Top 20 Q&A


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top 20 interview questions, questions to ask, and questions not to ask

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Top 20 Q&A

  1. 1. Your Interview Preparation The number one winning formula in an interview is….. EXPRESS INTEREST AND ENTHUSIASM! Before the Interview . . . Research the company and interviewers including the web page, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, school networks, and other associations. Be prepared for the frequently asked questions (see following pages) if you haven’t interviewed in a while. We will coach you the night before the interview including role-plays to help you prepare. It is best to do it at home with computer access so you can write down possible answers. Prepare questions about the company, position, project, team, etc focusing on the industry, competitors, economic factors and relevant news. It is okay to take them with you. Try to get there at least 10-15 minutes before the scheduled time and take into account things like traffic, security, parking, filling out an application, getting lost, etc . . . Prepare samples of work you have done to bring to the interview. Bring work samples you have personally authored and other documentation. Presentation materials drive discussion and interest. This is key! Opening the Interview . . . Thank the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you, establish good eye contact and give a firm handshake. As the interview begins, become an active participant; you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Ask for the interviewers understanding of the duties of the position BEFORE you discuss your background. Convey to the interviewer what you understand about the position and ask if there is anything else they can add. For example, “Surrex Solutions has told me that you are looking for a XXX with X years experience doing blah, blah, blah. Please tell me in your words, “What is the ideal skill set for someone coming into this role?” Ask the interviewer, “What skills do you feel are important to be successful in this position in addition? What you would like this person to accomplish in the first 3 months, 6 months and 1 year?” During the Interview . . . Remember that no matter what they ask you, they are asking you,”What have you done in the past and how does it apply to what we’re doing here?” Explain your work history chronologically starting with the most recent job and move backwards for the last 3-5 years. Anything beyond isn’t as relevant unless it directly pertains to the position you are interviewing for. Remember, it is still considered dated in most people’s opinions. As you explain a position, remember that the interviewer probably doesn’t know a thing about your company’s business or environment’s. So, start by explaining the company’s business, your department, your role and how you fit in, and how the work you did is relevant to the position you are interviewing for. If something you have done in the past is directly applicable, mention it but don’t spend a lot of time discussing it. Always give examples of what you have done. For example, “When I was at XX company, I was the lead XY for our initiatve. There were four
  2. 2. people on my team and we designed and delivered the solution in a four month period. Part of success due to my knowledge in XZ which helped by ……. ” If they ask you about something that you don’t have experience with, don’t lie. Let them know you don’t have experience in that area, tell them what you do know, and ASK what the appropriate answer to the question (if a question is asked). Or, give them an example of a time when you had to pickup a new skill and how you applied it in a given period of time. For example, “When I started at my last company, I didn’t know XX at all. Within four months, I was able to not only pick up XX but I was able to become a productive member on a project involving XX .” Managers appreciate honest answers especially when you don’t know about something. The fact that you can drop your ego, show vulnerability, and be honest will score big. If they ask you about compensation, remember the golden rule – first person to name a number loses! You will name a number that is either too high or too low. Tell them what you’re currently making and that you are flexible depending on other factors of the position like career path, growth potential, and benefits (direct hire) and politely refer the client to speak with your agency representative if it is a consulting assignment. If you are interviewing through us, we have already told them your current compensation (direct hire) and your expectations (consulting assignment). Closing the Interview . . . As the interview is wrapping up, thank the interviewer for their time and let them know if you are interested in the opportunity, why you are interested (give 3 reasons minimum), and when you could be available to start. Also ask them if they think you could be a right fit (or what you need to improve upon to be competitive with your counterparts in the industry) and what would be the next step (more interviews, other candidates to meet)? Ask them if they might need any further information to help them make a decision. In addition, ask the interviewer if they have any concerns regarding how you fit with the requirements of the position and if there are any areas that they would like clarified. Tell them that you would appreciate candid feedback. Address any concerns confidently and logically. Twenty Tough Questions “Are you prepared with the Answers?” 1. "Tell me about yourself." On a personal note, start anywhere, e.g. high school, college, major interests, or a first position. They are looking for strong communication skills, linear thinking, and the ability to “think on your feet”. Also try to score a point or two (describe a major personal attribute.) Be logical and speak about your background chronologically from most recent to oldest and focusing mostly on the last couple years. Highlight important skills relevant to the position if older that a few years but stay focused on the position requirements. Remember, the client doesn’t know your old employers, their business, their environments, your role, challenges, solutions, technology applied to the problems, and the outcomes. Keep the answer to 2-3 minutes. 2. "Why are you leaving your current position?" This is a very critical question. Be logical and keep it short and sweet. Don't "bad mouth" a previous employer. Don't sound "too opportunistic." Best when major problems, or buy-out, or shut-down. Tell the truth. Most often it is the best answer. Most people are looking to make a change to improve their overall situation – better commute, better hours, better work, better coworkers, better technology, better manager, better financial situation, or a better environment. Also it is good to state that after long personal consideration, your chance to make meaningful contributions is very low due to company
  3. 3. changes. 3. "What do you consider your most significant accomplishment?" Prepare extensively. Tell a 2 minute story, with details, and discuss personal involvement. Make the accomplishments worth achieving. Discuss hard work, long hours, pressure, and important company issues at stake. Again, remember the interviewer doesn’t know the environment, politics in play, project deliverables, issues, solutions, your role on the project, and the outcome. Explain all these factors in detail and why this project was significant for you. 4. "Why do you believe you are qualified for this position?" This can win you the job!! Remember the “laundry list” of requirements for this position. Address all of them, one by one, and describe how you fit each of them. Be detailed like, “I have 5 years of XX experience including 2 years of XY, 1 year of XW, 3 years of XY, etc”. Discuss for two minutes, with specific details. Select a skill, a specific management skill (organizing, staffing, planning), and a personal success attribute to mention. 5. "Have you ever accomplished something you didn't think you could?" Interviewer is trying to determine your goal orientation, work ethic, personal commit, and integrity. Provide a good example where and when you overcame numerous difficulties to succeed. Prove you're not a quitter and that you'll keep going when the going gets tough." 6. "What do you like or dislike most about your current position?" Be careful! This is a loaded question. In an effort to be honest, you may end up bashing your company and appear negative. The rule – always say something positive first and then keep the answer short and sweet. Interviewer is trying to determine compatibility with open position. State your dislike as a situational problem not a direct attack of a coworker, boss, etc. Example, “Well, my last manager was a great person. He worked hard and always made himself available. The only challenge was that he couldn’t help us with technical issues because he wasn’t technical. We still figured out the solution but it took a little longer.” Be positive. 7. "How do you handle pressure? Do you like or dislike these situations?" High achievers tend to perform well in high pressure situations. Conversely, the question would imply the position is pressure packed and out of control. There is nothing wrong with this as long as you know what you're going into. If you do perform well under stress, provide a good example with details giving an overview of the stress situation. Let the interviewer "feel" the stress by your description of it. If you don’t like pressure, that is natural. But you must convince the interviewer that you can handle it well without it affecting your performance. 8. "The sign of a good employee is the ability to take initiative. Can you describe situations like this about yourself?" A proactive results-oriented person doesn't have to be told what to do. This is one of the major attributes. To convince the interviewer you possess this trait you must give a series of short examples describing your self-motivation. Try to describe at least one example in depth. The extra effort, strong work ethic and creative side of you must be demonstrated. Talk about how you saved man power, time or money and be quantitative i.e., my efforts saved $200,000 per year. 9. "What's the worst or most embarrassing aspect of your business career? How would you have done things differently now with 20/20 hindsight?" This is a general question to learn how introspective you are and to see how well you know yourself. Also, to see if you can/have learn from your mistakes. If you can, it indicates an open, more flexible
  4. 4. personality. Don't be afraid to talk about your failures and what you've learned from them. This is a critical aspect of high potential individuals. 10. "How have you grown or changed over the past few years? This requires thought. Maturation, in technical skills, or increased self-confidence are important aspects of human development. To discuss this effectively is indicative of a well-balanced intelligent individual. Overcoming personal obstacles or recognizing manageable weaknesses can brand you as an approachable and able employee. You can refer to education you have taken, significant life changes like marriage or traumatic experience and what you learned, personal growth education you have attended, significant work experiences, etc. 11. "What do you consider your most significant strengths?" Be prepared. Know your four or five strengths. Focus on ones that are most relevant to the position even if they aren’t your best ones. Be able to discuss each with a specific example. Select those attributes that are most compatible with the job opening. Most people say "being a quick learner" or being a “team player” or “hard worker” – these are cliché and everyone has heard them. Find ones that are creative and interesting and be prepared to discuss them in detail! Don't discuss management unless it is a management position!! This is a deal breaker. Even then be able to describe the specific characteristics of management (planning, organizing, results, staffing, etc.) or how your relationship skills have proven critical to your success. 12. "What do you consider your most significant weaknesses?" Don't reveal deep character flaws. Rather discuss tolerable faults that have and discuss how you are working towards improving. Give real examples of improvement. Show by specific example how this has changed over time. Better still; show how the weakness can be turned into a strength. For example, how concentration on details results in higher quality work even though it requires much overtime. 13. Deadlines, frustrations, difficult people, and silly rules can make a job difficult How do you handle these types of situations?" Most companies, unfortunately, face these types of problems daily. If you can’t deal with petty frustrations you'll be seen as a problem and definitely not a team player. You certainly can voice your opinion in these matters but how you deal with them is very important. Diplomacy, perseverance, and common-sense often prevail even in difficult circumstances. This is part of working in corporate America and you must be able to deal with it in a professional manner regardless. 14. "One of our biggest problems is_______? What has been your experience with this? How would you deal with this?" This is another “think-on-your-feet” question. First, ask questions to get details about this challenge so you fully understand it. Break it into sub-parts. It is likely you have some experience with the sub- sections if not the problem as a whole. Provide answers to these and summarize how you would deal with the problem as a whole if you can't answer directly. Be specific. Show your organizational and analytical skills. 15. "What kind of salary (or rate) are you looking for?" Ah, the money question. The rule – the first person who names a number loses so let them make the first move. Salary negotiation is an art. Pinpoint has successfully negotiated thousands of salaries/rates. Let us do the dirty work. There is more to a job than salary. Career growth, environment, paid training, medical, profit sharing, 401K, hours, technology, team members, management, company growth/industry, and bonus potential all play an important part. If the interview asks, merely tell them
  5. 5. you were making $XX in your last/current position and that you are open to a fair and reasonable market offer reflective of the responsibilities of the position. In some cases, it is not advantageous to tell your current salary. You’ll need to discuss this with your Pinpoint recruiter. If it is a contract, you know the drill. The rate is predetermined prior to the interview and is not renegotiable. If the interviewer asks about your rate, defer this question to your agency representative (i.e., Kevin). 16. "How has your technical ability been important in accomplishing results?" (This question is for technically oriented positions only.) Clearly the interviewer believes he needs a strong level of technical competence. Most strong managers have good technical backgrounds, even if they have gone away from detail. Describe specific examples of your technical acumen but don't be afraid to say you're not current. Also, you could give an example of how you resolved a technical issue through "accelerated research". 17. "How would you handle a situation with tight deadlines, low employee morale, and inadequate resources?" If you pull this off effectively, it indicates you have strong management skills. You need to be creative. An example would be great. Relate your toughest management task even if it doesn't meet all the criteria. Organizational skills, interpersonal skills, clear communication, and handling pressure are key elements of effective management. Most managers have been in this situation time and time again. It is key to explain what the challenges were and how you dealt with each issue as well as the outcome. 18. “How you do deal with difficult or irate customers? Have you ever ignored or belittled a customer before?" The key is diplomacy. Your ability to keep customers happy even when they are being jerks is imperative. Explain how you always let the customer “blow off steam” and them reassure him that you understand the problem and will personally make sure that it is taken care of. This is the key. The customer wants to be heard, understood and to know that you will not drop the ball on his problem. Never interrupt a customer who is upset – let him talk and blow off the steam. He’ll be easier to deal with afterwards. 19. "What are your career goals? Where do you see yourself five years from now? Ten years?" Most importantly, be realistic! “Pie-in-the-sky” goals brands you as immature. If you are looking to get out of management in the future, do not discuss this unless it is a management position that you are applying for. This will definitely not get you the job! Think in terms of the natural progression of the position for which you are applying and reflect on this. Stay away from the word “management” if you are not in a management position already. Instead talk in terms of “increasing responsibility”. Example, “I see myself working here at Acme company in a position of increasing responsibility where I am making a more direct and meaningful contribution to the company and helping other to realize their potential”. For a ten year goal, if you aspire to get into management, it is okay to say it. 20. "Why should we hire you for this position? What kind of contribution would you make?" Good chance to summarize. By now you know their key problems. Restate them and show how you would address them. Relate to specific attributes and specific accomplishments. Qualify responses with the need to gather information. Don't be cocky. Demonstrate a thoughtful, organized, and strong kind of attitude.
  6. 6. THIRTY- ONE WAYS TO SUCCEED ON INTERVIEWS! 1. Dress for success – suit and tie. Look professional. 2. Be early for interviews (12-15 minutes). LA traffic is unpredictable. 3. Express interest and enthusiasm. 4. De-emphasize money and fringe benefits (open on salary). 5. Compliment past employers or minimize if unpleasant. 6. Maintain good eye contact! 7. Extend a firm, friendly handshake. No sweaty palms. 8. Express appreciation for interviewer's time. Get his/her FULL NAME. 9. Give direct responses to questions. This is a deal breaker! 10. Ask questions about position and the company. This shows interest. 11. Be receptive to the possibility of transfer to other locations. 12. Exhibit confidence and poise. Be assertive without being overly aggressive. 13. Exhibit tact. 14. Express yourself clearly. 15. Express a career purpose and goal. 16. Express willingness to "earn your stripes." 17. Demonstrate mature attitude. 18. Exercise courteous, well-mannered behavior. 19. Make short, direct responses to questions on unfavorable factors in record. 20. Indicate participation in company activities (team play). 21. Demonstrate decisiveness. 22. Fill out company application neatly and completely. 23. Show interest in finding a good career opportunity. 24. Express interest in long term opportunities (goals). 25. Reflect high moral standards. 26. Show interest in the company or industry you are interviewing with. 27. Avoid prejudicial comments. 28. Show broad interests (work and play). 29. Take criticism as a professional statement. 30. Get an offer then make a decision about the company. 31. Send a thank you letter after the interview. Most don’t. A good differentiator. TWENTY-EIGHT WAYS TO BLOW AN INTERVIEW Jobs are won and lost in the interview. Pinpoint has determined a number of reasons that have resulted in past failures. You can turn each negative into a positive and make them work for you. TAKE THIS WITH YOU AND REVIEW IT PRIOR TO EACH INTERVIEW. 1. Poor personal appearance or hygiene. 2. Lack of interest and enthusiasm. 3. Over emphasis on money. (Interested only in best dollar offer). 4. Negative comments about current or past employers.
  7. 7. 5. Failure to make consistent eye contact with interviewer. 6. Limp, fishy handshake. Sweaty palms. 7. Late for interview. 8. Failure to express appreciation for interviewer's time. 9. Failure to ask questions during the interview about the company, the position, the future. 10. Vague or indirect responses to questions asked. 11. Over aggressive, cocky, or conceited "know it all" attitude. 12. Inability to express self clearly. (Poor voice, diction, grammar). 13. Lack of planning for career. (No purpose or goals). 14. Unwilling to start at the bottom; expect too much too soon. 15. Make excuses; evasive; blame others for your shortcomings. 16. Lack of tact. 17. Lack of courtesy, ill-mannered. 18. Lack of maturity. 19. Indecision. 20. Sloppy application or incomplete. 21. Merely shopping around. 22. Want job only for short time. 23. No interest in company or industry. 24. Cynicism. 25. Low moral standards. 26. Intolerance. (Strong prejudices). 27. Narrow interests. 28. Inability to take criticism. “Questions for You to Ask the Them….” Remember, an interview goes both ways. It is as important for you to show interest and ask questions as it is for you to have good thought out answers to the interviewer’s questions. Having well thought out and insightful questions shows that you have sincere interest and came prepared for the interview by doing your homework on the company. You should be asking the interviewer questions about the company’s business, growth history for the last 5 years, current strategic business plans, key competitors, mission statement, culture, management style, position description, and how the position fits into the department or project. 1. “How long have you been with the company?” If the interviewer has been there a long time, then he speaks from a position of knowledge as he talks about the company. If she hasn’t been there long, ask where she was before this. 2. “What made you join this company? Remember, the interviewer was on your side of the table at one time and has insight that might help you make a more informed decision. 3. “Now that you are here, what do you like the most about the company? Your position? The team?” Again, another good question to give you insight. 4. “If you could change one thing about your job that would make it that much more fun, what would it be?” If there are any issues, here is where they will come out.
  8. 8. 5. “How does this position fit into the organization?” This will help you understand better what the growth potential is and what you will be doing. 6. “What is the growth potential of this position?” Another question to understand how your skills will grow and what you will be able to learn in this role with the organization. 7. “Why would someone what to work here?” Here is opportunity for the interviewer to sell you on why the company is a great place to work. 8. “What could I expect to be doing the first 6 months?” This will help you understand what is expected of you and what you’ll be doing. 9. “What is the company’s and your position on keeping your staff’s skills current?” Here is a good way to identify how the company values its employees through training and how they value growing their employees’ skills. 10. “Why is this position open? What happened to the incumbent? There could several reasons why the position is open and you need to find out why. If it is a new position, that means the department is expanding due to growth (a good thing). If the incumbent got promoted, then you know they promote from within (another good thing). Ask how long it took for the incumbent to get the promotion and what the person is doing now. If the person was terminated or quit, ask the interviewer if he could elaborate on the reasons behind it.