Interview questions to use in your next job interview

July 7th, 2010

One of the biggest mistakes candidates make during a job interview is not asking questions of the person conducting the interview.  You should not be asking questions about salary and benefits at this point in the process – your interview is a chance for the hiring manager to meet you and see if you can do what you say you can do on your resume.  Asking about money is a mistake because it makes you look like you are only interested in the dollars. 

Having a list of questions to use during a job interview will give you an advantage over other candidates.  The more questions you have ready the better, since some of them will be answered during your interview.  Some questions should be specific to the company (since you will be doing research on the company) but some can be more generic and apply to any job interview you have.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Why is the position open?
  • How long has the position been open?
  • Where is the person who had this job before me?
  • What are the biggest challenges facing the person in this job?
  • What are the three most important duties and responsibilities of this position?
  • What is the culture of the company?
  • What is a typical day in the life of the person in this job?
  • Does the company offer training and education programs for employees?
  • Is there room to grow in this position and the company?
  • Why do you like working at this company?
  • How long have you been at this company, and how long have you been in this position?

A little bit of research will help you stand out from the crowd of applicants and having some well thought out questions will definitely give you an edge over everyone else.

Common Job Interview Mistakes to Avoid

July 7th, 2010

Interviewing for a new job is a scary process.  You want your potential new employer to like you for who you are, but you don’t want to do anything to turn him or her off.  Here are some common job interview mistakes that you can make during a job interview and some suggestions for avoiding them.

 

Poor dress and appearance.  You only have one shot at making a good impression, and this is the first time you meet a potential new employer.  Dress to impress.  You don’t have to go out and buy a new suit or dress for the interview, but make sure what you pick to wear is appropriate.  Conservative colors and styles are always safe bets.  Dress slacks and a dress shirt for guys, and a tie if you have it.  Depending on the type of job you might want to throw on a sports coat too.  For ladies a conservative skirt and blouse or sweater, or a nice pantsuit in a conservative color.  Make sure the skirt hits the knee or lower.  Use restraint when selecting accessories.  And I would advise not to use cologne.  If  you have visible body piercings remove them, and cover your tattoos if you are able to do so.

 

Bad manners.  Stand up when you meet the interviewer, shake his or her hand and look them in the eye.  Be kind and polite to everyone you meet and send a thank you note to all who interviewed you that day.  Don’t arrive too early, and don’t arrive late either. 

 

Lack of preparation.  You can do a quick search on Google (or on this site) and find some common interview questions and how to answer them.  Take some time and research the company.  Look on Yahoo! Finance if it is a bigger company, or check their website for information.

 

Bringing up money.  The first interview is a get to know you time, not a time to negotiate a salary.  If you are out of work you are desperate to know what you will be paid, but your desperation will come across to the interviewer.  Talk about your background and skills and the job and leave the salary and benefits questions for another time.

 

Being too casual about the job.  If you want this job you need to come out and let the interviewer know.  Tell him or her you think you are a good fit for the job and would like to work at the company.  Ask them what the next step in the process will be to convey your interest.

 

With a bit of preparation you can avoid some of these common interview mistakes.

Changing careers - scary but possible

September 21st, 2007

I entered college right after graduation from high school.  I was barely 18 at the time and really had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  I began by selecting a major in business knowing I would have to pick an area in which to concentrate in a year.  After one semester of business courses I decided I hated it and wanted to pick another major.  So public relations here I came, and that’s where I got my degree.  However, I don’t think I’ve used that degree for very long in my life.  As I grew up my interests changed and that’s how I got to the place I am today.

If you’re not happy in the career you’ve chosen and you’re thinking about a career change, your not alone.  Experts have stated that the average person will have three to five major career changes in their lives.  In other words, you’ll have many careers as you move along in your professional life.

So if you are unhappy in your present career you might be looking for some career advice for your career change.  Here are a few things you can consider when deciding what kind of career is best for you at this point in your life:

  • Do some self reflection and examination to see what really interests and motivates you.  If you are interested you can search for free career tests on the Internet to see what fields might be a good fit for you and your skills.
  • Read as much information as you can about the field that interests you.  Get a good education on what you can do in that field, and what you might need to do (in terms of training or education) to be successful in this new career.
  • Contact professionals currently working in the field for informational interviews.  You can ask these individuals what they like and dislike about the field, and in their opinion what you need to do to obtain a career in that industry.
  • Join professional associations and trade groups related to your new career choice.  You’ll make some contacts that might be able to help you network and find a new job.

Thinking about changing your career can be scary, but you can do it.  Make an investment in yourself and take the time and effort needed to find out what you need to do to be successful and then go for it.

Listen to yourself to find out when you’re ready for a job change

September 20th, 2007

While you hear on the news that the US economy could be in trouble when it comes to the housing crisis, employers are still planning to add employees over the next few years.  According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook for 2006-2007 estimates that more than 18 million jobs will be added by the year 2014.  The industries where you will see an increase in the number of jobs are as diverse as the people needed to fill the positions.  You can expect to see an increase in the number of computer jobs, healthcare jobs, engineering jobs, and leisure/hospitality jobs in this time frame, just to name a few industries.

You might get excited when you read news about new jobs being created and think “now is the time for me to make a change.”  However, if you are ready to change jobs you should make that decision independent of what you see or hear on the daily news, and if you are content where you are working you should stay put.  Your career is an important part of your life – it’s who you are, it’s what you do and it’s how you support your family.  Make the decision to change jobs based on factors that are independent of economic news – career path, opportunity for growth, or personal dissatisfaction are just a few reasons you might consider taking a new position.

We’ve written before in this blog about the use of third party recruiters (or headhunters).  Don’t discount the use of a recruiter when looking for a new opportunity.  A recruiter who specializes in your industry can be a great ally in your search for a new career opportunity.  However, it is crucial that you find a recruiter who specializes in the recruitment of professionals in your industry.  While someone might be good at recruiting nurses, they probably don’t have the industry knowledge to help you find a job in a transportation related industry (for example).

If you’re only complaint about your current job is money, you can consider asking for a raise before going through a job search.  If you’re dissatisfied with things that just can’t be changed (such as room for growth) then now might be the time for you to explore your career options.

The way you dress plays a role in whether or not you are hired

July 31st, 2007

I’ve blogged before about the mistakes a person can make when on an interview.  One of the faux pas that is often made has to do with how a person is dressed.  No matter what, conservative dress is best when it comes to the job interview – at least that’s what I say. 

Now I have found some validation that this is true.

A recent survey done by Syracuse University and Total Executive Inc. of 300 hiring professionals found that the way a person is dressed is the third reason a candidate is hired or not hired, only behind communication skills and presentation ability. 

So what does this mean to the average job seeker?  Dress your best, no matter what, when you go to an interview.  I’ve had conversations with people who are afraid to dress for an interview because they are coming right from work.  They don’t want anyone at their current employer to suspect they are interviewing for a new position so they dress as if it were a regular day at work.  I can respect those feelings – you don’t want to put your current job in jeopardy for a position you don’t have yet.

What can you do if this is the case?  If you’re a guy, wear a button-down shirt and nice slacks to work.  Pack a tie and jacket in your car (and dress shoes if you wear casual shoes) to put on before you go to your interview.  If you take public transportation to work this might not be an option.  If you’re a woman, maybe you can wear the slacks and blouse of a nice suit and put the jacket on before you enter the interview.  A conservative blouse and skirt work well as an interview option.

It comes down to this – how committed are you to this new interview and getting this new position?  If you really want to take a good shot at getting the new job you’ll do whatever it takes, even if it means pulling over in the parking lot of a gas station to change your shirt.  You never get a second chance to make a first impression – isn’t that what the commercial says?  It’s also true when it comes to a job interview.

Finding housing when relocating to a new city

July 29th, 2007

Leaving your current employer for a new job can be stressful enough.  Having to change jobs and move to a new city or state can up your stress levels to new highs.  Some employers will offer relocation assistance from a service to help you in your search for a place to live.  You might not have that benefit available to you, so once you’ve decided to accept the new position some of your first calls will probably be to find some good real estate agents in your new city.

If you’re not familiar with the new city it’s going to be a challenge to find decent housing.  What neighborhoods are good, and what ones are not so good (in terms of safety or crime rates)?  Is there only one school district or school for the town, or are there several different schools?  If this is the case and you have a family you’re going to want to consider the quality of education for your children.  It’s a smart move to contact a local expert to help you make these significant life decisions.

Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions of these agents.  You’re looking for a place to set down roots and (maybe) raise your family, so you need to be comfortable with the person you select to help you in your search for a new house.  Remember that the real estate agent works for you, and not vice versa.  If you don’t like the first person you speak with there are many other qualified individuals to help you find your new residence.

Pre Employment Testing becoming more common

July 9th, 2007

If you’re heading out on an interview, don’t be surprised if the company requires different types of interview testing as a part of the process.  More and more companies are incorporating testing into their standard hiring procedures.  Pre employment testing in the interview process can help the company screen out anyone that doesn’t meet the requirements of the position, thus decreasing potential turnover and saving the company money in the long run.

These pre employment tests can fall into the following categories:

Skills tests.  These tests are administered to make sure you have the skill set you say you have.  If you list on your resume that you type 80 words per
minute you might be asked to prove it.

Aptitude tests.  A potential employer wants to make sure you have the ability to do a job.  This is different from a skills test, as you might not have the specific skills for the position but would be taught them by the company.

Personality tests.  If the position you’re interviewing for requires an outgoing and energetic person and you are neither, a pre employment personality test can help the company realize this before you take the job and realize it isn’t right for you.

Drug tests.  Many employers require a pre employment drug screen.  Don’t be surprised if you are asked to do so.

Don’t be alarmed if you are asked to take one or more tests during the application process.  It’s becoming standard procedure for many companies hiring today.

The gap in salary between men and women - AAUW study

April 26th, 2007

I was watching Good Morning America this week and saw a story that was very disturbing to me.  A new study titled “Behind the Pay Gap” released this week by the American Association of University Women indicated that there still is inequality in the workplace in regards to salary.  Women still make less than men.

The AAUW study found that one year out of college women were making only 80% of what men were making.  Ten years after graduation women were making 69% of what men were making.

Why do women make less than men?  The study took into account factors that could explain the pay gap such as choice of major.  Women often get their degrees in fields that pay less than those fields often dominated by men (like engineering).  However, the study found that in occupations where both men and women are employed women make less in salary than men.

Another factor is parenthood.  Mothers are more likely to leave the work force, take a leave of absence, or work part time than fathers.  However, one year out of college many women are not yet parents, so the gender pay gap cannot be explained away at one year.

The study concluded that even when taking into account known factors, 25% of the gender pay gap is unexplained.  The AAUW concludes this unexplained gender pay gap is likely due to sex discrimination.

Check out the AAUW web site for more information on their study.

Ask questions when you set up an interview

November 8th, 2006

When you get a call to set up an interview you’re probably pretty excited.  Most people write down the when and the where but don’t ask any questions about the interview.  If you ask a few questions of the company representative on the phone you’ll be better prepared to do well in the interview. 

What questions should you ask?  A few questions you might want to consider include:

  • Who will be conducting the interview (name and title)? 
  • Is this the direct supervisor for this position? 
  • Will anyone else be involved in the interview (and if so, their names and titles)?
  • Do I need to bring anything with me to the interview (like reference letters, work samples, drawings, etc.)?
  • Approximately how long will the interview take (if you’re interviewing before work or on your lunch hour)?
  • Will I be expected to take any tests (for measurable skills, personality inventories, etc.)?

The questions you ask will help to prepare you for your interview.  It would be unnerving to go into an interview expecting to speak with one person and find yourself across from five interviewers.  Asking a few questions will help you be on top of your game when you go in for the interview.

Interview Mistakes

November 7th, 2006

Many of the articles you’ll find on this blog are positive and meant to be helpful to prevent you from making a big mistake in a job interview or in your job search process.  So what are the mistakes you can make in an interview?  Here are a few that you’ll want to avoid.

Dressing inappropriately for an interview.  You don’t have to wear a Brooks Brothers suit to be properly dressed for an interview, but you do need to wear a professional looking outfit.  I once interviewed a person who was in head to toe pink – pink top, pink pants, pink shoes and even pink nail polish.  Needless to say she didn’t make a professional appearance.

Poor personal appearance.  Along with dressing appropriately, make sure your clothing is clean and free of rips or tears, and that you have an overall pulled together look.  If it’s a new outfit, make sure to cut the tags off the sleeve of the jacket.  Trust me, people forget.

Bad manners.  Under this heading I’d include arriving late, arriving way too early, chewing gum, bringing in a drink to the interview, not standing up when introduced to someone, keeping your cell phone out on the table, answering your phone if it rings, and having a limp fish handshake.  This sounds silly, but it used to drive me crazy when I would interview a woman and she would leave her coat on and her purse on the table.  You might think that this is really being picky, but it was one of my pet peeves.  It made me think that person was just stopping by for a quick minute, rather than willing to invest the time in speaking with a potential employer.  My mother used to say use your company manners.  Same applies in an interview.

Failing to prepare for the interview.  This includes not doing any research on the company, not preparing to discuss your strengths and weaknesses, and not having any questions prepared for the interviewer.  See our other articles on how to prevent making these mistakes.

Talking about money.  There is a time and a place to talk about money – the interview is neither the time nor the place.  You don’t want to price yourself out of the job or make yourself look as if the only thing you care about is money.

Bad mouthing prior employers and co-workers.  You don’t want to look like a malcontent.  How does that old saying go – if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.  Speaking poorly about previous employers makes you look like a complainer.

Not asking for the job.  If you liked what you heard in an interview, be sure to tell the interviewer that.  Don’t ever leave a job interview without asking for the job if it is an opportunity that interests you.

When you go out on your next interview take care not to make any of these interview mistakes.