Tag: interview prep


How to Handle the Most Pointless Interview Questions

In light of coronavirus times, one of my Facebook friends posted this the other day:

“So in retrospect, in 2015, not a single person got the answer right to ‘Where do you see yourself five years from now?'”

I commented:

“This is reason enough to retire such an overused and pointless interview question!”

Pointless interview questions

This common interview question is just one of many pointless interview questions hiring managers and recruiters continue to ask. I’m not sure they even know what to do with the answers to these questions when they get them. Kind of like how a dog probably wouldn’t know what to do with the car he chases if he ever caught it.

One article, written specifically to hiring managers to help them ask better questions, states these questions don’t make good use of the limited interview time, don’t reveal anything of value, and don’t impress the candidate. (Remember, they’re supposed to impress you too. Interviewing is a two-way street!)

Yet, interviewers continue to ask these questions. Maybe because it’s just how they’ve always done things. Therefore you still have to be prepared for them. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t give better answers than the average candidate.

And you should also be prepared for new alternatives to these questions. Just in case one of these interviewers happens to get a wild hair and try something new or different.

How not to sound like every other candidate

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

When answering overused interview questions, always avoid using canned answers.

For instance, when answering, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”, don’t say, “I’d like to be working for your company, in a stable senior position, I’ve reached through steady progression.”

Instead, you can respond using your own personal vision and mission statements as the basis for your answer. You don’t have a personal vision or mission statement? You must’ve missed all my other posts about the importance of having a personal vision and mission statement.

These statements reflect the things most important to you, the values you possess, and the talents you have to offer. Therefore they’re unique to you. No one else will have a vision or mission exactly like yours.

And because they’re based on your long-term values, your vision and mission remain rather consistent. They evolve over time instead of changing on a regular basis. Therefore, at least you know whatever you’re doing in five years, it will be in support of your vision and mission.

To learn more about how to develop a vision and mission that are authentic to your values and talents, check out my book: Personal Branding: Why You Need to Know What Makes You YOUnique and AWEthentic.

“What’s your greatest weakness?”

Another pointless interview question is, “What’s your greatest weakness?” No one likes this question! But it’s likely you’ll still get it in your next interview. Again, don’t use canned answers when responding.

For instance, don’t say:

  • “I’m too much of a perfectionist.”
  • “I work too hard.”
  • “I’m a bit too passionate when it comes to my work.”

Instead, respond using the tips I shared in my post, “How to Answer ‘What Is Your Greatest Weakness?’“. These tips include:

  • Understanding why this question is being asked.
  • Listening to how the question is asked.
  • Not negating your strengths.
  • Never answering with a trait.
  • And knowing how to follow up with a positive.

Click here for more details.

“If you were an animal, what animal would you be?”

Personally, I love this question. I think it’s one of the easiest questions to help you communicate your skills and strengths.

To answer it well, just think of one of your best skills and what animal represents that skill. For example,

  • Strong leader = a lion.
  • Clear communicator = a dolphin.
  • Adaptable to different settings = a chameleon.
  • Wise decision-maker = an owl.
  • Good at conflict resolution = a dove.

You get the picture. Just don’t forget to include why you chose a certain animal! Then follow it up with one specific and interesting example of how you’ve demonstrated this particular skill in the past.

Alternative interview questions to be prepared for

Some interviewers have caught on to the pointlessness of these types of interview questions. Therefore they’ve come up with alternative ways to ask the same question in order to solicit a more honest response. As a result, you should be prepared for questions like:

  • “What annoys you?” (I personally know a recruiter who asks this in place of the “greatest weakness” question.)
  • “If I asked your references what your biggest weakness is, what would they likely say?” (This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to ask your references this question, but you can never be sure.)
  • “How can you make an impact on this company in the first 12 months of the job?”
  • “Tell me what you’ve accomplished in the last five years.” (This is a better question because past behavior is a good predictor of future behavior.)
  • “What would your boss, co-workers, and staff all agree about you?”

If you need help determining how to best answer these questions, consider some of paNASH’s one-on-one career coaching services.

Conclusion

Old habits die hard. This includes interviewers’ habit of asking pointless interview questions. So make sure you’re prepared for the predictable. And be open to and refreshed by the occasional unexpected questions. Remember, the kind of questions an interviewer asks says a lot about a company.

Related sources

How to Make Phone and Video Interviews Run More Smoothly

I have a few clients who’ve done video interviews in recent weeks due to COVID-19. While phone and video interviews are nothing new, at least not to first-round interview screenings, they’ve temporarily replaced all in-person job interviews during the quarantine.

Companies are likely to continue holding remote interviews throughout the different “re-entry” phases. And they’re likely to continue using them even after the pandemic is behind us. This is simply because it saves the company a lot of money, especially in travel reimbursement expenses for non-local candidates.

Job interviews are already stressful. Throwing into the mix a technology platform that doesn’t always work perfectly can make it even more nerve wracking.

Here are some tips to help make your next remote interview run more smoothly, so you can focus on landing the offer.

Tips for video interviews

When undergoing video interviews, you’ll want to:

  • Have a strong internet connection. Make sure you’re computer is close to your router. For an even better experience, you may want to use an Ethernet port to hardwire your computer to the router.
  • Close out any programs or apps running in the background. For the best experience, I suggest using Google Chrome as your browser.
  • Have everything set up and ready to go well before the interview time. This includes having already downloaded any necessary software for the given platform.
  • Use a headset or earbuds for clearer audio.
  • Look directly at your webcam instead of your screen. This allows you to maintain good eye contact and reduce distractions from other things popping up on your screen. Practice this with a friend prior to your interview.
  • Use the “share screen” option when showing samples of your work from your online portfolio. Make sure you don’t use this option for too long, and ask for permission first before sharing your screen.
  • Get comfortable with any silence caused by a delay or lag time in the connection. Waiting it out instead of trying to fill the silence will keep you from interrupting or talking over the interviewer.
  • Be mindful of your background. Make sure it’s not distracting and doesn’t reveal anything the interviewer may consider questionable.
  • Keep a notepad next to your computer so you can take some notes. Just don’t take so many notes you forsake too much eye contact.
  • Let family members know not to interrupt you, and put pets in another room.
  • Silence your cell phone.

Tips for phone interviews

Many of the above tips can apply to phone interviews as well. I this situation, you’ll also want to:

  • Use the interviewer’s name more frequently in your conversation. This is especially necessary when you have more than one interviewer on the line.
  • Smile, even though they can’t see you. They’ll still be able to hear your enthusiasm for the job when you’re smiling as you talk.
  • Get comfortable with silence and pauses. They may take notes and need some time between your answer and their next question to finish writing down those notes. When you’re done with your answer, stop talking and resist the urge to fill the silence. Wait patiently for them to respond.
  • Disable your call waiting in your call settings.
  • Reduce all chances of background noise if using your phone on speaker. This means disabling any alarms or Alexa devices that could possibly go off during the call.

Conclusion

By taking the steps above, you’ll be better prepared, less stressed, and more focused. For other interview tips, see related resources listed below.

Related resources

Blog post: What You Need to Know About Job Interviews of The Modern Era

Free video: The Most Common Job Interview Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

On-demand video course: Steps to Acing the Interview and Reducing Your Interview Anxiety (free e-book included)

 

Modern Interview Advice to Make You Stand Out From The Competition (Re-Post)

Many of my clients come to me facing the daunting task of conducting a job search for the first time in 10 to 20 years and a lot has changed in that time. They are unaware of the modern interview advice available to them.

This is because most of the interview advice floating around the Internet is extremely outdated.

Not Your Grandma’s (Or Even Your Mama’s) Interview Advice

In fact, while recently helping a friend with her upcoming job search, I gave her some modern interview advice. She said she’d never heard of it before, and was shocked to learn it was something she could try.

“Do you mean I can actually do that for a job interview?” she exclaimed.

“Yes!” I said.

Modern Interview Advice

The advice I gave my friend was the same advice I had posted when answering the following question on Quora:  “What are some smart interview answers?”

Smart interview answers are ones that show you have the company’s best interests at heart. (And if you don’t really care about the company, you probably shouldn’t be interviewing for a job there.)

You should always make your answers about them, not about you (until it’s time to negotiate an offer, at which point you need to make it a win-win situation).

Steps to Smart Interview Answers

1. Find out the most immediate need.

Find out what the company’s most immediate need is they’re hoping the person in this position can fulfill.

Most candidates will ask this question during the job interview, but by then it’s too late! You must determine this before the interview!

You can do this in a couple of ways:

  1. Do your research on the company (which should be a given…always do your research before going into any interview!).
  2. And ask the person with whom you’ll be interviewing what their most immediate need is (prior to the interview!)

You do this as soon as the interview has been scheduled by HR. Simply email the person who will be interviewing you and let him or her know you’re looking forward to the interview. Then ask the following question,

“What is the main thing you hope the next person in this position will accomplish or help solve?”

(You’ll probably be the only candidate who does this, which will make you stand out in a good way.)


2. Brainstorm a solution.

Use the answer to this question as your foundation for preparing for the interview.

Brainstorm one or two possible ways you can use your strengths to help get the desired result.

Also, think of examples of times you’ve achieved similar results.


3. Create a proposal.

Summarize your ideas and your past examples in a one-page proposal.

You don’t have to have all the details of a full proposal. Just an outline of what you’re thinking will work.

If you don’t have enough information to come up with a solution to the company’s problem, you can at least create a one-page case study of a time where you previously solved a similar issue.

Indicate the challenge you were facing, the action you took, and your accomplishment or the results of your solution.


4. Show and tell.

Bring hard copies of this proposal or case study to the interview with you so you have something tangible to show.

Make sure to bring enough copies for each person with whom you’ll be interviewing.

Introduce it at any of the following points in your interview that feel right:

  • At the end of your answer to the question, “Tell us about yourself.” After you’ve described your skills, experience, and interest in the job, you can say you’ve given a lot of thought to the information the interviewer gave in your recent correspondence and you’ve put together some ideas of how your skills and experience can meet their specific needs. Let them know you’d be happy to share it with them. If they invite you to share it then, do so. If not, wait.
  • At any point in the conversation where the door clearly opens for you to share your proposal. For instance, if they ask how you would handle the problem or issue, then answer that question with your proposal by walking them through your handout.
  • If they ask, “Why should we hire you?” This question usually comes toward the end of an interview, so if you haven’t had the opportunity to introduce your proposal or case study yet, now’s your chance. You can summarize the strengths you have to offer and then say you’ve already given great thought to their most immediate needs and have drafted something you’d like to have the opportunity to implement if hired. Then walk them through your handout.
  • If at the end of the interview you still haven’t had the opportunity, when they ask if you have any questions for them, use this time to remind them of the question you asked prior to the interview. Then show them how you’ve given it thought by giving them your handout and asking if it is something they could benefit from.

Make sure you pay attention to both verbal and non-verbal cues on how receptive they are to learning more about your proposal. Only bring it out if they express an interest in hearing more about it.

I guarantee you’ll likely be the only candidate who shows up to the interview with an idea or solution in hand.


Taking the time and effort to speak to the company’s most immediate need shows you really care about working for that company, which will make you stand out from today’s competition in a big way!

Want More Modern Interview Advice?

For more modern interview advice, check out the paNASH on-demand program The 3 Super Powers of Successful Job Seekers. It includes proven job search strategies that blow all the cookie-cutter strategies out of the water!

Related Post:

What You Need to Know About Job Interviews of The Modern Era

modern interview advice

Career Advice No One Will Ever Share With You (Re-post)

As a career coach, I’m always responding to career-related questions with various tips and career advice. I recently received a question asking,

“What are a few unique pieces of career advice nobody ever mentions?”

This is a good one because there are a lot of possible answers to it, but I chose two answers to reflect what most of my clients don’t know when they first come to me.


Career Advice Tip #1:

If you work for someone else, you still need to think like an entrepreneur.

Why? Because no one’s job is secure.

You have to view your employer as your client. And if your “client” decides not to continue working with you, you have to be in a good position to quickly land your next client.

You do this by becoming a good salesperson of your skills.


Career Advice Tip #2:

If you work for yourself, then you need to think of each meeting with potential clients or potential investors as a job interview.

For instance, I have several consultations with potential clients each week. Therefore, I’m going on job interviews EVERY SINGLE WEEK of the year!

I know I have to clearly express the benefits of my skills as a career coach.


Determine Fit

In either scenario, you not only need to sell your skills.

You also need to treat the situation as a two-way street. You need to find out if your next job or your next client is going to be a good fit for you.

This is why I always suggest job seekers ask their own questions during a job interview.

These questions should be ones to help them determine if the company (i.e. “the client”) is who they really want to spend 40+ hours a week with for the next several years.

**Check out The One Surprising Tip That Guarantees a Good Interview for sample questions to ask when being interviewed.***


Be Selective

For me personally as a business owner, I’m selective in who I take on as clients.

Therefore, not only do I present the benefits of my services and make sure they’re a good fit for the potential client’s goals, but I also ask questions to find out if they’re the type of client I’ll want to work with.

I start with questions in my intake form and ask additional questions during the initial consultation.

I’m looking to see how serious the person is about my coaching program.

I’m also looking for someone with a teachable spirit, an open-mind, respect for others, courtesy, and professionalism.

Someone who doesn’t possess these qualities is not a good fit for me or my company’s mission or programs.


You need to be selective too.

If you’re a job seeker with multiple job offers, be selective.

If you’re an entrepreneur with multiple potential clients, be selective (even when you feel like can’t afford to be!).

Here’s how.

Before walking into an interview or a meeting, take some time to do an inventory of:

  1. your skills and strengths,
  2. how you uniquely demonstrate those skills and strengths,
  3. the benefits of your skills and strengths,
  4. your needs and wants,
  5. your deal-breakers,
  6. and the questions to determine any potential deal-breakers or to determine if the other party can meet at least 60% of your needs and wants (because you’ll rarely find a case that meets 100% of them! — BE REALISTIC!).

Choose only those opportunities that are at least 60% compatible with your inventory.

Keep in mind also numbers 1–3 will give you leverage to ask for numbers 4–5.

Following this advice will help you develop good habits and preparedness for those times when you find yourself at a career crossroads.

career advice

The Secret to Answering Behavioral Interview Questions (Re-Post)

“Tell me about a time when…”

UGH! Behavioral interview questions.

No job seeker enjoys answering these questions. Myself included.

They’re just as dreaded as the “What’s your greatest weakness?” question.

I can remember back in grad school doing my first mock interview with the career center on campus. It was very intimidating, even more so than any real interview I’ve ever had.

They recorded it which of course was even more horrifying. And I was really bad at answering the behavioral interview questions.

It was actually this experience and what I learned from it that made me decide to go into career advising.

A year later I was working as an intern in the same career center. Eventually I became the director of a college career center and then started my own career coaching business.

You have more experience than you think

I remember my mock interview like it was yesterday.

A few years ago I found the video and watched the cringe-worthy performance (through my fingers). I’d used the same example for every behavioral question because I thought I didn’t have any other “real” experience to pull from.

After all, I was just a lowly graduate assistant with only one assistantship under my belt.

But now I realize this wasn’t true.

I could’ve pulled from so many other experiences for more variety of answers:  my part-time jobs from college, my work as an orientation leader at my undergrad, my leadership role in my student organization, my class projects. I could’ve even pulled from my work on my passion projects.

The tried-and-true method vs. modern experience

The formula for how to answer behavioral interview questions hasn’t changed much since my grad school days.

But the way people work has, therefore giving job seekers a new way to sell themselves in an interview.

Here’s what I mean. When answering a behavioral interview question, you always want each answer to follow a method similar to the “CAR” method:

  • C:  State the CHALLENGE you faced.
  • A:  Describe the ACTION you took.
  • R:  Indicate the RESULTS of your action.

But unlike what you may have thought in the past, your examples don’t have to all come from traditional job experiences.

Today, people have side-hustles, freelance assignments, passion projects, and greater access to creative pursuits.

These bodies of work may be very different, but they all demonstrate your creativity, project management skills, and problem-solving skills. All things employers seek in potential employees.

The secret to answering behavioral interview questions

The secret to answering behavioral interview questions perfectly is to gather relevant examples from ALL your sources of experience (paid, unpaid, volunteer, stuff done for fun, etc.).

Then, tell a single interesting story for each question that connects the dots for your listener.

Show how your “soft skills” used on your own projects will benefit the company on their projects. Hard data (quantifiable results) and testimonials (qualitative results) will drive home your points, so always include them in each answer.

Also, anticipate further questions. When practicing your examples, listen for holes in your information triggering a need for clarification or more details.

A friend or a career coach is more likely to help you recognize those holes, so get assistance.

By addressing those areas right away, the interviewer won’t have to keep probing. You’ll be a hero because you made their job easier by providing all the important info without being asked or reminded to.

The best way to prepare

There’s no way to prepare for every commonly asked behavioral interview question. There are just too many.

The only way to really predict which ones you’ll get is to look on Glassdoor to see if there are any interview questions listed for your particular job opening. However there’s no guarantee they’ll ask the same questions this time around.

Instead, the best use of your time and energy is to look at the list of required skills in the job ad, and come up with a different story for when you’ve previously performed each skill. This is more manageable since this list is finite.

Always choose stories that show your success in performing the skill.

By focusing on the list of skills, you’ll have enough examples to use as answers for the unexpected questions. Most importantly, you’ll be able to connect those dots from your past experience to your future experience.

Don’t forget to use the CAR method when drafting your stories. Doing so keeps your stories organized with a beginning, middle, and end.

Pulling from ALL your experience is a great strategy for someone who has a lengthy gap in their employment history.

It’s also a good approach for recent grads with little to no professional experience. Click here to see how this has worked successfully for Tanner Christensen who landed a job as a product developer at Facebook with very little experience.

For more job interview tips, sign up for the on-demand program, Steps to Acing the Interview and Reducing Your Interview Anxiety. You’ll learn how to answer other commonly asked interview questions, questions you should be asking, and more, resulting in more job offers!

Related Posts:

behavioral interview questions