Simple interview questions part 7

Part 7

Question 49        What was the toughest challenge you’ve ever faced?
TRAPS:  Being unprepared or citing an example from so
early in your life that it doesn’t score many points for you at this stage of
your career.
BEST ANSWER:  This is an easy question if you’re prepared.
Have a recent example ready that demonstrates either:
  1. A
    quality most important to the job at hand; or
  2. A
    quality that is always in
    demand, such as leadership, initiative, managerial skill, persuasiveness,
    courage, persistence, intelligence, etc.
Question 50        Have you consider starting your own business?
TRAPS:  If you say “yes” and elaborate
enthusiastically, you could be perceived as a loose cannon in a larger company,
too entrepreneurial to make a good team player…or someone who had to settle for
the corporate life because you couldn’t make a go of your own business.
Also too much enthusiasm in answering “yes” could rouse the
paranoia of a small company indicating that you may plan to go out on your own
soon, perhaps taking some key accounts or trade secrets with you.
On the other hand, if you answer “no, never” you could be
perceived as a security-minded drone who never dreamed a big dream.
BEST ANSWER:  Again it’s best to:
  1. Gauge
    this company’s corporate culture before answering and…
  2. Be
    honest (which doesn’t mean you have to vividly share your fantasy of the
    franchise or bed-and-breakfast you someday plan to open).
In general, if the corporate culture is that of a large,
formal, military-style structure, minimize any indication that you’d love to
have your own business.  You might say,
“Oh, I may have given it a thought once or twice, but my whole career has been
in larger organizations.  That’s where I
have excelled and where I want to be.”
If the corporate culture is closer to the free-wheeling,
everybody’s-a-deal-maker variety, then emphasize that in a firm like this, you
can virtually get the best of all worlds, the excitement of seeing your own
ideas and plans take shape…combined with the resources and stability of a
well-established organization.   Sounds
like the perfect environment to you.
In any case, no matter what the corporate culture, be sure
to indicate that any desires about running your own show are part of your past, not your present or future.
The last thing you want to project is an image of either a
dreamer who failed and is now settling for the corporate cocoon…or the restless
maverick who will fly out the door with key accounts, contacts and trade
secrets under his arms just as soon as his bankroll has gotten rebuilt.
Always remember: 
Match what you want with what the position offers.  The more information you’ve uncovered about
the position, the more believable you can make your case.
Question 51        What are your goals?
TRAPS:  Not having any…or having only vague
generalities, not highly specific
BEST ANSWER:  Many executives in a position to hire you are
strong believers in goal-setting. (It’s one of the reason they’ve achieved so
much).  They like to hire in kind.
If you’re vague about your career and personal goals, it
could be a big turnoff to may people you will encounter in your job search.
Be ready to discuss your goals for each major area of your
life:  career, personal development and
learning, family, physical (health), community service and (if your interviewer
is clearly a religious person) you could briefly and generally allude to your
spiritual goals (showing you are a well-rounded individual with your values in
the right order).
Be prepared to describe each goal in terms of specific milestones
you wish to accomplish along the way, time periods you’re allotting for
accomplishment, why the goal is important to you, and the specific steps you’re
taking to bring it about.  But do this
concisely, as you never want to talk more than two minutes straight before
letting your interviewer back into the conversation.
Question 52        What do you for when you hire people?
TRAPS:  Being unprepared for the question.
BEST ANSWER:  Speak your own thoughts here, but for the
best answer weave them around the three most important qualifications for any position.
  1. Can
    the person do the work (qualifications)?
  2. Will
    the person do the work (motivation)?
  3. Will
    the person fit in (“our kind of team player”)?
Question 53        Sell me this stapler…(this pencil…this clock…or some other object on
interviewer’s desk).
TRAPS:  Some interviewers, especially business owners
and hard-changing executives in marketing-driven companies, feel that good
salesmanship is essential for any key
position and ask for an instant demonstration of your skill.  Be ready.
BEST ANSWER:  Of course, you already know the most
important secret of all great salesmanship – “find out what people want, then show them how to get it.”
If your interviewer picks up his stapler and asks, “sell
this to me,” you are going to demonstrate this proven master principle.  Here’s
“Well, a good salesman must know both his product and his
prospect before he sells anything.  If I
were selling this, I’d first get to know everything I could about it, all its
features and benefits.”
“Then, if my goal were to sell it you, I would do some research on how you might use a fine
stapler like this.  The best way to do
that is by asking some questions.  May I
ask you a few questions?”
Then ask a few questions such as, “Just out of curiosity, if
you didn’t already have a stapler like this, why would you want one?  And in addition to that?  Any other reason?  Anything else?”
“And would you want such a stapler to be reliable?…Hold a
good supply of staples?”  (Ask more
questions that point to the features this stapler has.)
Once you’ve asked these questions, make your presentation
citing all the features and benefits of this stapler and why it’s exactly what
the interviewer just told you he’s looking for.
Then close with, “Just out of curiosity, what would you
consider a reasonable price for a quality stapler like this…a stapler you could
have right now and would (then repeat
all the problems the stapler would solve for him)?  Whatever he says, (unless it’s zero), say,
“Okay, we’ve got a deal.”
NOTE:  If your
interviewer tests you by fighting
every step of the way, denying that he even wants such an item, don’t fight him.  Take the product away from him by saying,
“Mr. Prospect, I’m delighted you’ve told me right upfront that there’s no way
you’d ever want this stapler.  As you
well know, the first rule of the most productive salespeople in any field is to
meet the needs of people who really need
and want
our products, and it just wastes everyone’s time if we try to
force it on those who don’t.  And I
certainly wouldn’t want to waste your time. 
But we sell many items.  Is there any product on this desk you would very
much like to own…just one item?”  When he
points something out, repeat the process above. 
If he knows anything about selling, he may give you a standing ovation.
Question 54        “The Salary Question” – How much money do you want?
TRAPS:  May also be phrases as, “What salary are you worth?”…or, “How much are you making now?”  This
is your most important negotiation. Handle it wrong and you can blow the job
offer or go to work at far less than you might have gotten.
BEST ANSWER:  For maximum salary negotiating power,
remember these five guidelines:
  1. Never
    bring up salary.  Let the
    interviewer do it first.  Good
    salespeople sell their products thoroughly before talking price.  So
    should you.
      Make the
    interviewer want you first, and your bargaining position will be much
  2. If
    your interviewer raises the salary question too early, before you’ve had a
    chance to create desire for your qualifications, postpone the question, saying something like, “Money is
    important to me, but is not my
    main concern.  Opportunity
    and growth are far more important. 
    What I’d rather do, if you don’t mind, is explore if I’m right for
    the position, and then talk about money. Would that be okay?”
  3. The #1
    rule of any negotiation is:  the side with more information wins.  After you’ve done a thorough job of
    selling the interviewer and it’s time to talk salary, the secret is to get
    the employer talking about what he’s willing to pay before you reveal what you’re
    willing to accept.  So, when asked about
    salary, respond by asking, “I’m sure the company has already established a
    salary range for this position. 
    Could you tell me what that is?” 
    Or, “I want an income commensurate with my ability and
    qualifications.  I trust you’ll be
    fair with me.  What does the
    position pay?” Or, more simply, “What does this position pay?”
  4. Know
    beforehand what you’d accept.  To
    know what’s reasonable, research the job market and this position for any
    relevant salary information. 
    Remember that most executives look for a 20-25%$ pay boost when
    they switch jobs. If you’re grossly underpaid, you may want more.
  5. Never
    lie about what you currently make, but feel free to include the estimated
    cost of all your fringes, which could well tack on 25-50% more to your present
    “cash-only” salary.
Question 55        The Illegal Question
TRAPS:  Illegal questions include any regarding your
age…number and ages of your children or other dependents…marital status…maiden
name…religion…political affiliation…ancestry…national
origin…birthplace…naturalization of your parents, spouse or
children…diseases…disabilities…clubs…or spouse’s occupation…unless any of the above are directly related
to your performance of the job.
can’t even be asked about arrests,
though you can be asked about convictions.
BEST ANSWER:  Under the ever-present threat of lawsuits,
most interviewers are well aware of these taboos.  Yet you may encounter, usually on a second or
third interview, a senior executive who doesn’t interview much and forgets he
can’t ask such questions.
You can handle an illegal question in several ways. First,
you can assert your legal right not to answer. But this will frighten or
embarrass your interviewer and destroy any rapport you had.
Second, you could swallow your concerns over privacy and
answer the question straight forwardly if you feel the answer could help
you.  For example, your interviewer, a
devout Baptist, recognizes you from church and mentions it. Here, you could
gain by talking about your church.
Third, if you don’t want your privacy invaded, you can
diplomatically answer the concern
behind the question without answering the question itself.
Example:  If you are over 50 and are asked, “How old are you?” you can answer with a
friendly, smiling question of your
own on whether there’s a concern that your age my affect your performance.  Follow this up by reassuring the interviewer
that there’s nothing in this job you can’t do and, in fact, your age and
experience are the most important advantages
you offer the employer for the following reasons…
Another example:  If asked, “Do
you plan to have children?”
you could answer, “I am wholeheartedly
dedicated to my career“, perhaps adding, “I have no plans regarding
children.”  (You needn’t fear you’ve
pledged eternal childlessness.  You have
every right to change your plans later. 
Get the job first and then enjoy all your options.)
Most importantly, remember that illegal questions arise from
fear that you won’t perform well.  The
best answer of all is to get the job and perform brilliantly. All concerns and
fears will then varnish, replaced by respect and appreciation for your work.
Question 56        The “Secret” Illegal Question
TRAPS:  Much more frequent than the Illegal question (see Question 55) is the secret
illegal question.  It’s secret
because it’s asked only in the interviewer’s mind.  Since it’s not even expressed to you, you
have no way to respond to it, and it can there be most damaging.
Example:  You’re physically challenged, or a single
mother returning to your professional career, or over 50, or a member of an
ethnic minority, or fit any of a dozen other categories that do not strictly
conform to the majority in a given company.
Your interviewer wonders, “Is this person really able to
handle the job?”…”Is he or she a ‘good fit’ at a place like ours?”…”Will the
chemistry ever be right with someone like this?”  But the interviewer never raises such
questions because they’re illegal.  So
what can you do?
BEST ANSWER:  Remember that just because the interviewer
doesn’t ask an illegal question doesn’t mean he doesn’t have it.  More than likely, he is going to come up with
his own answer.  So you might as well
help him out.
How?  Well, you
obviously can’t respond to an illegal question if he hasn’t even asked.  This may well offend him.  And there’s always the chance he wasn’t even
concerned about the issue until you brought it up, and only then begins to
So you can’t address “secret” illegal questions head-on. 
But what you can do is make sure there’s enough counterbalancing information to more than reassure him that there’s
no problem in the area he may be
doubtful about.
For example, let’s say you’re a sales rep who had polio as a
child and you need a cane to walk.  You
know your condition has never impeded your performance, yet you’re concerned
that your interviewer may secretly be wondering about your stamina or ability
to travel.  Well, make sure that you hit
these abilities very hard, leaving no doubt about your capacity to handle them
So, too, if you’re in any different from what passes for
“normal”.  Make sure, without in any way
seeming defensive about yourself that
you mention strengths, accomplishments, preferences and affiliations that strongly
counterbalance any unspoken concern your interviewer may have.

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Jeffry is a Mechanical Engineer by education and an aspiring writer and blogger. After working hard for around 12 hours a day on his core job, he spends his remaining time in blogging and reading articles online. And he loves to make poor jokes, so be prepared.

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