Simple interview questions part 5


Part 5

Question 33        How do you feel about working nights and weekends?
TRAPS:  Blurt out “no way, Jose” and you can kiss
the job offer goodbye.  But what if you
have a family and want to work a reasonably normal schedule?  Is there a way to get both the job and the
schedule you want?
BEST ANSWER:  First, if you’re a confirmed workaholic, this
question is a softball lob.  Whack it out
of the park on the first swing by saying this kind of schedule is just your
style.  Add that your family understands
it.  Indeed, they’re happy for you, as
they know you get your greatest satisfaction from your work.
If however, you prefer a more balanced lifestyle, answer
this question with another:  “What’s the norm for your best people here?
If the hours still sound unrealistic for you, ask, “Do you
have any top people who perform exceptionally for you, but who also have
families and like to get home in time to see them at night?”  Chances are this company does, and this
associates you with this other “top-performers-who-leave-not-later-than-six”
group.
Depending on the answer, be honest about how you would fit
into the picture.  If all those extra
hours make you uncomfortable, say so, but phrase your response positively.
Example:  “I love my work and do it exceptionally
well.  I think the results speak for
themselves, especially in …(mention your two or three qualifications of greater
interest to the employer.  Remember, this
is what he wants most, not a workaholic with weak credentials).  Not only
would I bring these qualities, but I’ve built my whole career on working not
just hard, but smart.  I think you’ll find me one of the most productive people here.
I do have a family
who likes to see me after work and on weekends. 
They add balance and richness to my life, which in turn helps me be
happy and productive at work.  If I could
handle some of the extra work at home in the evenings or on weekends, that
would be ideal.  You’d be getting a
person of exceptional productivity who meets your needs with strong
credentials.  And I’d be able to handle
some of the heavy workload at home where I can be under the same roof as my
family.  Everybody would win.”
Question 34        Are you willing to relocate or travel?
TRAPS:  Answer with a flat “no” and you may slam the
door shut on this opportunity.  But what
if you’d really prefer not to relocate or travel, yet wouldn’t want to lose the
job offer over it?
BEST ANSWER:   First find out where you may have to relocate
and how much travel may be involved. 
Then respond to the question.
If there’s no problem, say so enthusiastically.
If you do have a reservation, there are two schools of
thought on how to handle it.
One advises you to keep your options open and your
reservations to yourself in the early going, by saying, “no problem”.  You strategy here is to get the best offer
you can, then make a judgment whether it’s worth it to you to relocate or
travel.
Also, by the time the offer comes through, you may have
other offers and can make a more informed decision.  Why kill of this opportunity before it has
chance to blossom into something really special?  And if you’re a little more desperate three
months from now, you might wish you hadn’t slammed the door on relocating or
traveling.
The second way to handle this question is to voice a
reservation, but assert that you’d be open to relocating (or traveling) for the
right opportunity.
The answering strategy you choose depends on how eager you
are for the job.  If you want to take no
chances, choose the first approach.
If you want to play a little harder-to-get in hopes of
generating a more enticing offer, choose the second.
Question 35        Do you have the stomach to fire people? 
Have you had experience firing many people?
TRAPS:  This “innocent” question could be a trap door
which sends you down a chute and lands you in a heap of dust outside the front
door.  Why?  Because its real intent is not just to see if
you’ve got the stomach to fire, but also to uncover poor judgment in hiring which has caused you to fire so many. 
Also, if you fire so often, you could be a
tyrant.
So don’t rise to the bait by boasting how many you’ve fired,
unless you’ve prepared to explain why it was beyond your control, and not the
result of your poor hiring procedures or foul temperament.
BEST ANSWER:    Describe the rational and sensible management
process you follow in both hiring and firing.
Example:  “My whole management approach is to hire the
best people I can find, train them thoroughly and well, get them excited and
proud to be part of our team, and then work with them to achieve our goals
together.  If you do all of that right,
especially hiring the right people, I’ve found you don’t have to fire very
often.
“So with me, firing is a last resort.  But when it’s got to be done, it’s got to be
done, and the faster and cleaner, the better. 
A poor employee can wreak terrible damage in undermining the morale of
an entire team of good people.  When
there’s no other way, I’ve found it’s better for all concerned to act
decisively in getting rid of offenders who won’t change their ways.”
Question 36        Why have you had so many jobs?
TRAPS:  Your interviewer fears you may leave this
position quickly, as you have others. 
He’s concerned you may be unstable, or a “problem person” who can’t get
along with others.
BEST ANSWER:  First, before you even get to the interview
stage, you should try to minimize your image as job hopper.  If there are several entries on your resume
of less than one year, consider eliminating the less important ones.  Perhaps you can specify the time you spent at
previous positions in rounded years
not in months and years.
Example:   Instead of showing three positions this way:
6/1982 – 3/1983, Position A;
4/1983 – 12/1983, Position B;
1/1984 – 8/1987, Position C;
…it would be better to show simply:
1982 – 1983, Position A;
1984 – 1987 Position C.
In other words, you would drop Position B altogether.  Notice what a difference this makes in
reducing your image as a job hopper.
Once in front of the interviewer and this question comes up,
you must try to reassure him.  Describe
each position as part of an overall pattern of growth and career destination.
Be careful not to blame other people for your frequent
changes.  But you can and should
attribute certain changes to conditions beyond your control.
Example:  Thanks to an upcoming merger, you wanted
to avoid an ensuing bloodbath, so you made a good, upward career move before
your department came under the axe of the new owners.
If possible, also show that your job changes were more
frequent in your younger days, while you were establishing yourself, rounding
out your skills and looking for the right career path.  At this stage in your career, you’re
certainly much more interested in the best long-term
opportunity.
You might also cite the job(s) where you stayed the longest
and describe that this type of situation is what you’re looking for now.
Question 37        What do you see as the proper role/mission of…
…a good (job title you’re seeking);
…a good manager;
…an executive in serving the community;
…a leading company in our industry; etc.
TRAPS:  These and other “proper role” questions are
designed to test your understanding of your place in the bigger picture of your
department, company, community and profession….as well as the proper role each
of these entities should play in its
bigger picture.
The question is most frequently asked by the most thoughtful individuals and companies…or
by those concerned that you’re coming from a place with a radically different
corporate culture (such as from a big government bureaucracy to an aggressive
small company).
The most frequent mistake executives make in answering is
simply not being prepared (seeming as if they’ve never giving any of this a
though.)…or in phrasing an answer best suited to their prior organization’s culture instead of the hiring company’s.
BEST ANSWER:    Think of the most essential ingredients of
success for each category above – your job title, your role as manager, your
firm’s role, etc.
Identify at least three but no more than six qualities you
feel are most important to success in each role.  Then commit your response to memory.
Here, again, the more information you’ve already drawn out
about the greatest wants and needs of the interviewer, and the more homework
you’ve done to identify the culture of the firm, the more on-target your answer
will be.
Question 38        What would you say to your boss if he’s crazy about an idea, but you
think it stinks?
TRAPS:  This is another question that pits two
values, in this case loyalty and honesty, against one another.
BEST ANSWER:    Remember the rule stated earlier:  In any conflict between values, always choose integrity.
Example:  I believe that when evaluating anything, it’s
important to emphasize the positive. 
What do I like about this idea?”
“Then, if you have reservations, I certainly want to point
them out, as specifically, objectively and factually as I can.”
“After all, the most important thing I owe my boss is honesty
If he can’t count on me for that, then everything else I may do or say
could be questionable in his eyes.”
“But I also want to express my thoughts in a constructive
way.  So my goal in this case would be to
see if my boss and I could make his idea even stronger and more appealing, so
that it effectively overcomes any initial reservation I or others may have
about it.”
“Of course, if he overrules me and says, ‘no, let’s do it my
way,’ then I owe him my full and enthusiastic support to make it work as best
it can.”
Question 39        How could you have improved your career progress?
TRAPS:  This is another variation on the question,
“If you could, how would you live your life over?”  Remember, you’re not going to fall for any
such invitations to rewrite person history. You can’t win if you do.
BEST ANSWER:  You’re generally quite happy with your career
progress.  Maybe, if you had known
something earlier in life (impossible to know at the time, such as the booming
growth in a branch in your industry…or the corporate downsizing that would
phase out your last job), you might have moved in a certain direction sooner.
But all things considered, you take responsibility for where
you are, how you’ve gotten there, where you are going…and you harbor no
regrets.
Question 40        What would you do if a fellow executive on your own corporate level
wasn’t pulling his/her weight…and this was hurting your department?
TRAPS:  This question and other hypothetical ones
test your sense of human relations and how you might handle office politics.
BEST ANSWER:  Try to gauge the political style of the firm
and be guided accordingly.  In general, fall
back on universal principles of effective human relations – which in the end,
embody the way you would like to be treated in a similar circumstance.
Example:  “Good human relations would call for me to go
directly to the person and explain the situation, to try to enlist his help in
a constructive, positive solution.  If I sensed
resistance, I would be as persuasive as I know how to explain the benefits we
can all gain from working together, and the problems we, the company and our
customers will experience if we don’t.”
POSSIBLE FOLLOW-UP
QUESTION:
  And what would you do if
he still did not change his ways?
ANSWER:  “One thing I wouldn’t do is let the problem
slide, because it would only get worse and overlooking it would set a bad
precedent.  I would try again and again
and again, in whatever way I could, to solve the problem, involving wider and
wider circles of people, both above and below the offending executive and
including my own boss if necessary, so that everyone involved can see the
rewards for teamwork and the drawbacks of non-cooperation.”
“I might add that I’ve never yet come across a situation
that couldn’t be resolved by harnessing others in a determined, constructive
effort.”

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