Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sticky Interview Questions and How Best to Respond

There are questions asked in job interviews where the question is obviously simple but you don't know how best to respond because of something negative, sensitive, or private you experienced in the past.  You want to give the best answer but at the same time, not volunteer information that could keep you from getting hired.   

"Oh man.  How do I answer THAT question....?"

Here are some interview questions that you will most likely be asked.  If you are nervous, don't worry I'll share from my experiences on how best to respond.    

What would your former supervisors/co-workers say about you?
This is tough if you had bosses that hated you for whatever reason.  Maybe the real reason you're interviewing is because of your boss or co-workers.  The solution in this dilemma is to pick three qualities that tie with what the company is looking for or matches its company values.  And say that you volunteer help when needed.  

What did you like most or least about your supervisors?
Never rat off on a boss you thought wasn't good even if 100 people who worked for that boss think the same.  The solution is to keep it positive, there is always at least something positive about them.  Just begin with this:

"I admired them for their skills and ability to solve problems..."

What were the reasons for leaving your previous jobs? Why did you leave your last job?
These are valid questions that need good answers.  But what if you left your job for a reason you DON'T want the interviewer to know because it may lead to a bias in hiring?  I answered with:

"I left Company X for Company Y because I had an offer for a position which allowed me to learn the skills that are applicable to this job at Company Z.  I left Company Y for personal reasons"

Personal Reasons is what clever professionals say instead of:

"I'm being harassed at work" 
"I'm about to get fired"
"I moved for my spouse's job transfer"
"I was hospitalized and could not work"
"I left my job to care for my baby"

and anything else that is personal.  

Saying you left your job for personal reasons will make some interviewers curious and wonder if you have something to hide.  At the same time, your interviewers cannot ask you questions that will trigger a bias in hiring.  

If the interviewer does follow up with asking what those personal reasons were, reiterate politely "They were for personal reasons"  You are not obligated to tell them details and it's not appropriate for the interviewer to ask for more details of personal reasons.  

The hiring manager at my current position did not ask what my personal reasons were, but she did handled it appropriately and asked if whether my personal reasons would affect doing the job.  I replied with:

"No.  I have taken care of what I needed to do during that time and ready to commit to full-time employment again"

We moved on to to the rest of the interview, invited back for a second interview, and then to an offer at my current position. :) 

Lesson learned: Good hiring managers are more interested in your skills, abilities, and aptitude to do the job.  Not your personal life.  

Should some rules be followed more than others? What is your opinion on SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) and policies?
"Personal: Jaywalking on an empty road.  Professional: I review and follow company procedures.  I follow SOPs, and if there is a need for improvement, I will follow company procedure in how to address that and follow the suggestions and advice from my supervisors and colleagues"

Any mention of following company policy is safe and legit to answer.  It's probably the best thing to mention.  Plus you need to follow the rules   

When you are asked a really hard interview question or a question that could throw you off...

you respond first by saying "That's a great question..." this will ease the anxiety and give clarity as to what you will say next.  An example I've gotten at an interview:

What would you do if a higher-up supervisor asks you to monitor your boss?

"That's a great question...I wouldn't know 100% what to do.  I'd first turn to company policy to review if the request was appropriate and follow procedure from there"

The interviewer smiled at my response and then asked:

What if there isn't a company policy?

"That's even a better question...I think in that situation, I would review the information I received and present it to HR, who would be an excellent resource in guiding me into the right direction of what I need to do in that case"

After that, the interviewer smiled and said:
That's one of the best responses I've heard to this question!

I didn't get that job from that interview.  But I was really happy for how well I did which gave me a boost of confidence at other interviews leading to the job I'm in now which I love!

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