Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The 25 most difficult questions you'll be asked on a job interview

Being prepared is half the battle.

If you are one of those executive types unhappy at your present post and embarking on a New Year's resolution to find a new one, here's a helping hand. The job interview is considered to be the most critical aspect of every expedition that brings you face-to- face with the future boss. One must prepare for it with the same tenacity and quickness as one does for a fencing tournament or a chess match.

This article has been excerpted from "PARTING COMPANY: How to Survive the Loss of a Job and Find Another Successfully" by William J. Morin and James C. Cabrera. Copyright by Drake Beam Morin, inc. Published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Morin is chairman and Cabrera is president of New York-based Drake Beam Morin, nation's major outplacement firm, which has opened offices in Philadelphia.

1. Tell me about yourself.

Since this is often the opening question in an interview, be more careful that you don't run off at the mouth. Keep your answer to a minute or two at most. Cover four topics: early years, education, work history, and recent career experience. Emphasize this last subject. Remember that this is likely to be a warm-up question. Don't waste your best points on it.

2. What do you know about our organization?

You should be able to discuss products or services, revenues, reputation, image, goals, problems, management style, people, history and philosophy. But don't act as if you know everything about the place. Let your answer show that you have taken the time to do some research, but don't overwhelm the interviewer, and make it clear that you wish to learn more.

You might start your answer in this manner: "In my job search, I've investigated a number of companies.

Yours is one of the few that interests me, for these reasons..."

Give your answer a positive tone. Don't say, "Well, everyone tells me that you're in all sorts of trouble, and that's why I'm here", even if that is why you're there.

3. Why do you want to work for us?

The deadliest answer you can give is "Because I like people." What else would you like-animals?

Here, and throughout the interview, a good answer comes from having done your homework so that you can speak in terms of the company's needs. You might say that your research has shown that the company is doing things you would like to be involved with, and that it's doing them in ways that greatly interest you. For example, if the organization is known for strong management, your answer should mention that fact and show that you would like to be a part of that team. If the company places a great deal of emphasis on research and development, emphasize the fact that you want to create new things and that you know this is a place in which such activity is encouraged. If the organization stresses financial controls, your answer should mention a reverence for numbers.

If you feel that you have to concoct an answer to this question - if, for example, the company stresses research, and you feel that you should mention it even though it really doesn't interest you- then you probably should not be taking that interview, because you probably shouldn't be considering a job with that organization.

Your homework should include learning enough about the company to avoid approaching places where you wouldn't be able -or wouldn't want- to function. Since most of us are poor liars, it's difficult to con anyone in an interview. But even if you should succeed at it, your prize is a job you don't really want.

4. What can you do for us that someone else can't?

Here you have every right, and perhaps an obligation, to toot your own horn and be a bit egotistical. Talk about your record of getting things done, and mention specifics from your resume or list of career accomplishments. Say that your skills and interests, combined with this history of getting results, make you valuable. Mention your ability to set priorities, identify problems, and use your experience and energy to solve them.
5. What do you find most attractive about this position? What seems least attractive about it?

List three or four attractive factors of the job, and mention a single, minor, unattractive item.

6. Why should we hire you?

Create your answer by thinking in terms of your ability, your experience, and your energy. (See question 4.)

7. What do you look for in a job?

Keep your answer oriented to opportunities at this organization. Talk about your desire to perform and be recognized for your contributions. Make your answer oriented toward opportunity rather than personal security.
8. Please give me your definition of [the position for which you are being interviewed].

Keep your answer brief and task oriented. Think in in terms of responsibilities and accountability. Make sure that you really do understand what the position involves before you attempt an answer. If you are not certain. ask the interviewer; he or she may answer the question for you.

9. How long would it take you to make a meaningful contribution to our firm?

Be realistic. Say that, while you would expect to meet pressing demands and pull your own weight from the first day, it might take six months to a year before you could expect to know the organization and its needs well enough to make a major contribution.

10. How long would you stay with us?

Say that you are interested in a career with the organization, but admit that you would have to continue to feel challenged to remain with any organization. Think in terms of, "As long as we both feel achievement-oriented."

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