How not to answer some questions in an interview... and what to think about prior!Apr 26, 2004 Write an essay on this topic.
The Bottom Line The bottom line is that interviewing can be a comical insight into candidates...
Why am I writing this?
I am an upper manager at a production facility, and as such have had a lot of experience interviewing for and filling several positions, from hourly operator to middle management. As such I have heard a lot of answers to some familiar questions, and thought I would share with you some things to watch out for if you are preparing for an interview. Realize that some of this is tongue-in-cheek and supposed to make you laugh, but also realize that these are actual answers that I have received in an interview for various positions. This will be presented in a question and answer format, with the actual question and a true answer I have received, and then I will discuss each one. I will not only let you know what the wrong answer is(and hopefully make you chuckle), but also what the right answer is, in my humble opinion. The right answers will not necessarily get you a job depending on the job you are interviewing for, but they would sure help you out if you were sitting across the table from me
Question: Tell me a little bit about your background, such as work history and education.
Answer: I think I have that documented fairly well on the resume you have in front of you.
Most everyone probably understands that this is the wrong answer! You have to understand two points in an interview:
1. I have several job applicants in front of me, and probably spent little time on your resume; I certainly didnt memorize it.
2. The resume got you in the door and explained that you have the skills to perform the job for which I am hiring. Beyond that, I am trying to ascertain if you have the people skills and personality that will meld well with my organization. If you refuse to talk, how can I get that information from you?
In this case, it was an engineering graduate who chose to answer this question in this way. She apparently felt that her skills spoke for themselves, as they did. However, even though this particular individual was very intelligent and had very high marks, I did not choose to hire her. Every question that was asked was like pulling teeth to get an answer, and in a production management job this person would have failed miserably.
In my estimation, you should answer this question with items that will point to your personal interaction skills and specific experience. Do not focus much on your coursework, as the employer already knows what Thermodynamics courses teach you. Instead focus on the fact that you led the Thermodynamics lab, or that you worked as the head lifeguard and what challenges that put in front of you to deal with people. These skills will get you the job that your schooling has qualified you for
Question: What does this position offer you that your current position does not?
Answer: I would now have the authority to get people to do what I am already asking them to do. They dont do the stuff I ask them to do as I am not the manager right now
Again, hopefully most of the readers of this review understand this. However, I was interviewing internal candidates for a middle-management position recently, and the person who on paper would be next in command answered several questions in this fashion. We had no choice but to overlook this candidate, as in my mind they have no idea what it means to be a leader.
In my mind, the leader is someone who empowers and inspires their workers to action. Lay out the goals in front of them and most employees will respond to meet those goals, as long as they align with their personal goals. Responding in the fashion that this candidate did indicates someone who will more than likely use a stick as opposed to a carrot to get their employees to respond. You do definitely need to be firm when it is called for and not be afraid of confrontation, but to believe that employees will do what you ask because of your title as opposed to the respect that they have for your is short-sighted.
My ideal answer to this is to discuss the qualifications of the job and the opportunity that this can create for you and the company. Talk about the future opportunities that this will give you the experience to get. Talk about the company goals that you already know are out there and how your particular skill-set will help the department/division/area meet those goals.
Question: Why are you the best candidate for this position? or Why would you hire yourself if you were in my position?
Answer: I wouldnt say that I am the most qualified, but I will do one heckuva job for you if you put me out there!
This was again an answer I received from a candidate in the middle-management search we just completed.
Walking into an interview you may not believe that you are the most qualified person for the job, but that does not mean that the employer will agree with you. They may be looking for a skill-set different that what you would be looking for in the job. The previous manager may have been overbearing and a micro-manager, and the best qualified candidate may not share these traits. Oftentimes when a manager leaves, unless the place was running like a top, there is a desired shift in management styles. Answering in this fashion may rule you out even though you were in the running prior to opening your mouth!
To me, the answer I like to hear in this case is a description of your personal skills and abilities and how they meet the companys wants and desires, generally posted with the position description. To be fair, this may not be enough to get you the job, but it will take you a lot further than the answer given above!
Question: What are your strengths that qualify you for this position?
Answer: I think my academic record speaks for itself. I could come into your organization and turn it around for you with my knowledge!
To some this may be a good answer, but for me and the positions I have filled this definitely does not cut the mustard. I received this response a few times when interviewing candidates for entry-level engineering positions with a large company. Keep in mind, the employer is not hiring you to fill a position for the rest of your life. Your current skill-set will only take you so far, and they want to know if you are promotable. This is more important to me than whether or not you rank out higher than the next guy I interview. Remember, your grades get you the interview, and your responses in the interview get you the position! The guy coming in behind you is on equal footing with you, as he has shown that he has at least a general understanding of the concepts the company is hiring for. From here on out, personality, ability to get along with others, and adaptability will get you promoted, not grades in college.
To me the answer to this question varies by the position, but in almost all cases you should use specific examples of teamwork and leadership. There are very few jobs that allow you to work in an isolated position, and of those that exist, I would want none of them. If you work in an isolated position where no one knows exactly what you do, you are bound to get cut in a layoff, guaranteed! However, you have the skills we are searching for, and now I want to know how well you will get along with co-workers, how you manage time, how you set goals, and how you promote others to get the work done. These characteristics get you promoted in the plant I hire for
Question: What are your weaknesses that you need to work on for this position?
Answer: I cant really think of any offhand.
This again came from my middle-management search. This to me is a very wrong answer, as unless you were groomed to fill this position for the past few years, you are not totally ready to take over. (Generally if you have been groomed, we are not interviewing, either!) You have either not done your homework to understand what goes with this position, or you have not done an accurate self-evaluation to determine where you can improve. Someone who genuinely does not need training or self-improvement is probably putting in for the wrong job and overqualified, in my opinion. I will shy away from this individual, as they will generally become bored with the position in a very short time and expect to be moved or move out of the company on their own, either of which just wasted time and resources of the company.
The right answer to this question is specific to each position and the candidate. Do thorough research into the position and the companys wants and needs with the posting, and then do a truthful self-evaluation. I find it useful to use my wife as well in this situation, as they generally know you about as well as anyone will, and they can be brutally honest!
Question: Give me an example of a time when conflict arose in a team environment and how you particularly handled it.
Answer: I had a disagreement with my manager where he was asking unreasonable things of me. He was a jerk about it, and I finally told him to lay off of me or I would meet him outside of work some night.
Yes, this is a true response I received while hiring technicians for plant operations. I dont think I need to go into too much detail as to why this is the wrong answer, but to name one you have just admitted to the precursor to violence in the workplace. Do not, under any circumstances, use an example such as this!
The correct answer to this is a truthful example of conflict that has arisen during a teamwork exercise, whether a lab experiment or a group project. Heck even bring one up from a job where you were cutting grass! If you cannot think of a conflict, you are not thinking hard enough. Anytime you are working in a group of people, differences of opinion arise. It does not have to be an earth-shattering, knock-down brawl, (in fact, that would probably not be a good example, unless you were the mediator) but a specific example where you helped to resolve a difference of opinion would suffice.
Question: Give me an example of a time when you had to deal with a difficult team member, and how did you go about bringing this person around?
Answer: long, awkward silence with individual looking down at table followed by Pass
This was the answer we received during a technician interview. I realize that there are going to be times when you just cant think of a good example, but I would refrain from saying pass. This is not the $64,000 pyramid, for cripes sake!
It is definitely acceptable to ask if you can come back to that question, as there is nothing that pops to mind immediately, but do not turn this into a game show!
Question: Do you have any questions for me regarding this position?
Answer: No, not that I can think of
This answer, to me, indicates that you have not done your homework. If it is a new organization that you are interviewing with, do some research into recent happenings and news. Ask a question regarding this, as it shows interest and research. If it is a position within the same organization you are interviewing for, ask about the expectations from the manager for this particular position. Ask what the manager is specifically looking for that may not be written on the position description, and then use the opportunity to sell yourself and how you can fill those expectations. Ask what training the manager may think is important for you should you be given the job. All of these indicate a genuine interest in the position!
This is not by far a complete listing of questions you should expect in an interview, and I truthfully hope that most of you would not respond as some of my previous applicants have. I do believe that the insights I have gathered will apply to most interviews for most positions, although not all by any means. Further, I hope that if you are preparing for an interview in the near future, some of my insights are helpful to you. I truly enjoy interviewing prospects, as it gives me insight into the person, and may lead to a role within the organization that is not directly related to the current position.
If you found this helpful (or amusing) at all, please leave me a rating and a comment. I would like to hear of your experiences as well, so write on!
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