Tag Archives: Interviews

Answers to Interview Questions, Part III

I have had so many ideas lately; I almost forgot to finish up this series.  Here is the first part.  Here is the second part.


Q:  Give me an example of a time when you had to be relatively quick at coming to a decision.

A: The choice between two job offers on the same day. That was five years ago for my current employer.

A:  Healthcare emergency type decisions – yuck!

A:  I’ve often had to decide who to tell, when to tell it and how much to tell to make sure that needs are met for customers.

A:  Go to the drive thru or counter when clients arrive at both at the same time

A:  Balancing the inventory – if there is a shortage for an important customer, decide how to cover the order

A:  In traffic – following a car going the same speed as you and then they move out from in front of you and you see brake lights in front of you

A:  An employee doesn’t show up for a scheduled shift


Q:  What is the biggest misperception people typically have about you?

A:  That I may be upset about something when in reality I am just very passionate and trust my gut instinct therefore allowing me to make quick decisions.

A:  Probably that I’m mean, because I can be too frank and that can come across as uncaring.

A:  That because I have a large vocabulary, I think that I’m better than others in the group

A:  That I’m full of myself

A:  That I’m unapproachable

A:  People hear my deep voice and think that I am not that intelligent

A:  I don’t always participate, but that doesn’t mean that I am not paying attention


Q:  Describe your ideal of success.

A:  My ideal of success is if I am trusted and the people trusting me are happy with my performance.

A:  Success to me: In lifting others, I will ultimately be lifted too. I want to be happy and know that I’ve done my best no matter the decision that has to be made or task at hand.

A:  To be true to myself, to be able to act when and how I think is important, to share what I know and make something better as part of a team.

A:  I feel that I am successful now because my whole family is in good health, we all have jobs, we have savings and we have a good life balance.

A:  I consider myself nearing success because I am self-supporting and I graduated from college after 11 years of taking one class at a time.

A:  I want to get to the point where I am able to self-support and be able to grow

A:  Having a balance in your life that creates contentment


Q:  What motivates you?

A:  The finish line. Whether it is finishing a list, or Christmas shopping but the time when I am finished with a task and move to the next. Progress!!!!

A:  Helping Others – My business tag line is “Helping From The Heart” and I believe that to my very core. I am not only paid in commission, but by knowing that I’ve helped someone to cover one of their most basic needs. I try to keep their stress levels low and get them into a place that they can really call home. This does not only apply to business, but in all facets of my life. Trying to pair people together or ideas or products that I know that will help others.

A:  Finding and implementing solutions, sharing knowledge to make something even better.

A:  Maintaining my standards

A:  Fear – of losing things like job or health

A:  Hope

A:  Expectations of myself and from others


I hope that these answers help you to define your own.  Thanks again to my willing interviewees.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Answers to Interview Questions, Part II

Interviews are not something that many people look forward to, interviewer or interviewee – but we like the successful end result of having a new employee/having a new job.  Behavioral interview questions are becoming the norm, as mentioned in part I of this post.

The great thing about behavioral questions is that they are subjective and therefore short of saying something illegal or terribly offensive, there are no right or wrong answers.  You want to be true to yourself because the objective is to find a person who will be a good fit in the department/organization.  As the interviewee, that should be your goal as well.  So in this, you are on the same page with the interviewer.

In several instances, I asked small groups to answer the questions as we were sitting around.  We discussed the merit of using one word over another when synonymous – which word would put a more positive spin on your answer.  This was one of the advantages that my brave answerers had over the regular interviewee, because the pressure was off and they had plenty of time to formulate their answers.


Q:  What are 5 words that best describe you?

A:  Dependable, honest, faithful, funny and smart

A:  Busy, positive, giving, sensitive, strong

A:  Curious, loyal, passionate, friendly, intelligent

A:  Determined, intelligent, logical, creative, open

A:  Diligent, methodical, organized, flexible

A:  Responsible, practical, problem solver, funny, determined

A:  Efficient, humorous, steady, logical, adaptable

A:  Reliable, analytical, consistent, diligent, thoughtful

Q:  Describe tasks that you have had to perform that didn’t spark your interest.

A:  Filing

A:  Cleaning, organizing a database, elder care of my parent

A:  Stocking shelves, cleaning other people’s homes/ personal space

A:  Repetitive tasks

A:  Entering new prescriptions

A:  Running the out-of-stock report

A:  Job search

A:  Conducting reviews

Q:  How would you characterize yourself as a student?

A:  Since I obtained my degree in my thirties I was a much better diligent student. I did not postpone assignments as with a family and a job you never knew what could come up.

A:  Eager, voracious

A:  Eager to learn yet not always motivated

A:  Interested in finding connections, curious

A:  Willing to learn

A:  Enthusiastic & diligent

A:  I’m a great learner, but not a good student.  I do have a high level of curiosity.

A:  Studious, attentive but not always good at retention

I still have 4 more questions, but we will save them for the last part of this little series.  You can see some similarities in the answers represented here, but everyone was authentic.

I do want to thank all of the participants for taking the time to give me thoughtful answers.  Only a few of them are actually job hunting right now.  Several wanted to remain anonymous but I can publically thank Linda Dressler, Sharyon DaSilva, & Debbie Ahern.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Answers to Interview Questions, Part I

Most of the topics that I touch on can be covered in one post, but a job search is a huge topic.  There is so much advice floating around about most aspects of the job search, I have focused on interviews since that is an area where I have had the most experience as a hiring manager.


Shortly after I started this blog last month, I got the idea to circulate a handful of the behavioral interview questions that I have regularly asked potential employees among my LinkedIn connections, friends and family to gather their answers and share them here.  I cast a wide net because people are busy and in order to get enough responses (especially during the holidays) I would have to start with a large pool of potential ‘candidates’.


I presented the request in the most positive manner that I could to pique their interest, knowing that I had a probable high degree of success among certain folks due to their innate interest in helping, high energy or other traits.  I knew that I would have to do a certain amount of cajoling with those that might be willing, but were busy or distracted.  Then there was the group that were long shots, but worth asking just in case.


I didn’t take into account the visceral reaction that I got from a few people.  I decided that this reaction alone was worth a post.  Behavioral interviews are becoming very common due to the fact that the largest cost that a business incurs is invested in its people.  It is to the benefit of the organization therefore (and frankly to the employees, and potential employees as well) that the right people – those with the appropriate temperament as well as skills – are brought in from the beginning.  I’ve made the opposing argument in previous posts that it is the job seeker’s responsibility to interview the company just as carefully as the company is examining the job seeker.


Interviewing is hard for so many reasons – dealing with rejection, figuring out how to present yourself so that you are appealing to the company and also true to yourself, dealing with your own demons, and so on.


One friend responded that she would not participate, “I can’t answer those hiring questions on the grounds that I HATE questions like that in an interview. I went to an interview once where a 20 year old asked me where I saw myself in 5 years. I said apparently not working for you and left.”


I completely understand her reaction in one respect because most likely the interviewer was just going through the motions and didn’t really know why or the intent of the question.  It’s the bureaucracy that we’re reacting to.


So it comes down to control – most of us don’t have control over the process that has been established for job hunting, but we have control over ourselves.  I respect the answers that I got from those who find the process somehow distasteful and told me that they therefore decline to participate.  To my thinking they missed out on a low risk opportunity to practice something that we should all be capable of doing.


It reminds me of a conversation that I had with my aunt and my mom some time ago when my son was a baby.  My aunt said that all women should be aware of the skills they possess that would allow them to earn a living.  I was smug in my knowledge that I wouldn’t need to worry about that, until 12 years later when I found myself divorced.  You don’t have to like something to be able to do it, and do it competently.


I still have to bother a couple more people who said that they would answer after the holidays and then you will see the questions and answers that I received in part 2.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Great Interview Prep Tip

I’ve mentioned confidence going into an interview in a previous post. This idea will help you to have confidence that you are prepared to prove that you will be an asset to the company.


Jean Baur, a career counselor and author of Eliminated! Now What? Finding Your Way from Job-Loss Crisis to Career Resilience offers this tip in Appendix F – The Interview Map.


Here is what she has to say:

“The purpose of an interview map is to prepare you to “manage” the interview, or at least to include critical parts of your background in the interview process and to help you keep track of what you’ve covered with each interviewer.”


Taking this action will require some effort on your part, but it isn’t much if you are serious about your job search and it will be proof to the interviewer that you have put thought into how you will fit into their company based on the job posting and your research.


You can create a template in excel to use for each job/interview.  At the top you will want to provide space for the name of the company and the name of the interviewer.  You should consider a date field as well.  Below this, you will have 2 columns – the first is Key Components of Position and the second is My Matching Accomplishments.  Fill in the details below these headers.


At the bottom, you can put in your expected questions, based on “When It’s Your Turn – Interview Questions for a Possible New Employer”.  You can then print this page and keep track of the topics covered during the interview.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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When It’s Your Turn – Interview Questions for a Possible New Employer

You know that you are supposed to research the company before the interview.  You know that you should ask questions.  But for the life of you, you really aren’t sure what to ask.  Hopefully this list gives you some good ideas of your own because it is always a pet peeve of mine when a promising candidate doesn’t have any questions for us at that stage of the interview.


So here’s my argument to convince you that it is wise to ask questions – you are interviewing the company just as much as they are interviewing you.  Questions on your part prove that you have thought beyond getting a job to getting the right job and can picture yourself working at the company.


I have put together these questions from various sources, including some that I have been asked by candidates.


Questions to ask at the first interview:

  1. Is this a new position, or would I be replacing someone?
  2. Where does this position fit into the company’s structure?
  3. What is your time frame to fill this position?


Questions to ask during the interview with the hiring manager, pick a handful that apply to your situation:

  1. What are the qualities of your ideal candidate?
  2. (If you found out that you are replacing someone in the first interview) What differences/similarities are you looking for in comparison to the previous person?
  3. What is a typical day like?
  4. What are the biggest challenges facing this department?
  5. What are the best qualities of this department?
  6. How much interdepartmental interaction is there with this position?
  7. What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days?
  8. What are the common attributes of your top performers?
  9. What are a few things that really drive results for the company?
  10. How is performance measured in this organization?


Question to finish up:

  1. Are there any areas where I haven’t given you enough information?


If this helps you to come up with any questions of your own, I would love to know what they are.


© 2012 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Some Thoughts on Interviews

I’ve sat on both sides of the table over the years but these are just ideas to ponder, not more ‘expert’ advice.  So let’s take a deep breath together because that should happen more leading up to the interview and during the interview.  Your brain needs that oxygen.

You don’t have to like something to be good at it, you just have to be open to appreciate the possibilities that participating well will bring.  And keep in mind that it is highly likely that the person who is interviewing you isn’t too fond of the task either (I’m the exception, unless I was crazy busy – I liked the challenge).  So we have that hurdle cleared.

You’ve already done something or several somethings right at this point since you have secured the interview.   That must mean that being your best you is working, so you just want to keep going in that vein.

Years and years ago (when job hunting was a buyer’s market and employers were excited about anybody who showed the slightest potential) I had a simply dreadful interview.  This was before the Internet so I hadn’t been able to do much research on the company.  I realized within the first 15 minutes of the interview that this would not be the job for me for several reasons.  I resolved to stick it out and use this as an opportunity to practice my interview skills.  The lady who conducted the interview was terrible.  She was ill prepared and rambled on and on.  I became nervous that I was going to be late for a second interview at a more promising prospect.  My big mistake at that point was that I didn’t politely advise my interviewer that we had exceeded the time that I had allotted for the interview and I had to move on.  Instead I tried several times to surreptitiously look at my watch.  She picked up on my fidgeting and became even more flustered.  We both closed badly and I rushed off to my next interview.   I was shocked and amazed when the company called me about 2 weeks later for a second interview.

My point in this story is to be polite and honest.  I don’t know why I thought I couldn’t mention an interview with another company; I was job hunting after all.  Also, use what you have – the interviewer knows that you are nervous so don’t let it be the elephant in the room.

When I switched to the interviewer side of the table my only experience and training happened to be as a Boy Scout Board of Review volunteer.  It is actually very common that supervisors & managers (outside of HR) have little to no training in effective interviewing.  I got on the job training over 7 years.

I admit I didn’t put much prep time into interviews themselves (your resume got a 10 minute read through on a good day).  I was looking for obvious mistakes or something to rule you out first and foremost so heed that tip.

If you wrote a cover letter, I never saw it.  But that doesn’t mean that HR wasn’t using them in their initial screening.  When I asked them to post a job, they probably nixed two thirds of the resumes they received and gave me what they thought were the maybes.

The objectives section – just so much blah, blah, blah because I could tell it was canned 9 times out of 10.  I appreciated the switch to the career summary in the past few years – that is where I got my first clues whether you were going on the maybe or the yes pile to schedule an interview.  Tell me how your experience up to this point is going to help me to meet my department objectives.   And please read it out loud to yourself before it goes in the final version of your resume – if it sounds like nonsense to you then I’m not going to like it either.

In the experience section, give me clear points on accomplishments that I will find meaningful based on the job description from the ad.  I don’t want to have to sift through every little detail of your daily tasks to find what I need to know.  In fact, I don’t – I just start skimming if I already saw something worthwhile, or stop reading if I didn’t.

I personally never cared much about gaps in your experience as an interviewer.  I might be in the minority on that, but if you can prove to me that you are a critical thinker, then that puts you in the maybe pile at least.

I’ve gotten side tracked from the actual interview.  I never liked asking the same old questions – likes/dislikes, strengths/weaknesses – I wanted someone who could think, who could adapt.  I wanted someone with a strong narrative.  I wanted someone who was already thinking about their next actions after securing the job.  A lot of job seekers are so focused on the seeking part that they clearly haven’t put much, if any, thought into what getting the job will entail.  That shows through.

Dos & Don’ts:

Do accept water if it is offered – talking can dry out your throat and make you cough

Do brush up on the job description from the original posting

Don’t forget to breathe

Don’t rush your answers

Do pay attention to your surroundings and make eye contact with everyone at the company that you encounter

Do show energy

Focusing on things that you do not know or have control over will give you anxiety, instead put your focus on things that you do know and can control.   You know your skills, you know the job description that was in the ad and you can control yourself (at least I hope so).  This will give you confidence.

“I am the only expert of my own life.”

~Cassie Green

© 2012 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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