QUESTION : What don’t you do very well?
This is a question that makes most people go weak in the knees during an interview. Interviewers commonly employ this question for a number of reasons:
This is also a way for the interviewer to obtain your honest appraisal of your abilities. There is a very simple and easy way to handle this question: candidly and honestly. While you should not throw caution to the wind when you give your answer, your interview preparation session will have given you ample opportunity to develop a terrific response. No one is perfect; we all have strengths and weaknesses.
If the interviewer were to ask about your strengths, you wouldn’t hesitate to answer, right? On the other hand, if you were asked a question that, on the surface, asks that you “incriminate” yourself, you would hesitate to answer it, and your hesitation will probably be evident during the interview. The trick here is to turn a negative into a positive. Here’s how: Let’s say you truly despise repetitive and boring work. Obviously, you can’t say this during an interview, but you can be honest when you say:
“If I had to do the same or routine thing all day it would be difficult.”
Another answer to this question might be:
“I am a people person. I like to work with people. If I couldn’t, it would be difficult.”
On the surface, these sound negative, but you have turned them into a positive. It is imperative that you develop an honest answer to this question before the interview, as it will come up in one form or another. Do not be tempted to tell the interviewer that there is nothing you do not do well, because no such person exists!
QUESTION: What are your accomplishments?
Now is the time for you to brag a little! Tell the interviewer about situations in which you did well and events that relate to the position for which you are applying. In order to brag effectively, do the following during the interview: 1. State the problem 2. Explain how you handled it 3. Describe the results (i.e., cost savings, automation, increased sales, etc.)
We will cover behavioral interviewing in a future article, but the advice here follows the S.A.R. guideline that is taught to hiring managers and other interviewers so that they can understand how you behaved in certain situations.
Some believe that past behavior is predictive of future behavior, so many interviewers will try to extract behavioral examples from you that ask you to describe specific: – Situation(s) – Action(s) – Result(s) You should have at least six examples ready. Use these to back up your skills and abilities statements. Be sure you have sufficiently rehearsed these six examples during your role-playing sessions, as they will come in handy during the interview. Here are some sample responses to this question:
“Our accounting system was antiquated and required updating to reflect new business and customer needs. I researched this problem and recommended the implementation of an enhanced, fully automated accounting system. The result of this was a savings of $250,000 per year, more timely and accurate management reporting, and a reduction in our accounting staff.”
“When I accepted the position at ABC Company, there was no centralized filing system. Trying to find important documents was nearly impossible. I identified the problems with the current filing system, and put in place a new, more efficient system so that document retrieval became faster and easier.”
“Even though I only worked part time at the video store, I recognized that some videos were being released to customers without their names and telephone numbers being logged. I suggested a change in the rental procedure that was adopted by the store owner. Now, all video rentals are properly logged in and out.”
Always bring a bragging folder with you (I’ve always called mine the “I Am Great” folder!). For example, if you wrote the best-ever press release, bring a copy with you so that you can say, “for example, I wrote THIS press release [as you pass it to the interviewer] in order to handle the crisis with the media….”. ALWAYS try to respond to a skills- or abilities-based question with both verbal and hard-copy samples, which can be anything: correspondence, spreadsheets…whatever. You need to prove that you are capable of the work you say you did!!
Be sure to redact any confidential or proprietary information from any company document you submit.
QUESTION : What are your salary requirements?
Answering the salary question at this stage of the interviewing process can be dangerous; however, you must answer if asked, and your answer must be an honest one. Most advice you hear or read will tell you to avoid answering this question whenever possible. But, by avoiding it, you may cause your interviewer to think that you are hiding something or not being honest about your earnings. Our suggestion is to answer in one of the following ways:
“I’d like a salary that reflects the responsibilities of the position. My current salary range is low- to mid- $30’s.”
“At this point, salary is not an issue for me. I’m more concerned with the position and the opportunity to learn”.
You may then feel free to inquire if your salary requirements are within the company’s range. Do not feel obligated to justify or apologize for your current salary! Do not offer to take a cut in pay unless asked, and only you truly mean it. This could be appropriate if you are changing careers or looking for less responsibility. If you want an increase in pay, simply tell the interviewer and be prepared to explain why you think you deserve it. If you find that your and the company’s numbers are far apart, offer to wait on a six month review, or something close to that. Do not let money become an issue on the first interview, because you may not get a second one!
QUESTION : What is your reason for leaving your current/former employer?
Be as honest as you can here. If your company has relocated, say so. If you were downsized, right-sized, or outsourced, just say so. But say so in a positive light. Remember, NEVER, EVER say anything negative about your former employer or former co-workers!! If you were terminated, practice your response carefully. You might respond in the following manner:
“Things at ABC Company did not work out well for me. It was not a good match, and I decided to move on/switch gears/etc.”.
“ABC Company was experiencing financial difficulties and, as a result, laid off 20% of its workforce. My position was eliminated.”
“ABC is a small company with limited opportunities for advancement. While I have thoroughly enjoyed my work there, I decided it was time to move on in order to advance.”
Summary You should write down and continue to edit and refine your answers to these questions. As you continue to interview, you will learn what works and what doesn’t. As you role play, you may find that that an answer has opened up a series of additional, unexpected questions.
A good role-playing buddy will ask you follow-up questions, such as – What do you mean by that? Why was your last employer not a good match? – How do you define career growth? Would you be happy with a lateral move? – Do you think our company can give you what you’re looking for? Why? – Can you give me an example of how you handled that?
In all cases, you may need to either revise your original responses or develop answers to the follow-up questions. Continue to review your answers after each role playing session. And when you find yourself waiting in your car because you’ve arrived early for your interview, re-read them-and keep smiling!
This is the company blog of the Salam Business Club, the first worldwide Internet-based business network for the Arab, Asian and Muslim world, with members from over 180 countries.