Tag Archives: Interview Tips

4 things to consider when answering personality interview questions

The majority of people I interview aren’t transparent when I asked the questions that require them to reveal something about their personality. The question could be what they enjoy doing outside of work or even something as simple as the genre of literature they prefer.

This is natural; who wants to talk about their personality with a complete stranger? In an interview their focus is on answering questions that are relevant to the job at hand. This is what they’ve prepared for.

However, avoiding answering personality interview questions is an irritant with interviewers and can hurt your chances of landing a job. Interviewers want—even need—to know who they’ll be hiring as a person.

Sure, your engineering, marketing, finance, operations, or management experience is necessary for the role to which you’re applying. But there’s more to you as a person than just this requirement.

Do you recall when you were a child and your parents told you they wanted you to be honest? Do you have a relationship with someone that’s based on trust? Interviewing is the same; the person or people interviewing you want to hear and see self-awareness.

I find myself getting irritated when job candidates danced around questions asking for them to reveal something about themselves because I honestly wanted to know their answers to my appropriate questions. But for those who obliged me, I am impressed and their answer prompted me to ask follow-up questions.

There are four reasons why job candidates are hesitant to answer this question.

  1. They don’t understand why it’s being asked.
  2. They overthink how to answer it.
  3. They don’t want to answer wrong.
  4. They think it’s irrelevant

Why interviewers ask the questions they do

Here’s the thing, you’re more than your title and responsibilities; you’re someone your colleagues and superiors will be working with at least eight hours a day. They’ll want to know you as a person and have conversations with you that doesn’t have to revolve around work.

When I go on a walk with a colleague or am eating lunch with them (pre-pandemic), the last thing I want to do is talk about work. It’s a time, albeit short because I don’t take a long lunch, when I don’t have to think about work. Talking about work during these times makes me irritable.

Instead, I like to talk about what they did over the weekend or what they plan to do for the upcoming weekend. I’ll give you an example. One of my colleagues is an avid cyclist. I admire this, as he sometimes goes on 30-mile journeys or more. He’ll talk about how he cycled the back roads of Massachusetts.

As an interviewer, I want to know what makes a person tick outside of work. I want to know that they have interests. They don’t have to reveal their whole life, but if there’s a commonality, that’s even better. If there isn’t, that’s cool. I don’t cycle, nor do I want to; but to hear my colleague talk about it with such excitement is enjoyable.

Don’t overthink it

As I interview some candidates’ via Zoom, I can see some of them thinking way too hard about how to answer the question, “What do you like to do outside of work?” It’s like their minds are doing somersaults trying to come up with the perfect answer. I want them to chill; just answer the question.

In some ways I blame people like myself and other job coaches for teaching our clients to carefully weigh answering questions in a manner that won’t hurt their chances of landing the job. Maybe too carefully. But this innocent question isn’t one of them.

During a Job Club meeting, I asked the participants an ice-breaker question that was simple in nature. Because it was only a Job Club meeting, most participants were animated in answering, “What do you do outside of work?” But a few of them asked, “What does this have to do with work?”

Admittedly this irritated me. It was a simple exercise and something to get the hour-and-a-half kicked off. Regardless, the few participants immediately went into interview mode. They were overthinking the simple question. They didn’t want to get the answer wrong.

There’s no wrong answer…usually

Well, usually you can’t answer this question wrong, unless what you like doing outside of work is pulling wings off of flies. This image is too morose, but you get the idea. When I ask about candidate’s outside interests, I don’t care if they’re similar to mine or if they’re totally different.

For example, if someone loves the theater, that’s perfectly fine. If they enjoy yoga or meditation, great. I even like to hear about activities they enjoy doing with their family. And, no, I don’t hold this against them.

We’ve told our clients to stay away from talking about their children. Why? I have children, albeit older in age, so I love family people. I also assume they’ll dedicate the required time to the job and not spend an unnecessary amount of time with their family.

By the point I ask this question in an interview, I should have a good sense that a candidate is a good fit for the job—able to excel in the technical aspect of it, are motivated to take on the challenges, and will be a good fit for the role.

The caveat of answering this question is to steer clear of political or religious activities. This is something I will stick by as a career coach. There are just some things that are out of bounds. I used to say anything to do with hunting was taboo, but I’ve since changed my mind on that.

Good interviewers ask relevant questions

I like to think that if I ask a question about what a candidate likes to do outside of work there is a good reason for doing so. Throughout this article I’ve talked about reasons for asking this question. I like to know the person as a person. I want to see how they answer; do they show self-awareness or are they guarded. Another reason would simply to put the candidate at ease.

Prior questions or ones to follow the personality questions are about the position and, to some extent, the company. These are all legit with no malice intended. This can’t be said about poor interviewers, of whom try to trap candidates into saying the wrong things.

Here’s the thing, every question an interviewer asks should be relevant. I for one am not a big fan of the generic questions, such as “What is your greatest weakness,” “Why should we hire you,” and “What do you plan to do in five years.” To me, they’re throw away questions.

What’s telling is a poll that I’m conducting at the moment where I ask, “Why do some candidates have a difficult answering questions about their private life?” Of close to 10,000 respondents, only 18 percent of have answered that they think questions like the one I write about today are irrelevant.

Following are some responses to the poll I conducted.


Tara Orchard: Some people prefer to keep their personal life private and focus on their skills and experience. Perception of the question is important. For some personal means too personal, including relationships, family, religion, personal beliefs, obstacles in their past and other private factors.

I remind clients it is useful to have some personal information to talk about but it need not be very personal. They can talk about why they selected the school they attended, an interesting adventure they had, sports, arts, hobbies and so on that are relatable, general or interesting.

The employer is likely either trying to build rapport or see if the person is well rounded, not digging for private information. As usual, perception and preparation are key.

MARY FAIN BRANDT: I think job candidates are simply afraid to “answer it wrong”, which is silly! Perhaps they are worried how they will be viewed if they say are a huge STAR WARS fan or if they love Comic Con, or if they spend all their personal time shuffling their kids around to soccer games and cheer practice. Or the big one – I am active in my Church.

I think people are afraid to say the wrong thing.

I say share something light, but don’t hide who you are. After all, if you do get the job, conversations will come up about what you did over the weekend.

Austin Belcak (He/Him): As I’m writing this “Don’t want to answer wrong” is leading the pack. It’s a bummer that companies have made candidates feel that a simple question could be a trap. Says a lot about the interview and hiring practices right now.

Anastasia Magnitskaia: That is a great question Bob! Part of it, sometimes we are so prepared to answer questions that we have researched and practiced that this question can come as a surprise. Think about answering the question with substance- we all have things we do outside of work that will inspire others. Don’t sell yourself short and answer “I watch tv”. I also want to add that if a company is asking that question, it shows that they actually do care about work life balance!

Erin Kennedy: Oooh, that is a great reminder, Bob McIntosh. It IS a question they may get asked. It’s good to be prepared with those types of questions as well. Keep your answers prepared and skim them lightly (no need to delve into your personal life).

Erica Reckamp: You can usually navigate this by picking out a couple of benign hobbies. Avoid anything dangerous (insurance liability) or elitist (yachting anyone?)

Most often, it’s an opportunity to open a broader conversation with the interviewer. If you’ve done your research in advance, this is a great opportunity to mention shared interests!

LAURA SMITH-PROULX: This is a great point, Bob McIntosh. I really think people are caught off guard and hesitant to get too personal in the interview. It’s good to prepare for some version of this question and give a brief description that doesn’t stray too far from the subject. “I’m a voracious reader” or “I enjoy the local outdoors” might help combat nervousness.

Lotte Struwing: I think many may want to keep their personal lives to themselves. Without understanding the question, they may think it’s not a legal question and are uncomfortable responding to it.

Paul Upton: Hiring manager perspective:
I love this question as well as “tell me about yourself”. As a hiring manager I’d love to hear when candidates tell me about who they are personally and professionally… we tend to spend more time with people that we work with than many other folks in our lives, so it’s so important to be personable and show your human side.

I’d always get a bit discouraged when candidates just jump into stuff they think I wanted to hear and focus strictly about the job.

These types of questions are such a great opportunity to really stand out and show who you really are and why you’d be someone folks would love to work with!

Paula Christensen: loved your poll Bob McIntosh and this follow up. I’ll continue to be optimistic and view this question as a chance to build a connection and create engagement. I do agree that keeping polarizing subjects out of the response makes sense. Don’t over think it.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Your elevator pitch: why years of experience doesn’t matter as much as what you’ve accomplished

It’s inevitable. When an older job seeker delivers their elevator pitch to me, they lead with something like “I have 20 years of experience in project management.” My reaction to this auspicious beginning is that it’s not…auspicious. In other words, the person’s years of experience doesn’t impress.

What impresses me AND employers is what you’ve accomplished most recently, say in the last five to seven years, and that your accomplishments are relevant to the employer’s needs. In addition to this, by stating your years of experience, you risk being exposed to ageism.

Besides, your most recent 10-15 years of experience is stated on your resume. There’s no need to bring it up in your elevator pitch.

If you ask 10 people how someone should deliver their elevator pitch, you’ll get 10 different answers. This doesn’t mean the answers will be wrong; it simply means the components of the elevator pitch will vary slightly or be arranged in a different manner.

Following is my opinion on how to deliver the elevator pitch without stating years of experience.

Start strong

Instead of beginning your elevator pitch with the number of years you’ve been in occupation and industry, explain why you enjoy what you’re doing. That’s right, tell the interviewers or fellow networkers what drives you in your work. I’m tempted to say what you’re passionate about, but why not?

People like to hear and see enthusiasm. Especially employers who are hiring people for motivation and fit. Sure, technical skills matter. Employers need to know you can do the job, but your years of experience doesn’t prove you can do the job. “I have 20 years of experience” is a “So what?” statement.

Let’s look at a sample answer to “Tell me about yourself.” The following statement shows enthusiasm and draws the listener’s attention, especially with inflection in your voice:

I knew marketing communications was the route I wanted to take as soon as I realized what an impact it has stakeholders. Playing an integral role in getting the company’s message out to the public is one of my greatest pleasures, (slight rise in voice) especially when it increases awareness of our products or services.

Back it up with relevant accomplishments

This part of your elevator pitch is the most important, as you will speak to the employer’s needs. Two or three relevant accomplishments of what you’ve achieved most recently is best. But keep in mind they don’t want to hear your life story. Keep it brief, yet impactful.

Telling your life story in your written and oral communications is not what employers want to read and hear.

(Big smile) One of my greatest accomplishments is having recently led a social media team of five who were able to increase traffic to my previous company’s website 250% since I took over. I was hired for the role because of my (slight rise in voice) leadership abilities and intimate knowledge of the platforms we used, such as: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

(Slight pause)

One of my favorite aspects of communications is writing content for press releases, whitepapers, customer success stories, newsletters, and product releases. My former boss said I was the most prolific writer he’s seen. More importantly, (slight rise in voice) I increased our organization’s visibility by 40%.

(Another slight pause)

I know you’re looking for someone who can create and conduct webinars. I have extensive experience over the past five years delivering three webinars a week on a consistent basis. These were well received by our (spread arms wide) 10s of thousands of viewers. One of my favorites was interviewing the VP once a month.

Wrap it up with energy

You’ve made it to the concluding statement. Maintain the energy that makes you the go-getter all employers want. Make them look past your age and focus on what you’ve achieved. A strong ending will set the tone for the rest of the interview. Use the word “energy.” If you say it, they’re more likely to believe it.

I’d like to end by saying that I’ve received multiple awards of recognition from my colleagues for not only the expertise I demonstrated (slight rise in voice) but also the energy I exuded. In addition, I was often told by my boss that if she could clone me she would. I will bring to your company the experience required and the energy needed to get things done.

You might be an older candidate, but by not letting interviewers to focus on your 20-years of experience and more on what you’ve accomplished, your chances of wowing them will be greater. They would if I were interviewing you.

Answering, “Why do you want this job?” 3 times when it’s a tough sell

This is one question you must be prepared to answer in an interview. You might think it’s airtime filler for interviewers—a question to check off their list. Not so fast, there are times when interviewers are concerned. Very concerned. Here are three major concerns interviewers might have.

One of them might be if you’re changing careers. Another might be if your commute will be like 60 miles each way. The third, you’re willing to step down in title and salary. In all three cases, you’ll need to make a great argument for why you want the job.

You’re pivoting to a new career

In the minds of the interviewers they might wonder if your decision was thought out, or if this is the only option you have. You’ve exhausted your unemployment benefits and need a job quick could be another thought that crosses their minds.

I made a career pivot from marketing to career development. The thing was I sincerely wanted to get into career development. I didn’t hate marketing; I just wanted to help people land employment. So in my mind it was an easy sell.

In your mind, it needs to be an easy sell as well. If you’re tired of teaching high school physics and want to get into technical training, your answer to why you want the technical training position has to take the interviewers through your thought process. Here’s a possible answer:

While I enjoyed many aspects of teaching, I feel that training various departments and outside stakeholders will be extremely exciting. I know there will be travel involved, but I’ve always enjoyed traveling to other states in the U.S. as well as internationally.

And your product line is exciting. I can see learning more about video conferencing quickly. I’ve already used your top-line product in my physics classes. In fact, I had to teach other faculty how to use the product, in some cases in group settings.

If you have any questions about my transitioning from academia to the corporate world, I will embrace the excitement I enjoyed before teaching fifteen years ago. That’s one thing I really missed when I was teaching. Some of my colleagues (chuckles) would tease me about being so “corporate.”

It’s always been hard for me to make up stories. I believe this is true for most people. Point being is that you have to want to change your career. And, you need to know to which career you want to pivot. Don’t enter the interview like it just dawned on you yesterday that you want a new venture.

You’ll be driving to hell and back

The reality is that hiring authorities take a serious pause when they see you live, say, 50 or more miles from the company. I recall showing a recruiter one of my client’s resumes. He took two seconds to look at it before saying, “No good, she lives 50 miles from our company.”

Didn’t he want to see her qualifications? She was an engineer who knew the language the company was using, C++, and had experience with JAVA. In addition, she had security clearance, something his company required. Still, there was no chance she was getting an interview.

This won’t always be the case, but you will be asked the question of why you would want to work so far from home. Interviewers might wonder if you’re desperate for a job. Or they might think, “Yeah, Bob likes traveling 100 miles each workday. Put millage on his 2009 Honda Civic.” Not likely.

You have to have an answer for the recruiter whose first question will be, “So, I see you live in Lowell. Um, that’s 45 miles to Worcester. Why are you willing to travel this distance?” You’ll want to make this short and sweet, and be truthful.

I understand your concern. It’s a valid one. However, I’m used to traveling long distances haven grown up in the mid-west. A two-hour drive there and back was nothing. So a 50-minute drive really won’t be a problem.

In addition, the second job you see on my resume was a 100-mile round commute. I was never late for work, nor did I call in for a snow day during the three years I worked there. What it comes down to is I see this job as a great opportunity, which I’d like to talk about.

In this answer, the candidate negates the recruiter’s concern talking about having made a similar commute and assuring the recruiter that they were never late for work. This is a valid concern for hiring authorities. Make sure your answer is compelling.

You’re taking a step back and willing to accept less money

This scenario has been a common theme with my clients, as a majority of them are mid-management and above. In fact, one of my former customers took a position that pays him $20,000 less that what he made. He claims to be happy for a number of reasons.

First, he’s finally working. As someone who was out of work for more than a year, he was more than ready to be “on the job” again. This is what interviewers need to know; people who’ve been out of work want nothing more than to work.

Of course there are limits to which they will go. For example, they won’t take 50% of what they were previously making. This doesn’t make economic sense.

Second, his life style actually improved. The bills he had are no longer there. Car payments, mortgage, children’s tuition, all gone. Previously he drove 30 miles to work, which took him an hour and a half because of traffic. This equals work-life balance. Big time.

Third, he’s no longer at the director level. He’s an individual contributor responsible only to his manager whom he claims to like. In other words, he took a step back. What interviewers also don’t realize is that there are job seekers who don’t want the stress they once had to endure.

If you find yourself being questioned about why you’re willing to accept less salary and take a step down, consider your financial situation and career goal. The above scenario might fall in line with your life.


Of the many questions you should be prepared to answer, this is one that often gets overlooked. It takes job candidates off guard. But interviewers are concerned. They might think you’re a risk if you fall under one of these three categories. Be ready to put them at ease and hopefully mean it.

This post was inspired by a thought-provoking long post.

42 interview articles to help you land a job

The interview is the most important component of the job search; it’s the End Game. For the job candidate, there’s no room for error. For the interviewers, they can’t make the costly mistake of hiring the wrong candidate. Is the process perfect? No, it’s far from perfect, but it’s what employers have.

Some job candidates find being interviewed exciting, others get anxious being in the “hot seat,” and a few are utterly terrified of interviews. Whichever you are, these articles can help you in the interview process, or at the very least make it easier. Read some of them, or read all. They are still relevant.

6 tips for a successful video interview

While some employers are conducting in-person interviews, many of them are still using video interviews—Zoom, Skype, WebEx, MS Teams, Facetime, etc.—to fill positions. Video interviews have become more of the norm because they’re more convenient for employers and job candidates.

Job candidates might prefer in-person interviews over video because they’re more personal—they can see where they’ll be working, might be introduced to their potential colleagues, and they can gauge the commute. There are many benefits to in-person interviews, but video is here to stay, at least for awhile

5 keys to a successful mock interview

One of my clients told me recently that the mock interview I conducted with her was the best experience she’s had preparing for interviews to date. This was after a session where I reviewed her performance with constructive criticism, at times brutal honesty.

I understood my client’s sentiment, because I also think a mock interview is extremely effective, if done correctly. I’ve conducted hundreds of mock interviews over the course of my tenure at the urban career center for which I work.

4 things to consider when answering personality interview questions

The majority of people I interview aren’t transparent when I asked the questions that require them to reveal something about their personality. The question could be what they enjoy doing outside of work or even something as simple as the genre of literature they prefer.

This is natural; who wants to talk about their personality with a complete stranger? In an interview their focus is on answering questions that are relevant to the job at hand. This is what they’ve prepared for.

5 tips on how to combat ageism in an interview

Three career strategists recently weighed in on ageism in this post. All three couldn’t deny that ageism exists, but the question is when does this deterrent to employment effect older job seekers? The most obvious of stage in the job search is the interview. This is why older job seekers need ways to combat ageism.

Shorter is better when it comes to your elevator pitch: the people have spoken

Has it always been the case that shorter is better? I’m sure there was a time when verbosity was appreciated; when long-winded stories captivated the listeners. Even elevator pitches—statements that answer, “Tell me about yourself”—were longer. I remember a workshop I led where I encouraged two-minute elevator pitches….

Your elevator pitch: why years of experience don’t matter as much as what you’ve accomplished

It’s inevitable. When an older job seeker delivers their elevator pitch to me, they lead with something like “I have 20 years of experience in project management.” My reaction to this auspicious beginning is that it’s not…auspicious. In other words, the person’s years of experience doesn’t impress.

10 false stereotypes interviewers have of older workers

I have the privilege of working at an urban career center where the average age of our clients is 53. For older workers, the job search can come with challenges—one of which is facing stereotypes, due to their age, from employers. This article examines 10 false stereotypes older workers face.

6 soft skills of most importance to hiring managers and how you can demonstrate in an interview that you have them

Going into an interview is nerve wracking, especially when you’re not sure which questions will be asked. Questions like, “What is your greatest weakness” is predictable but what about behavioral-based questions. Read this article to learn which skill employers are looking for and the types of questions they’ll ask.

10 ways to make sure your job-search networking meetings shine

Networking meetings–often called informational interviews–are a gem for job seekers who are serious about their job search. One, two, three networking meetings are not enough; you have to be committed to asking for them and presenting great questions. The account I give at the beginning of this article is not the the to ask for a networking meeting.

Answering, “Why do you want this job?” 3 times when it’s a tough sell

This is one question you must be prepared to answer in an interview. You might think it’s airtime filler for interviewers—a question to check off their list. Not so fast, there are times when interviewers are concerned. Very concerned. Here are three major concerns interviewers might have.

Hot job-interview trends for 2020: what the experts say

It is 2020 and you are in the job hunt, either because you are unemployed or looking for a better gig. While the hiring process might be painfully slow, you still must shine in the interview, and this means every stage of the process.

Here’s some good news: I asked 5 interview authorities to weigh in on what to expect in 2020. They tell you what to do before the interview, what to do during the interview, and what to do after the interview.

New LinkedIn feature provides advice on how to answer 26 general interview questions

LinkedIn has launched a new interview-practice feature which leaves me with a sense of ambiguity. On one hand, I think it’s a great attempt to educate job seekers on how to interview for a position. On the other hand, there are limitations to this new feature.

What should we expect with any feature that tries to be all things to all people? Where you might love the new information presented, I might see it as slightly contrived and overdone. LinkedIn has done its best, and I give credit where credit is due.

Are recruiters to blame? 4 tips for working with recruiters

Recruiters are often the front line of the hiring process; they advertise an open position, read more résumés than they’d like, interview and screen multiple candidates, and finally present the best of the best to the hiring manager (HM). And all of this leads to the interview.

7 tools employers are using to hire candidates

Even if it’s been five years since you’ve had to look for work, you might not be aware of all the tools employers are using to find the best candidates. Employers are being more creative with their hiring efforts while making it more difficult for job seekers to land a job. Let’s begin with the first and most well-known tool.

4 qualifications job candidates must demonstrate during the interview

There are three obvious qualifications job candidates must demonstrate in the interview—read this article to learn about them. But there’s one qualification you might not have considered. It is revealed in this article.

4 important principles of your job-search stories

Although this article is not specifically about interviewing, knowing your job-search stories is important. They’re important to networking, your LinkedIn profile summary, and interviewing.

4 experts weigh in on the daunting, “What is your greatest weakness question?”

The first article in this compilation begins with what interviewers are looking for in a candidate’s answer; showing self-awareness and demonstrating how candidates are correcting their weakness. Jamie Fischer, CPRW, Brett Lampe, Sarah Johnston: (BriefCaseCoach.com), and Ashley Watkins: (WriteStepResumes.com) are the experts.

5 elements necessary to answer in an interview the Failure question

Tough interview questions can raise the hair on the back of your neck, and behavioral-based job questions usually fall into that category. One behavioral-based question my clients say catches them off guard is, “Tell me about a time when you failed in your job.”

How to answer, “Tell us about a time when you were successful at work”

“Tell us about a time when you were successful at work” is a behavioral-based question you might face in an interview. This is a common question which can be challenging if you’re not prepared for it.

How to answer “Tell me about a time you made a mistake” in 4 easy steps

No one likes to talk about the mistakes they’ve made. However, interviewers want to know about more than just your successes. They want to hear it all — the good, the bad, and the ugly. This includes your mistakes.

How to answer, “Tell me about a time when you had to motivate someone at work”

You might have had to motivate someone to do their work, whether it was a coworker or subordinate. They might have been the bottleneck that was holding up a major project. This is frustrating, especially if you like to finish projects before the deadline, nonetheless on time.

How to answer, “Tell me about a time when you persuaded your boss”

Let’s look at a behavioral-based question whose purpose it is to determine a candidate’s ability persuade her boss: “Tell us about a time when you convinced your boss to adopt an idea that he disagreed with.”

How to answer, “Tell us about a time when you had to deal with pressure” in 5 easy steps

You’re in a group interview and it’s been going smoothly. You’ve answered the questions you prepared for. To your credit, you read the job description and identified the most important requirements for the job, Marketing Manager.

The interview is going so well that you’re wondering when the hammer will fall. When will the killer question be asked? That question would be, “Tell us about a time when you had to deal with pressure.”

To answer a behavioral-based question, keep the S.T.A.R. acronym in mind

Interviewers want proof of what you’ve accomplished or failed to accomplishment. You can achieve can prove your assertions by delivering a well crafted stories. You’ve probably heard of the STAR formula. You’ll use this formula to guide yourself through telling your story.

Keep 8 rules in mind when answering why you were fired

Interviews are not something most people relish, especially if they have to address the fact that they were fired. (I prefer the term, let go.) The fact is that people are let go, good people. So the revelation will come when an interviewer asks, “Why did you leave your last job?”

3 major Skype major interview tips job seekers must heed

One of my clients was supposed to have a face-to-face interview, but it was scheduled for a day of a Nor Easter. With the interview an impossibility, what would be a plausible alternative? The answer is simple: the company could conduct a Skype interview. And that is what happened.

The future of job interviewing may include increasingly more Skype interviews. If you’re a job seeker and haven’t had a Skype interview yet, chances are you’ll have one soon.

Be ready to prove that you can do what you’ve written on your résumé

In my interview workshop one attendee asked if having to perform a skill for an interview is normal. I told her that it might not be commonplace, but it’s a great way to find the right candidate, along with asking behavioral-based questions and tough technical questions.

Beyond the “Nerves” in an Interview: 4 ways to deal with it

Most people get nervous when they’re being interviewed for a job. They are peppered with questions that are meant to get to the core of their technical abilities, motivation, and fit. It’s a stressful situation. This is called “getting the nerves,” and it’s natural. Most likely you feel the same way about interviews.

5 pre-interview tools employers use to screen candidates

You’re probably aware of the order in which employers attempt to fill a position. First, they consider their own employees; second, ask for referrals from their employees; third, seek referrals from trusted people outside the company; fourth, hire recruiters; and lastly, advertising the position. Or they use a combination of all of these.

3 ways to show employers what you CAN do in the future

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Employers don’t care about what you’ve done; they care about what you will do.” If you haven’t heard this, rest assured it’s the truth. By conducting multiple interviews, employers are trying to determine how you can save them money, improve quality, increase revenue, improve productivity, and help the company in other ways.

3 things to keep in mind when answering, “Tell me about yourself”

The directive from the interviewer, “Tell me about yourself,” strikes fear in the hearts of even the most confident job candidates. That’s because they haven’t given serious consideration to how they’ll answer this directive.

5 phases of the extravert’s journey to an interview

We rarely see articles on how extraverts* can succeed at getting to interviews, but we often see articles directed toward introverts on this matter. In fact, I can’t recall self-help articles, let alone books, for extraverts (Es). This said, Es need to focus on their strengths and challenges that get them to interviews.

Nailing the interview process, Part 1: Be Mentally prepared

Succeeding at the interview begins before you sit in the hot seat. The first step is being mentally prepared. This means overcoming the negative feelings that came with losing your previous job. To lose a job for any reason can be a blow to your self-esteem.

Nailing the Interview Process, Know Thyself: Part 2

Interviewing for a job is tough, whether you’re actively or passively seeking. If it were so easy, people like me wouldn’t have to provide advice on how to interview. One of the challenges of the interview process is knowing yourself, really knowing yourself.

Nailing the interview process, part 3: research, research, research

You’ve heard it over and over again: you need to do your research before an interview. Why? Because:

  • When you do your research, you’re more prepared.
  • When you’re more prepared, you’ll be more confident.
  • When you’re more confident, you’ll do better.

The last thing you want to do is wing it in an interview. You’ll fail, especially if the interviewer is good at their job.

Nailing the interview process, part 4: practice, practice, practice

To be an excellent baseball player or pianist, you need to practice, practice, and practice. You wouldn’t expect to hit home runs effortlessly or play at Carnegie Hall with no practice. The same principle applies to interview success.

Nailing the interview process; part 5. First impressions matter

Guess what; all of the lessons you were taught as a child apply today. Now that you’re an adult, you still need to maintain consistent eye contact, deliver a great handshake, smile, and more. And if you’re interviewing, your first impressions count more than ever.

Nailing the interview process, part 6: answering tough interview questions

You’ve been invited in for a face-to-face interview. You feel this job is great for you. You like the variety of responsibilities and have heard great things about the company. You’ve done everything right so far – and now it’s time to answer some tough interview questions.

Nailing the interview process, part 7: following up

Some job seekers believe the interview is over once they’ve shaken the interviewer’s hand and left the room. “That went well,” they think. Perhaps it did go well, but perhaps one or two other candidates also had stellar interviews. Perhaps those other candidates followed up on their interviews with thoughtful thank-you notes.

So when is the interview really over? Not until you’ve sent a follow-up note.

5 keys to a successful mock interview

One of my clients told me recently that the mock interview I conducted with her was the best experience she’s had preparing for interviews to date. This was after a session where I reviewed her performance with constructive criticism, at times brutal honesty.

I understood my client’s sentiment, because I also think a mock interview is extremely effective, if done correctly. I’ve conducted hundreds of mock interviews over the course of my tenure at the urban career center for which I work.

6 reasons why older job candidates shouldn’t discriminate against younger interviewers

As a career strategist, I often come to the defense of older workers who experience ageism, but I don’t talk enough about reverse ageism. In other words, how older job seekers treat younger interviewers during the process.

Don’t take the telephone interview lightly; be prepared for 4 or more potential problem areas.

If you think a telephone interview isn’t a real interview, you’re sadly mistaken. Telephone interviews are generally thought of as a screening device, but they carry a lot of weight and, in some cases, they’re full-fledged interviews. Often times job seekers don’t take the telephone interview seriously, and this is a huge mistake.


Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

4 Experts weigh in on the daunting, “What is Your Greatest Weakness?” question

Job candidates, does the, “What is your greatest weakness?” interview question give you pause? Are you strapped with fear, afraid you’ll answer this question incorrectly? Do you try to avoid answering it with a cute answer like, “Chocolate”? Is there a right answer?

The girl is stressing on interview

I’ve often told my clients that they shouldn’t worry about this question. That the answer is in their pocket; they should know what to say before getting to the interview. No big deal. I tell them interviewers want self-awareness, but to not reveal a weakness that will kill their chances.

Further, interviewers want to know how they’re correcting their weakness. This is important. To simply state a weakness and not say they’re doing something about it, is to shoot themselves in the foot.

I asked four career development pundits their take on this daunting question, and how they feel it should be answered. These are people who are recruiters or have been recruiters in the past, so they’re the real deal.

Jamie Fischer, CPRW

jamie

The “what’s your greatest weakness?” question, is an important one. I ask this question often, but not to hear cookie cutter answers, or to learn how someone turns a weakness into a strength, because those two response types tell me very little about a person.

I ask this question to see if this person has actively listened to me after I explained details about a specific position and our company, and mostly to see if they are self-aware.

Here’s an example. If I tell a candidate that our plant is largely multi-lingual and they were actively listening, they could use the fact that they may not be multi-lingual as a “weakness.”

An answer to my question could look like this:

“I heard you when you said the majority of the plant is multi-lingual. A weakness in that case is that I am not multi-lingual.

“However, to address your concerns in that regard, I have worked in multi-lingual environments and have been able to relate effectively to my coworkers even without this component.”

When we ask this question, we are hoping candidates will address a concern that we might have regarding job fit. When a candidate does this, the simple act of having listened and showcasing awareness of relevant skills or lack thereof, will help us feel better about that person’s fit.

Who wouldn’t want to work with an active listener who is self-aware? It’s a rarity – maybe one of every twenty-five people I talk to possesses these qualities.

The worst way a candidate can answer this question, in my opinion, is to tell me they do not possess any weaknesses. Unfortunately, this answer is very common. When asked this question, just remember– having a weakness is normal. Being a great listener who knows oneself and can communicate that effectively – that’s the true test.

Brett Lampe

brett

I don’t like this question at all! Instead of asking what someone’s greatest weakness is, I like to focus on what areas of their professional life they’re working to improve currently. I want learn how someone is evolving as a professional and the steps they’re taking to grow.

For example, if I want to know what measures candidates are taking to improve their writing skills, I’ll ask them how they’re going about doing this?

For me the answer would be participating as a writer in articles such as this; creating original written content on LinkedIn or for other social media sites; and, of course, being extra attentive in my day to day e-mail communications with colleagues.

When I ask this question, what I’m hoping to hear is what the individual is specifically doing to improve. If you can’t tell me what you’re doing to improve, then in my mind you’re not doing anything at all!

In my experience the best candidates I’ve worked with are those that are naturally curious and continuously looking for learning opportunities to improve their skills.

So if you’re asked this question or something similar, be mindful of areas you’re making improvements (not necessarily weaknesses) and what you’re doing to make progress!

Sarah Johnston: (BriefCaseCoach.com)

sarah

First: It’s important to know why a hiring manager asks this question in the first place. They are looking for red flags, opportunities where you might need some additional help or coaching, or to test your compatibility with the team.

Talent acquisition has evolved over the last decade. Recruiters are not only responsible for candidate attraction but also assessment.

In fact, I had a boss once who told me (as a recruiter) that if I couldn’t identify at least 3 candidate red flags during an interview, that I wasn’t doing my job.

Don’t give the overused response, “I am a perfectionist and can be too detail oriented and have a hard time doing work less than 100%.” If I was the hiring manager interviewing you for a job and you gave me that response, I would ask you for another weakness.

Also, don’t share anything as a weakness that relates to how you work with others or how you get along with management.

DO: I suggest giving a “real” weakness in a straightforward way. Your weakness should also be non-essential to the job.

For example, if you are interviewing for a position as a major gifts fundraiser, don’t tell the hiring manager that you get intimidated talking to new people. That’s a big part of the job!

Instead, focus on a tool or skill you haven’t used. Using the example of the major gift officer, if you noticed in the job description that they use Boomerang donor management software but you’ve only used Raiser’s Edge then your response to the question could be:

“I noticed you’re company is using Boomerang for donor management. In this role I may have a small learning curve, as I’ve only used Raiser’s Edge. When working for XX I got proficient with Raiser’s Edge and was frequently running reports and search queries. I am optimistic with a little training I should be doing the same with Boomerang.”

Ashley Watkins: (WriteStepResumes.com)

ashley

Among tough interview questions, “What is your greatest weakness?” will never go down without a fight. This question leaves even the best interviewees grasping for straws to find the perfect response.

Tip number one, this is not a trick question. It was never designed to zone in on your shortcomings — but your interviewer’s strategy for uncovering how you acknowledge your areas for improvements and develop corrective actions.

Avoid responding with “I have no weaknesses.” The fear and shame of being judged for saying something wrong are very common, but you don’t have to walk away with your tail between your legs. Instead of claiming perfection, focus on something you’ve struggled with in the past but turned it around for added value.

For example, “Early in my career, I had trouble reaching a stopping point with a task. I would get so committed to completing an assignment that I worked for more hours than necessary to be productive.

“I recognized this behavior and began breaking tasks into digestible parts and allotting a certain amount of time to work on each piece. I still received the satisfaction in knowing I was checking items off my list. Even if I left the remaining components for the next day, my work output/quality was far better than before.”

Discussing weaknesses becomes easier with practice. Start by making a list of things you want to improve and then develop a solution to fix that problem. If your idea saves money, time, and resources, it will be the icing on the cake.


Given the reasons why interviewers ask this question and the kinds of answers they want to hear, our four experts agree on two major points: they want to hear self-awareness and they want to know how candidates are working on correcting their weakness.

If you are preparing for an interview, keep this in mind. Interviewers aren’t out to hurt your chances of getting the position. On the contrary, they want to see you succeed. As Ashley Watkins writes, “Tip number one, this is not a trick question. It was never designed to zone in on your shortcomings.” I know you can trust her on this.

Photo: Flickr, eva sharma

9 essential components of your job-search marketing campaign: Part 1

Every successful business requires a marketing campaign to promote its products or services. Businesses utilize a variety of delivery methods—social media, websites, television, radio, and other methods—to deliver their message to their consumers. Their campaign must be convincing, impactful, and informational, or it will fail.

social media phone

Like any company, a successful job search requires a marketing campaign to deliver a strong message. Obvious methods to deliver your message are the résumé and interview. But your job-search marketing campaign must consist of more than these two elements.

Part 1 of this article focuses on your written communications, as well as what comes before. Part 2 addresses engaging with your LinkedIn network and your oral communications. I’ve asked nine career-development pundits to contribute to this article. Read both parts of this series to learn about your job-search marketing campaign.

Labor market research

Before you write your résumé, it might make sense to know which skills, qualifications, and experience employers seek, wouldn’t it? This general information can be ascertained by researching the labor market. This should be your first task in you job-search marketing campaign.

Ask yourself these questions: What kind of work do I want to perform? What is my ideal salary? Is my occupation growing or declining? Take it further and ask yourself which types of companies I want to work for? Do I have a list of 15 companies for which I’d like to work?

Sarah J

Sarah Johnston, is an Executive Coach and Résumé and LinkedIn Profile Writer who understands the importance of researching the labor market. She writes:

There is a famous French quote that says, ‘a goal without a plan is just a wish.’ I’d like to go down in history for saying, ‘a job search without research and a strategy is like a trip with no destination.’

After getting crystal clear on your own personal strengths and career needs, one of the best places to start a job search is identifying a target list of companies that you’d be interested in working for or learning more information about.”

Any strong company will conduct consumer market research to determine if its products or services will be successful in a given geographic location. If they fail in this component of their market research, they will go under.


Résumé

One thing most job-search pundits and hiring authorities will tell you is that your résumé is a key component of your job-search marketing campaign. It is your ticket to interviews. However, few job seekers understand what employers are looking for in a résumé. Adrienne Tom, Executive Résumé Writer, knows what employers are looking for.

Adrienne T

To make your résumé stand out, Adrienne recommends two important strategies: making your résumé relevant and including powerful accomplishment statements. In terms of relevance, she advises:

Focus on creating good quality content. Align every point with the reader’s needs. For every point you write down in your résumé ask, ‘So what?’ and ‘Will this matter to this reader?'”

And when it comes to creating impactful accomplishment statements, she recommends listing the most important information at the beginning, which she calls “frontloading.”

Lead bullet points with results. Make it easy for hiring personnel to spot important details, fast; don’t make them hunt for it. Walk the reader through your career story, start to finish, by sharing relevant, measurable details that matter.

ashley

Ashley Watkins, Executive Résumé Writer, spent 15 years as a corporate recruiter, so she understands what employers are looking for in a résumé. She echos what Adrienne says about accomplishment statements:

Hiring managers want to know what you can do to positively impact the company’s bottom line. Use every opportunity to include numbers, dollar amounts, and percentages to validate your results. It’s crucial that job seekers bring their achievements to life and convince employers that hiring them will solve their immediate problem.

Ashley warns against writing generic, one-fits-all résumés.

Although having a clearly defined career target is the most effective way to land a job, many job seekers use a very generic résumé strategy when applying for positions online and when networking with their referral contacts. When you do not have a keyword-rich, targeted résumé focus, you are leaving it up to the reader of your résumé to figure out what you do. Therefore, increasing your chances of winding up in the ‘no pile.

Both résumé writers stress the importance of crafting a résumé that will pass the applicant tracking system. You will only accomplish this if, like Ashley advises, your résumé is key-word rich.

Successful businesses deliver a strong message that encourages consumers to buy. Your goal is to encourage employers to invite you to interviews.


LinkedIn profile

Ana L

Does your LinkedIn profile resemble your résumé? If it does, you’re hurting your chances of impressing people who read your profile.

Ana Lokotkova is a Personal Branding & Career Search Advisor, who specializing in writing résumés and LinkedIn profiles, as well as coaching interviewing. She sees the LinkedIn profile as a digital handshake.

The days of using your LinkedIn profile as a copy-pasted version of your résumé are long gone. Today, you can drop the résumé lingo and humanize every section of your profile. Your headline is the first thing people see when they come across your profile. Forget your most recent job title, and turn your headline into a slogan-like value proposition.

“Include relevant keywords that will help others find you on LinkedIn more easily. Write your summary section in 1st person. Help others learn about your WHY and what sets you apart from other professionals in your industry.

Vriginia

Another authority on LinkedIn is Virginia Franco, Executive Career Storyteller. According to her, the headline and new About section are critical to your LinkedIn profile’s success:

Storytelling as a concept is prevalent across our media today from newspapers to magazines. This is important to recognize because, in reality, readers skim LinkedIn profiles in THE EXACT SAME WAY they digest the news.

At first glance or when in a rush, readers skim the headline and the first section of the article tell them 1) what the story is going to be about and 2) help determine if the story is worth a deeper read when there is more time. Applying this methodology to LinkedIn, it is essential that a profile contains a headline and About section tells the reader what your story is about, and intrigues them to want to read more when they have time!”

Successful businesses recognize that their audiences vary. Whereas a document as factual as a résumé is appropriate for one audience, a document like the LinkedIn profile might be more appealing to another audience.

Approach letter

A little known tool for your written communications is a networking document referred to as the approach letter. In the days of digital communications, this is usually sent as an email or even a LinkedIn message.

The idea is to send this to companies for which you’d like to work but haven’t yet advertised a position. You want to penetrate the Hidden Job Market by being known by companies before they advertise a position.

In your approach letter you can ask for a networking meeting where you will ask questions about the company, a position you’re interested in, and the individual who has granted you the informational meeting.

Your questions must be illuminating, not a waste of time for the individual. Ask about potential problems the company might be facing. What are the major requirements for the position. How the individual came to working in their role and at the company. What they see the role or industry evolving in the future.

If your timing is right, the company might be trying to fill a position it hasn’t yet advertised. You could impress the person granting the meeting so much that they might suggest you to the hiring manager. At the very least ask if you can speak to two other sources.


In this article I’ve covered the written communications of your job-search marketing campaign. In part 2 we’ll look at the verbal side, which will include personal branding, networking, the interview, and following up.

5 phases of the extravert’s journey to an interview

We rarely see articles on how extraverts* can succeed at getting to interviews, but we often see articles directed toward introverts on this matter. In fact, I can’t recall self-help articles, let alone books, for extraverts (Es).

100 Strangers

100 Strangers

This said, Es need to focus on their strengths and challenges that get them to interviews.

It all begins with research

Es prefer to gather information through oral communications. Which is great if there are other job seekers or people currently employed to help them through this process, i.e., people with whom to network.

Extensively researching the job description and networking with people in the company can aid Es in writing their résumés, as they should be tailored to each job. Understanding the required skills and responsibilities is essential.

Research will continue in the job-search phase, as Es need to be prepared to talk about their knowledge of the company and quite possibly the industry and the interviewers themselves.

A strength of Es is the willingness to reach out to people in the companies for which they’d like to work. They are more apt to pick up the phone than their counterpart. They are also more inclined to ask for networking meeting, which are very valuable in terms of networking.

A challenge for Es is taking the time to research. It’s said that the Es tend to act before thinking; perhaps by not putting the effort into their written communications and thinking they can just wing it in an interview. They could take a lesson of their counterpart who do extensive research throughout their journey to the interview.

Writing compelling job-search marketing literature

This is a phase of getting to the interview where Es need to focus. While they are quick to act, they need to write résumés and LinkedIn profiles that show greater detail and effort. More to the point, their job-search marketing literature must demonstrate accomplishments that are quantified.

Many people have told me all they need to do is get to the interview and then they’ll be able to sell themselves. My response to this is, first you need to get to the interview, so your résumés needs to be the bait to get you there.

Es are professionals when it comes to disseminating their job-search marketing literature, though. They are not shy when it comes to handing their literature to hiring managers or having a neighbor or friend do it.

This brings us back to research. Es will have to dedicate extensive time to reviewing the job description and write accomplishment-laden résumés that speaks to employers’ needs and pain points. The same applies to their LinkedIn profiles and cover letters.

Read: 10 reasons why recruiters and hiring managers dread reading your resume.

Now it’s time to network

Networking can be intimidating for anyone. The word connotes gathering in a large group of people you don’t know and being forced to converse with them. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Networking should be looked at as “connecting with others.”

Keep in mind that one’s preference for introversion or extraversion is about energy level. It’s not about one’s ability to speak. Es generally have more energy than Is.

Is are considered to be great listeners, while Es feel comfortable making small talk; a strength Is envy. Here are things Es have to consider when talking with people:

  • Networking is a two-way street. Don’t go to an event expecting only to receive. Go to give as well.
  • Approach people with the appearance of confidence but don’t come across as arrogant.
  • Ask questions. People like to be asked questions about themselves.
  • Always bring personal business cards. This very popular article explains why they’re needed and what to include on them:
  • Finally, don’t assume networking can only occur in a formal setting. Other great ways of connecting with others is reaching out to the community and inner circle.

Es have a tendency to take control of conversations, which can be annoying to Is who are prone to go into listening mode. There gets to a point where the Is withdraw from the conversation and need to escape.

The ever-important interview

This is where researching goes beyond the job description. It now includes the company; industry/competition; and interviewers themselves, if Es are good. Real-time labor market research, e.g., networking, is sometimes the best way to gather important information.

Building rapport with the interviewers

This comes natural for Es. They come across as confident and outgoing. Interviewers gravitate to this. However, some interviewers might be put off by Es who come across as schmoozing. Their small talk and lengthy answers can be a detriment.

Be ready to answer tough interview questions

This is where the rubber meets the road, as they say.

Having researched the position, company, and the competition, Es should be prepared to answer tough interview question, such as behavioral-based ones. They should have their stories ready structured in the STAR format. For those unfamiliar:

S is the situation

T is the task in the situation

A is the action taken to solve the situation

R is the result of their actions.

Read this article to get a better idea of behavioral-based questions.

Thinking quickly on their feet

This is a strength of Es. They can process information and deliver answers quicker than Is. Marti Olsen Laney, The Introvert Advantage, explains: Is “have a longer neural pathway for processing stimuli. Information runs through a pathway that is associated with long term memory and planning,”

This doesn’t mean Es answers are more accurate; but their quick answers might give a sense of more confidence.

As with networking, Es need to be cognizant of over-talking. Many recruiters and hiring managers have told me that they’ve ended interviews early because candidates were not delivering concise answers.

Finally, follow-up

Here’s where Es could take a lesson from their counterpart, who feel more comfortable communicating through writing. There are well-stated rules for writing follow-up notes:

  • The thank you note/s must arrive 12-24 hours after the interview.
  • Every thank you note needs to be tailored to each interviewer. No formatted notes allowed.
  • Do more than thank everyone for their time; put more effort into it, such as bringing up a point of interest that was mentioned during the interview.
  • Also send a thank you note to the recruiter. They greatly appreciate them, and it keeps the recruiters in your network.

Failing to send a thank you note is failing to conclude the interview. I’ve been told by recruiters, HR, and hiring managers that they appreciate thank you notes. They really do. A few of them have said that not sending one can disqualify job candidates.


*Over the years I have received many rants about how I spell extravert. People tell me it should be extrovert. Both are acceptable spellings. I spell this dichotomy this way because Jung did. It’s just a matter of preference.

Photo: Flickr, Arnab Ghosal

How to answer, “Tell me about a time when you had to motivate someone.”

And a sample story.

You might have had to motivate someone to do their work, whether it was a coworker or subordinate. They might have been the bottleneck that was holding up a major project. This is frustrating, especially if you like to finish projects before the deadline, nonetheless on time.

Motivation

Employers are also sensitive to this conundrum because projects finished late cost money

Further, someone who consistently fails to do their part of a project is a major problem who will most likely have to be let go; and this is a huge cost the employer must undertake. Estimates put the cost of a bad hire at 30 percent of the person’s first annual salary.

Therefore, you should expect to be asked this question during an interview: “Tell us about a time when you had to motivate someone.”  This is a common behavioral-based question.

Four thoughts to keep in mind when answering this question

Although this is a tough question to answer, there are four thoughts to keep in mind that will help you answer this question:

  1. Interviewers want to see how you’re going to respond to difficult questions.
  2. Understand why the interviewers are asking the question.
  3. Have your (short) story ready.

For details about how to successfully answer behavioral interview questions, read—Tell Me About a Time When You Failed and Smart Strategies to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions.

How to answer a behavioral-based question

The last thought–have your story ready–is what I’ll address in this article.

A vague answer is not going to impress interviewers. In fact, it might eliminate you from consideration. Remember, this is a problem employers struggle with, so interviewers want a specific answer.

What’s important in answering this question is to go into the interview with a specific situation in mind. This is the beginning of your story. The remaining parts of your story are: your task in the situation, the actions you took to solve the situation, and the result.

The acronym is STAR. Keep in mind to guide you through your answer. Let’s look at a STAR story to answer: “Tell me about a time when you had to motivate someone.”

Situation

Our company was going to participate in an annual trade show at the Javits Center in New York City. The date was approaching in two months.

Task

As the manager of marketing, it was my responsibility to coordinate the trade show. There were several details I had to handle, including making hotel arrangements for sales and the VP, coordinating transportation for our booth, writing content for social media and the website, and additional duties.

It was up to the sales manager to notify our partners, OEMs, and VARs that we were attending.

Actions

Three months before the show, I sent an email to the manager of the sales department asking him to begin the process of sending out the emails. I received no reply at that time.

A week later I called to remind him that the emails had to be sent out in order to give our partners enough time to schedule the event into their calendars. He said he would get on it immediately.

A week after that I ran into him in the lunch room, where I asked him how the emails were going. Sheepishly he told me he hadn’t gotten to sending them. This was making me nervous, and I think he realized it.

Later that day, I went to his office and told him that other trade shows were happening around that time and we had to get confirmation from our partners that they were going to attend ours. I hoped he would understand the gravity of the situation.

By Friday of that week, the emails still hadn’t been sent out, so I decided that he needed some motivation. It’s not like me to go over people’s heads when I can handle the situation myself.

On Monday I crafted an email to VP of sales and marketing telling her that all the task for the trade show were handled, save for the emails that our sales manager had to send out. Then I asked the sales manager to come to my office to review it. I told him that the email was going to be sent out by the end of the day.

Result

This was all the motivation he needed. By the end of the day, he sent out the emails to our OEMs, VARs, and partners. There were a handful of our partners who said they couldn’t make it because they weren’t given enough notice, but most of them were looking forward to it.

The sales manager came to me a week later to apologize for not sending out the emails in a timely manner and appreciated me not going to my VP about the matter. I told him I could help him with his time management skills, and he thanked me for the offer.

Bonus

What I Learned

I learned that I should have been more persuasive earlier in the process. I acted too slowly. I also learned that I can motivate my colleagues without having to get upper management involved.

Read One very important component of your behavioral-based interview answer.

The bottom line

Anticipate that you will be asked behavioral questions in interviews. As usual, the best defense is a good offense—have examples of how you have handled this situation, structured as STARs (plus Learning) so you can clearly present both the situation and the positive result from your action, demonstrating your ability to successfully motivate others to support your employer’s goals.

This article originally appeared on www.job-hunt.org.

Photo: Flickr, Jesper Sehested

 

To answer a behavioral-based question, keep the S.T.A.R. acronym in mind

Interviewers want proof of what you’ve accomplished or failed to accomplishment. You can prove your assertions by delivering a well crafted story. You’ve probably heard of the S.T.A.R. acronym. Keep it in mind to formulate your story when answering a behavioral-based question.

Learnlock

The four-letter acronym stands for.

S: situation faced at work.

T: your task in the situation.

A: actions you took to solve the situation.

R: the final result/s.

However, there is one component of your story that will bring your story round circle. Can you guess what it is?

The letter to remember is“L” which stands for what you learned from the situation. This letter is an important component in your story because, as mentioned above, it wraps up your answer.

The scenario

In an interview you’re asked the common behavioral-based question, “What has been you toughest challenge thus far in your career?” Here is an abbreviated answer you might give.

S: The university needed consistent branding across departments.

T: My task was to oversee the process; a process that took a year to complete.

A: The actions I took were to:

  1. assigned a task force to help make this process happen;
  2. decided on consistent colors and fonts for signage, the university website, and peripheral materials;
  3. ensureed all of this met the board of directors expectations.

R: It was a long process, but the president of the school and the board of directors were extremely impressed. All was completed on time and under budget.

Ending your story with what you learned

As said earlier, your story isn’t complete. The interviewer wants to know what you learned from the experience. This is a time which will require self-reflection, not a trite answer because you’re happy with your success story.

Your learning statement should be relevant to the STAR story and company’s needs. It should also be brief. Here is an example of how you might, bring the story round circle.

“What I learned from this experience are threefold. First, I can lead a large project with a large number of pieces.

“Second, I learned that I can be an effective leader of many departments. I know this is an important part of this role.

“Third, attention to detail is imperative, especially when thousands of banners, business cards, pen and other swag are being produced. I made this a top priority.”

Every area of this answer adds value to the candidate. It shows the ability to lead, attend to details, communicate between departments, organize and set priorities, among other skills. In other words, it gives you the opportunity to add more value to your story.


Using the STAR formula is a great way to show proof of what you assert, but to really hammer your answer home, you should tell interviewers what you learned from the situation faced at work.

Photo: Flickr, Jenna

How to answer, “Tell me about a time when you persuaded your boss.”

And a sample answer.

Rarely will anyone say behavioral-based questions are easy to answer. They require a job candidate to recall a time when they performed a skill successfully, or unsuccessfully, and then tell a story about performing the particular skill.

Persuasion

The story must be specific and succinct, which are two challenges some job candidates struggle with. To this point, many people I’ve interviewed try to deliver a general, long-winded answer that doesn’t hit the mark. This is not what interviewers are looking for.

The four thoughts candidates need to take into consideration are:

  1. Interviewers want to see how you’re going to respond to this difficult question.
  2. They want to see self-awareness/honesty.
  3. Understand why they’re asking the question.
  4. Have your story (short) ready.

I go into detail in a previous article on these considerations in a previous post.

Let’s look at a behavioral-based question whose purpose it is to determine a candidate’s ability persuade her boss: “Tell us about a time when you convinced your boss to adopt an idea that he disagreed with.”

Using the S.T.A.R formula you begin your story.

Situation

Our company was using Microsoft Excel to keep track of our customers’ orders and appointments, but the process proved to be inefficient. It was becoming laborious to enter customer information, and the sales department complained that accessing it was too difficult.

Task

As the sales operations manager, it was my responsibility to find a solution for this antiquated process.

Actions

I knew we needed a better process, so I approached my boss to explain that we needed a true CRM software. His reply was that we didn’t have the money, nor the need for CRM software. I wasn’t going to argue with him. I needed to prove my point.

First I called our main competitors to see what they were using to organize their customer transactions and appointments. At least nine out of ten were using CRM software. And most were willing to tell me the brand they were using.

Salesforce was being used by the five of our competitors. Hubspot was was second with two, and Zoho and Agile were the others.

I knew my boss wouldn’t go with Salesforce just because it  was the leader of the pack. He would want to know why it would be the best fit for our sales and marketing department.

I conducted thorough research on the four products, including one called Kintone, which was in the top ten for security. The others didn’t list that information. I knew we needed a product that would store customer data, track customer interaction, track leads, and most importantly be user friendly for the sales team.

After two weeks of researching products and talking with salespeople, I narrowed the list to three software, based on reputation; overall customer interaction; ease of use; and, of course, price.

I asked my boss if I could have half an hour of his time to discuss my CRM proposal. He reluctantly agreed. When he entered the conference room, he was surprised to see a PowerPoint presentation I created shining on the screen.

At the conclusion of m presentation, he paused for what seem like hours and finally asked me which software I would suggest. I said Salesforce, but he liked Zoho better.

Result

We implemented Zoho CRM, which over two years improved efficiency by 50%. I know this because I tracked the hours the staff had used with Excel and later used with Zoho.

Bonus: lesson learned

I learned that the way to persuade my boss was to show him what I proposed, rather than get into a heated debate. This is how I have and will continue persuading my bosses to agree with my suggestions.

This article originally appeared on Job-Hunt.org.

Photo: Flickr, Henrik Therkildsen