Tag: interviewing


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)

 

Here Are the Top 10 Most Popular paNASH Blog Posts of 2019

Can you believe we’ve reached not only the end of another year but also the end of another decade? I’ve been writing much of the past decade, and for the past four years I’ve been writing blog posts on topics related to pursuing your passions and finding new work and career paths that you can be more passionate about.

I’m so grateful to all you readers and listeners who loyally follow the paNASH blog from week to week. I love hearing your stories of how a particular blog post helped you succeed in your job search or your career. Your support and feedback means so much to me!

As a thank you, here’s a collection of the top 10 most popular paNASH blog posts of 2019.

Top 10 Most Popular paNASH Blog Posts of 2019

  1. How to Write Networking Emails That Will Get Responses
  2. What Is the Best Way to Describe Yourself In a Job Interview?
  3. Stop! Watch Out for These 10 Red Flags In Your New Job
  4. How to Know If Your Burnout Is Killing You?
  5. Is There Such a Thing As the Perfect Job? No (and Yes)!
  6. Why You Need to Stop Overthinking Networking
  7. How to Avoid Common Mistakes That Could Ruin Your Career
  8. 5 Things You Should Never Say In a Job Interview
  9. How to Make Your LinkedIn Profile Stand Out
  10. How to Be Patient When You’re In Between Jobs

Please share

Please share any of the above blog posts or other paNASH posts on your social media platforms and with your friends so they can also benefit from them.

Stay tuned

Stay tuned for a new year and a new decade of posts to help you create a career you can be passionate about! If there are any topics you’d like to see covered in the upcoming year, please share your requests in the comment box. Thank you!

top 10

Did You Get Ghosted After Your Interview? What to Do Now (re-post)

This is a re-post of a previous blog of mine on the topic of interview ghosting. The post has gone viral on Medium, and I was interviewed by The Wall Street Journal about the same topic this past summer. Since tomorrow is Halloween, I thought it would be appropriate to share it again, especially since so many job candidates experience this phenomenon!

Have you ever been ghosted? You know what I’m talking about, when someone unexpectedly ceases all communication with you with no explanation. It’s almost like they dropped off the face of the earth.

This phenomenon typically happens in personal relationships such as romantic liaisons or fledgling friendships.

But it now also exists in working relationships, including the job search. While it’s extremely unprofessional, it does happen.

Job interview ghosting

Most of the time it happens following an interview process. A candidate spends time going through a cumbersome online application process, researching the company, preparing for the interview, traveling to the interview, and sweating through the interview.

The candidate is told at the end of the interview they’ll hear something soon. Then they hear nothing but crickets.

They follow up first with a thank you letter like every good candidate should after an interview.

Still nothing but crickets.

The next week they email to find out if a decision has been made.

Still more crickets.

Another week later they call, only for that call to go unanswered.

This has probably happened to you at one point in your career or another.

It’s happened to me before too, both after a job interview and with a couple of potential clients.

There’s no way to know the reason for the ghosting. All you can do is follow up one more time and then move on.

Console yourself by realizing you probably dodged a bullet since you likely wouldn’t want to work for someone who treats people this way.

What to do next time: a preemptive strike against ghosting

In your next interview, there are some things you can do to try to protect yourself from ghosting, or at least reduce the chances of being ghosted.

This begins in the very first interview. When it’s your turn to ask questions, one of your questions should be about the timeline for the hiring process.

You want to be as specific as possible in your question in order to receive a specific answer. For instance, instead of asking “When do you plan to conduct second-round interviews?” you should ask,

“What is your deadline for scheduling second-round interviews?”

“Is that deadline firm?” and

“Are you going to let those who didn’t make it to the second round know they won’t be moving forward?”

In the final round of interviews, instead of asking “When do you plan to make a hiring decision?” you should ask,

“What is your deadline for making an offer?”

“How firm is that deadline?” and

“Are you  going to notify each person being interviewed of the final decision as a courtesy or just the person receiving the offer?”

These questions are for your own sanity so you can know what to expect and so you’re not sitting around wondering why you haven’t heard anything back.

Click here to find out what other questions you should ask in an interview.

Know when to move on

Keep in mind however that sometimes companies tend to underestimate how long the interview process might take them. Or, deadlines might get pushed back due to other priorities in the company.

Continue to follow up 1–2 weeks after their original deadline.

If after that you still haven’t heard anything, assume they either hired someone else or put a freeze on the hiring process. 

Then move on.

And try not to take it personally so you can maintain your confidence. You have to keep your confidence in tact as best you can for your next interview.

Other things you can do

There are several other things you can do to reduce your chances of being ghosted.

First, avoid doing the things that irritate hiring managers and recruiters. For instance, don’t be late for your interview and don’t be dishonest in your answers or give canned answers.

More importantly, don’t interview for a job you don’t intend to take just to get interview practice. This is unethical and word could easily get around in your industry about you doing such a thing.

Also, indicate at the end of the interview you want the job. So many people fail to say they want the job. Those who do increase their chances of getting the call with the offer.

Next, send a thank you letter to each person you interviewed with, reiterating your interest and what you have to offer the company.

Finally, even if you’ve been ghosted by a company, don’t do the same thing to another company. Just because unemployment is at an all-time low and you may have your pick of offers, this doesn’t give you an excuse to ghost recruiters or hiring managers.

Conclusion

While you can’t completely prevent a company from ghosting you after your interview, using some of the strategies above can help reduce your chances of it happening.

Related posts:

ghosting

5 Things You Should Never Say in a Job Interview

I get a lot of questions from clients asking what they should say in a job interview when responding to common interview questions. But rarely does someone ask me what they should never say in a job interview. However, this knowledge is just as important (if not more!) than the knowledge of what to say.

I can remember when I was doing my first job search, I really just wanted to answer the question “What is your greatest weakness?” with, “Chocolate.” Of course I knew better! But some people still say things which seem obvious not to say. And then there are those not-so-obvious things.

I could spend quite a bit of time discussing all the things you should never say in a job interview. But for this post, I’m going to focus on the top five things most candidates mistakenly say but should never utter.

Top 5 Things You Should Never Say in a Job Interview

1. Don’t share anything too personal

When answering “Tell us about yourself,” never tell the interviewer your personal history starting from kindergarten! They don’t care where you went to middle school, what your favorite color is, or what your dog’s name is.

Instead, talk about your professional self, including your strengths and experience, your interest in the job, and how you can make a contribution to the company. Show them you can be a problem-solver for them!

This is not to say you can’t use a personal challenge you’ve faced in your life that shows your problem-solving skills or your ability to adapt or be resilient. Sometimes those kind of personal stories can tell the interviewer a lot about your character.

I once hired an intern based on a story she shared about what it’s been like for her to grow up with a sibling with Down Syndrome. She shared this personal story in a professional way and related it back to her ability to perform the job at hand.

Therefore, if you do decide to share a personal challenge, I advise you to follow the same approach. Don’t get too bogged down into the details of your personal situation. Instead, show how you’ve grown from it and how this growth has made you a better person for the job.

2. Avoid generalities

Always avoid speaking in generalities. You want to provide specific examples of how you’ve previously demonstrated your strengths.

I’ve said this time and time again on this blog, but I cannot stress enough the importance of doing this! Your specific examples are what differentiate you from the other candidates.

*To learn how to do this, check out my post The Secret to Answering Behavioral Interview Questions.

3. Never show you’ve not done your research

When asked “What do you know about us?” don’t just talk about what you found on the company’s web site.

Dig deeper by studying the company’s past press releases, annual reports (if they’re a public company), and social media posts to show the knowledge you’ve gained from your research.

4. Don’t be the first one to mention salary

NEVER bring up salary until they do, and even then, don’t try to negotiate until there’s an offer on the table.

If you are being pressured for an amount you’re seeking, always give a range, never a single dollar amount. The range you give should never start with your lowest amount you’re willing to take. Start slightly higher than the starting number in your range because you can always negotiate down, but you can’t negotiate up.

5. Never say yes right away

Finally, don’t say yes to the first offer.

Know that you can typically negotiate salary and most employers expect you to! If you don’t, you could end up leaving a significant amount of money (and benefits!) on the table.

More tips

Get more tips on how to prepare for job interviews and how to negotiate salary in the following ways:

Related Posts:

never say