an agency position is to approach the agencies you are interested in directly and make them fall in love with you. Get your foot in the door through meeting agency reps at networking events, connecting through online networks, requesting an informational interview, or calling the hiring manager directly. Make sure you write an interesting cover letter explaining your desire to work in an agency environment and how you can help the agency and their clients reach their goals. Be able to spell out how your skills transfer and let your interest and passion in your industry compensate for the lack of experience.
Not every company or every position is going to be flexible in their requirements, but by doing a bit of research beforehand about the backgrounds of other people in the agency might give you some insight about the profiles of candidates the company usually hires. I would use LinkedIN as your research site and search by current company. If you find several people who work in the company with non-traditional backgrounds, your chances of landing the interview greatly increase.
This post is part of an on-going series featuring readers job search and hiring questions. If you have a question you would like answered in this blog, please send it to me here. Your information will be kept confidential.
The first post for this month's column in PRNewser is up. Here's an excerpt or read the full article here
The Power of a Thank You Note
Sending a thank you note after an interview seems like elementary advice, but many job seekers never bother to do it. Never underestimate the power of a strong follow-up after an interview. This one simple step could be what seals the deal.
The debate about whether a thank you note should be sent via regular mail or e-mail is never-ending. I prefer a hand-written note sent through regular mail because it is more personal and memorable. Depending on the hiring manager's preference and distance, an e-mail note these days is very common and acceptable. If you e-mail a sentiment of gratitude, you can always follow up with a card in the mail.
Visit PRNewser for the rest of the article
There's no doubt that at some point in your professional career you'll find yourself in an interview situation where you are forced to evaluate your negative qualities or performance. Some interviewers love these high pressure types of questions.
Putting someone in the pressure cooker for too long will surely lead the candidate to second guess if the opportunity is truly where he or she would like to land. If used sparingly and with tact, some important self-critical insights could help both sides discover the right fit.
Some questions are just outright inappropriate like "Why aren't you making more money at this point in your career" (rude and presumptuous) or "Why should (or shouldn't) I hire you? (an unprepared interviewer). There are some more tactful pressure questions that should be prepared for and given some thought.
Tell me about your last performance review. In which area were you most disappointed? Knowing what you know now, how could you have improved your performance?
The most talented and top performing employees always strive to improve themselves. Your job is to explain a specific situation or shortcoming and follow it up with how your performance could have been better. It's important to show your prospective employer you can take responsibility for these issues and that you have learned from them.
Where do you disagree with your boss most often? Tell me about how you handled the last situation where your boss was wrong and you were right.
Disagreements will occur in any working relationship over time. There's a fine line between sticking up for yourself and always being ready to wage war when opinions differ. The interviewer is wants to know how the candidate resolves the issue. Be careful not to gloat about the victory. Particularly in PR agencies, where team work and positive relationships between the staff are highly valued, the hiring manager needs to see potential staff member can keep an objective view even when the emotions and the stakes are high.
Meeting with a hiring manager who uses too many of the negative stress questions during the interview process could be a good cue to proceed with caution. But don't be so quick to dismiss a few of these types of questions for a bad work environment. It could also be a sign of how you are coming across. There's a fine line between confident and cocky. I tend to use these types of questions when a candidate crosses the cocky line to bring him or her down a notch before making a decision to proceed in the process.
Photo credit: Crashmaster
This is a guest post from Lisa Orrell
, courtesy of Recruiting Blogswap.
We all know the current job market is tough, regardless of what generation you′re from. But for many Millennials, who are inexperienced when it comes to searching for a job, it can be an even tougher time. So this article provides all you newbie job seekers with seven tips that will give you an edge over your job-seeker competition.
1. Start a blog
Not "just" a blog — a blog that covers the news and information about specific companies, or industries, where you′d like to work. You can then contact the company(s) and let them know you have a blog that is "about them and their industry". This can attract their attention and give you an edge over just submitting a resume. Even micro-blogging on Twitter using this strategy is smart.
2. Make Yourself Known
Many newbie job seekers send their resume and then do nothing. Making 1-2 follow-up calls is not enough. Until someone tells you "the position is filled", keep calling, emailing, and inquiring. Sure, it may seem like you′re annoying, but you are making yourself memorable, and that′s key.
3. Know Your Target
Make sure you include the terminology used within that industry, and/or by that company, when submitting your info to them. This can range from the job titles they use to the industry/company jargon they use. The point here is to make your resume and cover letter "customized" to them, not generic to ANY industry and/or company.
4. Don′t Rely on Your Computer
Yes, the Internet is a powerful networking tool. And, of course, network on social networks like FaceBook, Twitter and LinkedIn. But face-to-face contact can be more powerful. Attend local professional networking events in industries you′re interested in. Interested in a Marketing career? Attend your local AMA chapter mixer. Each month, attend as many "live" networking events as possible. Not only will you make a lot of contacts but you′ll become better at "selling yourself" which can help when you interview.
5. Make Business Cards
Don′t arrive to networking events or job interviews without business cards. You can even make your title "Job Seeker in Finance" (or whatever you′re looking for). And on the back print a few bullets about you: Education, Degree, strengths, etc. These can be like mini-resumes and they give you something interesting to hand to people (versus writing your contact info on a napkin at an event). Make your own cards and get them printed inexpensively through online services like LogoMaker.com.
6. Thank You Cards
Whenever your return home from an interview or networking event, or even from casual encounter with someone you met at a party where you discussed your employment, send a hand written thank you note to everyone you met. People tend to send thank yous via email, but a hand written note makes a big impression nowadays because very few people send them!
7. Be "Employed" Through Volunteering
If you′re unemployed, use some of your free time to volunteer at a local non-profit. That reflects well on you when interviewing. You can say that you volunteer 15-20 hours per week for XYZ organization and your tasks include"¦employers want to know you′re "doing something" other than looking for a job full time. It also shows them you′re hard working and not just sitting around your home waiting for a job.
For more info about generations-related workforce trends, check-out Lisa′s business blog.
Article courtesy of the Recruiting Blogswap, a content exchange service sponsored by CollegeRecruiter.com, a leading site for college students looking for internships and recent graduates searching for entry level jobs and other career opportunities.
This is part two of Stephanie Lloyd's 2-piece series on what not to say or do in an interview. You can find the first five here.
6. Interviewer: "What questions do you have for me?" Candidate: "How much vacation will I get?"
Do *not* discuss salary or benefit packages, particularly during the first interview! Remain open. If you are asked what you′re looking for, it is fine to let them know what your salary and bonus structure is today. Beyond that, let them know you′d rather defer that conversation until you′ve learned more about the opportunity, and they′ve learned more about what you can bring to the company.
7. Interviewer: "Candidate flushed the toilet during the phone interview."
Phone interviews are frequently a first step in the interviewing process. Do *not* disregard the importance of this first impression! Be sure to set up a specific time in advance for the call. This will allow you to be fully prepared and avoid situations where you are unable to conduct an effective interview. Make sure your phone (especially if you are on an extension) is audible or in good working order. Avoid cell phones. Be aware of any potential distractions, i.e.; radio, television, background conversations, etc. If you have the "call waiting" feature on your phone, do not interrupt your conversation to answer a call.
8. Recruiter: "Candidate was so nervous; the poor guy asked me how my weekend was four times."
Do *not* appear nervous or desperate! A client recently told me that their top candidate for a particular position was ultimately not given the offer because he appeared so desperate during his interviews with the hiring manager.
9. Recruiter: "Candidate showed up for her 4:00 p.m. interview at 2:30."
If you have an interview scheduled for a job you really want, don′t be late. Also, do not be an hour and a half early. It′s disrespectful; recruiters and hiring managers have busy schedules just like everyone else. Be sure you know where you′re going so that you can arrive ten to fifteen minutes early. Drive to the location in advance of the interview if necessary to be sure you know exactly where you′re going. In the event that you do arrive more than ten minutes prior to your scheduled meeting time, wait in your car or find a nearby place — outside the office/waiting room — to wait.
10. Interviewer: "Candidate showed up with his mother and said she would give him an excellent reference."
No matter what, do not, I repeat, do *not* allow your parent(s) to go with you. And do not let your parents try to negotiate your offer for you! Your parents have no place in the interview process. EVER.
What would you add?
Stephanie Lloyd is a Recruiter and the Principal of the Calibre Search Group in Atlanta, Georgia. She has more than 15 years experience in financial services recruiting and sourcing and started her own firm in 2006.
You can find Stephanie on Twitter at @atlrecruiter, on LinkedIN, or on the Calibre Search Group website.
What Not to Say or Do in an Interview - Part 1