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Career News

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Here, the 10 toughest—but most telling– interview questions, and best of all…how to answer them.

  1. Why is there a gap in your work history?

“Employers understand that people lose their jobs and it’s not always easy to find a new one fast,” says Susan Nethery, the director of student affairs marketing at Texas Christian University, who often advises recent grads on the interview process. When answering this question, list activities you’ve been doing during any period of unemployment. Freelance projects, volunteer work or taking care of family members all let the interviewer know that time off was spent productively.

  1. Can you think of a recent problem in which old solutions wouldn’t work?

This question is seeking a creative answer. The interviewer is trying to identify how knowledgeable you are in today’s work place and what new creative ideas you have to solving problems. Ex: Your workplace swears by fax machines for signing contracts. Until the phone lines go down. Did you save the day with a scanner and an emailable .pdf? You may want to explore new technology or methods within your industry to be prepared for. Twitter-phobes, get tweeting. Stat.

  1. What would the person who likes you least in the world say about you?

“The people who can’t answer this question are the people I worry most about,” says Jim Link, managing director of human resources at staffing firm Randstad. “I can honestly say I’ve never hired one of them.”

Link says that this tricky question, a twist on the “what’s your worst quality or weakness?” standby, often leads to pregnant pauses as the interviewee struggles to present an answer that won’t present them in a bad light. “I’m not saying answer it quickly, because you should definitely answer it thoroughly.” Highlight an aspect of your personality that could initially seem negative, but is ultimately a positive. His example? Patience—or lack of it. “Used incorrectly this can be bad in a workplace. But always driving home deadlines can build your esteem as a leader.”

  1. What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

“Some roles require a high degree of tenacity and the ability to pick yourself up after getting knocked down,” says Dale Austin, director of career services at Michigan’s Hope College. Providing examples of your willingness to take risks is important because it not only shows your ability to fail and rebound, but also your ability to make risky or controversial moves that succeed.

  1. Have you ever had a supervisor challenge your behavior? How, and how did you manage that?

Pappalardo shares an anecdote from an interview he recently conducted. “The head of IT was rolling out a new technology to the sales team that required two days of training. He wouldn’t back down despite sales pushing back saying they couldn’t make time for it. Finally the president of the company challenged him about his actions, forced him to rethink his stance. He was a senior executive standing on propriety, not creativity.” In the end, Pappalardo says the executive rebounded and a compromise was reached—but it’s the lesson learned, not the situation, that the interviewer is looking for.

  1. Describe a time when you were part of a project or planning team that could not agree…

Lynne Sarikas, director of the career center at Northeastern University’s business school, stresses that questions pertaining to difficulties in the past are a way for potential employers to anticipate your future behavior “by understanding how you behaved in the past and what you learned.” It’s important to clarify the situation succinctly, she says, to explain what specific action you took to come to a consensus with the group and describe the result of that action.

  1. If you could change one thing about your last job, what would it be?

Beware oversharing or making disparaging comments about former coworkers or supervisors, as you never know what bridges you may be burning. But Taylor warns that an additional trouble point in answering this query is showing yourself to be someone who can’t vocalize their problems as soon as they arise. A good rule, she says, is to steer clear of people. Problems with technology are safe ground.

  1. Explain a database in three sentences to your 8-year-old nephew.

This frequent Google question is no trick, and Taylor says it can be tailored to any sector. “Explaining public relations, explaining mortgages, explaining just about anything in terms an 8-year-old can understand shows the interviewer you have solid and adaptable understanding of what it is they do.” Do your homework, she says, “Know the industry and be well-versed.”

  1. Tell me about yourself…

Seems simple, right?

It’s not. “This is difficult because people tend to meander through their whole resumes and mention personal or irrelevant information in answering,” says Dawn Chandler, professor of management at Cal Polytech’s business arm. Jana Fallon, a VP of staffing and recruitment for Prudential, agrees. “Keep your answer to a minute or two at most. Cover four topics: early years, education, work history, and recent career experience. Emphasize this last subject. Remember that this is likely to be a warm-up question. Don’t waste your best points on it. Keep to your professional career! (e.g., don’t cover your family life, weekend activities, pets, collections, etc.)

  1. Why should we hire you?

The most overlooked question—and also the one most candidates are unprepared to answer. Chandler suggests that this is often because job applicants don’t do their homework on the position, and as a result aren’t able to pinpoint their own unique qualifications for the job. What they are really asking is why you are more qualified than everyone else. “You need to review the job description and qualifications very closely to identify the skills and knowledge that are critical to the position,” she says, “and then identify experiences from your past that demonstrate those skills and knowledge.”

Published thanks to Meghan Casserly, Forbes Staff. (Only Excerpts were taken)

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The Worst Questions To Ask During A Job Interview

During a job interview, the questions you ask are just as important as the answers you provide. One poorly-thought-out question could nix your chances of landing a job.

To help you avoid catastrophe, here is a list of the worst questions you can ask during a job interview.

1. What are your policies surrounding benefits and vacation time?

Asking about job perks early on will make you appear self-indulgent.

“It’s kind of weird when someone gets into the nitty-gritty of the benefits,” says Alison Green, from Ask A Manager. “I’ve had people ask me who the health care provider is, if we have dental plans, how many vacation days we offer.”

Once you’re offered the job, that’s when discussion about benefits starts.

2. Can you tell me about your company?

Hopefully you’ve already done your research on the company. Ask more specific questions that show you’ve done your research.

3. Will I have to work overtime?

Instead, ask what a typical day looks like, reports CNN/Career Builder. This way, you’ll learn more about your daily responsibilities, including who you’ll be interacting with — and perhaps if people often work overtime.

4. Why did the last person leave?

Rephrase this with, “Am I replacing someone or is this a new position?” That way, you put a positive spin on the question, and you’ll know whether you’ll be blazing new territory or working within established parameters, reports CNN/Career Builder.

5. Do you think I’d be a good fit?” OR “What reservations do you have about me?

This puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on your potential employer. If he or she thinks you’d be good, they’ll let you know. Focus on selling yourself, suggests CNN/Career Builder.

6. Will I have to travel or relocate?

This question makes you look inflexible. Wait for your potential employer to bring these topics up, according to John Kador, who is the author of 301 Best Questions To Ask On Your Interview (via Monster).

7. So what’s the salary for this job?

Never ask about this during a first interview. Better yet, wait for your interviewer to ask you about salary range, reports Yahoo Finance.

8. How long do you think this interview will take? I have to be somewhere afterward.

Don’t ask this, or glance at your watch or cell phone during the interview. Generally, the longer an interview takes, the better. If you’re already asking how much work you need to put in, you’ll be seen as a whiner, not a winner, says JPC Services.

9. What’s your policy on telecommuting and flex time?

This makes it appear as though you’re the type to skirt responsibility. Unless telecommuting or flex time was mentioned in the job description or your prospective employer brought it up, skip this one.

10. How long does it usually take to get promoted?

Stay away from questions on your growth opportunities in the company, says career coach Jeff Neil. This will make your interviewer question your intentions.

11. Saying, “No, I don’t have any questions” at the end of the interview

An interview should be a conversation. “One of the greatest mistakes you can do is wait until the end of the interview [to ask all your questions],” says career coach Neil. “By then it’s far too late.”

A good way to sneak in your first questions is after the inevitable “tell me about yourself” question at the start of interviews. You can do it by saying “I can talk about my experiences for hours, but today I want to focus on what’s most important to you,” Neil says, and then ask you can your interviewer a question.

But save a few good questions for the end.

Published By: Aimee Groth and Eric Goldschein on Business Insider


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Ask employers why people quit a company and 9 out of 10 will tell you it’s about the money. Ask employees the same question and you’ll get a whole different story.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) discovered this when they asked 19,000+ people their reasons for leaving as a part of exit interviews they conducted for clients. The top 10 reasons why employees quit? Check out the responses below.

As reported in (2005) The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave by Leigh Branham, page 21, Figure 3.1

Yes, compensation was a factor in 12% of the cases, but look at some of the other issues that drove people away — growth, meaningful work, supervisor skills, workload balance, fairness, and recognition — to name a few.

What type of environment are you providing for your people?

Author, speaker, and consultant Leigh Branham, who partnered with PwC to analyse the results of the study, identifies that trust, hope, worth, and competence are at the core of most voluntary separations. When employees are not getting their needs met in these key areas, they begin to look elsewhere.

Wondering how your company would stack up in these areas? Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself. How would your people respond if they were asked to rate their work environment in each of the following areas?

  • I am able to grow and develop my skills on the job and through training.
  • I have opportunities for advancement or career progress leading to higher earnings.
  • My job makes good use of my talents and is challenging.
  • I receive the necessary training to perform my job capably.
  • I can see the end results of my work.
  • I receive regular feedback on my performance.
  • I’m confident that if I work hard, do my best, demonstrate commitment, and make meaningful contributions, I will be recognised and rewarded accordingly.

Don’t wait until it’s too late

Better compensation is only a part of the reason why people leave an organisation. In most cases it is a symptom of a more complex need that people have to work for an organisation that is fair, trustworthy, and deserving of an individual’s best efforts. Don’t take your people for granted. While you may not be able to provide the pay increases you were able to in the past, there is nothing stopping you from showing that you care for your people, are interested in their long term development, and are committed to their careers.


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For the sake of this article I’m going to assume you know how to qualify your candidates from the moment you speak to them until they’ve signed the offer letter and started. I’m going to assume you’ve been communicating effectively with them throughout every step of the process and have been asking quality questions to ensure you’re not getting “sunshine blown up your skirt.”

There’s nothing 100% foolproof and guaranteed, but good methods of pre-qualifying candidates regarding counteroffers will make your life less stressful and more financially rewarding. In addition, if you are straight in your qualifying methods you may even weed out the candidate who would accept the counteroffer and possibly leave you hanging.

First, I know the word “never” is a strong one. I don’t use it lightly or without substantial consideration as my world, both personal and professional, is gray. In this case I believe accepting a counteroffer is positive in a fraction of the cases and it’s just not worth the risk.

It can be career suicide. A counteroffer may be both tempting and flattering to the candidate in question. It may be very appealing to a candidate who isn’t truly committed to leaving his job. I have known people who accepted counteroffers and, most often, they regret their actions.

As a recruiter you must resist the temptation to persuade your candidates into accepting your offer if you have even the slightest hint that the position in question isn’t the right fit. It’s hard, especially if/when you’re depending on acceptance to make a living. We know people buy on emotion, and enticing someone to take your offer (or the current company getting their employee to accept a counteroffer) by getting him excited and hopeful is just plain out of integrity. Temptation can be very seductive and hard to resist. As George Bernard Shaw said, “I never resist temptation because I have found that things that are bad for me do not tempt me.” That said, let’s look a some of the reasons not to accept a counteroffer. Make sure you’re using these reasons for them to decline a counteroffer wisely throughout the recruiting cycle.

  1. The current employer is attempting to cover their tush. When you quit they lose money. When you quit the manager looks bad. Better to keep you on board until they can find a replacement. If that happens your pink slip will follow in short order.
  2. You become a fidelity risk to your current employer. You’ve threatened to quit once. It’s only a matter of time before you do it again, and smart companies won’t allow themselves to be put into this situation. You will never be perceived the same to them once you’ve threatened to quit and decided to stay.
  3. Any situation which causes an employee to seek outside offers is suspect. For example, if money is your issue why does it take a full court press for your employer to realize they need to pay you more? If you’re worth more money now, why weren’t you worth it 15 minutes earlier?
  4. The reasons for you wanting to quit will still remain, even if they are temporarily shaded.
  5. Quality, well-run companies won’t give counteroffers…ever! How would you feel if one of your employees forced you into something? ”If you don’t X, then I’m quitting.” I know I’d be angry. I’d be more than angry. If they don’t like working for you then they should go.

If you do get the urge to accept a counteroffer, just be prepared for the consequences whenever they do show up.

Published By: Carol Schultz