AQS Recruiters


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The Prudent Use of Questions

In any competition, from a spelling bee, to the sports arena, to a battlefield, the contest is largely won long before the engagement begins - in the research, preparation, training, and review, so that every contingency can be adequately covered.   And your preparation for each interview is similar.   You never know exactly what will happen, but by being ready, you can eliminate a lot of the uncertainty, and know how to react to different scenarios.

Information specific to the general interview preparation, a telephone interview, a on site interview, are covered on seperate pages you will find by clicking the links.

This page focuses on questions you are likely to be asked first, then goes on to those you should be ready to ask.

Interview Questions

Research tells us these are seven of the most commonly asked interviewing questions.  By giving them some thought before the interview occurs you will increase your opportunity to convey information effectively.
  1. Why do you want this job?
  2. Why do you want to leave your present company?
  3. Where do you see yourself in five years?
  4. What are your personal goals?
  5. What are your strengths and/or weaknesses?
  6. What do you like most about your current company?
  7. What do you like least about your current company?

How do you answer that last question and not say anything negative about your current or past employer?   This is one of the reasons we are reviewing these questions now!   It is a common reflex to point at other people, 'the boss did this', or 'they are just out to get me'.   It is much better to site the positive reasons you have for investigating new opportinities.   Think about the ideas we discovered in our Initial Review and Evaluation.   Answering these questions (and others) by expressing the core values you have identified will show your strength of character.   You will demonstrate your integrity rather than appearing to be a complainer or whiner.

Because you have considered 'why' and investigated what is most important to you, the answers to these fundamental issues should be easy to express.

There are several types of questions that interviewers like to ask.
  1. There are resume questions that relate to your past experience, skills, job responsibilities, education, upbringing, personal interests, and so forth.   Resume questions require accurate, objective answers, since your resume consists of facts that tend to be quantifiable (and verifiable).   Never lie.   Never exaggerate. - Whenever you tell the truth, you don't have to remember what you said.   lying on a resume is becoming one of the most common ways that people stretch the truth.   This game of employment Russian Resume Roulette is getting riskier and riskier because more human resources professionals are more aware and watching.   Almost 40% of human resources professionals surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management reported they've increased the amount of time they spend checking references over the past three years.
  2. Interviewers will expect you to comment on your abilities, or demonstrate your past performance.   You will be asked self-appraisal questions like,
    • 'What do you think is your greatest asset?' or,
    • 'Tell me about a situation where you had to solve a difficult problem.   What did you do?'
    These are also known as behavioral questions.   Queries such as 'When was the last time you thought "outside the box" and how did you do it?   Why?'   are intended to test your creativity.
  3. Interviewers investigate how you respond to different stimuli.   Situation questions ask you to explain certain actions you took in the past, or require that you explore hypothetical scenarios that may occur in the future.
    • 'Describe a situation in which you recognized a potential problem as an opportunity.  What did you do?   What was the result?   What do you wish you had done differently?', or,
    • 'Tell me about a time when you experienced a loss for doing what is right.   How did you react?' or,
    • 'Describe a situation where you had a conflict with another individual, and how you dealt with it.   What was the outcome?   How did you feel about it?' or,
    • 'How do you prioritize projects and tasks when scheduling your time?   Give me some examples.' or,
    • 'How would you select a successor if you were promoted?'   are typical situation questions.
  4. Some interviewers choose to evaluate the response to stress questions, off-the-wall or confrontational questions tend to jolt your equilibrium or put you in a defensive posture such as,
    • 'After you die, what would you like your epitaph to read?' or,
    • 'If you were to compare yourself to any U.S. president, who would it be and why?' or,
    • 'What are people's greatest misperceptions about you?' or,
    • 'What kind of selection process would you have for this position?'
    Stress questions are designed to evaluate your emotional reflexes, creativity, or attitudes while you?re under pressure.   The best way to handle them is to stay calm and give carefully considered answers.   Perhaps you can see the value in reviewing your background, your priorities, and your reasons for considering a new position.
  5. If you are asked technical questions you have no experience with, be honest, but then relate it to something else similar in your background - frequently interviewers will ask something they KNOW you are not familiar with, to see if you bluff, what your level of self confidence is, or how you handle yourself under pressure.   Not fair?   Well, there is a lot to know about you in a relatively short period of time before an offer for long-term employment is made, and your impact can have a lot to do with the manager's whole team, not just your own position.

We can email an extensive list of 'sample' interview questions, however, memorized/canned answers to hundreds of possible queries will just muddle your thoughts!   Relax.   Think of points you would like to make, right them down, adjust the wording, and then say it back to yourself.   This is not memorization but the practice will enable these ideas and phrases to flow more easily when you are under stress.   Remember to handle the interview honestly.  If you don?t know the answer to a question, just say so, or ask for a moment to think about your response.

Do not try to use impressive words.   The more natural your conversation is, the more readily you will be understood and the more impact it will have on people.   If your message is lost, it does not matter what you say.

Candidate Questions

The interview (whether on the phone or at the company location) is your short window of opportunity to show that not only are your skills a good match for the company?s requirements, but also to determine the ability of this company to provide the progression you desire.

An interview can quickly turn from the dialogue it should be into an interrogation or monologue unless you ask some high quality questions of your own.   Candidate questions are an important part of any successful interview, because they:
  • Create dialogue, which enables both parties to learn more about each other, and helps you visualize what it?ll be like working with this company once you?ve been hired;
  • Clarify your knowledge of the company and understanding of the position requirements/responsibilities;
  • Indicate to the interviewer your grasp of the fundamental issues discussed to this point;
  • Reveal your ability to effectively probe for detail while finding points of common interest; and
  • Evaluate the interviewer/employer's depth of knowledge, or commitment to the job you are seeking.
Your questions should always be slanted in such a way as to show empathy, interest, or understanding of the employer?s needs.   After all, the reason you?re interviewing is that the employer?s company has some piece of work that needs to be completed, or a problem that needs correcting - and there is a reasonable expectation that your skills will solve the problem!   Here are some questions that have proven to be very effective:
  1. What?s the most important issue facing your department?
  2. How can I help you resolve this issue?
  3. What projects will I be working on in the next year?
  4. What is the first objective you would like me to focus on?
  5. Is there any particular skill or attitude you feel is critical to getting the job done?
  6. Is there a unique aspect of my background that you?d like to exploit in order to help accomplish your objectives?
  7. Ask a technical question regarding implementation of new technology related to the position.   This may be something you noticed while researching the company.
  8. Ask a question regarding proposed regulations or policies that may impact the position.   This will demonstrate your knowledge of the industry and initiative to proactively investigate upcoming events.
Questions like these will not only give you a sense of the company?s goals and priorities, they?ll indicate to the interviewer your concern for satisfying the company?s objectives.   If you like what you have heard try: 'When do I start?'

Money, Money, Money

You will NEVER bring up the subject of money.   However, there?s a good chance you?ll be asked about your current and expected level of compensation.   Here?s the way to handle the following questions:
  1. What are you currently earning?
    • Answer: 'My base is _______, my bonus averages ______.   I?m expecting my next review _____, and that increase should be ___%.'
    • This something that is easily verifiable!   DO NOT exaggerate or try to stretch these numbers!
  2. What sort of money would you need in order to come to work for our company?
    • Answer: 'I expect to consider you best offer based on my education and experience, but right now tell me more about. . . and change the subject'
    • Answer: 'I feel that the opportunity is the most important issue, not salary.   If we decide to work together, I?m sure you?ll make me a fair offer.'
DO NOT give a number to your expectations.   You do not know at this point what the total compensation package would be, nor do you have all the details on the progression available to what could be your dream job!   Getting locked in to an exact figure may work against you later, in one of two ways: either the number you give is lower than you really want to accept; or the number appears too high or too low to the employer, and an offer never comes.   By focusing on the needs of the employer and how your skills fill those needs, you can keep your options open.