Monday, March 16, 2009

How To Answer The Tough Questions

Interviews can be stressful part of the job search process. A way to alleviate some of that stress is to make sure that you are well prepared. Below are some common questions that people often feel tense about and sometimes need some coaching on how they might best answer them.

1) What are your strengths/weaknesses?
2) Why are you leaving your current position?
3) What are your salary expectations?

The first question above is a bit of a tricky one and the interviewer is looking for an answer that relates to your work habits. Identifying your strengths can be even more difficult than identifying your weaknesses because they are tasks that you perform with such ease that you don’t recognize them as strengths. You believe that everyone operates that way. To identify your strengths, think about what others have complimented you on and refer back to previous performance appraisals that you have received. As for weaknesses, most people are very good at beating themselves up and so can identify of plenty of weaknesses – think about your negative self-talk. The best advice that I’ve ever heard on answering the question about your weaknesses is to be honest about them but counter your statement of your weakness by turning it into a positive statement about you. For example you might say, “My weakness is that I can get distracted with ideas while I am busy working and so I have learned to keep a notepad nearby to jot down my ideas so that I can remain focused.” An answer like this one should work really well for someone in a creative field of work but hopefully this will give you some ideas on how you can prepare your own response.

The second question is meant to uncover whether or not you are a negative or difficult person to manage. If you are unhappy in your current role – resist the temptation to go on about your gripes regarding your current employer, your boss or your co-workers as this will only serve to give the interviewer the impression that you will be difficult to manage and/or bring the morale of the team down. You should answer that you are seeking a new challenge with a growing company that can benefit from your expertise. Elaborate on the challenge you are seeking as well as what you are bringing to the table in terms of your skills and experience. Formulate an answer that allows the interviewer to see a benefit in hiring you as opposed to an answer that could be taken as self-serving.

The third question often strikes fear in many a job seeker because they are afraid that if they give an answer that is lower than what the employer is expecting to pay – they will be offered a lower salary than they might otherwise have been offered or, that if they give an answer that is too high – they may put themselves out of the running for the job. The best way to answer this question is to say that your primary interest is in finding a challenging position that meets your career goals, with the right company and then provide a salary range. If you are unsure of what the range could be for the type of role you are interviewing for, then check out the salary survey results on monster before you go to the interview.

Preparing answers for these three questions will help you to do well and calm your nerves for your next employment interview. With answers to these three questions under your belt, you can relax and focus more of your attention on evaluating whether or not the position is a good fit for you.

Content Provided by Laura Whitelaw

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Interview the Interviewer

This is a subject and conversation that I have had with so many people over the years. With it there comes a lot of strong opinions from all sides stating their perspective on why/why not to do this, or how to approach it. It surfaced this morning in a discussion about why people will not take certain jobs, and the fact that a high powered engineer we were working with has been turning down job offers in this economy. Do people do that I was asked……the answer is YES and for good reason.

Turning the interview on its head is what some people call it. I get a lot of fear when discussing this subject, as most people discuss being uncertain of how they will be perceived when asking serious and in-depth questions surrounding the role. Logically, I think when people really look at it, there fears are crazy. Why would anyone go into an interview, discuss their capabilities and really leave there not knowing exactly what the role is.

Now I say this with caution, as the approach and how one is to do this becomes ever more important. In speaking to some managers, they cannot stand when they feel the candidate is attempting to take over the conversation and really run the entire process. That is not at all what I saying here and really do not want that to be the point of the message. The real idea here is to leave with a conscious understanding of the role, with explicit information, without the manager feeling like he got grilled. And I think there is an easy way to do this.

One of the reasons most people get caught in not know enough information is the format of the interview. The candidate answers questions, waiting for the 10 second time frame at the end where the manager says “do you have any questions” leaving the candidate not knowing which of the 50 that are going through their mind should be asked first. The key is to re-format the interview without upsetting the flow. Create the flow by making the interview conversational and asking questions, or follow ups to certain subjects the interview wishes to discuss - as the interview is progressing. Doing this will allow you to get details answered without ending the interview with the 2 minute jam as much down the manager’s mouth as I can session.

Interview flow - keep the interview progressing as any conversation. Asking and answering questions without taking over the conversation. Ensure to stay on subject, allowing client to get the information they need as well. They are interviewing you for a role. Do that and you will find it easier to leave the meeting knowing more, the manager knowing you, and the two of you knowing whether or not to continue the process.

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