Archive for job search

What Should I Ask in the Interview?

Preparing questions to ask the employer is the first and most important thing you should do before an interview. Realize that you are going into the interview to make a sale. A good salesman never begins his pitch by just talking about the product. He asks questions of his potential customers to understand their needs and hot issues.

In addition, it is at least as important for you to determine if the job is a good fit for you, as it is for the employer to determine if you are a good fit for the job. So, you should come in with almost as many questions for them as you expect they would have for you.

Finally, don’t wait until the end of the interview to start asking questions. The most effective interviews are ones where there is a conversational back-and-forth interchange between the interviewer and the candidate.  That starts in the first few minutes.

Here are 10 of the most useful and important questions you can ask the interviewer:

  1. Is this a new position or am I replacing somebody? – Early in the interview, you want to know if this position is due to company growth (good), replacing somebody who was promoted (also good), or replacing somebody who was fired or quit (not so good).  In any case, it sets the stage for asking about the goals for a new position, or about potential changes compared to the previous job holder.
  2. What are the most important skills for this job? – Of course you should have thoroughly analyzed the job description beforehand.  But it can also be helpful to hear the interviewer’s perspective on which particular skills he or she views as THE most important for the role. Then you can better position your accomplishments to demonstrate those key skills.
  3. What do successful employees here have in common? – This not only gives you more perspective on the traits you should emphasize about yourself, it also gives you insights into the company culture as a whole.
  4. What is the biggest challenge for our team in the next six months? – Knowing something about their challenges and headaches can give you ways to position yourself as the needed solution. Note also that the question uses the term “our team”, which subtly gets the interviewer to think of you as already being a team member.
  5. What would you want me to accomplish in my first six months? How will we measure success? – You want to know their clear expectations for performance in that role, and how it will be measured.
  6. What are the different career paths? What training is available? – Asking this question shows the interviewer that you are interested in staying with the company for the long haul, and are up for bigger challenges. However, save this for a little later in the interview. You don’t want to give the impression that you are not interested in the current assignment.
  7. How would you describe your management style? – Just as the hiring manager will want to know your work style and what motivates you, you need to know how he or she manages and motivates team members.
  8. How would you describe the company culture and values? – Remember, you are not just signing up to fill a job description. You have to evaluate your fit in the organization as a whole. Do you share the same values that they do?
  9. How long have you been with the company? What attracted you here? – This is a great question to build rapport with any interviewer. Getting them to talk about why they came here can give you more personal insights into what makes the company worth working for.
  10. What do you like best about working here?  What do you like least? – Like the previous questions, these questions deepen rapport with interviewers, by getting them to share their personal experiences.  Ultimately, the candidate who is most likely to get hired is not always the most experienced one, but it is usually the one the interviewer most TRUSTS to do the job.

Do not, however, make the mistake of asking about salary, benefits, vacations, flex time, salary, etc. during the interview. They need to know you are interested in the challenges of the job, not the perks.  They will give you that information in due time, hopefully when they make you an offer.

In summary, remember that a good interview is a conversation, not an interrogation. Use it as a chance to size them up and build rapport, in addition to selling your skills and experience.


Don’t Go to Networking Meetings

It is a well-known fact that most jobs are found by networking, but the concept of “networking” fills most people with fear, anxiety, and loathing. They picture themselves in big rooms full of strangers, anxiously making small talk and swapping business cards with other people who are equally depressed, anxious, and desperate. Many so-called “networking meetings” are filled with desperate people with one thing on their minds – “how can I get the next stranger to help me with my needs?” It is the job search equivalent of looking for meaningful long-term relationships by hanging out in singles bars.

The problem is that people rarely feel a strong commitment to help out strangers, especially those with whom they have little in common. So stop going to those “networking meetings” and instead, spend more time with fellow members of your tribes.

What do I mean by “tribes”? A “tribe” is any group of people with whom you share some form of common bond. We as human beings are wired to help out others we perceive as in our tribe, in whatever forms we define those tribal bonds. Some of our tribal bonds could include:

  • We went to the same high school or college
  • We belong to the same church
  • Our children play on a soccer team together
  • We are members of the same professional association
  • We volunteer for the same cause
  • We both collect comic books
  • We are avid golfers
  • We are in the same community college class to learn yoga or a foreign language.
  • We worked for the same now defunct employer
  • We served in the same military unit

One such tribal bond, for example, exists between Aggies, the students and alumni of Texas A&M University. It does not matter if two Aggies have never met before and are generations apart in age. The bonds forged based on common tradition compel Aggies to help each other. I imagine that, if an Aggie were to suffer an auto breakdown in the middle of nowhere, he or she could phone any fellow Aggie within a hundred-mile radius and expect to get help, no questions asked.

So, instead of going to “networking meetings” filled with strangers, spend more time at your “tribal gatherings”, whether it’s a hobbyist club, an alumni outing, a church service, a professional association, a volunteer project, or your child’s soccer game.  Don’t go with an agenda of “how can this help my job search” at the forefront of your mind. Focus on whatever common interest is the basis for your bond, on strengthening established relationships, and on meeting other members that you haven’t gotten to know yet.

Then, you can bring up your job search as a natural part of the conversation. But don’t just look for just sympathy from your fellow tribesmen. They want to help you more tangibly, but they often don’t know how the best ways to do so. So share with them specifically what types of jobs you are looking for, what types of companies you are interested, and what kinds of contacts you would like to meet. Remember that every member of your tribe also belongs to several other tribes. In one of those tribes may be the right connection to your next job.