Wednesday, June 24, 2009

General & HR Interview Question and Answer

Mental fear of the unknown is often what produces the physical symptoms of nervousness. In addition to preparing yourself physically, you also need to prepare yourself mentally. The best way to prepare mentally is to know what may be coming. Fear of the unknown can only exist when there is an unknown. Take the time to understand some of the "standards" when it comes to interviewing questions.
The following are some of the most difficult questions you will face in the course of your job interviews. Some questions may seem rather simple on the surface--such as "Tell me about yourself"--but these questions can have a variety of answers. The more open-ended the question, the wider the variation in the answers. Once you have become practiced in your interviewing skills, you will find that you can use almost any question as a launching pad for a particular topic or compelling story.
Others are "classic" interview questions, such as, "What is your greatest weakness?" Questions which most people answer inappropriately. In this case, the standard textbook answer for the "greatest weakness" question is to give a veiled positive--"I work too much. I just work and work and work"--which ends up sending the wrong message. Either you are lying or, worse yet, you are telling the truth, in which case you define working too much as a weakness and really don't want to work much at all. Think about it.
The following answers are provided to give you a new perspective on how to answer tough interview questions. They are not there for you to lift from the page and insert into your next interview. They are there for you to use as the basic structure for formulating your own answers. While the specifics of each reply may not apply to you, try to follow the basic structure of the answer from the perspective of the interviewer. Answer the questions behaviorally, with specific examples that show clear evidence backs up what you are saying about yourself. Always provide information that shows you want to become the very best _____ for the company and that you have specifically prepared yourself to become exactly that. They want to be sold. They are waiting to be sold. Don't disappoint them!
1. Tell me about yourself.
My background to date has been centered around preparing myself to become the very best _____ I can become. Let me tell you specifically how I've prepared myself . . .
2. Why should I hire you?
Because I sincerely believe that I'm the best person for the job. I realize that there are many other college students who have the ability to do this job. I also have that ability. But I also bring an additional quality that makes me the very best person for the job--my attitude for excellence. Not just giving lip service to excellence, but putting every part of myself into achieving it. In _____ and _____ I have consistently reached for becoming the very best I can become by doing the following . . .
3. What is your long-range objective? Where do you want to be 10 or 15 years from now?
Although it's certainly difficult to predict things far into the future, I know what direction I want to develop toward. Within five years, I would like to become the very best _____ your company has. In fact, my personal career mission statement is to become a world-class _____ in the _____ industry. I will work toward becoming the expert that others rely upon. And in doing so, I feel I will be fully prepared to take on any greater responsibilities that might be presented in the long term.
4. How has your education prepared you for your career?
As you will note on my resume, I've taken not only the required core classes in the _____ field, I've also gone above and beyond. I've taken every class the college has to offer in the field and also completed an independent study project specifically in this area. But it's not just taking the classes to gain academic knowledge--I've taken each class, both inside and outside of my major, with this profession in mind. So when we're studying _____ in _____, I've viewed it from the perspective of _____. In addition, I've always tried to keep a practical view of how the information would apply to my job. Not just theory, but how it would actually apply. My capstone course project in my final semester involved developing a real-world model of _____, which is very similar to what might be used within your company. Let me tell you more about it . . .
5. Are you a team player?
Very much so. In fact, I've had opportunities in both athletics and academics to develop my skills as a team player. I was involved in _____ at the intramural level, including leading my team in assists during the past year--I always try to help others achieve their best. In academics, I've worked on several team projects, serving as both a member and team leader. I've seen the value of working together as a team to achieve a greater goal than any one of us could have achieved individually. As an example . . .
6. Have you ever had a conflict with a boss or professor? How was it resolved?
Yes, I have had conflicts in the past. Never major ones, but certainly there have been situations where there was a disagreement that needed to be resolved. I've found that when conflict occurs, it's because of a failure to see both sides of the situation. Therefore, I ask the other person to give me their perspective and at the same time ask that they allow me to fully explain my perspective. At that point, I would work with the person to find out if a compromise could be reached. If not, I would submit to their decision because they are my superior. In the end, you have to be willing to submit yourself to the directives of your superior, whether you're in full agreement or not. An example of this was when . . .
7. What is your greatest weakness?
I would say my greatest weakness has been my lack of proper planning in the past. I would overcommit myself with too many variant tasks, then not be able to fully accomplish each as I would like. However, since I've come to recognize that weakness, I've taken steps to correct it. For example, I now carry a planning calendar in my pocket so that I can plan all of my appointments and "to do" items. Here, let me show you how I have this week planned out . . .
8. If I were to ask your professors to describe you, what would they say?
I believe they would say I'm a very energetic person, that I put my mind to the task at hand and see to it that it's accomplished. They would say that if they ever had something that needed to be done, I was the person who they could always depend on to see that it was accomplished. They would say that I always took a keen interest in the subjects I was studying and always sought ways to apply the knowledge in real world settings. Am I just guessing that they would say these things? No, in fact, I'm quite certain they would say those things because I have with me several letters of recommendation from my professors, and those are their very words. Let me show you . . .
9. What qualities do you feel a successful manager should have?
The key quality should be leadership--the ability to be the visionary for the people who are working under them. The person who can set the course and direction for subordinates. A manager should also be a positive role model for others to follow. The highest calling of a true leader is inspiring others to reach the highest of their abilities. I'd like to tell you about a person who I consider to be a true leader . . .
10. If you had to live your life over again, what would you change?
That's a good question. I realize that it can be very easy to continually look back and wish that things had been different in the past. But I also realize that things in the past cannot be changed, that only things in the future can be changed. That's why I continually strive to improve myself each and every day and that's why I'm working hard to continually increase my knowledge in the _____ field. That's also the reason why I want to become the very best _____ your company has ever had. To make positive change. And all of that is still in the future. So in answer to your question, there isn't anything in my past that I would change. I look only to the future to make changes in my life.
In reviewing the above responses, please remember that these are sample answers. Please do not rehearse them verbatim or adopt them as your own. They are meant to stir your creative juices and get you thinking about how to properly answer the broader range of questions that you will face.
Fifty Standard Interview Questions

It is not enough to have solid answers only for the above questions. You need to be prepared for the full spectrum of questions that may be presented. For further practice, make sure you go through the required mock interview (see the "Competitive Interview Prep" Section) and for further review, look at some of the following questions:
1. Tell me about yourself.
2. What do you want to do with your life?
3. Do you have any actual work experience?
4. How would you describe your ideal job?
5. Why did you choose this career?
6. When did you decide on this career?
7. What goals do you have in your career?
8. How do you plan to achieve these goals?
9. How do you evaluate success?
10. Describe a situation in which you were successful.
11. What do you think it takes to be successful in this career?
12. What accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction in your life?
13. If you had to live your life over again, what would you change?
14. Would your rather work with information or with people?
15. Are you a team player?
16. What motivates you?
17. Why should I hire you?
18. Are you a goal-oriented person?
19. Tell me about some of your recent goals and what you did to achieve them.
20. What are your short-term goals?
21. What is your long-range objective?
22. What do you see yourself doing five years from now?
23. Where do you want to be ten years from now?
24. Do you handle conflict well?
25. Have you ever had a conflict with a boss or professor? How did you resolve it?
26. What major problem have you had to deal with recently?
27. Do you handle pressure well?
28. What is your greatest strength?
29. What is your greatest weakness?
30. If I were to ask one of your professors to describe you, what would he or she say?
31. Why did you choose to attend your college?
32. What changes would you make at your college?
33. How has your education prepared you for your career?
34. What were your favorite classes? Why?
35. Do you enjoy doing independent research?
36. Who were your favorite professors? Why?
37. Why is your GPA not higher?
38. Do you have any plans for further education?
39. How much training do you think you'll need to become a productive employee?
40. What qualities do you feel a successful manager should have?
41. Why do you want to work in the _____ industry?
42. What do you know about our company?
43. Why are you interested in our company?
44. Do you have any location preferences?
45. How familiar are you with the community that we're located in?
46. Will you relocate? In the future?
47. Are you willing to travel? How much?
48. Is money important to you?
49. How much money do you need to make to be happy?
50. What kind of salary are you looking for?
Don't just read these questions--practice and rehearse the answers. Don't let the company interview be the first time you have actually formulated an answer in spoken words. It is not enough to think about them in your head--practice! Sit down with a friend, a significant other, or your roommate (an especially effective critic, given the amount of preparation to date) and go through all of the questions. Make the most of every single interview opportunity by being fully prepared!
Top Ten Critical Success Factors

With all the different questions being referenced, you may wonder what exactly the employer is looking for. And I will tell you. Following is the list of the top ten critical success factors that nearly every employer is seeking:
1. Positive attitude toward work
2. Proficiency in field of study
3. Communication skills (oral and written)
4. Interpersonal skills
5. Confidence
6. Critical thinking and problem solving skills
7. Flexibility
8. Self-motivation
9. Leadership
10. Teamwork
Show your competence in as many of the above critical success factors as possible and you will rise above the competition.

One Interview Question That Nearly Every College Student Fails

Here it is. The one question that nearly every college student fails to answer properly (and will continue to send students to their interview ruin) is:
"Why did you choose to attend this college?"
You have spent the last several years knocking the college--the professors, the administration, the dorms, the food in the dining halls, whatever--and now you suddenly need to come to its defense. And if you have not thought of an answer before the interview, you definitely will not come up with a valid one on the spot.
So think about it in advance. What is the real reason you are attending your college? Is it because of the academic program? Is it because of extracurricular programs? Athletics? Close to home? Party school? Great dating opportunities? Everyone else turned you down?
Once you acknowledge your true reason for attending, you will need to temper your response with some directed reasoning--tie in what it is about your college that makes it worthwhile from the perspective of the employer. Your response should emphasize what it is about the school that makes it an attractive training ground for this employer. You need to talk about your college as the ideal training facility for becoming a _____ with that company.
You might find it best to give a "process answer" such as:
"I originally decided to attend State U. because of its strong general academic reputation and its close proximity to my home, which gave me the opportunity to continue working at my part-time job. During the years I have spent here, I have come to truly appreciate the depth and breadth of the _____ curriculum. It has given me an excellent foundation for becoming an immediate contributor in the _____ field."
Lay on the superlatives, but don't get mushy. You will come to appreciate your time at college later in life, but for now, a few well-chosen words about why it is #1 for you in your career will suffice.
Job Search Information

What To Do If You Are Asked An Illegal Question
The interview is going along smoothly. You are psyched that "this may be the one." And then it happens. Out of nowhere. "Are you considering having children?" Or, "How long has your family been in this country?" Or, "Your people place a high value on that, don't they?" Or, "You've done amazingly well for someone in a wheelchair. How long have you had to use one?"
On the surface the question may seem innocent enough. And most of the time, they are truly asked in innocence. Yet the structure and format of the question is entirely illegal. So what do you do? How do you respond?
First of all, it is important to understand the difference between an illegal question and a criminally liable question. Even though a question or comment may have been stated in an illegal form, it does not necessarily mean that a crime has been committed. There is a difference between criminal liability and civil liability. For there to be criminal liability, it requires establishing a motive or intent. Most illegal questions are asked in ignorance, not with malicious intent. Yet there can still be civil recourse, even when there was no criminal motive or intent.
In our politically correct society, we often cry "foul" at the slightest deviation from the accepted standard. But the reality is that most illegal interview questions are asked in true innocence. Or, better stated, in true ignorance. Ignorance of the law, ignorance of what questions are proper, ignorance of how the information could be used by others in a discriminatory way.
Ironically, most illegal questions are asked when the untrained interviewer is trying to be more friendly and asks a seemingly innocent question about your personal life or family background. Therefore, any attempt by the candidate to assert their constitutional rights will merely throw up the defense shields and will put an end to mutual consideration. Warning lights go on, sirens sound, and the interviewer begins backing down from what may have been an otherwise very encouraging position.
So what is the proper response? The answer is up to you, but my recommendation is to follow one of two courses of action: answer in brief and move on to a new topic area, or ignore the question altogether and redirect the discussion to a new topic area. The interviewer may even recognize the personal misstep and appreciate your willingness to put it aside and go on.
Unless the question is blatantly discriminatory--and yes, blatant discrimination does still take place--your best option is to move on to other things. But if it is blatant and offensive, you have every right to terminate the interview and walk out.
While laws vary from state to state, there are some definite taboo areas with regard to interview questions which employers should avoid. Following is a brief list of some of the questions that employers should not be asking:
 Questions related to birthplace, nationality, ancestry, or descent of applicant, applicant's spouse, or parents
(Example: "Pasquale--is that a Spanish name?")
 Questions related to applicant's sex or marital status
(Example: "Is that your maiden name?")
 Questions related to race or color
(Example: "Are you considered to be part of a minority group?")
 Questions related to religion or religious days observed
(Example: "Does your religion prevent you from working weekends or holidays?")
 Questions related to physical disabilities or handicaps
(Example: "Do you have any use of your legs at all?")
 Questions related to health or medical history
(Example: "Do you have any pre-existing health conditions?")
 Questions related to pregnancy, birth control, and child care
(Example: "Are you planning on having children?")
It should be noted that just because an illegal question has been asked does not necessarily mean a crime has been committed. It is up to a court of law to determine whether the information was used in a discriminatory manner.

Interview question what are your strong points

It is important to prepare in advance for the interview question what are your strong points. If you've already listed your strengths when preparing your CV / resume, coming up with three answers shouldn't be too difficult.
But be careful. The interviewer is asking you to sell yourself, but at the same time, they do not want to hear you being arrogant. And while they may want to know about your personality (if you are over confident they will certainly learn something about you), do remember that this is still an interview situation, so your answers must be relevant to the job in question. In other words, don't get too personal.
So how do you go about answering the interview question what are your strong points? The general recommendation is to prepare at least three answers and to relate them to the organisation and the vacancy. This means you need to tailor your answers. Ensure there is truth in what you say, but do not be too honest, especially it makes you sound like a less than ideal candidate.
Here are some suggested responses and the reasons why they might work in interviews for certain kinds of jobs.
"I am confident and outgoing"
This is a response that says something about your personality, but if you are applying for a role where you need to relate to a lot of people - particularly the public - it will serve your purposes. However, if the vacancy involves consultation, it might be better to say "I have good interpersonal skills", as this implies that you are able to listen to people as well.
"I enjoy a challenge"
Be careful with this. It is an excellent response if the vacancy requires problem solving, or servicing of some kind, working to tight deadlines or project completion. It will obviously not be helpful if the job is less dynamic and involves a larger amount of regular, less exciting duties - the employer might be concerned that you will become bored. You could always qualify it to offer a more balanced response: "I enjoy a challenge, but I'm also happy completing regular tasks." Then it illustrates that you're flexible and responsive to different work situations.
"I'm a strong team leader"
Clearly, this is appropriate if the job involves managing people. It's a good idea to show that you know what leading a team involves (although this will no doubt come up in other questions too). So, "I'm a strong team leader with the ability to motivate others" and "I'm a strong team leader who leads by example" represent stronger answers. Draw on your own understanding of your management skills plus the job description to decide what you'll say here.
"I am ambitious"
This is a very strong answer and you should use it with care. In the wrong situation, it can sound hard-headed and the employer may wonder whether you'll compete too fiercely with your colleagues, or even your superiors. However, in a sales role it might be perfect, especially if you focus your response a little more: "I am ambitious and aim to exceed targets".
"I am dedicated and hard working"
You're on safe ground here, as this can be true whatever your individual working style. It's not the most exciting answer, but when presented alongside two others that are more individual, it should offer reassurance to the interviewer.
"I am a good communicator"
Again, this is a win-win answer. Be prepared to expand, though: specify whether you have strong writing skills, are good at explaining difficult ideas in a simple way, or perform well at important meetings.
"I work well without supervision"
A majority of employers would be pleased to hear this, providing the vacancy is at a level where they'd normally expect you to need a degree of supervision. But be careful not to sound as if you prefer to work without supervision, as this may sound as if you risk coming into conflict with your supervisor or manager. A safer option might be to state "I work well with or without supervision".
"I enjoy learning through my work"
Again, this is a safe answer. The interviewer might then ask how you have done this in the past, so be ready to give details of some hands-on learning or special training you've experienced, and to say why you enjoyed it.
And finally
These examples show that when preparing an answer to the interview question what are your strong points, it is important to consider whether your responses could be taken the wrong way. Put yourself in the interviewer's shoes - you can then ensure that the potential for a negative interpretation is removed.