What Questions Are Recruiters Asking?

To prepare for interview success, job seekers must anticipate the recruiters’ questions and be prepared to address them.  To help with the preparation process, here’s a list of questions recruiters are currently asking.

  • What are you looking for in your next role?
  • Why do you think you’re a fit for this position?
  • What projects/tasks are you looking for do more of in your next job and what do you hope to do less of?
  • What excites you about ABC Company?
  • Why are you interested in working for ABC Company?
  • What’s your favorite part of your current position?
  • What is your least favorite part of your current position?
  • How would your manager describe you?
  • How would your colleagues describe you?
  • What areas of improvement would your manager mention?
  • Why did you leave your previous company?
  • What motivates you?
  • Tell me about a time you relied on emotional intelligence.
  • What challenges have you helped your company overcome?
  • Why should I hire you?
  • What is your current salary?
  • Wit which other companies are you interviewing?
  • How do you need to be managed to be successful?
  • What do you know about ABC Company?
  • What do you already know about me?
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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

What If the Fit is Truly Wrong?

You do your homework on the company in advance.  You ask probing questions in the interview.  You network with current and former employees of the company.  You believe you have a good read on the company culture and you accept the position.  Now you have been there a few months and you realize you read it completely wrong.  What can you do?  Is it ok to leave after just a short period of time?

First priority is to learn from the experience.  What signs did you miss?  What questions should you have asked?  Figure out what bothers you most about the culture and think about to avoid it in the future.  If you don’t know how you landed in such a poor fit for you, there is a chance you could repeat the error.  Be very honest with yourself and seek to truly learn from this experience.

While job hopping is not the taboo if once was, you want to have a clear sense of what the best next step is for you.  Don’t be so eager to get out of the situation that you jump at the first job that comes along.  Have a priority list of what is important to you in your next position.  Do your homework.

Be prepared to tell your story.  With a short stint on your resume, you are bound to be asked about it in an interview.  Be prepared to address the change.  Own the mistake and show that you are doing something about it.  Try not to bash the other company or your manager in the process.  Just not the best fit for you.

Try to tough it out while you look for another position.  Unless you are in a hostile work environment or are being asked to do something unethical, it is much easier to look for work while you are still employed.  Make a commitment to doing some networking every week.  Build your target list of companies and aggressively work the process.

Early in my career I accepted the wrong job at one point.  It was very quickly clear that there was not enough work to keep me busy.  That is something that makes me crazy.  While I reached out to colleagues and offered to help, there was just not enough work.  I was also concerned about how some of the work was being done.  My biggest concerns were that if I stayed, I’d develop bad work habits, negatively impact my work ethic and could potentially damage my credibility.  I started networking immediately, built a target list of companies and soon landed a new position.  I learned a lot about what is important to me in an employer from that experience and it served me well in the long run.

If you are truly in the wrong job at the wrong company, ramp up your networking and focus on finding a job that is right for you.

Assessing Company Culture

A critical part of the interview process is assessing fit – does the candidate fit the company culture and does the company culture fit the candidate?  How can a candidate accurately assess the culture of the company they are considering?

Do Your Research:  Don’t just look at the company website.  Social media will give you much better insight into the culture of the organization.  Look at what they post on Twitter or Facebook.  Check out their videos.  Also look at independent sites such as Glass Door to see feedback from employees.

Network:  Even with social media there is some level of company control over messages.  Talk to current and former employees.  Leverage your Linked In connections and alumni contacts to identify contacts who can tell you what it is like to work there.  Ask them why they chose to join the company.  What keeps them there?  What do they like most about their work there?  What do they like the least?

Observe:  Arrive a few minutes early for your interview.  While you are waiting in the lobby pay attention to how employees interact with one another.  If there is no interaction, that certainly tells you something about the culture.

Pay Attention to Heavy Emphasis:  If everyone you talk to in the interview process mentions the pool table in the lounge or the summer outing, you should do more probing.  If they are all talking about the same thing is the emphasis on the wrong things?  Do their actions support the scripted message?

Before you decide to spend several years of your career with a company, it is critical to gain insight into the culture to determine if this is a place where you would choose to spend your days.

 

 

Selling Yourself in an Interview

Congratulations, you got the interview!  Clearly the hiring manager saw something in your resume and cover letter than earned you a coveted interview slot.  Now the challenge is to sell yourself.

It is important to do your research on the company so you have insightful questions prepared.  You can also practice answering commonly asked interview questions to help you be prepared.  But, it is often the questions they don’t ask directly that make or break the decision.  Being aware of those questions and how they impact your responses can be critical to your success.

Interviewers will ask a lot of questions about your past work.  They may also ask behavioral questions to see how you handle certain situations.  Bottom line, what they really want to know is:

  • Why they should hire you?
  • What you can do for them that others can’t?
  • How well do you fit their organization and team?

Ensure that in your responses to questions about your work, education, skills etc. that you are really answering these underlying questions.  Articulate clearly the skills, expertise and experience you bring that would enable you to succeed in this position.  Demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm for the job and the company.  While they are assessing your fit with their team you need to form your own opinion of how well you fit the culture of the company and the specific work team.

Focus on your transferable skills.  Highlight the results you delivered in your previous work.  Results are much more important and impactful than responsibilities.  Clearly articulate your skills that differentiate you from other candidates.  Use your passion and enthusiasm as a differentiator.  Demonstrate your knowledge of the company and your strong interest by having questions prepared, having held networking meetings with employees of the company, identifying alumni within the organization, and your knowledge of what’s going on in the company and the industry.

To assess fit think about what environment enables you to do your best work.  Are you a team collaborator or an individual contributor?  What do you need from manager?  How would your current manager and colleagues describe you?  Do you research in advance about the culture using online resources and your networking contacts and seek to confirm that information in your interview by observing how people work together.  It can be very revealing to arrive a few minutes early and watch the interaction or lack there off among the employees.

When considering your answers to interview questions, be sure to frame your responses in light of what employers really want to know.  A great way to end your interview is to ask, “what concerns do you have about me as a candidate for this position.”  While it can be scary to hear what they consider obstacles, asking the question demonstrates your strong interest and gives you an opportunity to address those issues or concerns.  You can leave the interviewers with a very positive impression on your way out the door.

Tips for a Successful Interview #5

Your goal in an interview is to land the job or at least be moved forward in the process.  For the employer the goal is finding the best candidate for the job.  While several candidates may have the appropriate skills to succeed in the position, employers use the interview process to identify and assess the best fit.  You want to make the best possible impression with everyone you meet in the process and you do not want to give them an easy reason to eliminate you from future consideration.  If there is a strong pool of candidates, they are often looking for small reasons to cut the pool.  Don’t make it easy to cut you.

Attire and Professional Presence

 For interviews you want to always put your best foot forward.  While it is not likely you will get the job simply because you have the best suit, you can be easily eliminated if you do not make a good professional impression.  You want to project a confident, professional presence.  Always wear a suit and be sure it is clean, pressed and that it fits well.  Ladies, pants suits are fine but if you wear a skirt, be sure it is not too short.  Have a blouse that tucks in and is not low cut.  Men, the shirt should be pressed and the tie should coordinate.  Socks should match the trousers.  Be sure to polish your shoes.  When in doubt, err on the side of being conservative.  Be sure your hands are clean since you will be shaking hands.  Hair should be clean and well groomed.  Deodorant is critical but go easy or eliminate cologne since it can easily overpower an interview room.  Go easy on jewelry to ensure that it is not a distraction during the interview.

Demonstrate Your Interest Through Your Preparation

 Be well prepared, it shows interest and professionalism.  Have questions prepared in advance that you want to ask.  You should have your references available in case you are asked.  Be sure you have verified and confirmed the contact information.

Be Someone They Want as a Colleague

Even if you are nervous, it is important to smile.  It demonstrates your interest.  While you are onsite for your interview, be pleasant to everyone you meet.  It is not unusual for a hiring manager to ask the administrative assistant or receptionist for feedback on candidates.    Arrive a few minutes early.  Ask if you can take notes as appropriate.  Give it your best shot – focusing on how you can meet their needs not on what you want.

Say Thank You

 A handwritten thank you note should be sent to every person you interview with at a company.  Each note should be customized to the individual, referencing something that you discussed.  This is an opportunity to demonstrate your writing skills, your professionalism and your enthusiasm for the opportunity.  Each note should be unique since they will likely compare notes.  Thank them for their time.  Let them know what you are excited about regarding this job.  Let them know you want to be on the team.  If you know the process is moving quickly you can send a very professional email thank you note but should still follow-up with a handwritten note.  It is a differentiator.  So few people write handwritten notes anymore they are memorable.  Always get your notes in the mail within 24 hours of the interview.  In a tough decision between two finalists the decision may come down to who sent a thank you note.