How Many Minimum-Wage Hours Does It Take to Afford a Decent Life?


So much of the talk surrounding the jobs crisis focuses on unemployment, but a huge portion of those who do have jobs are barely clinging to a decent lifestyle. In 2010, one in five American adults worked for poverty-level wages, 4.4 million of whom earned wages at or below the federal minimum.

The infographic above, from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, makes painfully clear just how hard it is to make ends meet on these wages. Want a modest two-bedroom apartment in New York state for the standard 30 percent of your income? You’re going to have to toil at a minimum-wage job for 136 hours a week. In California? One hundred thirty hours. How about in Texas, where one in 10 hourly workers make the minimum or less? Eighty-eight hours. Don’t forget, there are only 168 hours in a week. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for sleeping and eating.

This makes clear why there isn’t a mass movement to raise the minimum wage—people are too busy working their asses off. Precious few states are considering a change; Massachusetts, for example, is currently in talks to raise its state minimum to $10 an hour (which would be the highest rate in the country). Mostly, though, the argument seems to be going backwards, what with Mitt Romney coming out publicly against raising the federal minimum wage and Newt Gingrich suggesting we fire unionized janitors in favor of part-time teenage workers. It’s an essential fight to pick, especially now that almost half of the American workforce labors in low-wage, low-benefit jobs. These workers are “out there playing by the rules and working,” Massachusetts state senator Marc Pacheco told reporters. “And they don’t have a wage base that’s allowing them to meet their needs.”

For an idea of what a fair minimum wage would look like, the NLIHC recalculated its two-bedroom, 30 percent of income premise for a normal, 40-hour work week (see full version [PDF]):


Images via National Low Income Housing Coalition

 

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44 Resume Writing Tips


Job ResumeHaving a solid and effective resume can greatly improve your chances of landing that dream job. That is beyond discussion. How does one make sure that his resume is top notch and bullet proof, however? There are several websites with tips around the web, but most bring just a handful of them. We wanted to put them all together in a single place, and that is what you will find below: 44 resume writing tips.

1. Know the purpose of your resume

Some people write a resume as if the purpose of the document was to land a job. As a result they end up with a really long and boring piece that makes them look like desperate job hunters. The objective of your resume is to land an interview, and the interview will land you the job (hopefully!).

2. Back up your qualities and strengths

Instead of creating a long (and boring) list with all your qualities (e.g., disciplined, creative, problem solver) try to connect them with real life and work experiences. In other words, you need to back these qualities and strengths up, else it will appear that you are just trying to inflate things.

3. Make sure to use the right keywords

Most companies (even smaller ones) are already using digital databases to search for candidates. This means that the HR department will run search queries based on specific keywords. Guess what, if your resume doesn’t have the keywords related to the job you are applying for, you will be out even before the game starts.

These keywords will usually be nouns. Check the job description and related job ads for a clue on what the employer might be looking for.

4. Use effective titles

Like it or not, employers will usually make a judgment about your resume in 5 seconds. Under this time frame the most important aspect will be the titles that you listed on the resume, so make sure they grab the attention. Try to be as descriptive as possible, giving the employer a good idea about the nature of your past work experiences. For example:

Bad title: Accounting
Good title: Management of A/R and A/P and Record Keeping

5. Proofread it twice

It would be difficult to emphasize the importance of proofreading your resume. One small typo and your chances of getting hired could slip. Proofreading it once is not enough, so do it twice, three times or as many as necessary.

6. Use bullet points

No employer will have the time (or patience) to read long paragraphs of text. Make sure, therefore, to use bullet points and short sentences to describe your experiences, educational background and professional objectives.

7. Where are you going?

Including professional goals can help you by giving employers an idea of where you are going, and how you want to arrive there. You don’t need to have a special section devoted to your professional objectives, but overall the resume must communicate it. The question of whether or not to highlight your career objectives on the resume is a polemic one among HR managers, so go with your feeling. If you decide to list them, make sure they are not generic.

8. Put the most important information first

This point is valid both to the overall order of your resume, as well as to the individual sections. Most of the times your previous work experience will be the most important part of the resume, so put it at the top. When describing your experiences or skills, list the most important ones first.

9. Attention to the typography

First of all make sure that your fonts are big enough. The smaller you should go is 11 points, but 12 is probably safer. Do not use capital letters all over the place, remember that your goal is to communicate a message as fast and as clearly as possible. Arial and Times are good choices.

10. Do not include “no kidding” information

There are many people that like to include statements like “Available for interview” or “References available upon request.” If you are sending a resume to a company, it should be a given that you are available for an interview and that you will provide references if requested. Just avoid items that will make the employer think “no kidding!”

11. Explain the benefits of your skills

Merely stating that you can do something will not catch the attention of the employer. If you manage to explain how it will benefit his company, and to connect it to tangible results, then you will greatly improve your chances.

12. Avoid negativity

Do not include information that might sound negative in the eyes of the employer. This is valid both to your resume and to interviews. You don’t need to include, for instance, things that you hated about your last company.

13. Achievements instead of responsibilities

Resumes that include a long list of “responsibilities included…” are plain boring, and not efficient in selling yourself. Instead of listing responsibilities, therefore, describe your professional achievements.

14. No pictures

Sure, we know that you are good looking, but unless you are applying for a job where the physical traits are very important (e.g., modeling, acting and so on), and unless the employer specifically requested it, you should avoid attaching your picture to the resume.

15. Use numbers

This tip is a complement to the 13th one. If you are going to describe your past professional achievements, it would be a good idea to make them as solid as possible. Numbers are your friends here. Don’t merely mention that you increased the annual revenues of your division, say that you increased them by $100,000, by 78%, and so on.

16. One resume for each employer

One of the most common mistakes that people make is to create a standard resume and send it to all the job openings that they can find. Sure it will save you time, but it will also greatly decrease the chances of landing an interview (so in reality it could even represent a waste of time). Tailor your resume for each employer. The same point applies to your cover letters.

17. Identify the problems of the employer

A good starting point to tailor your resume for a specific employer is to identify what possible problems he might have at hand. Try to understand the market of the company you are applying for a job, and identify what kind of difficulties they might be going through. After that illustrate on your resume how you and your skills would help to solve those problems.

18. Avoid age discrimination

It is illegal to discriminate people because of their age, but some employers do these considerations nonetheless. Why risk the trouble? Unless specifically requested, do not include your age on your resume.

19. You don’t need to list all your work experiences

If you have job experiences that you are not proud of, or that are not relevant to the current opportunity, you should just omit them. Mentioning that you used to sell hamburgers when you were 17 is probably not going to help you land that executive position.

20. Go with what you got

If you never had any real working experience, just include your summer jobs or volunteer work. If you don’t have a degree yet, mention the title and the estimated date for completion. As long as those points are relevant to the job in question, it does not matter if they are official or not.

21. Sell your fish

Remember that you are trying to sell yourself. As long as you don’t go over the edge, all the marketing efforts that you can put in your resume (in its content, design, delivery method and so on) will give you an advantage over the other candidates.

22. Don’t include irrelevant information

Irrelevant information such as political affiliation, religion and sexual preference will not help you. In fact it might even hurt your chances of landing an interview. Just skip it.

23. Use Mr. and Ms. if appropriate

If you have a gender neutral name like Alex or Ryan make sure to include the Mr. or Ms. prefix, so that employers will not get confused about your gender.

24. No lies, please

Seems like a no brainer, but you would be amused to discover the amount of people that lie in their resumes. Even small lies should be avoided. Apart from being wrong, most HR departments do background checks these days, and if you are buster it might ruin your credibility for good.

25. Keep the salary in mind

The image you will create with your resume must match the salary and responsibility level that you are aiming for.

26. Analyze job ads

You will find plenty of useful information on job ads. Analyze no only the ad that you will be applying for, but also those from companies on the same segment or offering related positions. You should be able to identify what profile they are looking for and how the information should be presented.

27. Get someone else to review your resume

Even if you think your resume is looking kinky, it would be a good idea to get a second and third opinion about it. We usually become blind to our own mistakes or way of reasoning, so another people will be in a good position to evaluate the overall quality of your resume and make appropriate suggestions.

28. One or two pages

The ideal length for a resume is a polemic subject. Most employers and recruiting specialists, however, say that it should contain one or two pages at maximum. Just keep in mind that, provided all the necessary information is there, the shorter your resume, the better.

29. Use action verbs

A very common advice to job seekers is to use action verbs. But what are they? Action verbs are basically verbs that will get noticed more easily, and that will clearly communicate what your experience or achievement were. Examples include managed, coached, enforced and planned. Here you can find a complete list of action verbs divided by skill category.

30. Use a good printer

If you are going to use a paper version of your resume, make sure to use a decent printer. Laser printers usually get the job done. Plain white paper is the preferred one as well.

31. No hobbies

Unless you are 100% sure that some of your hobbies will support you candidacy, avoid mentioning them. I know you are proud of your swimming team, but share it with your friends and not with potential employers.

32. Update your resume regularly

It is a good idea to update your resume on a regular basis. Add all the new information that you think is relevant, as well as courses, training programs and other academic qualifications that you might receive along the way. This is the best way to keep track of everything and to make sure that you will not end up sending an obsolete document to the employer.

33. Mention who you worked with

If you have reported or worked with someone that is well known in your industry, it could be a good idea to mention it on the resume. The same thing applies to presidents and CEOs. If you reported to or worked directly with highly ranked executives, add it to the resume.

34. No scattered information

Your resume must have a clear focus. If would cause a negative impression if you mentioned that one year you were studying drama, and the next you were working as an accountant. Make sure that all the information you will include will work towards a unified image. Employers like decided people.

35. Make the design flow with white space

Do not jam your resume with text. Sure we said that you should make your resume as short and concise as possible, but that refers to the overall amount of information and not to how much text you can pack in a single sheet of paper. White space between the words, lines and paragraphs can improve the legibility of your resume.

36. Lists all your positions

If you have worked a long time for the same company (over 10 years) it could be a good idea to list all the different positions and roles that you had during this time separately. You probably had different responsibilities and developed different skills on each role, so the employer will like to know it.

37. No jargon or slang

It should be common sense, but believe me, it is not. Slang should never be present in a resume. As for technical jargon, do not assume that the employer will know what you are talking about. Even if you are sending your resume to a company in the same segment, the person who will read it for the first time might not have any technical expertise.

38. Careful with sample resume templates

There are many websites that offer free resume templates. While they can help you to get an idea of what you are looking for, do not just copy and paste one of the most used ones. You certainly don’t want to look just like any other candidate, do you?

39. Create an email proof formatting

It is very likely that you will end up sending your resume via email to most companies. Apart from having a Word document ready to go as an attachment, you should also have a text version of your resume that does not look disfigured in the body of the email or in online forms. Attachments might get blocked by spam filters, and many people just prefer having the resume on the body of the email itself.

40. Remove your older work experiences

If you have been working for 20 years or more, there is no need to have 2 pages of your resume listing all your work experiences, starting with the job at the local coffee shop at the age of 17! Most experts agree that the last 15 years of your career are enough.

41. No fancy design details

Do not use a colored background, fancy fonts or images on your resume. Sure, you might think that the little flowers will cheer up the document, but other people might just throw it away at the sight.

42. No pronouns

You resume should not contain the pronouns “I” or “me.” That is how we normally structure sentences, but since your resume is a document about your person, using these pronouns is actually redundant.

43. Don’t forget the basics

The first thing on your resume should be your name. It should be bold and with a larger font than the rest of the text. Make sure that your contact details are clearly listed. Secondly, both the name and contact details should be included on all the pages of the resume (if you have more than one).

44. Consider getting professional help

If you are having a hard time to create your resume, or if you are receiving no response whatsoever from companies, you could consider hiring a professional resume writing service. There are both local and online options are available, and usually the investment will be worth the money.

– by Daniel Scocco –

Prepare for that Job Interview – Part 3 / Questions About the New Job and the Company

Job Interview Questions Part 3Job interviews are always stressful – even for job seekers who have gone on countless interviews. The best way to reduce the stress is to be prepared. Take the time to review the “standard” interview questions you will most likely be asked. Also review sample answers to these typical interview questions.

In addition to reviewing general interview questions, also review job specific interview questions that are designed to assess whether you have the skills required to do the job.

Then take the time to research the company. That way you’ll be ready with knowledgeable answers for the job interview questions that specifically relate to the company you are interviewing with.

In Part 3 of our “Prepare for that Job Interview” Blog, we are reviewing some questions you might get asked “About the New Job and the Company”.  For example:

What interests you about this job?

When you’re asked what interests you about the position you are interviewing for, the best way to respond is to describe the qualifications listed in the job posting, then connect them to your skills and experience. That way, the employer will see that you know about the job you’re interviewing for (not everyone does) and that you have the qualifications necessary to do the job.

For example, if you were interviewing for a Human Resources Manager job where you would be responsible for recruiting, orientation, and training, you will want to discuss how you were responsible for these functions in your past positions, and why you are interested in continuing to develop your expertise in Human Resources management.

Another example would be if you were interviewing for a Programmer / Analyst position. In that case, you would mention your interest in learning and excelling at new technologies, your experience in programming new applications, and your interest in and your ability to problem solve.

In all cases, you will want to convey your enthusiasm for the opportunity to interview, along with your solid ability to do the job.

Why do you want this job?

Why do you want this job? Are you prepared to answer this question in an interview? Career expert and author, Joyce Lain Kennedy, shares her best job interview answers to the question “Why do you want this job?”

Keep in mind that you can customize these answers to fit your particular circumstances and the job you are applying for.

Joyce Lain Kennedy’s sample answers to the interview question “Why do you want this job?”

  • This is not only a fine opportunity, but this company is a place where my qualifications can make a difference. As a finance executive well versed in the new stock options law, I see this position as made to order. It contains the challenge to keep me on my toes. That’s the kind of job I like to anticipate every morning.
  • I want this job because it seems tailored to my competencies, which include sales and marketing. As I said earlier, in a previous position I created an annual growth rate of 22 percent in a flat industry. Additionally, the team I would work with looks terrific.
  • I well understand that this is a company on the way up. Your Web site says the launch of several new products is imminent. I want be a part of this business as it grows.
  • Having worked through a college business major building decks and porches for neighbors, this entry-level job for the area’s most respected home builder has my name on it.As a dedicated technician, I like doing essential research. Being part of a breakthrough team is an experience I’d love to repeat.
  • This job is a good fit for what I’ve been interested in throughout my career. It offers a nice mix of short- and long-term activities. My short-term achievements keep me cranked up and the long-term accomplishments make me feel like a billion bucks.
  • I want this job selling theater tickets because I’d be good at it. I’m good at speaking to people and handling cash. I would like a job with regular hours and I’m always on time.
  • Although some companies are replacing Americans with imported low-wage workers, you are standing tall. This company’s successful strategies, good reputation and values make it heads and shoulders above its competition.
  • I’d fit right in as a counter clerk in your fine dry-cleaners. I have observed that the counter clerk position requires competence at handling several activities in quick order — customer service, payments, bagging and phones. I like multitasking and, as a homemaker, I have a lot of practice in keeping all the balls in the air.
  • The work I find most stimulating allows me to use both my creative and research skills. The buzz on this company is that it rewards people who deliver solutions to substantial problems.

What applicable attributes / experience do you have?

When you are asked questions related to the experience that qualifies you for the job, it’s important to be very specific about your skills and experience.

The best way to respond is to describe your responsibilities in detail and to connect them to the job you are interviewing for. Tie your responsibilities in with those listed in the job description for the new position. That way, the employer will see that you have the qualifications necessary to do the job. Focus most on your responsibilities that are directly related to the new job’s requirements.

It’s also important to be honest and accurate. Don’t embellish your job, because you don’t know who the hiring manager will be checking with when they check your references.

Are you overqualified for this job?

Are you overqualified for this job? Are you prepared to respond when an interviewer asks if you’re overqualified? Career expert and author, Joyce Lain Kennedy, shares her best job interview answers to the question “Are you overqualified for this job?”

Keep in mind that you can customize these answers to fit your particular circumstances and the job you are applying for.

Joyce Lain Kennedy’s sample answers to the interview question “Are you overqualified for this job?”

  • Overqualified? Some would say that I’m not overqualified but fully qualified. With due respect, could you explain the problem with someone doing the job better than expected?
  • Fortunately, I’ve lived enough years to have developed the judgment that allows me to focus on the future. Before we speak of past years, past titles and past salaries, can we look at my strengths and abilities and how I’ve stayed on the cutting edge of my career field, including its technology?
  • I hope you’re not concerned that hiring someone with my solid experience and competencies would look like age bias if once on the job you decided you’d made a mistake and I had to go. Can I present a creative idea? Why don’t I work on a trial basis for a month — no strings — which would give you a chance to view me up close? This immediately solves your staffing problem at no risk to you. I can hit the floor running and require less supervision than a less experienced worker. When can I start?
  • I was proud to be a charge nurse but I really like getting back to working with patients.
  • I’m flattered that you think I’m headhunter bait and will leap to another job when an offer appears. Not really. This job is so attractive to me that I’m willing to sign a contract committing to stay for a minimum of 12 months. There’s no obligation on your part. How else can I convince you that I’m the best person for this position?
  • I’m here because this is a company on the move and I want to move up with you. With more than the minimal experience to just skim by, I offer immediate returns on your investment. Don’t you want a winner with the skill sets and attitudes to do just that?
  • My family’s grown. And I am no longer concerned with title and salary — I like to keep busy. A reference check will show I do my work on time, and do it well as a team member. I’m sure we can agree on a salary that fits your budget. When can we make my time your time?
  • Downsizings have left generational memory gaps in the workforce and knowledge doesn’t always get passed on to the people coming up. I could be an anchor or mentor — calm, stable, reliable and providing day-to-day continuity to the younger team. For my last employer, I provided the history of a failed product launch to a new marketing manager, who then avoided making the same mistakes.
  • As you note, I’ve worked at a higher level but this position is exactly what I’m looking for. You offer opportunity to achieve the magic word: balance. I’m scouting for something challenging but a little less intense so I can spend more time with my family.
  • Salary is not my top priority. Not that I have a trust fund but I will work for less money, will take direction from managers of any age, will continue to stay current on technology and will not leave you in the lurch if Hollywood calls to make me a star. And I don’t insist that it’s my way or the highway.

What can you do for this company?

A typical interview question to discover what assets you have that are specific to the company’s goals is “What can you do for this company?”

First of all, be sure to have researched the company prior to the interview, so you are familiar with the company’s mission. Respond by giving examples why your education, skills, accomplishments, and experience will make you an asset for the employer.

Take a few moments to compare your goals with objectives of the company and the position, as well as mentioning what you have accomplished in your other jobs. Be positive and reiterate your interest in the company, as well as the job.

Why should we hire you?

A typical interview question, asked to get your opinion, or to validate the interviewer’s opinion, on why you would be the best candidate for the position, is “Why should we hire you?”

The best way to respond is to give concrete examples of why your skills and accomplishments make you the best candidate for the job. Take a few moments to compare the job description with your abilities, as well as mentioning what you have accomplished in your other positions. Be positive and reiterate your interest in the company and the position.

Why are you the best person for the job?

A typical interview question, asked to get your opinion, or to validate the interviewer’s opinion, on why you would be the best candidate for the position, is “Why should we hire you?”

The best way to respond is to give concrete examples of why your skills and accomplishments make you the best candidate for the job. Take a few moments to compare the job description with your abilities, as well as mentioning what you have accomplished in your other positions. Be positive and reiterate your interest in the company and the position.

What do you know about this company?

A typical job interview question, asked to find out how much company research you have conducted, is “What do you know about this company?”

Prepare in advance, and in a word, research, so, you can provide relevant and current information about your prospective employer to the interviewer. Start by researching the company online. Review the “About Us” section of the company web site. Google the company, read blogs that mention it, and check Discussion Boards and social networking sites.

If you’re a college graduate check with the Career Office at your school to see if you can get a list of alumni who work for the company. That’s an ideal way to get an insider’s view of the employer, and to get information that might not be available elsewhere.

Use the information you have gathered to create a bullet-ed list of relevant information that you can easily remember during the interview. Taking the time to research will help you make a good impression with how much you know about the company.

Why do you want to work here?

A typical interview question, asked to ensure that you are seriously interested in the job and the company, and to find out how much you know about the company, is “Why do you want to work here?”

The best way to answer this question is, first of all, to be prepared and knowledgeable about the company. Spend some time researching the company (the About Us section of the web site is a good place to start) so you can talk about the benefits of working for this employer.

Compare your goals with objectives of the company and the position, then reiterate why you would be an asset to the employer. Let the interviewer know what you can do for the company, if you get a job offer.

Even though the question is about why you want to work here, you still need to convince the interviewer that hiring you will benefit the company.

Here are sample answers you can use to frame your own response:

  • This company is internationally known for its (widgets), and my experience in the (marketing/planning/production/etc.) of (widgets) has me intrigued by the opportunity this position presents.
  • The businesses in this area are known for their commitment to the community, and I would like the opportunity to participate in making this a better place to live.
  • I am a (widget) connoisseur, and would love the opportunity to share my enthusiasm for (widgets) with customers.

What challenges are you looking for in a position?

A typical interview question to determine what you are looking for your in next job, and whether you would be a good fit for the position being hired for, is “What challenges are you looking for in a position?”

The best way to answer questions about the challenges you are seeking is to discuss how you would like to be able to effectively utilize your skills and experience if you were hired for the job.

You can also mention that you are motivated by challenges, have the ability to effectively meet challenges, and have the flexibility and skills necessary to handle a challenging job.

You can continue by describing specific examples of challenges you have met and goals you have achieved in the past.

What can you contribute to this company?

A typical interview question to discover how hiring you would benefit the company is “What can you contribute to this company?”

The best way to answer questions about your contributions to the company is to give examples of what you have accomplished in the past, and to relate them to what you can achieve in the future.

Describe specific examples of how effective you have been in your other positions, change you have implemented, and goals you have achieved. Talk about the depth and breadth of related experience that you have.

Also, relate your abilities to the employer’s goals. You will want to let the interviewer know that you have the skills necessary to do the job they are hiring for, the ability effectively meet challenges, and the flexibility and diplomacy to work well with other employees and with management.

Sample Answers:

  • I’m a hard worker with the experience to get things done efficiently.
  • I can contribute my organizational skills and my ability to work well in a group.
  • I have the experience, contacts, and knowledge to contribute to the rapid growth of this business.
  • Vision. I am experienced in the areas this company needs to grow, and my ability to plan ahead will help facilitate that growth.

Are you willing to travel?

When you are asked about your willingness to travel during an interview, be honest. There’s no point in saying “yes” if you would prefer to be home five nights a week.

It is perfectly acceptable to ask how much travel is involved. That way, you can weigh how much you would need to be on the road and make an educated decision as to whether the amount of travel required fits in with your lifestyle.

What’s most important is to get a good understanding of what’s involved before you are offered the job, rather than being (unpleasantly) surprised after you have already been hired.

What is good customer service?

When you are applying for a retail or customer service position a typical job interview question is “What is good customer service?” The interviewer wants to know what you consider quality customer service and how you would be willing to provide it to customers.

Here is a selection of sample answers you can use to respond to questions about good customer service:

  • Good customer service means having thorough knowledge of your inventory, experience with your products, and being able to help customers make the best choices for them.
  • Good customer service is treating customers with a friendly, helpful attitude.
  • Good customer service means helping customers efficiently, in a friendly manner. It’s one of the things that can set your business apart from the others of it’s kind.

How long do you expect to remain employed with this company?

Review sample answers to the interview question “How long do you expect to remain employed with this company?” When you respond, be sure to frame your response so that it’s positive.

I’ve heard applicants say that they only want the job for a short amount of time or are planning to relocate or go back to school. Responses like that aren’t going to impress the hiring manager who is looking to hire a long-term employee.

Sample Answers:

  • I believe that this company has the capacity to offer me a rich and satisfying career, and I would like to remain employed here for as long as I am having a positive impact.
  • I would like to pursue my career here for as long as I have the opportunity to.
  • I would like to remain employed here for as long as my services are needed.

Is there anything I haven’t told you about the job or company that you would like to know?

It’s your turn! As the interview comes to a close, one of the final questions you may be asked is “What can I answer for you?” Have interview questions of your own ready to ask. You aren’t simply trying to get this job – you are also interviewing the employer to assess whether this company and the position are a good fit for you.

Here are questions to ask the interviewer so you can ensure the company is a good match for your qualifications and interests.

Interview Questions to Ask the Employer:

  • How would you describe the responsibilities of the position?
  • How would you describe a typical week/day in this position?
  • Is this a new position? If not, what did the previous employee go on to do?
  • What is the company’s management style?
  • Who does this position report to? If I am offered the position, can I meet him/her?
  • How many people work in this office/department?
  • How much travel is expected?
  • Is relocation a possibility?
  • What is the typical work week? Is overtime expected?
  • What are the prospects for growth and advancement?
  • How does one advance in the company?
  • Are there any examples?
  • What do you like about working here?
  • What don’t you like about working here and what would you change?
  • Would you like a list of references?
  • If I am extended a job offer, how soon would you like me to start?
  • What can I tell you about my qualifications?
  • When can I expect to hear from you?
  • Are there any other questions I can answer for you?

Interview Questions NOT to Ask

  • What does this company do? (Do your research ahead of time!)
  • If I get the job when can I take time off for vacation? (Wait until you get the offer to mention prior commitments)
  • Can I change my schedule if I get the job? (If you need to figure out the logistics of getting to work don’t mention it now…)
  • Did I get the job? (Don’t be impatient. They’ll let you know.)

Prepare for that Job Interview – Part 2 / Questions About You

Interview Questions About YouJob interviews are always stressful – even for job seekers who have gone on countless interviews. The best way to reduce the stress is to be prepared. Take the time to review the “standard” interview questions you will most likely be asked. Also review sample answers to these typical interview questions.

In addition to reviewing general interview questions, also review job specific interview questions that are designed to assess whether you have the skills required to do the job.

Then take the time to research the company. That way you’ll be ready with knowledgeable answers for the job interview questions that specifically relate to the company you are interviewing with.

In Part 2 of our “Prepare for that Job Interview” Blog, we are reviewing some questions you might get asked about YOU.  For example:

What is your greatest weakness?  

When you’re asked what your greatest weakness is, try to turn a negative into a positive. For example, a sense of urgency to get projects completed or wanting to triple-check every item in a spreadsheet can be turned into a strength i.e. you are a candidate who will make sure that the project is done on time and your work will be close to perfect.

Note that the term “weakness” isn’t used in the sample answers – you always want to focus on the positive when interviewing.

Sample Answers:

  • When I’m working on a project, I don’t want just to meet deadlines. Rather, I prefer to complete the project well ahead of schedule.
  • Being organized wasn’t my strongest point, but I implemented a time management system that really helped my organization skills.
  • I like to make sure that my work is perfect, so I tend to perhaps spend a little too much time checking it. However, I’ve come to a good balance by setting up a system to ensure everything is done correctly the first time.
  • I used to wait until the last minute to set appointments for the coming week, but I realized that scheduling in advance makes much more sense.
  • I would say that I can be too much of a perfectionist in my work. Sometimes, I spend more time than necessary on a task, or take on tasks personally that could easily be delegated to someone else. Although I’ve never missed a deadline, it is still an effort for me to know when to move on to the next task, and to be confident when assigning others work.    I’ve learned to make my perfectionism work to my advantage at work. I am excellent at meeting deadlines, and with my attention to detail, I know my work is correct.
  • I used to like to work on one project to its completion before starting on another, but I’ve learned to work on many projects at the same time, and I think it allows me to be more creative and effective in each one.

What is your greatest strength?

“What is your greatest strength?” is one of the easier interview questions you’ll be asked. When you are asked questions about your strengths, it’s important to discuss attributes that will qualify you for the job. The best way to respond is to describe the skills and experience that directly correlate with the job you are applying for.

Sample Answers:

  • When I’m working on a project, I don’t want just to meet deadlines. Rather, I prefer to complete the project well ahead of schedule.
  • I have exceeded my sales goals every quarter and I’ve earned a bonus each year since I started with my current employer.
  • My time management skills are excellent and I’m organized, efficient, and take pride in excelling at my work.
  • I pride myself on my customer service skills and my ability to resolve what could be difficult situations.

How Will Your Greatest Strength Help You Perform?

As a follow up to being asked about your greatest strengths, you may be asked about how your greatest strength helped your performance on the job. When you respond, relate your strengths to both the job description and your ability to perform at work.

Sample Answers:

  • My greatest strength is my ability to work with many different people. I enjoy learning from everyone I meet, and in this position I believe that will enhance my ability to perform on the team.
  • My greatest strength is my ability to focus on my work. I’m not easily distracted, and this means that my performance is very high, even in a busy office like this one.
  • My greatest strength is my ability to focus on the job at hand. I’m not easily distracted from the big picture.
  • My organizational skills are my greatest strength. I’m capable of keeping many projects on track at the same time.

How would you describe yourself?

Review sample answers to the interview question “How would you describe yourself?” When you respond, keep in mind the type of position you are interviewing for, the company culture, and the work environment. Your answer should help show the interviewer why you’re a match for the job and for the company.

Sample Answers:

  •  I’m a people person. I really enjoy meeting and working with a lot of different people.
  • I’m a perfectionist. I pay attention to all the details, and like to be sure that everything is just right.
  • I’m a creative thinker. I like to explore alternative solutions to problems and have an open mind about what will work best.
  • I’m efficient and highly organized. This enables me to be as productive as possible on the job.
  • I enjoy solving problems, troubleshooting issues, and coming up with solutions in a timely manner.

Describe a typical work week.

Interviewers expect a candidate for employment to discuss what they do while they are working in detail. Before you answer, consider the position you are applying for and how your current or past positions relate to it. The more you can connect your past experience with the job opening, the more successful you will be at answering the questions.

It should be obvious that it’s not a good idea talk about non-work related activities that you do on company time, but, I’ve had applicants tell me how they are often late because they have to drive a child to school or like to take a long lunch break to work at the gym.

Keep your answers focused on work and show the interviewer that you’re organized (“The first thing I do on Monday morning is check my voicemail and email, then I prioritize my activities for the week.”) and efficient.

 Describe your work style.

When you are asked about how you work during an interview, it’s important to impress the interviewer with your competency and accuracy, rather than just your speed.

Here are sample answers to the interview question “How would you describe your work style?”

  • I am very focused on my work, and consequently, am able to work quickly.
  • I keep a steady pace, and check my work as I go along, to prevent mistakes from snowballing.
  • Because I am very organized, I am able to accomplish a lot in a limited amount of time.
  • I’m organized and efficient and I’m able to multi-task very well.
  • I’m always on top of my projects, but I do welcome input and will consult with team members to ensure we’re all on the same track.

Do you take work home with you?

Do you take work home with you is a tricky question, be ready. The longer the answer, the bigger the hole you’ve dug. Don’t waffle and don’t give an overly detailed answer with lots of ifs, ands, or buts.

Best Answer:

When I need to, no problem. I realize the importance of meeting deadlines and getting work done on time.

How many hours do you normally work?

Be careful before you answer questions about how many hours a week you work. You don’t want to be construed as a slacker or as someone who works too many hours. At some companies, the norm is a 40 hour week and everyone goes home on time. At others, everyone might work 50 or 60 hours a week.

However, working a lot of hours isn’t necessarily a good thing – it could mean you’re not productive enough to get the job done in a reasonable amount of time.

So, unless you’re sure about the company culture and expectations, the safest answer is not to mention a certain number of hours. Rather, mention that you work as much as necessary to get the job done.

 How would you describe the pace at which you work?

When you’re asked to describe the pace at which you work, be careful how you respond. This is another question where faster isn’t necessarily better. Most employers would rather hire employees who work at a steady pace. Someone who is too slow to get the job done in a reasonable time frame isn’t going to be a good hire. Neither is a candidate who works frenetically all day.

Options for answering this question include saying that you work at a steady pace, but usually complete work in advance of the deadline. Discuss your ability to manage projects and get them done on, or ahead, of schedule. If you work at a job where you have set criteria (i.e. number of calls made or responded to) that measures accomplishments, discuss how you have achieved or exceeded those goals.

How do you handle stress and pressure?  

A typical interview question, asked to get a sense of how you handle on-the-job stress, is “How do you handle pressure?”.

Examples of good responses include:

  • Stress is very important to me. With stress, I do the best possible job. The appropriate way to deal with stress is to make sure I have the correct balance between good stress and bad stress. I need good stress to stay motivated and productive.
  • I react to situations, rather than to stress. That way, the situation is handled and doesn’t become stressful.
  • I actually work better under pressure and I’ve found that I enjoy working in a challenging environment.
  • From a personal perspective, I manage stress by visiting the gym every evening. It’s a great stress reducer.
  • Prioritizing my responsibilities so I have a clear idea of what needs to be done when, has helped me effectively manage pressure on the job.
  • If the people I am managing are contributing to my stress level, I discuss options for better handling difficult situations with them.
  • I find that when I’m under the pressure of a deadline, I can do some of my most creative work.
  • I’m not a person who has a difficult time with stress. When I’m under pressure, I focus, and get the job done.
  • I find it exhilarating to be in a dynamic environment where the pressure is on.
  • I find a past pace to be invigorating, and thrive when the pressure is on.
  • I’ve done some of my best work under tight deadlines, where the atmosphere was very stressful.
  •  I’m the kind of person who stays calm under pressure, and handles stress fairly easily.

It’s a good idea to give examples of how you have handled stress to your interviewer. That way, they get a clear picture how well you can work in stressful situations.

What motivates you?

There isn’t a right or wrong answer to interview questions about what motivates you. The interviewer is trying to understand the key to your being successful in the job he is interviewing for, and wants to make sure it’s a good fit. Consider, in advance of interviewing, what actually does motivate you and come up with some specific examples to share during the interview.

Your response will vary based on your background and experiences, but, you will want to share your enthusiasm and what you like(d) best about your job.

Here are some examples:

  • I was responsible for several projects where I directed development teams and implemented repeatable processes. The teams achieved 100% on-time delivery of software products. I was motivated both by the challenge of finishing the projects ahead of schedule and by managing the teams that achieved our goals.
  • I’ve always been motivated by the desire to do a good job at whatever position I’m in. I want to excel and to be successful in my job, both for my own personal satisfaction and for my employer.
  •  I have always wanted to ensure that my company’s clients get the best customer service I can provide. I’ve always felt that it’s important, both to me personally, and for the company and the clients, to provide a positive customer experience.
  • I have spent my career in sales, typically in commission-based positions, and compensation has always been a strong factor in motivating me to be the top salesperson at my prior employers.

Are you a self motivator?  

Review sample answers to the interview question “Are you a self motivator?” When you respond, keep in mind that companies are seeking motivated and enthusiastic employees.

Sample Answers:

  • Absolutely. I am a very active person, and I enjoy my work. I’m always looking for new and innovative ideas to bring to a project.
  • I believe I am a self motivator. I give my all to a project, and am always looking ahead to the next one at hand. Successfully completing one and moving on to the next is very exciting for me. I am passionate about my work, and truly enjoy working toward the next big goal.
  • I have always been self motivated. Coming from my background, not very much was expected of me after I finished High School. I always wanted more, and put myself through College and Grad School with very little support from my family. In the workplace, I bring that same drive to managing projects and deadlines.

What are your salary expectations?  

Before you start talking pay (and salary negotiations) with a prospective employer, you need to find out how much the job (and you) are worth. You will need to take the time to research salaries. That way you will be prepared to get what you’re worth and to get a job offer that’s realistic and reasonable.

Salary Negotiations

Once you know what you should be earning, how do you go about getting it? Start by being very patient. When interviewing for a new position, do your best not to bring up compensation until the employer makes you an offer. If you’re asked what your salary requirements are, say that they are open based upon the position and the overall compensation package. Or tell the employer you’d like to know more about the responsibilities and the challenges of the job prior to discussing salary.

Another option is to give the employer a salary range based upon the salary research you’ve done up front. Once you’ve received the offer you don’t need to accept (or reject) it right away. A simple “I need to think it over” can get you an increase in the original offer.

And if you’re ambivalent about the position a “no” can bring you a better offer too. I turned down a position I knew I didn’t want, regardless of salary, and received three follow-up phone calls upping the compensation package. Be careful though, if you do definitely need that new job there’s a risk that the employer may accept your declining the position and move on to the next candidate.

What do you find are the most difficult decisions to make?

There is no right or wrong answer to questions like “What are the most difficult decisions to make?” or “Describe a difficult work situation / project and how you overcame it.” These are behavioral interview questions designed to discover how you handled certain situations. The logic behind these types of questions is that how you behaved in the past is a predictor of what you will do in the future.

Give concrete examples of difficult situations that actually happened at work. Then discuss what you did to solve the problem. Keep your answers positive (“Even though it was difficult when Jane Doe quit without notice, we were able to rearrange the department workload to cover the position until a replacement was hired.”) and be specific. Itemize what you did and how you did it.

The best way to prepare for questions where you will need to recall events and actions is to refresh your memory and consider some special situations you have dealt with or projects you have worked on. You can use them to help frame responses. Prepare stories that illustrate times when you have successfully solved a difficult situation.

Tell me about yourself.

You walk into the interview room, shake hands with your interviewer and sit down with your best interviewing smile on. Guess what their first question is? “Tell me about yourself.”

Do you “wing it” and actually tell all manner of things about yourself? Will you spend the next 5 minutes rambling on about what an easy-going, loyal, dedicated, hard working employee you’ve been? If this is the case, you stand a good chance of having bored your interviewer to death thus creating a negative first impression.

Because it’s such a common interview question, it’s strange that more candidates don’t spend the time to prepare for exactly how to answer it. Perhaps because the question seems so disarming and informal, we drop our guard and shift into ramble mode. Resist all temptation to do so.

Your interviewer is not looking for a 10-minute dissertation here. Instead, offer a razor sharp sentence or two that sets the stage for further discussion and sets you apart from your competitors.

Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Give them “your synopsis about you” answer, specifically your Unique Selling Proposition. Known as a personal branding or a value-added statement, the USP is a succinct, one-sentence description of who you are, your biggest strength and the major benefit that a company will derive from this strength. Here is an example of a Unique Selling Proposition: “I’m a seasoned Retail Manager strong in developing training programs and loss prevention techniques that have resulted in revenue savings of over $2.3Million for (employer’s name) during the past 11 years.”

What a difference you’ve made with this statement. Your interviewer is now sitting forward in her chair giving you her full attention. At this point, you might add the following sentence: “I’d like to discuss how I might be able to do something like that for you.” The ball is now back in her court and you have the beginnings of a real discussion and not an interrogation process.

Be Specific

The key is that you must lead with your strongest benefit to the employer. Be specific and don’t wander about with some laundry list of skills or talents. Be sure to put a monetary value on your work if at all possible and be ready with details when you’re called upon. Give an estimated value to the $$ you’ve either helped to make or save for your employer.

Be Prepared

When you walk into an interview, remember to always expect the “tell me about yourself” question. Prepare ahead of time by developing your own personal branding statement that clearly tells who you are, your major strength and the clear benefit that your employer received. The advantages of this approach are that you’ll quickly gain their attention and interest them in knowing more. You’ll separate yourself from your competitors. You’ll also have a higher chance of being positively remembered and hired.

What has been the greatest disappointment in your life?

Your response to the question “What has been the greatest disappointment in your life?” will help the interviewer determine know how easily you are discouraged.

Best Answer:

If possible, tell about a personal disappointment i.e. the early death of a parent, child, or school friend. Believe it or not, it is okay to have not had a “greatest” disappointment.

What are you passionate about?

When you’re asked what you’re passionate about during a job interview it’s a good opportunity to share what is important in your life. It’s also an opportunity to show your dedication and what’s important to you.

Your response doesn’t need to be work focused, but do be sure that what you share isn’t something that could potential cut in to your working hours.

For example, you don’t want to say that you’re a mountain climber with the goal of climbing Mountain Everest or that you’re getting ready for the Tour de France or looking to spend the winter skiing in Aspen.

Sample Answers: What Are You Passionate About?

  • One of my greatest passions is helping others. When I was younger, I’ve enjoyed helping mom with household repairs. As I grew older, that habit grew and I desired to help others as well. I like helping people find solutions that meet their specific needs.
  • I’m passionate about painting. I take an evening art class once a week and try to find time each weekend to paint. Painting is a good way for me to relax and even though I don’t have much talent, I do it enjoy it.
  • I lost my father to pancreatic cancer and ever since then, I have spent time volunteering to help raise awareness and funding for cancer research. I volunteer for PanCan, the advocacy group, and I’m part of their volunteer network. One of the things I’m passionate is to assist in finding a cure, however I can.
  • I’m passionate about making a difference. When I’m involved with a project at work I want to do my best to achieve success. I feel the same way about what I do in my personal life.
  • I’m an avid skier and I like to spend weekends and vacations on the ski slopes.

What are your pet peeves?

Your response to the question “What are your pet peeves?” will help the interviewer determine if you would be a good fit with the company culture.

Best Answer:

  • I do not have a pet peeve. If something is bothering me, I step back, analyze “why” and find a good solution. If you asked my teenage daughter she would tell you my pet peeve is the volume of her music.

What do people most often criticize about you?

The interview question “What Do People Most Often Criticize About You?” is asked to find out how sensitive to you are and how you accept criticism.

Best Answers:

  • There’s no on-going criticism. I’m open to personal and professional growth and welcome the opportunity to improve.

If humor is appropriate, this is a good time to use it.

Example: I have a teenage daughter – few things I do are okay on her radar screen.

When was the last time you were angry? What happened?  

When the interviewer asks “When Was The Last Time You Were Angry? What Happened?” he or she wants to know if you lose control. The real meaning of the word “angry”, to an interviewer, is loss of control and it’s important to know how you handle situations when you’re angry.

Best Answer:

  • Anger to me means loss of control. I do not lose control. When I get stressed, I step back, take a deep breath, thoughtfully think through the situation and then begin to formulate a plan of action.

If you could relive the last 10 years of your life, what would you do differently?

When asking what you would do if you could relive your life, the interviewer is looking for a flaw in your interview. Always remember, the goal for the first few interviews is to get the next interview. For the interviewer, it is to weed out as many applicants as possible. Here’s where a personal answer could work.

Personal Answer:

  • I lost my mother to Alzheimer’s. I wish I’d known more about the disease to help me through that difficult time.

If the people who know you were asked why you should be hired, what would they say?

When the interviewer asks “If the people who know you were asked why you should be hired, what would they say?” he or she wants to know what your perception is of what others think about your qualifications and abilities.

Best Answer:

  • I’m sure if you asked my friends that question they would say you should hire me because I have the skills outlined in the job description and I bring 10+ years of expertise to this position. Words they’ve used to describe me are: hard working, professional, trusted and a team player.

Do you prefer to work independently or on a team?

When the interviewer asks “Do you prefer to work independently or on a team?” he or she wants to know if you’re a team player or would rather work on your own.

Best Answers:

  • I am equally comfortable working as a member of a team and independently. In researching the LMN company, your mission statement and the job description, I could see similarities to my previous position where there were some assignments that required a great deal of independent work and research and others where the team effort was most effective. As I said, I’m comfortable with both.
  • In high school, I enjoyed playing soccer and performing with the marching band. Each required a different kind of team play, but the overall goal of learning to be a member of a group was invaluable. I continued to grow as team member while on my sorority’s debate team and through my advanced marketing class where we had numerous team assignments.  I’m very comfortably working on a team, but I can also work independently, as well.

Give some examples of teamwork.

A typical interview question to discover how well you would work with other people is “Give some examples of teamwork.”

Sample Answers:

  • In my last position, I was part of a software implementation team. We all worked together to plan and manage the implementation schedule, to provide customer training, and ensure a smooth transition for our customers. Our team always completed our projects ahead of schedule with very positive reviews from our clients.
  • I was part of team responsible for evaluating and selecting a new vendor for our office equipment and supplies. The inter-departmental team reviewed options, compared pricing and service, chose a vendor, and implemented the transition to the new vendor.
  • In high school, I enjoyed playing soccer and performing with the marching band. Each required a different kind of team play, but the overall goal of learning to be a member of a group was invaluable. I continued to grow as team member while on my sorority’s debate team and through my advanced marketing class where we had numerous team assignments.

What type of work environment do you prefer?

When you are asked about work environments, your best bet is to say you’re flexible because, at this stage in the interview process, you don’t know what it will be like working for the company.

Best Answer:

  • I can be flexible when it comes to my work environment. What is the environment in the Engineering department here at RRS, Inc? (Once they’ve described the work environment, include key phrases they’ve used when you describe your preferred work environment).

How do you evaluate success?

Best answer to the interview question “How do you evaluate success?”:

  • I evaluate success in different ways. At work, it is meeting the goals set by my supervisors and my fellow workers. It is my understanding, from talking to other employees, that the GGR company is recognized for not only rewarding success, but giving employees opportunity to grow as well. After work, I enjoy playing softball, so success on the field is catching the winning pop-up.

If you know your boss is 100% wrong about something how would you handle it?

The question “If you know your boss is 100% wrong about something, how would you handle this?” is asked to find out how you deal with a difficult situation.

Best Answers:

An answer that works well is: “It depends on the situation and the personality of the supervisor.” To elaborate, give examples:

  • My present supervisor does not like to have his authority questioned. He’s fairly new on the job and almost all of the people he supervises have been on the job longer than he has. He’s never bothered to learn the procedures, how things are done or how the computer system works. But if any of us tell him that how he wants something done won’t work, he gets extremely angry. So, I never tell him he’s wrong. Never. Whatever he tells me to do, I smile and say “okay.” Then if I know a way to get it done that will work, I do it that way, give him the results he wants and never tell him I didn’t do it the way he told me to. He got the results and is happy. I saved myself the stress of being yelled at and gave him what he wanted, so I’m happy.
  • My prior supervisor was more easy-going and if I told her “you know, I think it might work better if I do what you asked in such and such a way,” she say “okay, try it.”
  • If I were a new hire on a job, I would probably not question a supervisor because I might think I didn’t know enough. Except on the new job I’m going to. The director has admitted that she’s new on the job and there are alot of things that a secretary does that she doesn’t know how to do, so she will be depending on me to know how to keep the office running.

Describe a difficult work situation / project and how you overcame it.

There is no right or wrong answer to questions like “What are the most difficult decisions to make?” or “Describe a difficult work situation / project and how you overcame it.” These are behavioral interview questions designed to discover how you handled certain situations. The logic behind these types of questions is that how you behaved in the past is a predictor of what you will do in the future.

Give concrete examples of difficult situations that actually happened at work. Then discuss what you did to solve the problem. Keep your answers positive (“Even though it was difficult when Jane Doe quit without notice, we were able to rearrange the department workload to cover the position until a replacement was hired.”) and be specific. Itemize what you did and how you did it.

The best way to prepare for questions where you will need to recall events and actions is to refresh your memory and consider some special situations you have dealt with or projects you have worked on. You can use them to help frame responses. Prepare stories that illustrate times when you have successfully solved a difficult situation.

Describe a time when your workload was heavy and how you handled it.

A typical interview question to discover how you manage your work is “Describe a time when your workload was heavy and how you handled it.”

Sample Answers:

  • While at the HKL plant, we were faced with a sudden order increase for the j-ball bearing. It was for a new customer. I immediately sat down with the production supervisor, our materials/supply manager, and the union steward. We were able to lay out a workable plan that maximized hourly costs, guaranteed materials were available and, with only a slight adjustment, meet the production deadline. While it was challenging and involved long hours, the pay-off was a signed contract with a new customer.
  • When I was working on a software implementation team at ABC Company, we took over another company and had to transition many clients to a new product in a short amount of time. It took a lot of planning, time, hard work, and effort, but we were able to complete the project in a timely manner.

Prepare for that Job Interview – Part 1 / Work History

Prepare for the nterview - Part 1Job interviews are always stressful – even for job seekers who have gone on countless interviews. The best way to reduce the stress is to be prepared. Take the time to review the “standard” interview questions you will most likely be asked. Also review sample answers to these typical interview questions.

In addition to reviewing general interview questions, also review job specific interview questions that are designed to assess whether you have the skills required to do the job.

Then take the time to research the company. That way you’ll be ready with knowledgeable answers for the job interview questions that specifically relate to the company you are interviewing with.

Name of company, position title and description, dates of employment.

Interviewers expect a candidate for employment to be able to review their work history in detail. Be prepared to tell the interviewer the names of the companies you worked for, your job title, your starting and ending dates of employment, how much you earned and what your job entailed.

You’d be surprised how many job applicants fumble when asked about prior employment. Don’t be one of them! Refresh your memory prior to the interview by reviewing your resume, so you can speak about your prior work history in detail and accurately.

If you don’t have a resume, make sure what you tell the interviewer matches what you filled out on your job application. The best way to prepare is to download a sample job application ahead of time. Complete the sample application and bring it with you when you are applying for employment. This way you will be able to copy the information rather than having to remember dates and other employment information.

What were your expectations for the job and to what extent were they met?

In many cases, interviewers will want to know what you expected from your last job when you were hired, so be prepared to answer the interview question “What were your expectations for the job and to what extent were they met?”

There isn’t a right or wrong answer to this question. The best way to respond is to discuss what you expected when you took the job and give examples of how the position worked out for you. If the job wasn’t exactly what you expected, it’s fine to mention that. However, you should focus on the job itself, not the company, your boss, or your co-workers (if they were a problem). Do be careful how you answer and don’t focus too much on the negative. Instead, address the highlights of the job.

When responding, be specific. Prepare some examples to share with the interviewer in advance. For example, if your job involved creating web applications using Cold Fusion, discuss the specific programs you developed and the responsibilities you were given. If you were provided training and opportunities for professional development to help you achieve your goals, mention that, as well.

What were your starting and final levels of compensation?

Interviewers expect a candidate for employment to be able to provide the details of their compensation history. Be prepared to tell the interviewer how much you earned at each of your prior positions.

Make sure that what you tell the interviewer matches what you listed on your job application. Refresh your memory prior to the interview by reviewing your compensation history, so, you can speak in detail and accurately. Don’t exaggerate or inflate your earnings. Many employers will check references and confirm your salary history prior to making a job offer. A discrepancy between what you reported and what the employer says could knock you out of contention for the job.

The best way to prepare is to download a sample job application ahead of time. Complete the sample application and review it prior to the interview.

What were your responsibilities?

When you are asked questions related to your current or previous positions, it’s important to be specific and to be positive about what you did in your previous position(s).

The best way to respond is to describe your responsibilities in detail and to connect them to the job you are interviewing for. Try to tie your responsibilities in with those listed in the job description for the new position. That way, the employer will see that you have the qualifications necessary to do the job. Focus most on your responsibilities that are directly related to the new job’s requirements.

It’s also important to be honest. Don’t embellish your job, because you don’t know who the hiring manager will be checking with when they check your references.

What major challenges and problems did you face? How did you handle them?

When asked the job interview question “How did you handle a challenge?” be sure to include specific examples of how you handled a particular difficult situation. Discuss how you researched the issue and contributed to finding a solution.

Examples of good responses include:

  • During a difficult financial period, I was able to satisfactorily negotiate repayment schedules with multiple vendors.
  • When the software development of our new product stalled, I coordinated the team which managed to get the schedule back on track. We were able to successfully troubleshoot the issues and solve the problems, within a very short period of time.
  • A long-term client was about to take their business to a competitor. I met with the customer and was able to change how we handled the account on a day-to-day basis, in order to keep the business.

What have you learned from your mistakes?

When asked the job interview question “What have you learned from your mistakes?” be sure to give examples that turn a negative (a mistake) into a positive.

Examples of good responses include:

  • I think one of the most important things I’ve learned is persistence. Not to give up too soon, because the solution is probably right in front of me.
  • I have learned to give every person a second chance, because first impressions can often be misleading.
  • I used to think that there was one best solution to a problem, but I’ve learned that that kind of thinking limits the possibility of great success.

What did you like or dislike about your previous job?

When you’re asked what don’t like about your previous job, don’t be too negative. The reason is that you don’t want the interviewer to think that you’ll speak negatively about the new job or the company when you’re ready to move on, if you get this job. Rather, it makes sense to talk about yourself and what you’re looking for in a new role.

Sample Answer

  • I enjoyed the people I worked with. It was a friendly and fun atmosphere and I actually enjoyed going into work each morning.  I felt the leadership team was great as well. They knew all of their employees on a first name basis and tried to make those personal connections. I also enjoyed that fact that the office tried to do community outreach with local organizations.
  • One of the reasons I am leaving is that I felt I was not challenged enough at the job. As a fresh face in the working world, the company offers a great opportunity for a good entry level position; however, after being there for so many years, I felt I was not able to reach my full potential because of the lack of challenge and there was no room for advancement in the company.
  • While I did enjoy working there and appreciate the skills I developed while with the company, I feel my skill set can be better utilized elsewhere, where my capabilities are more recognized and there is the opportunity for growth.

Which was most / least rewarding?

Interview questions about what was most rewarding and least rewarding can be tricky. You want to make sure that the things you say are least rewarding aren’t responsibilities that are going to be a major part of the job you are interviewing for.

For example, if the last job you had involved extensive customer service telephone work that you hated, and if being on the phone doing something similar is even a minor part of the new job, don’t mention it. Instead, focus on the the tasks that were most rewarding and highlight those.

When interviewing, always be cognizant of the job you are interviewing for and tailor your response accordingly. Try to accentuate the positive, regardless of what question you have been asked, because you don’t want to be construed as someone who is negative about work, in general.

Questions about your supervisors and co-workers.

For the most part, the following questions may be asked to determine if you are a team player. Take a few seconds, when asked a difficult question, before you answer. An interviewer is not expecting you to have a ready answer. However, the Boy Scout Motto – Be Prepared – – certainly applies here as well.

Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a co-worker who wasn’t doing his/her fair share of the work. What did you do and what was the outcome?

I worked closely with Ann who, for the most part, always carried her fair share of the work load. During a stressful time, working on a project with a deadline, I realized Ann’s contributions to the project were almost minimal. I made the decision to wait until after the project to speak with her. I’m glad I did, because I learned she’d been going through a very tough time in her personal life and she appreciated my willingness to go the extra mile so the project was completed on time. As a result, our ability to work well together significantly increased.

Give me an example of a time when you took the time to share a co-worker’s or supervisor’s achievements with other?

At my most recent position, one of my co-workers, Dan, did an outstanding job of calming an irate customer, solving the customer’s problem and completing a sale. When our boss asked me how things were going, I told him everything was going fine and that Dan had just completed calming an irate customer and closing a sale. It was a win-win-win- for our boss, Dan and the customer.

Tell me about a time that you didn’t work well with a supervisor. What was the outcome and how would you have changed the outcome?

Early in my career, I had a supervisor (Judy) who was in a fairly good mood on Monday, but it deteriorated each day until by Friday, the supervisor was finding fault with everything I did. I didn’t realize, until I left that position, that I had been a contributor to the decline in her mood. Judy would ask me how my weekend was (on Monday) and during the week she would ask how it was going. I would tell her how much fun I was having (I was single) and how I was looking forward to the weekend plans. After I left, I realized my life was in complete contrast to hers and I reminded her of it almost daily. When she asked the questions, I should have had a quick answer, and then asked her how she was doing!!!!

Have you worked with someone you didn’t like? If so, how did you handle it?

Yes, I’ve worked with someone whom I found difficult to like as a person. However, when I focused on the skills they brought to the job, their ability to solve problems and the two things I did appreciate, slowly my attitude towards them changed. We were never friends, but we did work well together.

Tell me about a time that you helped someone.

Most recently, we had a new hire (Paul) that was really struggling with getting to work on time, and I knew the boss (Harry) was getting irritated. Over lunch one day I explained to Paul how important it was to our boss for everyone to be there at least 10 minutes early. It was personal with the Harry, but you could really get on his bad side when you were frequently late. The new employee was grateful for the advice. At his previous employment, the boss was only concerned about the work getting done on time; he/she did not “watch the clock”.

Tell me about a time that you misjudged a person.

There was a long-time employee (George) at my second company who was very gruff when he spoke to me. At first, I went out of my way to win the George’s approval. Then I realized that was compounding the problem. So I observed how he interacted with other employees and discovered I wasn’t alone. He was gruff to most people. I quit trying to gain his approval and, in the process, discovered he’d learned his behavior from a former boss he’d had whom he admired.

How do you get along with older (younger) co-workers?

Suggested answer if your co-workers are older:

There are times when I just know that a new way of doing something makes more sense to me; but, first hand, I learned that my “better way” may not be the best way to get the job done. As a consequence, I respect my older co-workers knowledge and I’ve learned how to make a suggestion at the appropriate time.

Suggested answer if your co-workers are younger:

I quickly realized it was not my job to “parent” the younger people with whom I work; it was my job to get to know them and for us to find common ground where we could effectively work together. It took time, but the result was worth the effort.

What was it like working for your supervisor?

A typical interview question is “What Was it Like Working for Your Supervisor?” The reason it’s asked it to find out how you got along with your boss. Be careful how your answer. Interviewers don’t like to hear too much (or much at all) about bad bosses because it could be someone from their company that you’re talking about next time around.

I once had a job applicant who spent 10 minutes responding to this question. She told me how awful her boss was and how her company was a terrible place to work. It so happened that her boss was a good friend and golfing buddy of my boss – our company’s CEO – and the company was one of our biggest clients. Of course, she didn’t get the job.

Don’t make the same mistake she did. Instead, accentuate the positive and minimize any difficult situations. Discuss the strengths your past supervisors had and how they helped you succeed in your positions.

What do you expect from a supervisor?

Sample Answers

  • I appreciate a work environment where supervisors try to make personal connections with their employees.
  • In my last job, I liked the fact that management did not show favoritism and they were understanding of employees needs, as well as their strengths. Of course, these things take time to know, but I would want my supervisor to try to know me in that way.
  • I would like to be able to go my manager if I have an issue or idea and to be able to feel comfortable to expressing my thoughts. I would also expect my supervisor to be open and honest with me and to let me know if there is anything I could do to improve upon or do differently in my work.

What problems have you encountered at work?

Review sample answers to the interview question “What problems have you encountered at work and how did you deal with them?” When you respond, be sure to include a positive outcome to the problems you reference in your answer.

Sample Answers

  • I feel that the best way to deal with any challenges is to meet them head on. When I found that one of my colleagues was saying things that weren’t true behind my back, I went to him and talked it through. It turned out that he had misunderstood what I had said, and I was able to set the record straight with him, and my supervisor.
  • “Once I found a major flaw in the work of one of the most senior members of the department, which could have been very costly to the company if it had been overlooked. I went directly to him, and called it to his attention so he could fix it before it affected the final outcome.

Have you ever had difficulty working with a manager?

Review sample answers to the interview question “Have you ever had difficulty working with a manager?” Be careful answering questions about previous managers. You don’t want to come across as difficult, and you want to cast any past experiences in the most positive light possible.

Sample Answers

  • I had a rocky start with a manager once, because we had different expectations for the flow of the workday. Once we talked about it, we realized that our goals were very compatible, and we were able to work very successfully together for several years.
  • I have found that if I take the time to talk with my manager at the beginning of a project, we can all get off to a great start on the same page.
    I would say that I have never really had a problem working with anyone. I try to find our common ground, and get along with everyone’s different personality.

Who was your best boss and who was the worst?

With the question “Who was your best boss and who was the worst?” the interviewer is trying to discover if you assess blame or carry a grudge. The interviewer also wants to determine if you are match for the leadership style of the company.

Best Answers

  • I’ve learned from each boss I’ve had. From the good ones, what to do, from the challenging ones – what not to do.
  • Early in my career, I had a mentor who helped me a great deal, we still stay in touch. I’ve honestly learned something from each boss I’ve had.

Why are you leaving your job?

Did you resign from your job or are you thinking about resigning? Not sure how to answer the interview question “Why did you resign?” or Why are your resigning your job?” These suggested interview answers with help you prepare to questions about resigning from your previous job.

Interview Answers – Why Did You Resign From Your Job?

  • I resigned because there were limited opportunities for advancement and I wanted to further my career.
  • I graduated from college and resigned in order to find a position where I could use my education and related experience.
  • To be honest, the position wasn’t a fit and I decided it made sense to resign and to refocus my career path.
  • I resigned because the position required me to be on-call evenings and weekends and it was difficult to arrange child care on short notice.
  • I resigned because the position was part-time and my personal situation has changed so I need full-time employment.
  • My skills weren’t a good match for my previous employer’s needs but it looks like they’d be a terrific fit for this position.
  • I resigned from my job because I am interested in a new challenge and an opportunity to use my skills and experience in a different capacity than I have in the past.
  • My family relocated to this area and my previous employer doesn’t have an office here.
  • I’ve been working as a temp, but I’m seeking a permanent position, so I resigned from the temp agency’s staffing roster.
  • I resigned for personal reasons, however, at this point in time, I am excited about moving into a new position.
  • I’m seeking a a new challenge and to grow my career and it was difficult to job search while working.
  • I resigned due to family circumstances, however, I have regained the flexibility I need to work effectively in a full-time job.

Why did you quit your job?

One of the questions that is usually asked during a job interview is “Why are you quitting your job?” or “Why did you quit your job?” if you have already quit.

Review these suggestions on how best to answer questions about quitting your job and tailor your response to meet your particular situation.

Prepare answers to typical job interview questions, like this one, in advance. Practice your responses so you sound positive, and clear, about your circumstances and your goals for the future.

Sample answers to the interview question, “Why did you quit your job?”

  • I quit my job because my supervisor retired. I felt that after many years of working in the office that it was time for a change and this seem like the ideal time to move on.
  • I was able to take advantage of an early retirement offer due to company downsizing and am ready for a new challenge.
  • I resigned to focus on finding a job that is closer to home and will use my skills and experience in a different capacity.
  • I don’t have room to grow with my current employer and I’m ready to move on to a new challenge.
  • I’m looking for a new challenge and to grow my career and I couldn’t job hunt part time while working.
  • I have been volunteering in this capacity and love it. I’m seeking to turn my passion into the next step of my career.
  • I was laid-off from my last position when my job was eliminated due to downshizing.
  • After several years in my last position, I’m looking for an company where I can contribute and grow in a team-oriented environment.
  • I am interested in a new challenge and an opportunity to use my skills and experience in a different capacity than I have in the past.
  • I recently achieved certification and I want to utilize my educational background and technical skills in my next position.
  • I am interested in a job with more responsibility, and I am very ready for a new challenge.
  • I left my last position in order to spend more time with an ill family member. Circumstances have changed and I’m more than ready for full-time employment again.
  • I was commuting and spending an hour each day on travel. I would prefer to be closer to home.
  • To be honest, I wasn’t considering a change, but, a former colleague recommended this job to me and was intrigued by the position and the company. It sounds like an exciting opportunity and an ideal match for my qualifications.
  • This position seemed like an excellent match for my skills and experience and I am not able to fully utilize them in my present job.
  • The company was downsizing and I thought it made sense to seek another position before my job was eliminated.

What have you been doing since your last job?

If you have an employment gap on your resume, the interviewer will probably ask you what you have been doing while you were out of work.

The best way to answer this question is to be honest, but do have an answer prepared. You will want to let the interviewer know that you were busy and active, regardless of whether you were out of work by choice, or otherwise.

Here are some suggestions on how to explain what you did while you were out of the workforce.

  • I worked on several freelance projects, while actively job seeking.
  • I volunteered for a literacy program that assists disadvantaged children.
  • My aging parents needed a temporary caregiver and I spent time looking after them.
  • I spent time being a stay-at-home mom and volunteering at my daughter’s school.
  • I took some continuing education classes and seminars.

As I said, it doesn’t really matter what you did, as long as you have an explanation. Hiring managers understand that people lose their job – it can happen to anyone – and it’s not always easy to find a new job fast. Also, there are legitimate non-employment reasons for being out of the workforce.

Why were you fired?

Fired from your job? Don’t know what to say in an interview? Career expert and author, Joyce Lain Kennedy, shares her twelve best job interview answers to the question “Why were you fired?”

Joyce Lain Kennedy’s sample answers to the interview question “Why were you fired?”

  • Being cut loose was a blessing in disguise. Now I have an opportunity to explore jobs that better suit my qualifications and interests. My research suggests that such an opportunity may be the one on your table. Would you like to hear more about my skills in working with new technology?
  • My competencies were not the right match for my previous employer’s needs but it looks like they’d be a good fit in your organization. In addition to marketing and advertising, would skills in promotion be valued here?
  • Although circumstances caused me to leave my first job, I was very successful in school and got along well with both students and faculty. Perhaps I didn’t fully understand my boss’s expectations or why he released me so quickly before I had a chance to prove myself.
  • The job wasn’t working out so my boss and I agreed that it was time for me to move on to a position that would show a better return for both of us. So here I am, ready to work.
  • After thinking about why I left, I realize I should have done some things differently. That job was a learning experience and I think I’m wiser now. I’d like the chance to prove that to you.
  • A new manager came in and cleaned house in order to bring in members of his old team. That was his right but it cleared my head to envision better opportunities elsewhere.
  • Certain personal problems, which I now have solved, unfortunately upset my work life. These problems no longer exist and I’m up and running strong to exceed expectations in my new job.
  • I wanted my career to move in a different direction, and I guess my mental separation set up the conditions that led to my departure. But by contrast, the opportunity we’re discussing seems to be made for me and I hope to eventually grow into a position of responsibility.
  • I usually hit it off very well with my bosses, but this case was the exception that proved my rule of good relationships. We just didn’t get on well. I’m not sure why.
  • My job was offshored to India. That’s too bad because people familiar with my work say it is superior and fairly priced.
  • I outlasted several downsizings but the last one included me. Sign of the times, I guess.
  • I was desperate for work and took the wrong job without looking around the corner. I won’t make that mistake again.
  • I’d prefer an environment that is congenial, structured and team-oriented, where my best talents can shine and make a substantial contribution.

Kennedy also says, “Practice in advance what you’ll say. Then keep it brief, keep it honest and keep it moving.” That way, you’ll get past the sticky issue of getting fired and can move on to your skills and why you’re qualified for the job.

What Employers Are Thinking When They Look At Your Facebook Page

Why interview when you can Facebook stalk? Yesterday, I told you about a study suggesting that employers can judge candidates’ future work performance by spending five to ten minutes lurking on their Facebook pages.
Facebook Info
Some readers were outraged by this. “I truly wish employers would stop using Facebook as a professional tool,” commented one. “That was never its intention! … Does it give employers a potential view into people’s somewhat personal lives? Yes! But truly what does that prove?”

Like it or not, Facebook and other sites like it are becoming the digital proxies for our real world selves. Our profiles on Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Twitter, et. al. reflect our likes, dislikes, personalities, and best photo angles, and are likely more useful to employers in seeing what we might be like to work with than a short interview. If you don’t want employers (and love interests) to come snooping on your page to get a sense of who you are, set your privacy settings high; limit your content to “friends only.” If you are willing to let it hang out, here’s a sense of what employers will be asking themselves as they review your content. This is the sheet that the reviewers in the study used to rate the Facebooking college students on the “Five Big Qualities” that supposedly convey how good an employee will be. (High ratings are good for everything but “Neuroticism.”) After looking at publicly-available photos, status updates, conversations with friends, and Wall postings, the raters scored each candidate accordingly:

Facebook ChartPotential love interests are probably asking the same questions, though they likely have a slightly different context for “openness to experience” and care more about how good you look in your photos.

While some readers were put off by the idea of being stalked by potential employers, others recognized the utility of tapping into all the information out there about a given candidate.

“If I’m an employer, and it’s legal, and I’m about to make a major investment in someone that I’ll have to work all day with, I’ll use it,” said “gugie.” Puneet Thiara agreed with her: “The costs associated with hiring and training a new employee far outweigh the risk of not doing ALL of your research. You could say it’s similar to me researching a company I am applying for and checking out members of its groups on Facebook to see what kind of people work for the company.”

But other readers want employers to stick to the social networks intended for professional use. “I — and I know many others are with me here — use ‘social networks’ (other than LinkedIn, that is) for just that. Networking SOCIALLY. In my opinion you have no more business examining my Facebook entries than you would crashing a private cocktail party,” wrote a person who spelled “anonymous” in a very eccentric way. “[S]ocial networks should not be used IN LIEU of face-to-face meetings.”

Brettb was of this opinion as well:

[J]udging the character of an individual with such heavy weight on their personal life, which nine times out of ten will never interfere with their professional life, is wrong. The practice of physically sitting down and going through the motions of an interview with a candidate and asking probing intellectual questions while vigorously researching reference data is a much better way to select a qualified candidate. So what if Johnny had a few too many beers one night in Cancun when he was in college and someone took a photo, or if Susie openly supports her local death metal band. Does that make them bad people? No – get to know the candidate if you want to make a judgment of character. See how they handle themselves in a professional atmosphere and if they are personable or rather, someone you feel you can work with.

 

In my opinion, those who don’t want employers looking them up on Facebook pages are fighting a losing battle.

Christian Miller won the comments section with this remark:

Any candidate worth considering should be smart enough to set their privacy settings in order to hide all content from any potential employer. Anything a competent HR staff can find via google search is fair game.

Good luck, job seekers. And along with polishing your resume, dry-cleaning your interview suit, and researching the companies you’re interviewing with, do pay a visit to your Facebook privacy settings page.

8 Qualities of Remarkable Employees

Remarkable EmployeesGreat employees are reliable, dependable, proactive, diligent, great leaders and great followers… they possess a wide range of easily-defined—but hard to find—qualities.

A few hit the next level. Some employees are remarkable, possessing qualities that may not appear on performance appraisals but nonetheless make a major impact on performance.

Here are eight qualities of remarkable employees:

1. They ignore job descriptions. The smaller the company, the more important it is that employees can think on their feet, adapt quickly to shifting priorities, and do whatever it takes, regardless of role or position, to get things done.

When a key customer’s project is in jeopardy, remarkable employees know without being told there’s a problem and jump in without being asked—even if it’s not their job.

2. They’re eccentric… The best employees are often a little different: quirky, sometimes irreverent, even delighted to be unusual. They seem slightly odd, but in a really good way. Unusual personalities shake things up, make work more fun, and transform a plain-vanilla group into a team with flair and flavor.

People who aren’t afraid to be different naturally stretch boundaries and challenge the status quo, and they often come up with the best ideas.

3. But they know when to dial it back. An unusual personality is a lot of fun… until it isn’t. When a major challenge pops up or a situation gets stressful, the best employees stop expressing their individuality and fit seamlessly into the team.

Remarkable employees know when to play and when to be serious; when to be irreverent and when to conform; and when to challenge and when to back off. It’s a tough balance to strike, but a rare few can walk that fine line with ease.

4. They publicly praise… Praise from a boss feels good. Praise from a peer feels awesome, especially when you look up to that person.

Remarkable employees recognize the contributions of others, especially in group settings where the impact of their words is even greater.

5. And they privately complain. We all want employees to bring issues forward, but some problems are better handled in private. Great employees often get more latitude to bring up controversial subjects in a group setting because their performance allows greater freedom.

Remarkable employees come to you before or after a meeting to discuss a sensitive issue, knowing that bringing it up in a group setting could set off a firestorm.

6. They speak when others won’t. Some employees are hesitant to speak up in meetings. Some are even hesitant to speak up privately.

An employee once asked me a question about potential layoffs. After the meeting I said to him, “Why did you ask about that? You already know what’s going on.” He said, “I do, but a lot of other people don’t, and they’re afraid to ask. I thought it would help if they heard the answer from you.”

Remarkable employees have an innate feel for the issues and concerns of those around them, and step up to ask questions or raise important issues when others hesitate.

7. They like to prove others wrong. Self-motivation often springs from a desire to show that doubters are wrong. The kid without a college degree or the woman who was told she didn’t have leadership potential often possess a burning desire to prove other people wrong.

Education, intelligence, talent, and skill are important, but drive is critical. Remarkable employees are driven by something deeper and more personal than just the desire to do a good job.

8. They’re always fiddling. Some people are rarely satisfied (I mean that in a good way) and are constantly tinkering with something: Reworking a timeline, adjusting a process, tweaking a workflow.

Great employees follow processes. Remarkable employees find ways to make those processes even better, not only because they are expected to… but because they just can’t help it.