Category Archives: Interviewing skills

Why Are They Asking These Interview Questions?

Common Interview Questions

What’s behind the question?

Have you ever asked yourself why are they asking these interview questions?  People sometimes feel they did not do their best at their job interview. This has several reasons. First, in general, most people do not prepare sufficiently for that oral test commonly known as the job interview. They simply don’t know how to. But because of their past successes at landing jobs, they feel that that validates the fact that they must be good. Second, some job candidates take the time to prepare, but they do not make extra efforts at practicing interviewing—namely, by doing mock interviews with someone who can point out their weak spots and help them improve. And third, they don’t understand what’s really behind common interview questions. Let’s go through some here.

The most common interview question is, “Tell me about yourself.” Well, it’s not exactly a question, but it is indeed an unfinished sentence because when you hear those words in an interview, what’s really behind them is the real question: “Tell me about yourself in a way that demonstrates to me your qualifications to help us meet our challenges by reciting at least one relevant success story.” Now that you know that, it will be much easier to craft a good answer.

Another common interview question is, “What are your strengths?” Behind this one, the interviewer is looking to see whether you’re prepared for the interview and whether you can recite eloquently and succinctly what your strengths are. Again, the interviewer hopes your examples will be pertinent and relevant to the company’s needs. If your recited strengths are valid but not for current company needs, your answer is tantamount to serving someone a wonderful dessert after a huge meal. Yes, it’s good, but there is little appetite left.

After the strengths question, it is very common to be asked, “What are your weaknesses?” Admittedly, this is a difficult question. What’s behind this one is an interviewer who’s curious first about your honesty and then about whether you reveal something that might be a serious impediment to your candidacy. Or perhaps you’re completely dumbfounded and unprepared—and that’s not a good sign.

“Why are you interested working for us?” is another important and common question. Behind this question, the interviewer does not want to hear what you think is good for you about the position. Instead, you are being given an opportunity to prove to the interviewer what you can do for the company, not for yourself. And above all, you should answer this question with a heightened level of excitement. This is what the interviewer is expecting to see, and if your answer is not memorable, then the interpretation will be that you’re probably not very serious and not very interested. In an interview, exhibiting your excitement via body language and facial expressions is more important than the words you say.

Another question that always comes up in an interview, provided they like you, is, “So, how much money are you looking for?” This question is commonly misunderstood because some job candidates think the interviewer is close to closing the deal and ready to negotiate. Absolutely not! Don’t be misled by that question. You as a candidate have no negotiation power at this stage. You were not offered anything yet. The real thought behind the question is, “I like what I see so far, but I wonder whether I can afford you.” That’s why a good answer here will consist of a reasonably wide range, the lowest end of which has to be the lowest compensation you’re willing to accept. So, not until you have in your hand that letter whose first word is Congratulations are you ready to start negotiating. But the subject of salary negotiation has to be left for another article in the future.

How Not Feeling Nervous When Interviewing

How Not Feeling Nervous When Interviewing

Are you nervous?

Most if not all people feel nervous before and during a job interview. For the past ten years, I’ve been helping people prepare for job interviews. I’m also a very experienced interviewer, but recently, when asked to be on a radio talk show, I went through the same emotions and nervousness as all my clients do—despite my vast experience. It’s normal. I just now listened to an old interview of famous Italian opera singer Luciano Pavarotti in which he revealed that—despite his years and years of seven-day-a-week vocal practice and endless stage appearances in front of thousands of people in an audience— he felt very nervous every time he appeared on stage.

A job interview is nothing less than an oral exam for which a person typically prepares ahead of time. And there’s nothing wrong with being a bit nervous, provided you know how to turn such nervous energy into a positive outcome. Otherwise, the nervousness can undermine your efforts and manifest itself in sweaty palms, dry mouth, difficulty thinking and focusing, talking very fast with poor enunciation, and eyes darting all over—all of which lead to a poor image and a downward spiral in self-confidence.

Sometimes the interviewer may not be attentive, or may demonstrate lack of deep interest, or may act visibly distracted and unfocused, or may feel hurried and simply not into it. That predicament generates strong negative feelings for the interviewer, especially when the job candidate wants to be liked and convincing and to appear professional and valued with the anticipation of getting a job offer. So let’s see how to deal with this daunting predicament.

First, you need to be very well prepared, with knowledge of the company and lots of facts and details about it. It’s also important to learn as much as possible about the interviewer or even several interviewers and, most of all if possible, about the challenges they’re facing. Having information on those issues via past, similar experiences with successful outcomes arms both parties with confidence. Second, position yourself to face the interviewer so that your shoulders are parallel to the interviewer’s shoulders. Think about the image of the anchor person reading the evening news on TV: make solid eye contact, but don’t stare, because that can make the interviewer almost freak out. Have both your feet squarely on the floor, and place your hands comfortably—whatever feels normal for you. Don’t cross your arms or lock one hand into the other with your fingers interwoven. It is perfectly normal to gesture, but minimally. Gesturing helps make emphasis and—combined with the words you say and the context—can make your responses even better. Think about American presidents making their famous speeches.

The main success factor in overcoming interview jitters and anxiety lies in practicing mock interviews with a competent trainer to the point that you feel confident. And then do a little more just for good measure. So, this has been my advice. What has been your experience? Please feel free to comment.

Being Fired Is Like a Divorce . . .

Being fired is like a divorce and based on today’s statistics, that doesn’t sound good. So many articles cover the fact that 50% of all marriages in America end in divorce. Interestingly enough, other articles say 50% of all hires are bad hires.

Fired = divorced?

Being fired is like a divorce and based on today’s statistics, that doesn’t sound good. So many articles cover the fact that 50% of all marriages in America end in divorce. Interestingly enough, other articles say 50% of all hires are bad hires. Might there be a correlation between the two? I think there is. But at this point, I must disclaim by saying that my area of expertise is not in psychology, and I’m merely expressing an opinion.

Of course, once you get closer to the statistics, you can see that lots of variables come into play. For example, statistics indicate that the age at which people get married influences the divorce rate. A man who marries from 20 to 24 years of age has a chance of divorce that is close to 39%. A woman who marries from 35 to 39 has a 5% chance. I wonder whether there are statistics that bracket people by age and show the variances between those who have more of a tendency to lose their jobs. Even without hard evidence, though, I know that people tend to lose their jobs more frequently than they get divorced or separated. And thank goodness for that.

But why such a high turnover in employment? Some articles say that these days, on average, people change jobs every two to three years. Numbers published by the government say 4.6 years. Admittedly, some quit and others get fired. My answer is that it’s partially because many jobs nowadays are project based, and once the project is finished, the job is, too. But I’m also certain that the hiring process itself is lacking. And it’s lacking because the system is broken.

Every public company focuses on increasing shareholder value. And one quick way to achieve that is to cut expenses. Human resources departments have shrunk significantly from the sizes they used to be, and relatively few competent people are left who really understand the interviewing process. Plus, among hiring managers themselves who make final decisions to hire, only a minuscule fraction of them took any educational courses to learn how to interview and, further, how to make good final decisions. Isn’t it grotesque to think that so many hiring decision makers have absolutely no training in this important aspect of hiring? And by the way, some studies indicate that the cost of replacement of an employee is 10 to 30% of the employee’s annual salary. On the executive level, that could add up to several hundreds of thousands of dollars. So what’s wrong with this picture?

My suggestion is that companies rethink their hiring strategies and begin to insist that all of those in a position to make hiring decisions get some formal education to improve their knowledge about the hiring process. Recently, I presented to a group of very senior financial executives. I asked the audience how many of them had taken at least one course about interviewing techniques. Only one of the 31 attendees raised his hand! It is astonishing and appalling that such high-level executives make such important decisions based purely on gut feelings. Again, getting at least some formal education and training on interviewing skills should be mandatory. I’m certain that if it were, retention rates would improve dramatically and so would bottom lines. Is this too much to ask? I invite your comments and opinions.