help with Interview questions

Discussion in 'The Barber Shop' started by J Howard, Oct 4, 2008.

  1. From the response to my last thread many of you know that an am currently doing a lot of very competitive job interviews right now. I have done several "mock" interviews at my school's career center and I was told the following areas need improvement: my questions for the interviewer and my weaknesses. I have tried to read a lot about these online and in several interviewing books but I can only find Cookie cutter questions like "What responsibilities would I have?" Can I use anything more original like "What things do you like about your job?" the lady scored me on a check sheet and said I only asked one question on her sheet. Do the interviewers really want to hear the same five questions from everyone who interviews with them? Second as to my weaknesses there seems to be third schools of thought here. The first wants me to tell a weakness I once had and how I overcame it, while the second seems to want me to tell a strength I have and Sarah Palin around the question (sorry I couldn't resist). The third is the most interesting because it says tell a weakness that will help the company. I guess like "I live alone and have no friends so I will be able to work long hours and never complain."
    I guess I just want to know what has worked for you guys and for those of you that do the interviewing what do you expect? Thanks for all the advice so far and I appreciate your answers.
  2. For questions of the interviewer: the best questions are the ones you can't really use for every interview. In other words, ask specific questions about the company/workplace you are working for. Are they in a crappy area of town? Ask about security and parking. Has the company recently undergone any major changes (change of ownership, new management, new offices, etc.)? Ask about that. Has the company appeared in any local or national lists of best or worst places to work? Ask about what makes it so great, or what the company is doing to change its reputation. Ask the interviewer questions about the personality of the workplace. Some good ones there are: Do most employees in the office, or in your division or whatever eat lunch at their desks? In a company cafeteria/break room? Go out to eat? What about social events? How well does she think she knows her co-workers? And if you're interviewing for a position in a new city ask about things like recommended areas to live, what to do in town, commute times, and things like that.

    Also keep in mind the difference between interviews with professional HR folks and with non-pros. The pro HR people are more likely to do stuff like count the number of questions you ask and rate you on some sort of rubric, whereas interviewers looking for someone who will be working for them or with them are going to be more interested in what kind of co-worker you would be, whether you're really interested in the position, etc. Tailor your questions for the interviewer. Some of this you have to do in the interview itself. Is the guy you're interviewing with into any visible hobbies (sports memorabilia around the office, or pictures of him, say, fishing, or something like that)? Folks love to talk about what they are passionate about, and will connect better with people who seem interested in it. Think how excited you would/do get when someone asks you about shaving!
  3. That is some great advice, thanks. I know I have a lot to think about here but that helps tremendously as I believe in all four of the upcoming interviews I am to interview with the engineer I will be working for directly.
  4. The weakness question is a good one that you should always be prepared for. My response is one that can cut both ways, but leaves it up to them whether they can deal with it. "One of my greatest weaknesses is also one of my strengths. I have a hard time moving on without solving a problem. I have to be careful to keep low priority problems from consuming too much of my time. Yet this is also what keeps me glued to a problem that is very critical."

    My background is mostly technical, so it works for me. I also spent 4 years as a volunteer instructor, teaching job finding skills to homeless people.

    At a recent career fair, where I was looking for an intern position, I had this one sprung on me out of the blue. "What is your dream job?" It kind of caught me off guard because we were just chit chatting and then, whamo, she blurts this out. I think I did a pretty good job describing it as she seemed genuinely engaged in hearing and responding to my reply.

    One of the things I always suggest is to do a self inventory, on paper, of your likes, dislikes, skills, personality traits, experience and accomplishments. This makes impromptu questions easier to deal with.

    I find the easiest ones to answer are the "Describe a time when..." type of questions. For some people they are difficult, but for me they allow me the most freedom and are the least likely to be canned responses.

    Questions for the interviewer are best asked before you leave home. What I mean is, do your homework about the company and write down several questions that you may have and bring them with you. You could even pull it out at the appropriate time, I always suggest bringing a folder along, and check off the items that were already addressed. At least that way they can see that you put some thought into it before you arrived.

    Some canned ones that I like are:

    -How am I doing so far? :001_smile Kind of lightens things up a bit.

    -What do you like best about working here? (as opposed to what do you like best about your job) It is more specific to the organization rather than the job they are currently doing.

    -How many openings are you planning on filling?

    -How many candidates are you considering for this position?

    -What is the turnover on this position? or What's your employee turn over rate? And don't be afraid to ask what that means. Good companies will gladly explain this, bad ones will try to give you some ambiguous answer, like "We have an 86% success ratio." I was mislead by this once. I thought that meant 86% of new hires went on to the next level. What they meant was that 86% of the employees that were with them last year were still with them this year. The reality was that about 80% of the new hires did not last.

    One of the reasons for asking questions is for you to size up the opportunity, not just to impress them with knowing the right questions. Let's face it, there are some jobs that just suck. It's better to find out now, rather than after you accept the position.
  5. When ever I have an interview, I research the company. I find what is happening there and to the industry and base many of my questions on the current environment that the company is in. This will show the company that you have come prepared but also may show you some things about the company that may interest you further in the company or eliminate the company from consideration.
  6. Now my head is reeling. I have thought of all kinds of questions I want to ask now, thanks guys. But what do you think of a cover letter if these companies already have my resume, would it be cool to bring one and hand it to the interviewer with a fresh resume for him (or her) to read after I've left?
  7. And don't forget to thank the interviewer for taking time out of his/her busy schedule to do the interview.
  8. Write your questions down in a notebook and take it into the interview.
    When the interviewer asks you for your questions, produce the notebook.
    It shows the interviewer that you have taken the time and bother to pre-think and prepare.
    You may get a raised eyebrow, but as long as you haven't written down War and Peace you will be OK.
    This was a tip from my Grandmother beofre my very first interview when I left school. I have done this in every interview I have attended and only ever received a positive reaction. And have landed every job I have interviewed for.
  9. I would definately bring a fresh hard copy of your resume and be sure to point out any modifications from the one that got you the interview.

    I always submit a custom cover letter along with my resume when applying for any position. Keep the cover letter short and to the point, same goes for the resume. Follow up within a day with a thank you email or better yet a phone call. It is just plain professional to do that.
  10. "What kind of opportunities would I have for advancement?"

    Or, when I was asking that while interviewing for computer programming jobs:

    "What kind of opportunities would I have for advancement where I would still be writing code?"

    Ask hard questions, too. I was interviewing with a company where they mentioned they had a training program that was doing really well back in the mid-90s, and they stopped running it. They were working on starting it up again. I asked why they dropped the training program if it was doing so well.

    If it's a second interview, mention and ask about some things from the first interview. "I've been thinking about what Bob said during my first interview about your new whosamawidget, and I'm wondering if blah blah blah this position blah opportunity blah blah."
  11. Bring several. They may be doing interviews in teams, you might end up being handed off to someone else, etc. Bring a nice leather folder thing with a legal pad in it, a pocket in which you have half a dozen copies of your resume, and a pocket for you to put all the business cards people hand you.
  12. Over the last several months, I've spent at least 15 hours in interviews with prospective employers (got an offer on Friday!!). Here are some tips that I've picked up from my experience.
    * Relax. Yes, easier said than done, and it only comes with experience sitting in the hot seat. But when you're tense (and sweating and nervous), you aren't giving your inner awesomeness a chance to come out. Even if you can't relax, stay composed. I had one interviewer ask me "What are you like under stress." My answer was, "You're looking at it. I stay calm, I focus, and I get extra careful."

    * Always bring extra hard copies of your resume. People are busy and don't necessarily do prep. Also, you might have a panel interview. Or they might have you run a gauntlet (lots of 1x1 interviews) without telling you beforehand.

    *Bring stuff. A portfolio of your work, or an addendum to your resume showing some of your projects in more detail than you could get into in your resume, or written feedback from your work, published articles, whatever. It looks good when you can whip out a little something extra.

    *Know about the industry, company, and department. It doesn't have to be detailed, but find out some of the big issues going on in the industry. Know where the company stands against the competition, know what the department does and have a general idea of how that department contributes to the company as a whole. There's nothing worse than when your interviewer asks you a follow-up question like: "And what does that mean to you?" once you give your vague explanation of what the company does. Knowledge is power.

    *The weakness question. I firmly believe in turning weaknesses into personal strengths. For example, "I used to have a problem keeping small details from falling through the cracks, and with time management. I always managed the big things, but sometimes the little things got lost in the chaos. Then I discovered Getting Things Done, by David Allen. (Go on and talk about the system a little bit.)" Or, "I wouldn't necessarily call it a weakness, but I am a natural introvert. It took me a while to learn that success in my profession requires a strong professional network of contacts, and now that I know that, I am particularly conscientious about maintaining one because it does not come naturally to me. In that, I think I have an advantage because it is always on my mind." Have more than one example ready, but don't volunteer them unless asked.

    *Follow up. Send short thank you emails to everyone who interviewed you. Thank them for taking the time to meet. Also (VERY IMPORTANT) continue the conversation. For example: "I have been thinking about the question you asked me regarding quality control and wanted to add that..." Stay in their minds.

    *Overdress. Jacket and tie at a minimum. Don't worry about being the best dressed man in a 5 mile radius. Casual interviewers will understand that you dressed for the interview and give you points for taking it seriously. A$$h*le interviewers will not have anything to ding you on.

    Good luck to you. And please PM me if you'd like to talk about the process a bit more. I'm happy to help.
  13. We kinda covered the "overdress" thing in his other thread. He's doing some plant tours. Industrial conditions call for clothing more appropriate to your surroundings. Nothing loose (ties) that can get caught in stuff, safety-toe shoes (not your oil-and-paint covered CAT boots, though; plain, black, and clean), etc.

    Actually, I might wear a tie in that case, and conspicuously take it off and stuff it in my pocket once they are showing me the dangerous machinery :tongue_sm
  14. dpm802

    dpm802 Contributor

    A day or two before the interview, make a dry-run out there, so you know EXACTLY, PRECISELY where the place is at. Do it at the same time of day as your interview is scheduled, so you can be aware of the traffic patterns. You don't want to be fumbling with a map on the way there when its time for the real thing ... you'll have enough on your mind.

    Be sure to eat a good, hearty breakfast so that you are well-nourished and alert. Make sure you use the bathroom BEFORE the interview ... so you won't have that to distract or interrupt you.

    More important than the actual answers to any questions they ask is HOW WELL YOU CAN COMMUNICATE. Avoid words like "uhhhhhhh ... ," "ain't," "gonna," "like, ya know?" and so forth. Any and all slang terms should be stricken from your vocabulary.

    Make sure your speaking voice is as good as you can get it. Drink some herbal tea before you go in, or some cough drops to develop that deeeeep, resonant tone like you'd hear from a radio announcer. Better yet, start developing your voice several days ahead of time. Practice reading your resume out loud, and don't just think about the answers to potential questions ... SAY THOSE ANSWERS OUT LOUD, even if there's no one there to listen to you.

    When they offer you a chair, sit up straight, with both feet solidly planted on the ground. Be aware of what your hands are doing. A few gestures are OK to help you make a point or frame an idea, but don't over-do it.

    Look them straight in the eye when they're speaking ... look away for a moment as you thoughtfully compose an answer, then look them back in the eye as you deliver it.
  15. And of course, do all this while looking natural. Practice makes better.

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