Quick and Quintessential Career & Job Tips
Job-hunting tips from the August 16, 2004 issue of QuintZine.
The employment interview is a critical step in the job-search process, but it’s not always smooth sailing. OfficeTeam, a staffing service for administrative professionals, recently asked its managers to describe the most unusual occurrences in interviews they had ever heard of from clients and colleagues. The findings reveal just how important first impressions can be for job seekers.
Managers were asked: “What is the most unusual thing you have ever heard of happening in a job interview?” Here are some of their responses:
- “When asked about her motivation for working, the candidate said it was to feed her six dozen animals at home.”
- “The applicant’s reference sheet listed a person with the title ‘Dad.’ When the interviewer asked if this was his dad, he said, ‘No, but he is a dad.'”
- “When asked how he liked working with customers in his past position, the interviewee replied, ‘I don’t like it when people hassle me.'”
- “When asked about her proficiency with software programs, the candidate pulled out a photo of herself standing next to a computer and said, ‘This shows my familiarity with today’s office equipment.'”
- “When discussing why the candidate had been fired from several jobs, he said his previous employers had conspired to place a curse on him, and he was conducting his own secret investigation.”
- “The candidate asked if his rabbit could come to work with him, noting the rabbit was focused and reliable, but that he himself had been fired before.”
- “The interviewee abruptly halted a discussion about her previous work experience, telling the interviewer, ‘There’s no need to discuss this further. I’ve had these skills since before you were born.'”
- “Responding to a question about his ideal job, a candidate said, ‘To lie in bed all day, eat chocolate and get paid.'”
- “When asked about formal education, the candidate replied, ‘I don’t need any. I’m certified by the school of real life.'”
- “Tell me about a project in which you were disappointed with your performance.”
Citing career-planning expert Peter Veruki, Cooper advises answering this question honestly but explaining how you’ve moved beyond obstacles.
- “If this were your first annual review with our company, what would I be telling you right now?”
Cooper suggests: “Work key leadership attributes and skills into your answer. Try something like this: ‘You’d probably be telling me how well I’ve fit into the department and how I’ve helped improve its performance through —– [list your skills and attributes].'”
- “Tell me about aspects of your last job you’d never want to repeat.”
“Be careful here,” Cooper cautions. “Every job has grunt work, and this is a clever way for interviewers to find out where the rubber hits the road. Tick off a few choice tasks you’d like to ditch, and you could ace yourself out of the job. Instead, try this: ‘Even the best jobs have their not-so-great moments. You take each task as it comes and consider it part of the territory.'”
- “What would you do if I said you were giving a poor interview today?”
Again citing Veruki, Cooper notes that this question may be the interviewer’s way to see how well you can handle stress. Ask politely for specifics of how you might be mishandling the interview and whether you might have misunderstood some of the questions. The most important thing is to stay calm and not get flustered by such a question.
- “Who’s the toughest employer you’ve ever had, and why?”
Cooper notes that the interviewer may be trying to get you to fall into the trap of trashing a past employer, which you should never do. Instead, describe how a past boss’s toughness was a plus.
- “You have four minutes to convince me why you’re the best candidate for this position. Go.”
“Link the job’s main duties to two or three of your greatest strengths,” Cooper advises. “Give an example from a prior job and a hypothetical regarding the new position.”
- Anticipate — Read the job description carefully and create a list of questions that the interviewer will likely ask about how your skills and experience match the position.
- Research — Review the company’s internal publications, including annual reports, newsletters, and other collateral, as well as media coverage and Web site content to learn more about its operations and industry position.
- Practice — Role-play your interview with a friend or family member who can act as the interviewer. Pay close attention not just to what you say, but also how you say it. Voice inflection, eye contact and friendliness demonstrate your enthusiasm for the job and “fit” with the corporate culture.
- Prepare — Be ready for the interviewer to say, “Is there anything else I can tell you about the job?” This is not the time to ask how many vacation days you’ll get in the first year or if you’ll get a window office. Instead, ask questions based on your research of the firm, an approach that will demonstrate that your interest in the company is genuine.
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