Top 20 Interview Questions -- Part 2

11. What’s your greatest weakness?
Don’t ever answer by saying you have no weaknesses, because that’s not honest; after all,
we all have some. On the other hand, you shouldn’t spill your guts about all your sins, and all
the negative things you’ve done. Instead, concentrate on a small flaw related to your work,
then describe how you’re working to improve, or perhaps have already made a change to
improve. The best answer is one that turns a seemingly negative trait into a positive one. For
example, you could say that your organizational skills weren’t the strongest, but you’ve since
created a new time management system that has helped you tremendously.

12. What pay / salary are you looking for?
This can be a very tricky topic to discuss early in the interview process, and can be like a
minefield. If you were to give an answer and come up with a dollar amount that’s lower than
what the employer is willing to pay, then you’ve not only locked yourself into less money, but
you may have also given the recruiter the impression that you’re not as valuable a candidate
as what they’re looking for. On the other hand, if you come in too high, you may have just
disqualified yourself from the job—and it’s very difficult to back-pedal and say you’re willing to
accept less.

If you’ve been told what the employer plans to pay for this position then you’re much safer in
having such a conversation. If, however, you haven’t been told their pay range, then spend
time on salary.com in advance of your interview. Even then, you’ll only learn what the
industry standards are for your geographical area for someone with your experience, but
there’s no guarantee that the company you’re interviewing with falls within that 'normal'
range. You can also visit a newer website, glassdoor.com. Here you can find compensation
ranges for specific jobs at specific companies, although their database of jobs is somewhat
limited. Also, they'll give you only a brief glimpse at a handful of jobs before they freeze the
site, requiring you to post your compensation level (anonymously) before you can continue
viewing.

There’s a very good chance you won’t be asked about your compensation expectations early
in the process, but if you are, my suggestion is you try to reverse the question: “Can you
please tell me what has been allocated for this position?” Nine out of ten recruiters won’t offer
that information at this time, but you can try asking. So let’s say you’re working with a
recruiter that won’t tell you; now what? Is it best to hedge and not answer? No! Speaking for
me, I get irritated with candidates that won’t answer my direct question. I want to know if we’re
wasting each other’s time by not being on the same page with compensation levels. For
example, if I’m trying to fill a certain type of engineering position and we’re prepared to pay
between $75,000 and $80,000, then speaking with a candidate that expects $105,000 is
wasting everyone's time. It’s time to interject an important note here: when I'm working with a
new candidate, I ask not only what their expectations are, but what their current
compensation is, too, and I do this for a few reasons: If the candidate is currently at, say,
$60,000 but wants $80,000, then I’d have to question what this candidate has done to
increase his value by such a dramatic amount. Are they currently being underpaid? Do they
have an overly inflated idea of their value? If a candidate is willing to take a large pay cut
because of the tough economy, I may continue with this candidate, but with real caution. Not
only do I want to help people to move forward in their career—not backward—but I don’t want
to work with a candidate that’s willing to take a pay cut for now just to get a job, knowing he’ll
keep looking for something down the road that will pay more. Here’s how I suggest handling
this question. “I’m currently at $75,000. It’s my understanding that this position pays $70,000
to $75,000. Of course, I’d be interested in increasing my salary, but I’m more interested in the
opportunity itself. I’m open to having a conversation about the same or slightly lower starting
salary, but would hope we can continue this conversation in a few months, once I’ve had an
opportunity to prove my value to you.”

13. Do you prefer to work with others, or to work on your own?
There are a few jobs in which you’d be working totally on your own--such as the far corner of
a warehouse--but those are few and far between. Usually a position requires that you work
with others, as a member of a team. It’s best that you answer your preference is to work with
others, or you could respond that you're comfortable in either setting. Please note that if you
truly prefer to work on your own, you’re tremendously limiting your growth potential; do some
introspection and work on this part of your personality.

14. Give me an example of a suggestion you made that was actually put to use.
It’s not good enough to have lots of great ideas; what idea have you come up with that was
actually implemented? Not everyone can say they’ve accomplished this, but if you have, it
shows initiative, creativity, and a desire to help the company grow.

15. Tell me about some co-workers or bosses that have been especially difficult to
work with, and how did you deal with them?
We all have experience with a former co-worker or boss that was difficult to work with. We get
that. But when asked this question, never ever share those experiences, for several reasons:
If I hire you, will you speak badly about me, too, when you move on? Does this indicate your
inability to get along with others? Do you have a negative attitude? If you were to speak
poorly of more than just one person, it could be concluded that
you are the difficult person,
and you’re not willing to look at yourself. You could answer in a positive way, such as saying
you’ve never had a
bad boss, but that several were stronger than the rest, and from them
you were able to learn much.

16. What's important to you in a job? (Similar question: What criteria do you look at in
deciding if you will take a job or not?
)
Remember, the ultimate purpose of an interview is to determine if you’re a good fit for the
company, and if they’re a good fit for you. If there’s an aspect of a job that’s very important to
you, make sure you’re honest and say so. If that particular issue is not in place at the comp-
any, and depending upon what it is, perhaps the company may consider implementing it. Or,
you can decide that, while this issue is important to you, you can in good faith still accept a
position without that issue, or you can stay true to your desires and turn down such an
employment offer. In all cases, though, be honest and follow your instincts.

17. Describe a difficult work situation, and how you dealt with it.
This is a behavioral question that’s designed to learn more about what you’re like as a per-
son, and how well you’re able to interact with others in difficult situations. While there’s no
right or wrong answer, this type of question is based on the probability that how you behaved
in the past is a predictor of how you’ll behave in the future. Give concrete examples of situa-
tions you were involved in that were especially difficult, and how you dealt with them—and
maintain a positive attitude. For example, “The merger between the two companies was
especially difficult, especially considering they were almost two hundred miles apart. I was
able to ease the transition by prioritizing items that had to moved, and creating a logical
sequence. I also spearheaded planning meetings with the IT team so we could effectively
move and re-install all technical equipment in a seamless fashion.” To prepare for such a
question it’s best to recall specific events and actions, and use those situations to best frame
your responses.

18. Where do you see yourself in five years? (Similar question: What are your career
goals?
)
There are two key reasons you may be asked this question. If you’re seriously being consid-
ered as a candidate, knowing what your goals are will better help the employer know if they
will likely to be a match for you down the road. Also, if a person has a solid idea where they’
re going, more than likely they take their career seriously, and don’t accept a job on a whim.
Having a solid idea of one’s career goals also is indicative that a person is more likely to be
stable. Being able to provide a solid answer is important, but be careful to not be  so very
specific that no job or company can possibly be a match for you; this will scare off potential
employers.

19. Why should we hire you?
Responding to this question is best handled by providing the employer with a good reason to
hire you, and helping them picture you in this job:

  • A laundry list of talents you possess as they relate to the job description; show that     
    you’re a nice match for their job
  • Your achievements and successes, and record of getting things done
  • Past work experience that’s relevant to the job you’re applying for

The key is to show the employer how strong of an asset you would be, and that you’re well-
qualified to effectively take on the responsibilities of this job. Focus on your own skills and
talents, and never speak negatively about any other candidate. Lastly, express your interest
in their job and their company, if in fact you’re interested.

20. Does your current employer know you’re looking for a new job, and are you willing
to accept a counter-offer from your current employer?
If your employer knows you’re looking for a new job and you say you’re willing to accept a
counter-offer from them, then you’re portraying yourself as someone trying to play one new
employer against another, and nobody likes that game. You should only be interviewing if   
you’re sincerely looking and available for a new job, and anything short of that will be deceit-
ful, and a waste of everyone’s time.
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