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Non-Standard Answers to Standard Questions, Part II

In an article I wrote for Job-Hunt.org back in 2015, I covered a lot of ground on how to answer some of the standard interview questions.  The editor recently asked me to add more material to that article, and now we’ve covered even more ground on some serious questions.  For your convenience, I’m sharing the new material for this article below (use the provided link above to see original material, too).  As always, feel free to comment or add your own experiences.

How did you find this job?

You may have found the opportunity through research on ideal jobs where you can make the most impact and hope to grow professionally. I would also hope you looked for companies that you feel meet your standards for corporate culture, investment in employees, successful business model (or perhaps giving back to community), and any other aspects you feel are important to you. Make sure you can go into a little detail on what you found in your research.

The “job” may have found you instead. In that case, you can say you were contacted by HR or a recruiter who felt you were a good fit. But don’t leave it there. You should still mention you did your homework and verified that this is right for you—as a potential contributor to the company’s success, and as a good match for what you’re looking for in an employer.

Why do you want this job?

There should be a heartfelt answer on this one. Your gut should be giving you the answer. Although, if it is about money, location, work schedule, benefits, and other factors not tied to actual role, you may want to think a little more about your answer. All those reasons are not important to the hiring manager. They want to hear that this job is exactly what you’ve been thinking about as a next step in your career. Of course, the follow-up question they’ll ask is: How so? Be prepared to answer that with your rationale for how this job meets your professional needs and how you can contribute at your highest potential while in this role. People want to feel like their work means something. There is nothing wrong with sharing that feeling in a thoughtful way.

Why do you want to leave your current job?

This can be a deal-breaker question. Obviously, if you say you hate your current boss or company, the interviewer will naturally believe you will hate them eventually. If you say, the compensation or role is below your standards, they will again assume the worst.

Although these may be legitimate reasons to leave a job, there must be other reasons, too. Your current company or department may have become unstable (hopefully the interviewer’s company is very stable). Your current employer may not be able to offer you any professional growth (the interviewer’s should be able to do this). Do you see a pattern here? Highlight a reason that the hiring manager cannot be concerned about.

Of course, if you have an issue that is very important to you that could be a deal-breaker (like company culture), you can mention it. Just be prepared for them to take one extreme or the other. For example, maybe you only want to work for companies that buy from vendors in your home country. The hiring manager will let you know if their company does this. And if they don’t, I guess the interview is over.

Why did you quit your last job?

This is a tough one. Typically, one should not quit a job until they have another. Life doesn’t always allow that to happen. Did you quit because you couldn’t spend enough time looking for your next job? Perhaps the company you worked for was close to shutting down and you didn’t want to waste valuable time waiting for the last day of operation.

Certainly, there are common reasons that are understood as necessity: had to move to a new location for various reasons; family or health reasons; unbearable work conditions (careful here, as already discussed).

The key to answering this question is to keep it short and don’t feel the need to expand to include a lot of details.

Why were you fired?

This is another danger zone. This is not the time for defending yourself with a long story about you being the victim. If you made a mistake, you are going to have to try and minimize the severity of the situation. An argument with a boss could be described as a difference in opinion. Not following orders because your moral compass told you not to could be described as “taking the high road.” Just be careful not to cast blame on others. Consider including a “silver lining.” Did you learn a lot from the experience and now possess knowledge that will mitigate the chances of this happening again?

If you were part of a layoff, this is different from being fired. It was likely a financial decision and you were part of a group that was targeted as part of budget cuts. Layoffs are typically not personal—they are just business. Hiring managers know this (and likely have been involved in one at some point in their career).

Explain your gap in employment

I’ve dedicated a whole article to this topic. The bottom line is you should make sure to paint a picture that you were productive, improving yourself, helping family, or something constructive. Hiring managers don’t want to hear that you felt it was time for a “long-awaited break from the rat-race.” Or time to recharge your batteries. The first thought that will pop into their heads: When is your next break coming? Probably in the middle of a big project we’re working on.

Do you have any questions?

My simple advice is: yes, you better have questions. When I hired people to work on my teams in the past, I expected interviewees to have questions. This is a chance to “interview the interviewer.” In essence, to learn about the company, the role, the corporate culture, the manager’s leadership style, and a host of other important things. Candidates who are genuinely interested in the opportunity, ask these types of questions. Those who don’t ask questions give the impression they’re “just kicking the tires” or not really too concerned about getting the job.

When given the floor to ask questions, you should realize the interview is not over yet. Good candidates know this is another time to shine. It is imperative that you ask questions that do three things:

  1. Show you did a little research about the company.
  2. Mention something else (related, but interesting) about you.
  3. Will have an interesting answer or prompt a good discussion.

After you have had a chance to ask your questions, you will want to validate that you are an ideal candidate for the job. To do this, you should probe into the minds of the interviewers and see if there are any concerns they have about you. The key question to do this can be along the lines of:

“After discussing this job, I feel as if I would be a perfect fit for it. I’m curious to know if there is anything I said or DID NOT say that would make you believe otherwise.”

The answer you get to this question may open the door to mentioning something you did not get to talk about during the interview or clarify any potential misconception over something that was covered. You may not get a chance to address shortcomings in a follow-up interview—it is imperative to understand what was missing from the discussion while still in the interview.

May 22, 2017 Posted by | Interviewing 101, Job-Hunt.org article | Leave a comment

Job Search in 2017

As has become tradition on my blog, I’m sharing a great annual collection of job search articles put together by a colleague.  From interviews, to resumes, to LinkedIn profiles, to personal branding.  Take a look at these if you’re going to be searching for a new job in 2017.

Article:  The Top Job Search Articles of 2016

December 15, 2016 Posted by | Interviewing 101, Job Search, Personal Branding, Resume Writing, Social Media, Working with Recruiters | Leave a comment

Addressing the Soft Skills During an Interview

During an interview, you basically tell stories about your past.  Not fables, of course.  But real experiences that convey your expertise and knowledge that address the job description.  In many instances, interviewees focus on sharing information on all the listed requirements.  Interestingly, when it comes to the “soft skill” requirements (written communication, teamwork, problem-solving, etc.), many candidates fall flat by simply saying, “I’m a great _____________ (communicator, team player, problem-solver).

The key to convincing your interviewer that you possess these skills is to include these abilities within your stories.  Read this article I wrote for job-hunt.org to learn how.

Article:  The Secret to Job Interview Success

August 22, 2016 Posted by | Interviewing 101, Job-Hunt.org article | Leave a comment

Ring, Ring….Your Interview Is Calling

Interviewing in person can be hard enough.  Add in the “barrier” of a phone line in between you, and there is an added layer of complexity.  It is hard to know how you’re doing and how well you are connecting with your interviewer when you can’t see their face.  However, there are many non-visual clues and techniques to help you during the call.  I’ve written about this topic in the past, but Job-Hunt.org asked me to share my thoughts with their audience.  Here is my updated advice on this critical stage in the hiring process.

Article:  How to Ace the Dreaded Phone Interview

August 17, 2015 Posted by | Interviewing 101, Job-Hunt.org article | Leave a comment

Non-Standard Answers to Standard Questions

When it comes to job interviewing, there’s a good chance that some of the questions you’ll be asked come from the “standard library.”  This is the collection of the generic, common questions that we all get asked.  These questions have stood the test of time because many of them unlock doors to your past that allow the interviewer to get to know you.  Although they are standard questions, there is no reason to answer them in a standard way.  Or give answers that are as common as the question.  My latest article for job-hunt.org explores approaches you might want to consider in answering these questions to allow yourself to make a memorable impression.

Article: Smart Answers to Common Job Interview Questions

April 28, 2015 Posted by | Interviewing 101, Job-Hunt.org article | Leave a comment

Interviewing with Confidence

Interviewing with confidence is essential.  This is common advice for all job seekers.  But what is the “right” amount of confidence to show during the interview?  Can you be “overconfident”–both internally and displayed?  There is a fine line.  The key to managing confidence is to prepare well and speak with examples, not superlatives.  I explain all this in my latest article for job-hunt.org.

Article:  Confidence for Your Job Interviews

March 5, 2015 Posted by | Interviewing 101, Job-Hunt.org article | Leave a comment

Interview Questions That May Have No Right Answer

A while back, a large computer software company used to ask candidates, “If you could be any kitchen appliance, which one would you be and why?”  When I share this with my candidates, I get fun answers, like “I’d be a coffee maker because I’m a morning person.”  Or, “A stovetop–I’ve always got several burners going at once.”  The reality is, there is no right answer.  This is a “panic question.”  The interviewer wants to throw a question at you that you’re not expecting and see how (quickly, rationally and calmly) you respond. 

Although, some of these zany questions do strive to understand your personality. Sometimes it can be hard to define what exactly is the “right answer.”  Understanding the corporate culture before interviewing can help determine if your personality is a fit or not.  Then the answer will likely be fitting since your personality is in line with theirs.  For example, Applebee’s has asked in the past “What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?” Your answer would likely be different if asked by a law firm or bank, right?

There are many crazy questions.  And they can always dream up more.  The key is to always show confidence, take a moment to think through your answer (a few seconds may seem long, but it’s not as long as you think), and be honest.

Here are a few more supplied by Glassdoor that you may find interesting, or at least humorous.

Link:  Top 25 Oddball Interview Questions for 2014

January 17, 2014 Posted by | Interviewing 101 | Leave a comment

Are You a Scary Candidate?

When conducting a job search, your #1 Goal is to present yourself as an ideal candidate for as many job openings as possible.  You always should present yourself in a positive way.  Common sense, I know.  So it is a bit shocking at times to see how many job seekers can do the opposite.  Often they are not even aware it is happening and they may never find out.  In my latest article for Job-Hunt.org (who just revamped their Web site by the way), I discuss several ways you can unintentionally scare off recruiters (and hiring managers/HR personnel) including:

  • A Horrible Resume
  • Job Hopping
  • Ambivalence
  • Bad Social Media Image
  • Lack of Professionalism
  • Personal Agendas
  • Ignoring Advice or Not Following Directions
  • Dishonesty

Article:  How to Scare Recruiters Away

June 24, 2013 Posted by | General Musings, Interviewing 101, Job Search, Job-Hunt.org article, Personal Branding, Resume Writing, Social Media, Working with Recruiters | Leave a comment

Tips for Information Technology Interviews

Recently I was interviewed by Peggy McKee, career coach and the CEO of Career Confidential, regarding the challenges of interviewing for an IT-related job.  A great deal of what we discussed applies to all interviews, but IT interviews have the opportunity to dive deep into tool knowledge and project experience.  In this audio file, you’ll hear our thoughts on technical interviews, specifically:

  • Preparing for the interview
  • Typical questions to expect
  • How to approach the interview and present the right information

Link to audio: What You Need to Know to Get an Information Technology Job

 

A while back, Peggy and I generated a video discussing proper format for resumes, too. 

Link to video: Formatting Your Resume to Be Read!

 

Peggy’s Web site dedicated to helping job seekers find and get the jobs they want.  Career Confidential coaches job seekers through every stage in the job search and interview process, from resumes to interviews to follow up.  It specializes in providing job seekers with powerful and customizable tools and techniques through blog articles, training videos, templates, and Webinars.

February 1, 2013 Posted by | Audio, Guest Post, Interview with Jeff, Interviewing 101, Resume Writing, Working with Recruiters | 1 Comment

Best Job Search Blog Posts of 2012

Every year-end, one of my fellow colleagues on Twitter, Jacob Share, likes to share popular blog posts on the topic of Job Search.  Typically, the authors include many of the folks I befriended and have respected since I started tweeting in 2009.  Take a look if the topic interests you–lots of advice on many different perspectives and topics.

Link to article: 56 Best Job Search Blog Posts of 2012

December 19, 2012 Posted by | Interviewing 101, Job Search, Resume Writing, Social Media, Working with Recruiters | Leave a comment