Tag: interviews


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)

 

A Google Insider Shares His Interview Advice

I often publish posts on Medium, a platform designed to bring readers interesting takes on important topics. Whatever your interests, you can always find fresh thinking and unique perspectives on Medium. One of my most viral posts on Medium was the one entitled “Get Interview Advice From an Insider at Google.”

The reason this post was so popular was because many Medium readers are techies with hopes and dreams of working in Silicon Valley at places like Google and Facebook. Interviews at such companies are very unique and they often ask questions you wouldn’t hear in interviews with other companies or industries.

But even if you’re not interviewing with Google, the interview question in this post could potentially be asked in your next interview. So pay attention to the advice from this Google insider!

Can you teach me something complex in five minutes?

How would you answer the interview question, “Can you teach me something complex in five minutes?”

The following response was originally published on Quora by Google insider and Google’s hiring manager, David Seidman. He’s graciously allowed me to publish his advice here under a new headline and format.

This is a great interview question and the answer can’t be faked.

Before you even send out applications, you should know your strongest skill, the thing you would compete on if you only had one. It might be your college thesis topic, your favorite project at work, or the job you held the longest.

To answer the question, think of something that is surprising about your field, something that most people in the field know but most people outside it don’t.

For example, in security, most people don’t realize how common and successful nation-state hacking is.

You should be able to state this in 1–2 sentences.

The reasons to use something surprising are that you will teach the interviewer something in the first two sentences and you will interest and engage them for the remainder of your answer.

Then, describe why people believe the incorrect thing.

What underlying facts do they believe to be true that are false?

How did they come to believe the false things?

What is the truth and how do we know it?

Did experts always know this truth or is it a recent discovery?

As you proceed, check occasionally to make sure your interviewer is familiar with any technical terms you use.

If you still have time, you can talk about the implications.

Are people afraid of the wrong things or not afraid when they should be?

What should be done and by whom?

How is this relevant to the company you’re interviewing with?

In the best case, your interviewer will want to hire you so they can learn more from you and so that you can fix the problem you just described for their company!

When I first saw this question, I wondered to myself how I would’ve answered this question if I’d been asked it in one of my previous job interviews.

The example I first thought of was one from my past experience working with songwriters and recording artists in the music industry: the process of how a song shoots up the charts and becomes a hit.

It’s something most people in the music industry understand, but people outside the industry don’t.

And a lot of it is very surprising to the outsiders. And very interesting.

Then I read David’s advice above and was glad to see I was somewhat on the right track.

I chose to post his response here on my blog because, as a career coach, I thought it was spot-on!

The biggest challenge with my example however is it would probably be difficult for me to make the song charting process relevant to a traditional company in another industry.

But this would just give me the opportunity to show my creativity and my ability to connect the dots between things that, at first glance, seem irrelevant.

What are your thoughts on this question?

How would you answer it?

What skill do you possess you’d try to highlight in your answer?

If you’re drawing a blank on the skill you would use in your own answer, you’re not the only one. Many of my clients come to me needing help in determining their transferable skills. They also come to me needing help on how to answer difficult interview questions. This is something I love to work on with my clients.

Is this something you also need help with? If so, take a moment to fill out the paNASH intake form to get started.

Finally, I would love to hear yours and others’ thoughts on this topic, so please respond in the comment box below!

Related posts

Google insider

4 Reasons Why the Holidays are a Good Time to Job Search

The holidays are often a time for a mental break from all the hard work we’ve put into our jobs throughout the past year. But if your only job right now is looking for a job, you can’t afford to mentally check out.

Believe it or not, the holidays are actually one of the best times to conduct a job search. Here’s why:

1. Time to reflect during the holidays

The close of the year is a good time to reflect back on what you’ve accomplished the previous twelve months.

Focusing on what you’ve accomplished will boost your confidence in your abilities. It will also provide you with ideas of things to add to your resume.

2. Networking opportunities during the holidays

Holiday parties and events are great places to reconnect with people in your network and to meet new people. But be very careful not to make people feel like they’re being networked! Instead, focus on developing and maintaining your professional relationships. (See my blog post entitled “How to Be Realistic About Networking“.)

Remember to also go easy on the eggnog when attending holiday events. You don’t want to tarnish your job search by developing a negative reputation people will remember long after you’ve recycled your Christmas tree.

3. Holiday deals on interview attire

Day-after-Christmas sales are a great time to find a quality interview suit at an affordable price. It’s also a good time to try on suits since you’re likely to be at your heaviest weight then. You can always tailor down if necessary (because you can’t tailor up!). Most department stores provide free alterations with purchase.

When friends and family ask you what you’d like for Christmas, tell them you’d like department store gift cards or cash so you can pay for you new interview attire.

4. Prepare for an interview in the new year

The new year is when many job opportunities come open. This means you need to be prepared for interviews as early as the first week in January. Preparing for job interviews takes time since you have to conduct research on the industry, the companies you’re interested in, and yourself.

You’ll need to research industry trends and issues, company culture and mission, and how your skills and past experience line up with the skills in the job ad. Use any available down time you have during the holidays to do your research.

You’ll also want to use this time to prepare your answers to behavioral interview questions and other commonly asked questions. I recommend the online tutorial Steps to Acing the Interview and Reducing Your Interview Anxiety to help you get ready for the interviews you’ll have in the new year.

Conclusion

The holidays can be stressful. But being unprepared for an interview can be even more stressful, especially if you’ve used the holidays as an excuse to slack off during your job search.

As with anything, make sure you find balance. Schedule a certain amount of time for your job search (at least 20 hours per week). Then, prioritize your remaining time for what’s most important: family and thanksgiving.

Related posts:

holidays

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