What would you do when you have a great deal of work to accomplish in a short time span? How have you reacted?

You'd better have a couple of stories to reinforce your theory for this answer. Your answer should be something along the line of, "I am constantly setting goals and planning. So, I set priorities for myself and for others. If I have a great deal of work to accomplish in a short time span, I have to analyze my priorities and pick the ones that are most important. Years ago I reacted too emotionally and tried to get all of it done. I have found that, in cases like this, unless someone can put 26 hours in a day, I have to decide what the priorities are and act on them."

Tell me about a time when your team fell apart. Why did it happen? What did you do?

Again, to reinforce your ability to deal with stress and strain you need a story or two. Know why the minor crisis happened and explain in detail what you did.

How did you feel about your workload at that company? And how did you divide your time on your major areas of responsibility?

Never, ever complain about your workload. Explain that you appreciated the amount of work you were assigned and that all of the best managers seem to be somewhat overloaded. Explain how you divide your time to deal with your areas of responsibility. Again, you need to reinforce how you "make your plan and work your plan" in a calm deliberate manner. Communicate that you always found that good planning always works.

What have you learned from the jobs that you held?

Whenever you get the opportunity to talk about what you have learned, always have that center around how you have grown as a person. You can relate different kinds of "character building" traits in certain jobs. Things like, "In my present position,

I've really learned to be patient with impatient people. Although I report to a particular individual, I wound up really working for three very demanding people. It has been a real challenge, but I've grown as a person."

Or, you can say something along the line of, "I have become more focused (detailed, understanding, assertive, positive, a better leader, etc.) because I have been fortunate to have a good mentor in my last (or previous) job." You can never answer this question wrong if you stick to something that you learned from a mentor where you grew personally. You can even reinforce whatever you say with stories.

What do you know about the position for which you are applying?

Don't feel like that you have to relate more than you know. You can even add that, "From what I've learned so far, it seems very exciting and would be a great opportunity for my skills and for your company. I'm sure that as I get into the interviewing process more deeply, I will gain a better idea of the opportunity for both of us."

In your current/last position, state your five most significant accomplishments.

You better have these ready in case this question comes up. It is always good to give some kind of "figures" when you talk about significant accomplishments. Talking about increasing percentage of sales, increasing productivity in percentage figures, lowering costs of sales and expenditures in a department with an increase in productivity, etc., always make you stand out.

"Soft" types of accomplishments, like instilling a positive attitude in the team or turning moral around in the organization are OK to mention once, maybe twice. But don't do any more than that, and if you do, you need to be sure that you associate measurable productivity and/or savings with them. At least three or four of these most significant accomplishments need to be able to be measured with objective numbers.

After I get to know you, what will annoy me about you?

Don't take this bait. Say something like, "Well, although I try to work at it, I'm not a very good golfer (tennis player, bowler, poker player, etc.)." Then smile. Don't get into anything more personal than this. It simply can't help you.

I see you are working on your MBA/graduate degree. What are you going to do when you get it?

Some companies really like people getting graduate degrees and some don't care. It is helpful if you know how many of the managers or people in the organization have MBAs or graduate degrees.

There might be a fear that, if you get the MBAs or graduate degree, you will leave. This is especially true for companies, industries, or professions that don't necessarily appreciate or need for a graduate degree. Finance and banking, for instance, appreciate graduate degrees more than manufacturing or sales organizations.

If you suspect that the organization is ambivalent about an MBA or graduate degree or it is fearful that you may leave once you get it, you may say something like "I decided to pursue an MBA or graduate degree as much for personal growth as anything else. In my experience, I have seen that having an MBA or graduate degree doesn't necessarily make you a better professional. But, I am a constant learner and if it helps along the way, it will be of value."

WOW . . . your grades are really low. What happened?

Take this question very seriously. Respond by saying something like, "It did take me a couple of years to really get focused on college (or graduate school). I was very active in college in organizations and held leadership positions. I also had to work to earn money for college and its expenses. If I had to do it again, I would probably work a little harder." If your college or graduate school was more than a couple of years ago, mention that your working performance has been excellent.

How This Affects You

After the question of being liked or disliked, the issue of being a risk destroys more job possibilities than any other question. Although it still only amounts to 20% of the hiring decision, it is a very crucial 20%.

When hiring authorities hire an employee who doesn't work out, they look bad. Next to one's own poor personal performance, hiring people who don't work out leads to a very poor reputation. Hiring poor performers can lead to being fired. No matter how many people are involved in the hiring decision, the immediate hiring authority is held responsible for the decision. If it turns out to be a bad decision, the hiring authority is perceived to be a poor Business Person.

The fear of making a poor hiring decision is a much greater motivator than the vision of a good hiring decision. A good hiring decision is expected, but a poor hiring decision is remembered and ruminated over much longer than a good one.

A hiring authority with any reasonable experience can recount every detail of every poor hiring decision he or she ever made. The outstanding hires may be remembered also, but hiring authorities will never forget every aspect of the poor ones.

This fear is a great motivator. If a hiring authority has an equal number of good reasons to hire a candidate and good reasons not to hire a candidate, the candidate will never get hired. Because of the risk, a hiring authority is going to err on the side of safety and may pass up an excellent candidate for a lesser person who has fewer risks.

The vast majority of candidates don't recognize the risk they pose to the hiring authority. The very things that some candidates think make them excellent to hiring authorities are their biggest liabilities. Here's a list of the major "risk factors" that candidates present to hiring authorities. If you fit in these categories or situations, reread this chapter and mitigate your own risk.

Being the president of a company

Being fired

Owning your own company

Being out of work for an extended period of time—no matter what the reasons

Too many jobs in the short period of time—i.e., three jobs in two years

For women, coming back into the workforce after raising a family

Being at one company too long

Changing careers

Working in a small company and interviewing at a very large company

Having worked in nothing but large companies and interviewing at a small company

Poor performance as a salesperson or poor performance reviews

Going through a divorce

Being in one company for a very long time and never getting a promotion

Leaving a job for "personal" reasons that you can't explain

Being unhappy in just about every (or any) job you've ever had

Being motivated by your spouse or family members to change jobs

"Philosophical" differences with your present employer (that don't make sense)

Reasons for changing like, "it's just time for a change"

"I'm not really looking to change, but if the right deal came along..."

Poor previous employment references

Too many traffic violations, misdemeanors, or brushes with the law

Casual reasons for leaving your present or past jobs

Poor credit

There are others. You just need to be sure that you think critically about what your risk factors might be. Ask your spouse or a close friend about your risk factors. Even better, a good recruiter who is been in the business for a long period of time might help you strategize about your risks.

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