Tag: job 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

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.

For more tips on how to improve your job search, subscribe to my weekly newsletter for free and receive a complimentary 8-Step Goal-Achievement Plan. Or, receive additional resources when you choose an advanced subscription option.

Related posts:

ghosting