The Secrets of Interview Questions
Employers have a bag of tricks and are heavily armed with interview questions and tactics. You can and must be too. I conducted a business class of HR personnel and the average number of interviews conducted per attendee in the room was over one thousand. Notwithstanding, there are smaller companies where the interviewer wears varying hats, with today’s employment and hiring laws, employers are usually well rehearsed. The point is the person across the table from you is probably more experienced at interviewing than you are at being interviewed.
Most job candidates have been to less than twenty-five interviews in their life. Do the math. You have got to practice your sales presentation. If you don’t have your sales presentation down to a science, you are going to be eaten alive!
This does not mean you memorize answers to every possible question. A sales presentation is not about rehearsing answers to every specific question. You will need to practice and prepare, but a sales presentation is about determining and assessing your customer’s needs, and being sure yourself, first, and then convincing them that you will best fill those needs. One way to recognize what the customer’s (employer’s) needs is to identify the question types the interviewer is asking.
Employer Secret 75: Employers use tactically planned questions based on the information they are looking for.
There are several general question category types used by employers that can be classified as follows:
• Past behavioral questions
• Future situation questions
• Knowledge and Experience questions
• Verified Questions
• Verifiable Questions
• Fishing Questions
Employer Secret 73: Employers often use a point scale to rate your answers.
Past Behavioral Interview Questions
The idea behind these types of questions is that a person’s past behavior predicts their future actions. Employers take significant stock in these answers. Our entire credit system is founded on this principal. People and businesses are loaned money based on how they have paid their bills in the past.
Our judicial system relies on this principal. People with convictions for past criminal behavior are dealt with more harshly than first time offenders. You need to be prepared to present your past in an honest and positive manner.
Examples of past behavioral questions:
• Can you tell me about a time when you had to choose between honesty and dishonesty and how you made your decision?
• Can you tell me about a past situation where you found a creative solution to a tough problem?
• Can you tell me about a time when you had a problem employee, what the specific problem was, and how you handled it? (Management position)
Answers to past behavioral questions theoretically predict future job performance if the answers are accurate. Follow up questions to the candidate are aimed at measuring the validity of the answer. The candidate might be asked to provide a supervisor’s name that can collaborate the answers. Or the interviewer might ask follow up ‘trip’ questions to establish validity, such as:
Can you tell me what year and month that happened and at which job?
This question implies that the company might be validating this information in some way and the candidate could suddenly feel a bit of uneasiness, especially if the answer was difficult to recall or deviated from the truth.
More questions such as these might follow:
• Can you tell me how the employee reacted?
• Can you tell me how your supervisor reacted?
Some interviewers might even smell blood at this point and become quite persistent. I have watched interviews fall apart during this query barrage. If you find yourself in this situation do not panic. Literally take a deep breath and slow down. You can change the pace of an interview by waiting several seconds to answer and talking slow.
A friend of mine uses this technique when we play poker. Every time one of the players gets on a lucky streak and wins several hands in a row, he slows the game down. He can stall better than anyone I have met. He will strike up a conversation, deal slowly, test everyone’s patience by not being able to make a decision on a ‘hit,’ take a telephone call, develop memory loss, and even resort to drastic measures like spilling a drink. As childish as this all seems, his stalling works. The momentum is slowed and the luck of the table seems to change.
I am not suggesting you have memory loss or take a telephone call during an interview, in fact I’m strongly recommending you do not. The point is you can regroup and change the direction of an interview by altering the pace. The interviewer will lose interest when he or she realizes that you are not rattled. Your sudden seemingly methodical responses will throw the interviewer off their game.
One of my colleagues uses one different word when asking past behavioral questions. “Will you tell me about a time when you had to choose between honesty and dishonesty and how you made your decision?” This one word backs some candidates into a corner. Using the word ‘will’ to start the question indicates that the interviewer is sure that this has occurred, and that anything less than an admission might seem like insubordination.
Past behavioral questions are not always limited to work experience. Questions regarding school, personal, volunteer, or membership experiences might also be asked.
Future Situation or Hypothetical Interview Questions
The purpose of future situation questions is to assess how the candidate might act under a specific set of circumstances. An example of a future situation question is:
Let’s say that we have an exceptional employee with seniority that is out-producing all others by over one hundred per cent. This employee is punctual, never misses work, and is in all ways perfect except that he continually questions your decisions in front of other employees. He also happens to be a good friend of your supervisor. What would you do? Please limit your answer to three sentences.
Knowledge and Experience Interview Questions
These are questions about your knowledge and experience.
Employer Secret 62: When a candidate is called for an interview, his or her knowledge and experience are not the biggest issues.
When you have been called for an interview, you have been called because of your knowledge and experience. Few employees are fired because they lacked the knowledge and experience to do the job. Your knowledge and experience that are pertinent to the employer’s opening are important, and your skill level might be tested. But finding out what kind of person you are, how you will behave, and how effectively you can apply your experience and knowledge are the employer’s main concerns. Verifying that you have the knowledge and experience you claim is an issue.
Verifiable Questions and Verified Interview Questions
Verifiable questions are questions that the employer can verify. Verified questions are verifiable questions that the interviewer has already verified. These are not rhetorical questions because the interviewer expects an answer, and the fact that the interviewer knows the answer is not so obvious.
Employer Secret 52: Employers ask candidates questions about the candidates or their past that the employer already has the answer to.
Sometimes employers have already verified your past employment or done some investigative work before the interview. If all of this is beginning to sound like a lot of hard work, you need to know that being prepared for a successful job interview is hard work – but I have good news.
Knocking Down Their House of Cards
Here’s good news about interview questions:
• You already have the answers to past behavioral questions!
• Situational or hypothetical questions are not verifiable!
• You already have the answers to knowledge and experience questions!
• When it comes to the product which is ‘you,’ you are the expert.
• Most employers will be asking other candidates for the same position basically the same questions.
Employer Secret 69: During the job interview, a rehearsed candidate with job selling skills has an advantage.
How can this be? After all the cards are stacked against the candidate. True. But the employer is buying. The employer is in the position of Company YOU (from Employer Secrets.)
If people really had to buy and pay for computers like Company YOU, (as in Employer Secrets) they would be cautious and maybe even paranoid. As the computer salesperson (job candidate), you have almost all of the knowledge about the product the employer is considering. You are the expert on you and now you are learning the employers’ secrets.
Know your resume, practice job selling skills, and remember, you are there to listen and learn about the employer and their needs.
How do you turn an interview into a sales presentation?
Asking questions puts you in control and timing is critical.
Remember Listening Science Lesson Nine? Timing is critical. Again, do not walk in to an interview firing a barrage of questions. I always respond to the first three to five questions with one to three sentence answers, or yes or no. Then I start adding a question after my answer. I have been to or observed plenty of interviews where the interviewer does not give the candidate the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview. Again, I don’t wait for an invitation to ask questions, and I don’t care how tough their questions are, I still work mine in.
Tough Interview Questions and My Answers
1. Why do you want to work for this company?
The answer to this question depends on the timing. If the question is being asked prematurely, before I have had the opportunity to ask questions about the company here is my answer: I am not yet convinced that I do. Will you tell what you find most appealing about working here?
If the question is asked late in the interview and after I have had the chance to ask what I wanted, here is my answer:
I find the company and position you have described exciting.
Will you tell what you find most appealing about working here?
2. What makes you think you can do this job?
If this question is being asked prematurely, before the position has been discussed and before I have asked questions, here is my answer: I do not have enough information about the position to tell you that I can do this job. Could you please tell me what you see in my qualifications and experience that make you believe I can do this job? ( I am not looking for assurance here, I answer and ask with confidence in order to obtain information.)
If the question is being asked after the position has been described I would answer: I am confident that with my knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm, I can do this job. What makes you think I can do this job?
3. In what area do you feel you need improvement?
Since I consistently strive to improve myself in all areas at every opportunity, there is no specific listed skill in which I am not proficient. What are the specific challenges of this position that you think will require special attention?
4. Are you punctual?
I have read that the first thirty minutes on the job are the most non productive as employees spend time becoming acclimated to their work environment. I have learned to arrive early to increase my productivity. Has tardiness been a management issue for you?
5. Are you happy with your current employer?
I have a great deal of respect for my present employer. If I choose to leave I will give whatever notice my employer needs, within reason, to compensate for my position. If this period is as long as four weeks, will that be acceptable to you?
6. What is your worst characteristic?
I sometimes expect the same level of company loyalty from others as my own. Are employees here happy with the company?
7. Why are you leaving your present position?
If this question is asked before I have been offered the job, here is my answer: I am not sure I will be leaving my current employer. That decision will be based on what information you provide me with about your company and my assessment of my ability to fulfill your needs. How soon will you be making a hiring decision?
8. What kind of people do you have a difficult time working with?
I enjoy most personality types but do not appreciate disloyal or dishonest people. What types of people do you consider difficult?
Remember Listening Science Lesson Four? (from Employer Secrets)
• Asking questions gets the other person talking and you listening.
• Asking questions puts you in control.
• Asking questions gets you information
• Asking questions helps you develop empathy.
• Asking questions develops trust.
Questions are the POWER of conversation. Most people like to talk and most people like to talk about themselves. Getting the other person to talk gets you information, helps you gain control of the conversation, and increases the time you will be listening and not talking. The more someone talks to you the more they trust you.
Design questions as a candidate to get the interviewer to sell to you. Interviewers are usually trained in selling the company. Anytime you can get the employer selling to you, you’re in a stronger position. Here are some pertinent interview questions you can be asking:
- Would you describe the day to day duties and responsibilities for this job?
- Is this a new position in your company?
- What does the hiring process involve for this position?
- What do you think will attract candidates to your company?
- How many interviews will you conduct with an exceptional candidate?
- If not, what did the previous person in this position move on to?
- What is the management style here?
- Who would I be reporting to?
- When will I be meeting him or her?
- What opportunities for advancement are there for an exceptional person?
- How would this happen?
- What is are typical work hours per day and week?
- What do you enjoy about about working here?
- What would you change about this company?
- How soon would you like me to start?
- Are there additional qualifications you would like to see in a candidate that you have not mentioned?
- Do you have any additional questions for me?
Excerpt from Phil Baker’s Employer Secrets and How to Use Them to Get the Job and Pay You Want
Copyright 2010 Resume Dictionary
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