Questions to Ask Your Interviewer

If you spend your interview preparation time only preparing for the questions you will be asked during the interview, you are only half prepared for the interview.  It is also critical to prepare the questions you will ask the interviewer.  Asking questions demonstrates your interest in the position as well as your approach to preparation.  The answers will also provide you valuable insight into the new position.

Of course you should always be fully alert during the interview and question anything that causes you concern.  In addition to the in the moment, questions, you should consider asking some of these questions to ensure you have the best picture possible of the opportunity.

Questions About the Role

  • What is the history of this role? Is it a new position or is it a replacement hire?  What justified approval of this position?
  • What does this role contribute to the achievement of departmental and company goals?
  • What technology is used by the person in this role?

Questions About the Department

  • How does this department fit into the overall organization?
  • What are the key roles in the department and how do people in those roles interact?
  • How does this department interact with other departments across the organization?
  • What internal customers does this role support?
  • Is there formal training for this position or it is it expected that the person will just jump in and ask questions?

Questions About Management Style

  • How do you prefer to interact with the new hire? Do you prefer regularly scheduled check in meetings, ad hoc meetings, email, team meetings, etc?
  • How do you communicate with your department? How are key project deadlines tracked and monitored?

Questions About Success

  • What are the success measures for someone in this role?
  • What do you hope the new hire will accomplish in the first three months on the job?
  • What will success look like for this position at the end of the first year?
  • What are the critical goals in the year ahead for this position? How do those goals support the success of the department and the company?

General Insights

  • What do you like most about working for this company? In this department?
  • How did you get to this role at this company?

While it is unlikely you’d ever have the opportunity to ask all these questions in an interview, it is important to be prepared to ask the ones that matter most to you.  Some questions can be handled via email as follow-up.  Put your best foot forward in the interview by asking insightful questions.

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What Other Positions Are You Exploring?

Recent feedback from students actively interviewing is that in addition to being asked salary history very early in the screening process, they are also being asked what other opportunities they are exploring.  Is it illegal to ask this?  No.  Do you have to provide a comprehensive, detailed list?  No.  What is a job seeker to do?

Think about what you have to gain or lose as a job seeker by answering this question or not.  If you say you are not exploring any other options, what is the interviewer to think?

  • Maybe you aren’t serious about looking and this is just a trial balloon for you.
  • If no one else is inviting you for interviews, maybe there is a red flag we haven’t discovered yet.
  • With no other balls in the air, we can take our time with you and have no urgency to make a decision.
  • This will be an easy negotiation if you have no other options.

If you take a hard stand and claim it is personal information that you refuse to share, what message does that send the interviewer?

  • You are trying to hide something and are not being honest with them. They value integrity in their employees.
  • Maybe candidate is arrogant and has to always get his/her own way.

Clearly you do not want to discourage potential interest in you as a candidate early in the process.  You want to keep your options open while you gain more information to assess the fit of the opportunity.  You should be honest and share an overview of your search process.  For example, “Given my strong interest in the xx industry and my transferable skills in x and y, I am focusing my search on growing companies in this industry.  Given your industry leadership and outstanding reputation, this opportunity is of strong interest to me.”

This lets the interview know that you have something to offer the market, that you know what you want and what skills you can leverage and that you have done your homework.  Resist the urge to be annoyed by the question and use it to demonstrate your strength as a candidate.

 

Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

Job seekers should always be prepared to address this question in an interview and how you respond can have a significant impact on the outcome.

Critical rule – never be negative about a prior employer or manager.  It gains you nothing but can detract from your responses.  Instead of sharing your negative thoughts and impressions, focus on what you have learned is most important to you in your career and how you are seeking a better fit culturally to align with those values.  Don’t blame the former employer for not being the company you want it to be.

Acknowledge that there are often business pressures and demands that make it difficult for a company to fully achieve their desired culture.  Rapid growth can be a great thing but it can also bring significant challenges to an organization.

Demonstrate that you are aware of what it takes to do your best work, that you take ownership for delivering your best results in spite of the challenges and that you are willing to learn and grow along the way.  Present yourself as part of the solution, not part of the problem

Can I Lie or Stretch the Truth?

Often very strong, talented candidates have a skeleton in their closets and they worry this will haunt their job search.  Maybe they were arrested for DUI, made a regrettable mistake while in college or any of a number of things in life that we wish we could do over.

It is only natural to wish to hide these incidents from a future employer but that could cause significantly more harm than good.  In this day and age, background checks are a routine aspect of most hiring processes.  It is highly likely that someone will run a background check.  If you stated on your application that you have never been arrested and then it shows up on the background report that you were arrested, you are done.  You have proven to the company that you are not a person of integrity and most likely you will not be hired.

If you had disclosed the arrest and it showed up on the report, they would realize that you own your mistakes and that you tell the truth even when it is uncomfortable to do so.  I have seen repeated instances where the incident is not the problem in a job search but the lack of honesty.  Employers are looking to hire honest employees with integrity so be sure to be completely honest in your applications.  If you are unsure what a background report would show, it is worth paying to have a report run yourself to ensure that you are addressing all possible issues and concerns.

Indeed, honesty is the best policy.

How to Successfully Find a Job in 2017

Gone are the days of waiting for the fat employment section in the Sunday paper each week but no one really misses those days.  That was not an efficient way to find a job.  What is frustrating as a Career Advisor is to see students not properly leveraging the outstanding tools available to help them find their next career step in 2017.

Job seekers who are stuck behind their computers submitting online applications are not likely to be successful.  Their application is a needle in the haystack.  Submitting an online application and then trying to find an insider contact is also not a recipe for success.  People will quickly realize that you are only using them to advance your application.

You must follow the process to conduct a success search.

Develop Your Target List – Think about what you want to do.  What skills and experience qualify you for this position?  In what industry do you hope to work?  Where in the world do you hope to work?  What functional role are you seeking?  What do you need in terms of company culture and values?  Start drafting a list of companies for whom you would love to work.

Informational Interviews – Leverage your various alumni, family and friends and former colleagues’ networks to identify contacts who work in your target companies.  Set up informational interviews to learn more about the company and your area of interest.  What is the hiring process like?  How does the company support their employees?  What does the person like about working there?  What would they change if they could?  You will likely learn things you like and things you don’t.

Continually Refine the List – Based on what you learn in your informational interviews, continue to refine your target list.  Some companies or types of roles will fall off the list and you will learn about new companies to explore further.  Continue to build and refine your list as you continue to conduct informational interviews.

Build Networks within Your Target Companies Throughout this process you are building relationships with people who work in your target companies.  Keep detailed records of your contacts.  Be sure to thank them for spending time with you and helping you learn.

Identify Opportunities – Once you have your target companies updated and your network in place, you are ready to start exploring opportunities.  When you see an opportunity at a target company, reach out to your contact to see what insight they can share.  Ask if they would be willing to pass your resume and cover letter to the hiring manager.  Maybe they can submit it in their employee referral program.  Having an internal advocate moves your resume to the short pile instead of the mountain that arrives blindly online.  This is a huge advantage.  Your internal advocate can also share additional insight and perspective to help you prepare for the interview.

If you think you can shorten your process by applying to online applications all day, you will be seriously disappointed.  Invest the time in researching, learning and building your network and you will significantly increase your success.

How You Leave a Job Matters

Whatever reason brings you to leave a job, the process brings a mix of emotions.  There is likely excitement about the next opportunity and a sadness to be leaving people you enjoyed working with over the years.  There could be disappointment that things didn’t work out as you hoped and regret that you didn’t well as well as you hoped.  Maybe you are grateful for what you have learned and ready to move forward.  Whatever the circumstances, how you leave the job matters and becomes part of your legacy.

Work with your manager to define a plan of how the work will be covered.  This gives you an opportunity to transition files and documentation and to answer questions from the individual who will pick up these responsibilities.  You may be able to offer some solutions and some insights on what skills are critical to each job, how you would prioritize the outstanding work.  Demonstrate that you still feel responsible for your work and for the success of your colleagues, clients and company.  Show that you put some thought into the transition to ease the burden on those left behind.

If you work directly with clients, ask your manager if you may communicate with the clients directly.  Do so professionally.  Let them know you enjoyed working with them and explain the transition coverage to them so they will feel supported.

Book a meeting with HR to ensure that you don’t leave the paperwork and details until the last moment.  Be sure to understand the impact and dates of changes in insurance etc.

If an exit interview is offered, book one.  If not, at least do one with your manager.  Provide constructive feedback and focus on what you learned from the experience.  You have the opportunity to directly influence your legacy once you walk out the door.  If you are willing to be available for questions that arise, be clear when and how you wish to be contacted.

The world is indeed getting smaller every day.  Do not burn any bridges on your way out the door.  Exit well and you will be remembered well.

Getting Your Resume To One Page

With increasing frequency, employers are asking for one page resumes.  In reality, even if they don’t ask, many will only read the first page.  You have great experience you want to share, short of using a ridiculously small font, how do you condense it to one page without losing all the value?

You can easily gain some usable space by trimming your margins.  There is no need to use the default one inch margins all the way around.  Do not reduce your margins to less than one-half inch.  It is important to have white space for readability.

Don’t go crazy adding new sections.  Each section requires a header which uses a line.  It can be ok to combine relevant sections into one such as Volunteer Experience and Community Involvement or Skills and Interests.

Not everything has to be on a separate line.  Think about where information can be reasonably combined on the same line.

Be careful of using the default spacing between lines.  This can cost you several lines per page.  Set the spacing for single spaced and add lines only where needed.

Monitor your bullets.  It should not take three lines of text to summarize your accomplishment.  Bullets should never exceed two lines and try to eliminate as many unnecessary words as possible.  Do not let one word carry over to a new line.  Rework it to fit to a single line.

Your resume is not intended to be detailed summary of your work history.  While you need to list each position you do not have to provide significant detail on older or less relevant positions.  Focus on what is clearly most relevant to the position you are considering.  Focus on the few key things that are most relevant and will make you stand out.

If you think this only applies for recent graduates or employees with minimal experience, think again.  Employers are expecting one page resumes for all but executive level hires.  Time to start editing for success.