Monthly Archives: October 2013

Prepare for the “Were You Ever Fired” Interview Question

Prepare for the Were Ever Fired Interview Question

Prepare for the Were You Ever Fired Interview Question

If you are reading this post, there is a good chance that you regularly dread this interview question more than any other. Unfortunately, dreading a question doesn’t make it less likely to be asked.

Today, interview questions come from a predetermined list that will be asked of every candidate .

That’s intended to make the process fair and objective and the answers more comparable.

Buy for the unprepared, the “Were You Ever Fired” interview question is unsettling. Your facial expression alone, and your body language, may reveal much more than you’d prefer.

It Matters WHEN the Question is asked

If you’re asked “have you ever been fired” in a pre-screening telephone interview, a brief response is likely best. If you were fired long ago, a brief context and lessons you learned will ease their concern.

If , in the worst case, you were fired from your most recent position, you’ll want to have a more complete response that can be offered whenever the question is asked. Continue reading

Prepare for the “Why Work for Us” Interview Question

If asked early in the interview, the why work for us interview question can feel like an icebreaker. In fact, if it is the first question, you can answer it like the “tell me about yourself” question. And if the first question is “tell me about yourself”, then “why work for us” definitely needs to be part of your answer.

Why Employers Ask the Why Work for Us Interview Question

Why Work for Us Interview Question

Prepare for the Why Work for Us Interview Question

It’s one thing to write a persuasive cover letter that lands the interview. You don’t actually have to believe a single word. Or you could send out a very similar letter to to hundreds of prospective employers, promising each that they are the only employer in the world that you could ever imagine working for.

It’s quite another thing to say that in an interview in front of two or three people who have heard all the lines before.

So tell them clearly and credibly. Are you specifically interested in this position or would many other jobs serve you just as well?

Give them something simple, credible and memorable to write down in that space. It doesn’t sound so hard, and it isn’t if you plan ahead.

A Good Answer Starts with Good Research

Lets face it. You can’t say much of substance if you don’t know anything about this job. They will be  looking for you to include specific, relevant knowledge of yourself and them in your answer. Especially if the company is publicly traded, when a great deal of information is easily available on the internet. You don’t even need to go to the library.

You Have to Know Yourself, too!

Research on the employer covers the “US” part. Now the “YOU” part. If you don’t know what you seek or avoid, you can’t have much to say.

When the Why Work for Us interview question comes later

Towards the end of the interview, this question opens an opportunity to sum up the points you’ve already made and introduce new information that has occurred to you.

The more prepared you are, the more you will feel at ease. You’ll recognize which questions probe more deeply. By the end of the interview you’ll remember stories you wish you’d told earlier. Now is your chance.

Stick to the Point: Why SHOULD They Hire You?

Remember, maybe they didn’t ask directly why they should hire you, but that is still what they want to know. That’s why they ask several questions throughout the interview that will present you with one more opportunity to give a good argument for moving your name higher on the list of applicants and take you to the next step.

Think American Idol. You don’t want to be eliminated this round. Some applicants will be eliminated. They expect you to believe strongly it shouldn’t be you. Tell them why.

This is the tenth in a series of fifty posts, each one providing advice on preparing for a different job interview questions. See the entire list of 50 job interview questions.
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Prepare for the “Ideal Job” Interview Question

Applying for a promotion? Changing career? Be ready for the ideal job interview question!

Why Employers Ask the Ideal Job Interview Question

 Ideal Job Interview Question

Prepare for the Ideal Job Interview Question

Experienced interviewers gather information from every answer to every question. Your lack of preparation, and casual attitude towards your career path is revealed by your words and body language. Count on it.

The fact that you just want any job and are willing to say anything you think they want to hear is as obvious as the horn on a rhinoceros. And that will be duly noted.

Plan your strategy for each anticipated job interview question with that simple truth in mind. Don’t count on “getting away” with a flip answer to any interview question. At least not if getting away with it means getting hired. They have more training and experience in interviewing than you have being interviewed.

Just because a question catches you off guard doesn’t mean you need to look for an easy out. So don’t just smile and say that your ideal job is remarkably like the job you are being interviewed for and hope like crazy you get away with your weasel answer.

When the hiring manager selects candidates for the next round of interviews, the notes this interviewer has recorded will be, along with your resume and cover letter, the only data on the desk. Be certain they have something clear and credible.

Is the New Job Identical to your Present Position?

You need to be specific in describing your ideal job, but should you indicate ambitions for promotion? Or if you would prefer to remain in an entry level role, and have no interest in becoming a supervisor or manager, should you say so?

The perfect answer depends on who is in the room during the interview and every subsequent discussion of candidates. You can’t always precisely predict each person’s interests.

Ideally, you would talk to someone on the inside before the interview. Are they looking for someone ambitious or to settle in contentedly for the long haul?

There’s a lot to consider. That’s why you need to plan well ahead of any interview, whether it’s an internal or external application, and learn as much as you can possibly can about what you want and about what they want.

Is the New Job a Promotion or Career Change?

When seeking a promotion, don’t emphasize a strength that’s more valuable for a more junior position. So if you are moving up the ranks, connect to characteristics of your new position. They are sizing you up for the immediate need so “stay in character” for that position.

As your career unfolds, you should be working towards providing greater value to your future employer, either by adding skills or changing jobs.

Your own needs and motivation may be a larger salary and better working conditions. They will understand that, but you also need to convey that you recognize the specifics of this new role and the challenges it will bring.

If this is an internal promotion, for example, you are expected to relate to former colleagues in a markedly different manner than before. Indicate your understanding of this challenge and readiness to step into the role.

Is  the New Job More Junior  than Past Positions?

New immigrants often find themselves  applying for a job less senior than their work history would suggest. So do middle managers who are suddenly thrust into a local job market with few postings at a similar level. In either case, the interviewer has a list of predictable concerns that you would be wise to acknowledge and address up front, in the cover letter and the interview.

The interviewer will likely doubt your willingness to accept your new realities with grace. Understand that they are worried that you might be disruptive to the current team. Reassure them.

Other Employer Concerns about your Ideal Job:

  • Are you easily distracted by a noisy environment?
  • Do you bring chaos or organization to the team?
  • Will you be frustrated by younger colleagues on your team?
  • Will your values conflict and sabotage an otherwise great fit? When they are in harmony, you take frustrations in stride.
  • Will Iimited learning opportunities frustrate and bore you, limiting your effectiveness?
  • Will overly close supervision (micromanaging) brings stress and tension for you, or is it essential for you to thrive?
  • Will connecting work to passions creates value for you and the employer.
  • How will your desire to learn more about your field without prodding benefit the employer?

I both you and the employer need you to anticipate conflicts before beginning employment, no matter how long you have worked or how mature you are.

What if this Position is Nothing like your Ideal Job?

Desperate for a job to pay the bills? That’s called sustenance work. Is it obvious that your values and theirs don’t match at all?

Focus on what is good about this position and agree with yourself to set aside your other concerns for the time being.

Employers understand the need for sustenance employment, but recognize that they need to know you’ll “hit the ground running”. They won’t want to wait weeks or months for you to get up to speed if you might not be staying long.

Here’s one of the many benefits of thinking through your response to the ideal job interview question before getting to the interview. You can calmly provide whatever response you decide serve you best. And that’s way better than grasping for an answer in front of three or four interviewers.

Check out this presentation on Slideshare with more advice on preparing for the ideal job interview question.

This is the ninth in a series of fifty posts, each one providing advice on preparing for a different job interview questions. See the entire list of 50 job interview questions.
Subscribe today to be notified when each post becomes available.

Prepare for the How Colleagues Describe You Job Interview Question

Your physical reaction to this question may reveal more to the interviewer than your words. Don’t wince, even if the question brings to mind the painful fact that not all of your colleagues describe you in positive terms.

Remember Why They Asked How Colleagues Describe You

How colleagues describe you

So How DO Colleagues Describe you?

When I needed to hire professional staff, I usually looked forward to interviewing candidates for the position, but I didn’t need to do that more than twice a year, It was a nice change from organizational politics.

But not many employers schedule interviews because that’s their favorite way to spend a day. So focus your answer on the same thing they are. Provide them with information relevant to the hiring decision.

If you are being interviewed by HR, they want two things. Eliminate candidates from the pile (think American Idol) and avoid making a costly mistake.

So act accordingly. Reassure them (with proof) that hiring you would not bring any unpleasant surprises, and give them reasons to keep you at the top of the pile and eliminate someone else.

Thinking on your feet won’t give you the outcome you want! Prepare this answer long before you need one. While you still have a job-get honest feedback from colleagues and supervisors.

How Colleagues Describe You Signals Whether You’ll Fit in Here!

Everyone in the room, especially if a few of your future colleagues are among the interviewers, is wondering how you will fit into their team.

Here are a few things they are wondering about. Anticipate each one and address it at some point during the interview.

  1. How do you consistently participate in projects and responsibilities in your department?
  2. Do you share the credit?
  3. Prospective colleagues are worried about your work ethic.
  4. When you come to a new team, it’s best to be more willing to learn than to teach.
  5. Will you be a positive force on the team? They probably already have more than enough griping.

Believe me, you don’t want to be reconstructing this answer the night before an interview!

A few suggestions as you prepare:

  • Nothing better than a direct quote from a former colleague or supervisor. Hopefully you’ll have several quotes to choose from.
  • Don’t be content with an easy superficial answer to any question.
  • No matter how similar job titles and postings may be, they are not identical.
  • Can you explain why they have chosen particular attributes when they describe you?
  • A brief story strengthens your description.
  • Without being cocky, show confidence that they will describe you the same way once you become part of the team.

Check out the Slideshare presentation designed to help you prepare for the “How Colleagues Describe You” interview question.


This presentation is the eighth in a series of fifty, each one providing valuable guidance on preparing effective responses to popular job interview questions. Subscribe today to receive an alert when new content becomes available.

Prepare for the Greatest Achievement Interview Question

Telling about any achievement leaves you feeling good but careful planning could do so much more!

Greatest achievement interview question

What is Your Greatest Achievement

To leave the interviewer with a positive impression they can’t forget, become effective at telling a story.

An outstanding story sets you apart from every other applicant and keeps you there.

Hopefully you have several achievement stories to choose from, but relevance is vital.

Relevant here is your need to understand what the interviewer is really trying to achieve in asking the greatest achievement interview question. What doubt are they trying to reduce? Continue reading

Prepare for Name a Weakness Job Interview Question

Don’t be tripped up when you don’t expect to be asked to “Name a Weakness”. Prepare a thoughtful answer that meets the interviewer’s need for information without blurting out a hasty answer.

This question can be very stressful if you are not expecting it. But the preparation we’ll describe can actually make you welcome the question.

I’ll point out a few things to avoid and direct you to some valuable resources that can help you understand your weaknesses in a new light.

What You Shouldn’t do when asked to “Name a Weakness”

Are you tempted to say “I’m Just too conscientious and dependable”? In the past, job seekers were encouraged  to reframe a virtue as a weakness by claiming to have it in excess. If it ever worked, today it’s likely to be seen for what it is.

Assume your interviewer is too sophisticated to accept that strategy. They will write something down on the paper, but you won’t like it.

prepare for the name a weakness job interview question

name a weakness – wisely – without revealing too much

As tempting as it may be to suggest you don’t have any weaknesses, all that’s going to do is leave a blank spot on the page where the interviewer intended to make notes.

Your objective is to dispel the interviewer’s concern that you have a significant weakness that will show up later and sabotage your success. It’s costly to hire staff and everyone wants to avoid hiring mistakes. If your answer reassures them, it has done its job.

The interviewer knows that we all have weaknesses. As we’ll see in a moment, every personality type has strengths along with characteristics that can be weaknesses in some environments. Acknowledge that simple fact and relax. Continue reading

Prepare for the Most Valuable Skill Job Interview Question

Unprepared, “off the cuff” answering guarantees you’ll choose a skill that’s not the most valuable for this position, this firm, at this time, and you won’t communicate it clearly.

That’s why this post focuses on knowing your own skills, what the employer needs and communicating that clearly and succinctly.

Do You Know Your Most Valuable Skill?

Can You Name Your Most Valuable skill?

Can You Name Your Most Valuable skill?

How accurate is your self-assessment?

Is it even current?

Have you grown over the past year? In your current position?

Today’s highly-competitive employment marketplace demands a serious commitment to gathering facts about yourself.

Don’t be surprised if you encounter internal resistance as you undertake this project. You may even doubt that you have any skills that the average person on the street doesn’t perform at least as well as you. Continue reading

“How Your Work Experience Prepared You For This Position” Job Interview Question

Work Experience Prepared You For This position

Work Experience Prepared You For This Position

When an interviewer asks you “how your work experience prepared you for this position”, it’s not a vague question.

Be specific and make a clear connection between a relevant past experience and something you know about this job.

Unless the new job is identical to the last, don’t make this up on the spot.

The more unlike your last job this one is, the more challenging this question will be, the more likely it will be asked and the more important a great response will be.

Tell a Great story For a Memorable Answer

If any interview question calls for a story, this one does. But not just any hastily-formed story. A story that connects, that you can’t wait to share with your prospective employer. Continue reading

How You’ll Contribute to our Success Interview Question

When the interviewer asks “how will you contribute to our success”, bring together your story and what you have learned about this employer and this position.

 What Does the Employer Think will “Contribute to Our Success?

contribute to our success

Will You Contribute to Our Success?

You’re going to need a clear idea of what the company believes drives their success.

Unless you’re applying to be the president, start with what they’ve already stated to be the principal driver of the company’s success.

You can find that out in publicly available materials. If the company is publicly traded, The annual report is a good place to start.

For broad statements about the company’s plans, vision, mission, read the president’s letter to shareholders.

Look for clear, simple statements that you can use in your interview. Work your way through the rest of the annual report looking for relevant statements.

Check the company’s name in the news. You don’t want to walk into the interview oblivious to a major announcement. If the interviewer refers to something that was announced yesterday, you don’t want to act puzzled.

Frame your own story to “Contribute to our Success”

Now connect your history of achievements to their success drivers. Remember, they asked you how you will contribute to their success. The best way to answer that is telling them how you contributed to your previous employers’ success. Continue reading

I can’t “Should Have”. Neither Can You!

You can act today. or act tomorrow, but not yesterday.

You Can't "Should Have"

You Can’t “Should Have”

Dr. Wayne Dyer said it best, in his book Your Erroneous Zones, way back in the 90s. Nobody can “should have”.

It makes no sense to try to “should have” or to beat yourself up because you can’t.

Wishing that you could, or letting someone else scold you because you won’t, is entirely pointless.  Instead, take an action today that can make for a better future.

This week I have been helping an elderly man and his wife move from a home to an apartment. All he talked about was the amount of accumulated stuff that could have been thrown out (or sold) long ago, making the move much less stressful.

I assured him that his experience was a common one. Six years ago I experienced the same regrets when I downsized.

Recognizing now that you could be better off today if you had acted earlier or taken better care of an important relationship is a worthy lesson learned, but not something to dwell on indefinitely. Only future actions can be changed.

What “Should Have” Keeps You Up at Night?

One of the first realizations that you will encounter when you find yourself in the job market is a long list of things you should have done over the last few years.

If you had stepped up and initiated some projects when you had a chance, you would have a resume full of accomplishments.

If you stayed in Toastmasters instead of dropping out, you’d have outstanding public speaking skills and wouldn’t dread every speaking assignment.

Stop regretting and start changing your future. Start a project today that can be featured on your resume in a few weeks.

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