Before you interview for a job, you should be well aware of the job requirements. If long hours and lots of travel are not what you are looking for, perhaps that sales position is not for you. During the job interview, the employer will test you to see just how compatible you are with the position for which you are applying. Make sure that you can explain how your qualifications relate to the job.
Q: What are the most rewarding aspects of your current job?
YES: I would have to say that the most rewarding part of my job as a career counselor is knowing that I have made a difference in somebody's life. I know that in some way I have helped that person become happy. I try to keep in touch on at least a monthly basis with all of the people I have counseled and worked with. Hearing the stories about their successes, their promotions, and everything else in their life is the best reward I could get.
NO: I consider salary the most important job component to support my chosen lifestyle.
When an interviewer asks about a reward, he is interested in knowing—on the most intimate level—why you continue to do this job. Monetary compensation, discounts, and other company benefits should never factor into your answer here. You need to reveal the reason why you chose this profession and why you intend to stick with it. Talk about your passion for your job and what keeps you motivated. Make sure that these rewards can also be obtained in this new position. Conclude by focusing on the new experiences you are seeking in your career.
Q: What do you see as some of the limitations of your current job?
YES: I think that the main limitations in my current job really exist in the industry overall. It's simply not in a strong growth mode. That's really the main reason I have become so skilled in defensive marketing. Retaining our current customers is the key to having an edge over the competition. By introducing various customer satisfaction programs and other such promotions, I think I have helped to counter this limitation a bit. Though the industry isn't seeing much growth as a whole, my current company is becoming stronger.
NO: I'm in a dying industry and I don't want to be a victim.
Answer this question—briefly—with one or two areas or reasons why you think your current job is hindering you. Though it's been said before, remember that you should always remain positive. Don't badmouth your company or your coworkers.
Early in the interview process, you should figure out whether taking this job would allow you the growth you desire. Otherwise, you'll be conducting the exact same job search and interview process in another year or so.
Q: What are you hoping to achieve in your next job?
YES: I am looking for the opportunity to try marketing a service as opposed to a product. Since graduating from college, I have held two different jobs in marketing. In each of these positions, it was my responsibility to market the products the company manufactured. While I have enjoyed this very much, I am looking for a little more of a challenge. Marketing a service involves a whole different thought process, and it's something that I am looking forward to exploring.
NO: I am looking forward to achieving financial independence. The company I work for now is rather small, so even their highest officers aren't paid as much as middle management in a corporation as large as yours.
In this question, the interviewer expects you to express your inside passion for a job. He wants to see that the goals you are setting for yourself illustrate a willingness to achieve greater things, and a passion and dedication to your job. Make sure that your answer is realistic as far as time and experience goes. If this is only your first or second job since graduating from college, you may not want to talk about your desire to run the company. Discuss the reasons that led you to apply for this position and how they relate to your idea of the perfect job. Also make sure that the goals you cite as hoping to achieve will be made available to you in this position.
Q: What would your ideal job be like?
YES: No matter what happens, I'd like to stay in a position in which training is the main part of my job. I had always thought about being a teacher, but I knew that I was too interested in business to teach as a full-time job. By training new employees, I am being given the opportunity to use my business skills and educate others. While I would definitely strive to climb the ladder in my career, I would never want to stray too far from what I am doing right now.
NO: I would love to be a rock star, but I guess I would settle for teaching.
Though many people may be tempted to talk about their fantasy job, this question isn't really about make-believe. The interviewer is trying to gauge a bit about your personality and the kind of job you would be most happy in. While you don't want to be too obsequious and say something along the lines of, “Exactly the job I'm applying for!” you also don't want to stray too far from your career path. If your ideal job is not within the actual industry you are applying to, think of a way in which these two industries (or jobs) can be connected. For example, if you're starting out as a salesperson, it would be okay to talk about how you would like to one day become involved in marketing. Since these two functions really go hand in hand, you can draw various parallels as to how you would get there.
Again, it is always important to keep the idea of the career path in mind. Will this position get you where you want to go? How will you go about doing that? Remember that it is important to always keep your professional goals in mind.
Q: If you had unlimited time and financial resources, what would you do?
YES: I'd love to be able to use the time and money to go back to school or partake in various seminars. As international business has always been an interest of mine, I would like to travel the world and learn the ways that business differs from country to country. Of course, having this time to travel, I would try to see as much of the world as possible, but I think that all of my travels would be an exercise in business education.
NO: If I had unlimited financial resources, you certainly wouldn't see me here. The first thing I would do is quit my job! My daily task of lying on the couch watching soap operas and cartoons would only be interrupted by my jaunts around town in my brand new Ferrari.
Again, this is one of those questions when the interviewee may forget that she is in the midst of a professional meeting, not at home playing “What if …” When giving an answer, be sure to stick to work-related pursuits or to educational efforts that could be used to help you in your job. Again, think of ideal jobs or activities that are related to the job at hand. If you are applying for a teaching job, for example, you might want to talk about how you would become a volunteer for an adult literacy program. Though it is not exactly teaching, it demonstrates a passion for your field, even when the paycheck factor is taken away.
Q: After learning more about this job, which aspect interests you most?
YES: I'm particularly interested in your recent joint ventures with two processing companies in Latin America. My father was an army officer, so we lived in Latin America for three years. I am very interested in seeing what happens with these agreements. What are your plans for the next few years?
NO: There's really no one aspect of the job that interests me. The whole thing sounds intriguing.
In the section regarding your motivation, the interviewer asks a very similar question: What particular aspect of the company interests you most? Essentially, there is no real difference between these questions except the way that they are worded. In the question above, you are being asked to talk directly about the company in an effort to prove that you have done your research. In this instance, you should feel free to talk about the company or about the position itself. Describe your qualifications for the job and how well the job fits your natural skills and abilities.
Give evidence that you've performed well in similar work. What proof can you offer that you'll excel in this job? The best answer to this question would address both the company and the position. More specifically, it would focus on what you could do for the company in the position at hand. If you've researched the company properly, you should have no problem answering this question quickly and authoritatively.
Q: After learning more about this job, which aspect interests you least?
YES: In my last position, I was able to find more success by spending time on my major accounts rather than scheduling one-on-one interviews with smaller accounts. Though every salesperson has her preference, I think that this is really where my strength lies. In my time there, I was able to increase my key account business by 20 percent. I would like to be able to continue with this personal style within your company to obtain even better results.
NO: I know you mentioned something about occasional overtime and some weekend work being a possibility. While this is not a real problem per se, I would prefer that my job not interfere with my personal life.
This is another one of those questions that job seekers hate to be asked. Forcing you to talk about a potentially negative aspect of the job can be a little intimidating, especially when you're trying to impress this person. One way to skirt the issue is to talk about a situation in your current position that you find to be a negative aspect and find out whether this job would have a similar downside. Another way to counter this question is to ask why the last person left the job. Respond to the interviewer's answer, then go on to discuss what you see as the positive points of this job, even if you've done so before.
Q: What aspects of this job do you feel most confident about?
YES: As the companies I have worked with in the past have been engaged in the manufacture of very similar products, I feel that I will be able to fully integrate myself in no time at all. With a strong knowledge of your company's products, I think I will be able to jump right in with lots of creative and fresh ideas and translate my past success to your company.
NO: I think that I have very strong people skills, and I am confident that everyone in your company will love me in no time at all. After all, that's how I met my boyfriend. He used to be my supervisor!
Make sure that when you answer this question, you sell the skills you have as they relate to this job—and not just sell yourself! The interviewer probably already has a good sense of your personality and you as a person; this is a chance to plug your applicable skills and how they relate to the position at hand. Talk about your skills in relation to the larger scope of things: that is, how they relate to this job, this company, and the industry.
Q: What concerns you most about performing this job?
YES: As my past experiences relate directly to this position, I am confident that I could perform the job well. Other than that, I have never been the key manager of a department, and I am a little concerned as to whether or not there will be a large enough customer service network. As one of the key points of this company is a 24-hour service line, I just want to be sure that there are always enough people here to answer the phones.
NO: Though many of my past duties have been similar to those required in this job, I have never done this job exactly. I guess my main concern right now is that I will be a failure.
Even if the job you are interviewing for will bring about many brand-new responsibilities and is not something you have much experience with, you should never say the word “failure.” Always project an air of confidence. One way you can answer this question is to turn it around and say, “Nothing that you have mentioned so far concerns me. I am fairly confident that I could perform the job really well. Are there any aspects of this job that you are concerned with me performing?” If the interviewer comes back with a few questions, respond with the same confidence in your abilities. Address each one of the recruiter's concerns and make her sure that your interests are compatible with the position. Offer proof that will dispel any doubts she may have.
Q: Which of your skills do you think is most relevant to this job?
YES: I think that my past experiences—as far as both my education and work history are concerned—make me well suited to this position. I have spent the past five years at a company that produces very similar products, and my business degree only helps to augment the success and experiences I have found in the workplace.
NO: As the president of my high school's student government association, I think that I would make a great manager in your company. I know how to be diplomatic, and I know how to make people like me. Also, that stint taught me a lot about politics.
Yes, the interviewer is interested in learning all about you, but delving too far into your past shows a lack of achievement—or confidence—in your more recent endeavors. Though you may be tempted to recap your entire employment history, the interviewer is likely looking for one reason why you think you would be a good match for this job. Your answer should be similar to your prepared response to the question, “What interests you most about this job?” Use examples to back up the most relevant information from your resume.
Q: In your last job, how did the realities you experienced differ from your initial expectations?
YES: The hardest thing to foresee in my last job was how my market research department would be viewed by other departments within the company. Apparently, because there had been so many incompetent employees in the past, many of the other departments contracted outside companies and organizations to do market research for them. While I made several attempts to try to help the reputation of my department, it was to no avail. Working at a job in which it seems like no one respects the work you do can be very frustrating. That is what led me to apply for this position.
NO: During my interview, the recruiter talked about the need for more competent managers within the company and how by being hired I would be on the fast track to a career in management. After nearly six months there, I have not heard a word about a promotion or any management position opening up. I just always assumed that the fast track would not take so long.
This question is specifically geared at judging whether your ideas about the job—and your abilities—are realistic. Do you expect too much too fast? If you were not given opportunities in your past position that you thought would be offered to you (a promotion perhaps, or even specific tasks to be performed), is this a reflection on your work? Another aim of this question is for the recruiter to ensure that any past disenchantment will not be repeated in this job or with this company.
Q: If you were hired for this position, there would be some travel involved. Would this cause a problem for you?
YES: When given proper notice, I can arrange to travel at almost any time of year. In my current job, I usually travel about once a month. It's really one of my favorite aspects of this career.
NO: As I have a full schedule of activities outside of work, I do prefer to let other people do the traveling. However, if given enough notice, I can usually manage to travel perhaps once a year.
A question like this should be obvious to you. In certain careers—a job in sales, for example—travel is one aspect you should anticipate. Your response to this question should be consistent with the demands of the job. If you travel frequently for your current job, let the interviewer know how often. If you were unaware of the travel aspect—and are not happy about doing it—let the interviewer know now. Telling the interviewer you have no problem with travel but then shirking your travel times when they come is unethical and misleading. It's possible that, by telling the interviewer you are reluctant to travel, you will lose the opportunity, but this is obviously a position you are not well suited for.
Q: Why is this a particularly good job for someone with your qualifications?
YES: Based on what you've told me about the last person who held— and excelled in—this job, I believe we share many similarities and, therefore, am confident that I would do a great job. We seem to have the same educational qualifications and similar work experience. I also think that I would work well with your audit team. I come from a similar kind of environment and know exactly what a client can do to make the consulting relationship more productive.
NO: I think my resume really speaks for itself.
The key to answering this question is to draw upon experiences from your current or former job and talk about the positive experiences you have had. If you know anything about the success and background of the person who formerly held this position, that's also a great way to prove that you are a great match for the job. Being too specific can be detrimental to this question, as it indicates that you may not quite understand what this position is all about.
Q: In what type of work setting do you feel you are the most productive?
YES: The best way that I have found to keep on top of things is to have an hour of uninterrupted time in the morning. As much as I can, I try to get into work ten to fifteen minutes early to take the time to plan my day. As far as the rest of the office goes, I like to be in an environment where everyone listens to one another. I like to hear everybody's input and feedback and to feel a real sense of community within the office. From my past experiences, I think I feel better working tirelessly when I can see that everyone else is busy too. It lets me know we're all working together to reach the same end.
NO: I prefer to work in an environment where there isn't someone looking over my shoulder every second, questioning what I'm doing and making suggestions.
The interviewer is trying to determine the effect your working environment has on your work. If the office is a little busy, are you going to be distracted or have trouble concentrating? Will your job performance suffer as a result of this company's work environment? How well do your needs fit in with the position, the layout of the department, and the particular work group you'd be assigned to? The best way to answer this question is to emphasize your ability to work in a variety of settings; talk about how you've succeeded in various environments, including those that were less than ideal. Make sure you describe the environment at the company that is interviewing you. Don't give the interviewer reason to become suspicious about why you prefer a certain working environment. For example, if you say you don't like someone looking over your shoulder, the interviewer might suspect that you have a problem with authority. But also be sure to be honest about your preferred work style and desired environment. After all, you want to find a job that will be a good fit for you as well.
Q: When it comes to the structure of your typical work day, do you prefer continuity or frequent change?
YES: I enjoy change and challenge, which is why I frequently ask for the tough assignments. For example, I asked for the last two projects we discussed. I don't allow myself to get bored.
NO: It doesn't matter to me. Whenever I find myself bored with my job, I usually take a couple days off to recharge.
Your response to this question should be in accordance with the job description. Will you be forced to switch gears several times throughout the day? If so, talk about your ability to accept frequent change. Describe environments that have allowed you to remain interested and learn new things without getting bored.