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“Tell me about a difficult person you had to work with.” Most Common Interview Questions, #6

Interview questions about “a difficult person” are job search land mines. Watch your step!

This post is an excerpt from Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Job Interview, available from Amazon as a softcover or eBook.

How should you answer this tricky interview question?

Sometimes the question is phrased a little differently: “Tell me about a time you had to work with someone you didn’t like, or who didn’t like you.”

However the question is asked, don’t project an image of yourself as someone who dislikes or is disliked by others. Reframe it as a situation where it was a challenge to work effectively with someone.

This question requires you to say something negative about a co-worker, which is generally a no-no in interviews. So be tactful by not giving any information that could identify who this person is.

Take an emotionally neutral tone. Resist the urge to kvetch, even if the interviewer encourages it by offering you sympathy.

Avoid characterizing the co-worker in judgmental terms like “Nothing was ever right as far as he was concerned” or “She wasn’t a team player.” Instead, describe the specific behavior objectively: “He would often make negative comments about team members” or “We needed her to provide a report every Monday, but it usually wasn’t done until mid-week.”

Be very brief about the difficult behavior, focusing primarily on what you did to make the best of the situation and how well it turned out. Treat this as a success story, emphasizing the positive results.

If you weren’t able to get any positive results, tell a different story! Remember, this question is not about the other person, it’s about you and your ability to collaborate with or manage others, to manage your own emotions and behavior, to resolve conflicts, and to use discretion and fairness in discussing a difficult situation.

Looking for more tips on handling tricky interview questions?

To read the other posts in this series, visit my helpful job search blog.

For a more complete interview guide, read Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Job Interview.

And good luck with your interviews!

 

 

What are your salary expectations? Most Common Interview Questions, #5

How do you answer the interview question, “What are your salary expectations?” This post is the fifth in a series of excerpts from my upcoming eBook, Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Job Interview, available from Amazon.

“What are your salary expectations?”

Answering this question too specifically can lose you a lot of money, or an opportunity. Naming a figure that’s too low can result in a lower offer, or even loss of the opportunity if your answer creates doubt about your value. A figure that’s too high can immediately disqualify you.

This is one of the few questions where formulaic, memorized verbiage may be the best approach.

First, as soon as you apply for a job make sure you understand the range of typical salaries for the position and geographic area, because this may be one of the first questions you will be asked in a phone screen, which could happen at any time.

You can research salaries via websites like Salary, Payscale, Glassdoor, Indeed, CareerOneStop, JobSearchIntelligence, a simple Google search, and sometimes via word of mouth. Use more than one source, since a broader range may give you more negotiating flexibility.

When the question is asked, respond with “Can you tell me what range you have budgeted for the position?”

If they tell you a range, say something like, “That seems like a reasonable ballpark. I’m sure once we agree I’m the right person for the job, we’ll be able to agree on a salary that’s fair.”

If they won’t state their range and put the question back onto you, say something like, “I’ve done some research and I’m seeing salaries anywhere from X to Y. I’m sure once we agree I’m the right person for the job we’ll be able to agree on a salary that’s fair.”

More Help with Common Interview Questions

Earlier posts in this series explored the common interview questions “What are your weaknesses?”, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”, “Why did you leave your job?” and “What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made on the job?” For more posts like these you can subscribe to my helpful job search blog.

For tips on dozens of common interview questions (and some not-so-common ones) and much more, check out my book on Amazon.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made? Most Common Interview Questions #4

What the biggest mistake you've made? Most Common Interview Questions #4How do you answer the interview question, “What’s a major mistake you’ve made on the job?” This post is the fourth in a series of excerpts from my new book, Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Job Interview.

What’s behind this interview question?

The intention here is to see whether you are open to admitting, taking responsibility for and learning from your mistakes. No one wants employees who will sweep their mistakes under the rug or blame them on others. They also want to hear that you clean up after yourself where possible, going the extra mile to make things right.

Here’s an example:

“On a software project I managed, a certain manager didn’t come to the regular meetings until the final one where everyone was supposed to sign off. There, at the last minute, he objected to a great new feature the team was excited about. Later I realized how I could have countered that objection, but at the time it caught me by surprise, I didn’t make a good case for it, and the feature was left off.

“What I learned for the future was to always make sure the key stakeholders are involved early, and that’s what I’ve done since then. Anyway, I worked hard to ensure that the new feature would be in the next release – and it was!”

What other interview questions are you concerned about?

Subscribe to this blog to ensure you won’t miss more articles like this, or better yet, buy my book! It’s available on Amazon as a Kindle eBook now, and the softcover edition will be available by mid-January 2017.

Why did you leave that job? The Most Common Interview Questions, #3

How do you answer the interview question, “Why did you leave that job?”

This post is the third in a series of excerpts from my upcoming eBook, Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview, to be published January 1, 2017. You can pre-order it as an eBook now or get the softcover in January.

Does your departure indicate a problem that could derail your interview?

If you left and immediately started a new job, it’s no problem: you left for a better opportunity (or what you thought was a better opportunity, even if it didn’t work out).

On the other hand, leaving without a new job lined up is generally a red flag, so this question is tricky.

The key is this: although one reason may dominate in your mind – probably the most emotional one, such as a personality conflict or issue with the boss – usually there are more reasons. List them all on a piece of paper. Then see which of these reasons makes the best impression.

Here’s an example.

Joe quit his job for the following reasons: (1) his boss was a micromanager, (2) the company, a hospital, had toxic office politics, (3) the circumstances made it difficult or impossible to move up into a better department, (4) he couldn’t stay until he found a new job because the job left him no time or energy for job search, and (5) he also had an itch to move into the pharmaceutical industry.

Reasons 1 and 2 are a minefield that would be hard to discuss without presenting himself as a complainer who badmouths his former employer. But he doesn’t need to go there; he can build a truthful answer out of reasons 3-5:

“While Bayworth Hospital is a great institution in terms of patient care, and I had three excellent years there, with strong accomplishments like the ones we’ve discussed, there really wasn’t a path upward for me there any more (reason #3). It was time to leave and pursue my longtime interest in pharmaceutical companies (#5) like this one. The job was intensely demanding and it didn’t leave me the energy to conduct a search. (#4) So I gave notice, helped the department make a smooth transition, and then left to devote myself to a full-time process of transitioning into doing what I’m most passionate about.”

Why does this answer work? Because it’s true, tactful, brief (30 seconds) and focused on the positive. It’s also a great example of the “sandwich technique”: surrounding a negative (the fact that he left) with positives (his respect for the hospital in certain ways, his accomplishments and his passion for the current opportunity).

What if Joe had been fired? In a past chapter I said “Never volunteer a negative.” Joe doesn’t need to say he was fired, unless specifically asked. His answer could be the same as above, with a slightly different ending:

“…It was time to leave and pursue my longtime interest in pharmaceutical companies like this one. Since then I’ve devoted myself to a full-time process of transitioning into doing what I’m most passionate about.”

Because this subject is emotionally charged for Joe, he would be wise to rehearse this answer with great care. He also needs to be prepared for the likelihood the interviewer will ask additional questions that will reveal that he was fired. Then what? I’ve discussed this in an earlier blog post.

What other interview questions are you wondering about?

Subscribe to this blog to ensure you won’t miss more articles like this, and for in-depth guidance you can pre-order my Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview.

What’s Your 5-Year Goal? The Most Common Interview Questions, #2

What's Your 5-Year Goal? The Most Common Interview Questions, #2“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

How do you answer this common interview question?

This post is the second in a series of excerpts from my upcoming book, Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Job Interview, to be published January 1, 2017. You can pre-order it as an eBook now, or get the softcover in January.

What’s behind this interview question?

Why do interviewers ask you this? For one thing, they want to know whether the job aligns with your goals, and thus whether you’ll stick around. They may also be hoping you have some ambition. Ambitious people often make better employees. They’re more motivated, and they may work harder and smarter. They make a point of growing their abilities.

On the other hand, those who come in with their eye on a higher position and view the current role only as a stepping stone may be impatient and lack commitment to the tasks at hand.

So give an answer that combines a desire to grow, on the one hand, with realism, patience and commitment on the other.

Before the interview, see if you can find information about paths to advancement from within the position. If the only position you can advance to is that of the person you’re interviewing with, proceed with care! He probably won’t like the idea that you have your eye on his job, so just talk about growing and taking on more responsibility.

In most cases you won’t have much information, in which case it’s safest to start with a general answer followed by a question, like this:

“Over the next few years I see myself building my skills, taking on more responsibility and moving up, if it’s appropriate. Can you tell me about how others have advanced from this role?”

Although the question often includes the phrase “five years,” you don’t have to be that precise in your answer. More open-ended terms like “over the next several years” may be best.

What other interview questions are you wondering about?

Keep reading this blog as we examine some of the most common interview questions, what they’re about, and how to answer them in a way that’s authentic, strategic and gets you the offer. And remember there’s a lot more help in my book!

What Are Your Weaknesses? The Most Common Interview Questions, #1

This post is the first in a series of excerpts from my book, Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Job Interview, about giving effective answers to the most common interview questions.

How do you answer the interview question “What’s your biggest weakness?”

In most cases, the interviewer isn’t just asking this to find out if there’s a weakness that would disqualify you. They’re even more interested in finding out whether you’re self-aware and willing to openly discuss your shortcomings, which would indicate that you probably take feedback well. And they want to hear that you are committed to continually improving your skills.

With that in mind, try talking about…

…a weakness that’s closely connected to one of your greatest strengths. For example, if you’re great at relationship-building and that’s crucial to the job you’re applying for, you might mention that you sometimes spend more time listening to a client or co-worker than you intended to. (But if it really isn’t a weakness at all, it will sound evasive and insincere, so pick something else.)

…an “elephant in the room” weakness that’s already very noticeable to the employer – such as having less experience than they would prefer – so you have nothing to lose by bringing it up.

…a weakness you have largely overcome or that you compensate for very successfully.

No matter what weakness you bring up, keep it brief and spend more time talking about how you’re overcoming it than about what a problem it is. And avoid words like “weakness” and “problem” in your answer. Use more positive words like “challenge,” “growing edge” and “area where I’m growing.”

Of course, don’t bring up a weakness that would cause them to seriously doubt you can do the job.

Realize that certain answers – especially “I’m a perfectionist” and “I work too hard” – have been used so often they’ve become clichés and should be avoided, unless you can put a fresh spin on them.

The next installment of “The Most Common Interview Questions” will help you with the question “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

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