How to answer the interview question: “Do you have any questions?”

“Do You Have Any Questions?”

I can’t tell you how many times hiring managers have told me they aren’t pursuing candidates because they didn’t ask enough questions and didn’t know anything about the company. When I follow up with the candidates and tell them this, I get, “What do you mean? I asked a lot of questions,” or “They didn’t really give me a chance to ask any questions”, or “They answered all of my questions in the interview.”

Why does this happen? Your questions aren’t the right questions — the ones the interviewer wants to hear!  Preparing your questions ahead of time is the key to mastering the end of the interview Q & A.

Tips to Answer this Interview Question:

Keep this simple thought in mind: you are probably one of five or more candidates visiting on that day or over a short period of time. The interviewer has lots of work they should be doing, their own deadlines, and they know they’ll have to work late all week to catch up. This is especially true of line managers who will be your supervisor. These are busy people who are frantically fitting in interviews around their already over booked schedule.  You need to make sure they don’t see your questions as a waste of their time.

The key here is to avoid questions that don’t advance you in the process or demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the position. You want to pose the right kind of questions to the appropriate people. Often times a miss in this key question area is the difference of landing the job or getting a “no” form letter in the mail.

Example of questions for a Team Lead of a Service Department: This person is interested in making sure that you will follow procedures, get your work done quickly and efficiently, and not be a headache to the rest of the department. You are going to get a “technical” type of interview from this hiring manager. Don’t ask this person about far-reaching topics a CEO or Partner would answer, such as corporate giving or corporate vision. Ask about things that are important to this person such as the day-to-day job duties and procedures. Ask for specifics about how renewals are handled, documentation, claims advocacy, face time with the client, etc.  Remember, the quality of your question shows your understanding of the industry and the job you are applying for.

Make sure you listen to the answer and follow up with two more questions that reflect your understanding of their answer.  Make sure your follow up questions make sense and are not random. This is your chance for give-and-take; you don’t want to look like you need to get through a laundry list of questions.  Also the way that the interviewers answer your questions (with specifics, vaguely, or dismissively) will give you clues as to what it might be like to work with them on a daily basis.

A great question strategy is to use words like “we” and “us” and “I” in your questions, then listen to see if the employer responds back with answers that include the word “you” or if they respond with “the candidate we choose”.  You want them to see you in the position, and when they include you in their answers, you know that they feel positive about hiring you for the role.

For example: “When I start on a renewal, will I sit down ahead of time with the producer to work through a strategy or will I get all the quotes together and then present my findings to him?” If the employer sees you in the role, they will respond with a “we” or “you” in their answer.

At the end of the Q & A session, you will start to feel the interview “wrap up.” Your goal is to get the employer over the speed bump of indecision. You want real feedback so you know where you stand. Don’t be afraid to ask when they will make their decision and whether they see anything that would prevent them from moving you to the next stage of the process.  If they present you with concerns, it will give you an opportunity to correct any misunderstandings.  If they see you as a “go” for the next step, you will have the opportunity to schedule a follow on meeting or at least know that they intend to include you in a second round of interviews.  Either way, the interviewer will appreciate your candor and desire for the job.

 

Why did I lose my best candidate?

How to answer the interview question: “Why should I hire you over my other applicants?”

“Why should I hire you over my other applicants?”

This is one of those questions that you truly can’t answer because you typically don’t know who else they are interviewing. What the employer really wants to know is: WHY YOU?

Tips to Answer this Interview Question:

This question usually comes up towards the end of the interview, but sometimes it is one of the first questions asked. The key to answering this question is to sell yourself based on your understanding of the problems/pain that the employer is encountering by not having the position filled.

If you are interviewing for a job that is open because a long-term employee has moved away, you know that the pain the employer is trying to avoid is losing loyal customers to their competitors.  You also know that just because the position is vacant doesn’t mean that the work has moved away too. The work load has been dispersed among the remaining team members and they are probably not too happy about it.

If you are interviewing for a new “growth” position, you need to show that you are efficient, flexible, a fast learner, and can adapt quickly to change.

Example of an open position for an Account Manager: “You want to hire me because I understand what it’s like to work in a short-staffed office due to a key employee leaving. Often the Producer is scrambling to keep the customer, and the work load has been dumped on the rest of the staff who may not know the accounts very well.  You could also be at risk of losing the account to your competitors once word gets out that your key account manager has left. I was hired into this very same situation in my last position.  I was able to quickly work with the remaining account managers to understand the computer system and office procedures. I was able to review the files with the Underwriters and make contact with the clients who were up for renewal. I’m proud to say that we didn’t lose any business with the transition.”

The key to answering a comparison question like this one is to make sure the employer understands that regardless of who else they are interviewing, you “get it”. You understand the problems they are facing; the upset in the office due to the vacancy, the competition internally for the role, and most importantly, you show that you have the confidence to tackle the job head on.

If you are in the wrap up phase of the interview, ask the employer this question: do you see any reason why I wouldn’t be a great fit for the position? Remain silent, and if the employer is truly seeing you in the role, they will tell you that, or they will tell you their concerns.  Either way, you will know where you stand and hopefully will be one step closer to the job offer.

How to answer the interview question: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

“Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?”

With this question, the employer is asking you to gaze inside your crystal ball and predict the future. It would be nice if that were possible, but with the quickly changing economy, it is not.  This is also a veiled way for the employer to gauge your real interest in being in the position they are hiring for right now.

Tips to Answer this Interview Question:

This question seems to trip people up because they start to talk about the future job they really want and they stop focusing on the position they are applying for now.  Employers often use this question to weed out people who they feel are the wrong “fit” or are “overqualified” for the role.

Don’t follow the employer’s lead when they ask you if you want to pursue positions other than the one you are interviewing for.  They can lead you down the “thanks, but no thanks” path if you’re not careful.  Once the employer starts asking you questions about why you want to be involved in the other position, the conversation can go sideways in a hurry.  The next thing you know, the interview is over, you think you “nailed it”, then you are surprised when you get a “no” letter in the mail saying they have found a more suitable fit for the position.  You are left asking yourself why you didn’t get hired because you had all the qualifications and experience the employer was looking for.  Don’t fall into this hiring trap!

Your answer needs to make sense inside the department you’re interviewing with.  If you are interviewing with a brokerage for an account management position, don’t start talking about wanting to be an underwriter.  That’s a company role, and while it’s an admirable goal, the hiring manager is going to think you’re using their firm as a stepping stone to get to what you really want to do.

Instead of stating an actual position that you might like in the future, tell the employer that you very open to future advancement and, and strive to have a long term career with their firm.  Tell the employer you learn quickly, excel at your job, and have been handpicked for promotions by past managers based on your work performance and peer recommendations.

Here’s an example: “In five years, my goal is for you to tell me I have mastered this position, clients really like me and appreciate my hard work, and that my co-workers see me as a good resource for information or as the ‘go-to’ person in the department. I think that would be a win/win for both of us and would show that I am very serious about my career with your firm.

The key to answering the five-year question is to stay logical, poised, and reasonable. You don’t want to be a threat to the hiring manager since you most likely do not know his/her internal promotion track record, and you don’t want to come off as uninterested in the job at hand.

After you answer the 5 year question, a good follow-up question for the hiring manager is to ask how they rose to the position they are in now. That answer will give you clues as to your real promotion opportunities with the new firm.

How to answer the interview question: “What are your weaknesses?”

“What are your weaknesses?”

This is one of the toughest and least liked of all of the interview questions.  The problem with this question is that you have to answer it, if you say, I don’t really have any”, then the employer won’t believe you or will think you may be hiding something, however, if you say the wrong thing, without an explanation, you can be out at first base.

So what is the right answer?  It depends on how the question is asked.  Very few employers will ask this question directly anymore.  Often times it is couched inside of a more positive sounding question, such as “what are some of the areas that you have been coached on in the past?” or “what is an area that you have been working on for self-improvement?”  These are much nicer questions, but don’t be fooled; the hiring manager is asking you to reveal your weaknesses.

Tips to Answer this Interview Question:

The key to answering this question is advance preparation!  Start by thinking about the constructive comments that former managers have given you.  Criticism is never easy to stomach, so you need to think about the changes in behavior that you made, if any, as a result of your boss’s coaching. List the behaviors that were pointed out as “areas for growth and development”, another nice way of saying weaknesses, and think about how you responded to the advice. Think about how you applied the advice and changed your behavior in the workplace.  What were the results with your peers, with customers, with your supervisors?

Here’s some examples:

Too chatty in the office/not focused enough on your work: Explain that you were coached that you needed to be more focused and less chatty in the office. Show what you did to correct the situation, explain how you were able to handle more work in less time, and then give an example of the positive feedback you received from your boss and peers once you corrected the behavior.

Turning in work late/problems with prioritization: Explain that you used to have challenges with personal organization and task completion. Then show how you solved the problem by getting up an hour early or get everything ready the night before so that you aren’t running around frantically in the morning looking for things.

Spelling/grammar problems: Talk about how you took some remedial classes to correct the problem and how your boss complimented you on your improved written communication as a result.

Don’t let the “weakness” question get you down.  Show that you are accountable for your behavior in the office, are coachable, and can solve problems.

 

 

How to answer the interview question: Tell me about your greatest success?

“What Is Your Greatest Success?

Tips to Answer this Interview Question:

Think about your work accomplishments.  What have you done that really made you a “game changer” for the company?  For instance, did you win a key piece of business, save a huge account, develop a new program, or mentor someone that turned out to be a terrific asset for the company?

The key is to focus on the “impact” of what you have done. You need to quantify your answer and show how you made money, saved money, or made things run more smoothly for the organization.

Here’s a sales example:  I targeted a prospect that was currently doing business with one of our biggest competitors.  When I first approached them, I got the typical response;” no, we already have a broker we’ve been working with…thank you, good bye”.  I didn’t let this first “no” deter me; in fact, I started out by identifying customers of their business that were also clients of ours.  I also sent the prospect articles that were about his industry and followed up with him on a regular basis.  I made friends with some of his support staff and other department decision makers.  In time, I was given the opportunity to bid on his business, and I’m proud to say, I was able to win the account and have now received two additional referrals from the customer’s vendors resulting in $100K of new revenue for my agency.

Here’s a non-sales example:  When I joined the ABC firm, they were still using paper files in addition to trying to use AMS360.  Because I came from a paperless office, I was able to help teach my supervisor some tricks to automate the business and eliminate some of the redundancy.  She was so impressed that she arranged a meeting with the owner who ended up putting me in charge of automating the office and helping to train the support staff.  As a result, I was promoted to the office trainer and was able to help the firm reduce the amount of time it took to process a renewal by over 25%.

Once you have told your story, make sure that you link the results back to the job you are applying for.  This will cause the employer to see you as a results-oriented candidate and will help to increase your chances of landing the job.

 

How to answer the interview question: “Why did you leave your past job?”

 

“Why did you leave your past job?”

As a recruiter, I get asked this question every time I submit a resume. As an applicant, you can bet that 99% of the employers will ask you why you left your last position.  It’s is a difficult question; your integrity is on the line with this one.  Most candidates don’t answer the question directly, hoping an indirect answer will deflect the real reason why they left.  This is a fatal interview mistake that you don’t want to make!  You must be honest and forthright about why you left prior jobs!

Tips to Answer this Interview Question:

“It was mutual” or “I was laid off ” or “lack of work” doesn’t cut it, especially if the hiring manager knows someone else who is now doing your former job, knows your former boss, or has friends working at your former company. If you were laid off due to no fault of your own, whenever possible, obtain a letter from your prior company outlining the reasons for your layoff.

Here’s some examples of why people leave jobs or are out of work:

Personal reasons/medical/taking care of a family member: If you had to leave your past job due to personal reasons such as medical issues or caring for a family member, say so if you are comfortable with the details. If you are uncomfortable sharing the specifics, tell the interviewer you had to take care of some personal or family affairs and didn’t want your work to suffer, so you chose to resign until you could fully commit to a full-time role again. Explain that the situation has resolved itself and you are ready and excited to resume your career. Add that you kept your skills sharp by staying abreast of industry news and trends while you were not working.

Fired for cause/laid off without notice or reason: Most employers will only give dates of employment and maybe verify your title, but that’s just as bad as saying you were let go. In this case, no news is not good news! Be honest; again, it only takes a couple of phone calls in the industry to uncover the truth. Use the firing or termination experience to show how you learned from it and how your work is much better today as a result.

Short-term jobs/job hopper: Everyone is afraid to hire the job-hopper. You will always have an uphill battle with this one, but you can lessen the climb by talking about how and why you moved from job to job. If the company went out of business, relocated or closed your division, that’s legitimate and not your fault.  Remember, the employer is looking at how long between your jobs and is asking themselves why it took so long for you to be hired by the next employer. You have to satisfy their curiosity fully, or you will not be hired.  If you were recruited away, say so, just make sure you reinforce that you left for more opportunity and career growth and not just for more money. Explain that you were “referred” into the next job. Employers think the best people are always referred to them so use this to your advantage.

Long gaps between jobs/part time work: Don’t gloss over or make up bogus answers for significant time gaps in your résumé. If you were temping, say so. There’s no harm in that, at least you were working. If you have been unemployed for more than six months, and have been diligently looking for work, say so, but add that you have been taking classes to keep your skills current.  If you took a sabbatical to go back to school, start a family, or change careers, or were just burned out and needed a break, be honest and explain that the time off allowed you to refocus your energy and that you are now ready to resume your career full time.

Spouse relocation/military transfers: If you have moved a lot due to a spouse’s job or military transfers, say so, and tell the employer how moving around has enabled you to quickly learn new computer systems and procedures. Have solid examples of where you have come up to speed quickly and preferably letters of recommendation from past managers.  Stress that you are looking to stay in the area long-term.

We all leave jobs for various reasons. Remember that employers are simply “employed applicants” and they have also made good and bad choices with respect to the jobs they have held.  The key is to take responsibility for your job movements, good or bad, show how you career has progressed as a result, and move the conversation forward.  You can’t change the past, you can only shape the future and pick your next job wisely.

 

How to answer the interview question: “What is your greatest failure?”

 

“What is your greatest failure?” 

The dreaded question; this one is even touchier than the weaknesses question because you have to admit a failure, not just a weakness.

Tips to Answer this Interview Question:

This one requires you to prepare an example ahead of time. It should be work-related, but you can discuss a personal experience if it is closely related to a work-like event.

The key here is in the presentation of the failure example. You do not want to come off as a victim. Do not blame others for the fact that something didn’t work. You must take ownership of the situation. Employers use this question to see how you deal with adversity. Do you take responsibility for your decisions or blame the world for what went wrong? This is especially important since you most likely don’t know about the inner workings and politics of the firm at this point. Always take the high road, even if your former company made decisions that derailed your project.

An example of a personal failure: “I didn’t graduate from college, I didn’t have the money to go.  I haven’t let it hold me back though.  I am constantly learning new things and I’m a student of self-study.  It is very important to me to keep current with changes in the insurance industry and I’m currently working on my  insurance designations.”

An example of a work-related failure: “I wanted to reorganize the work flow in my department to give us greater compliance and more detailed analytics. In short, my solution did not work.  Work flow bogged down, my team didn’t like the increased data entry, we started to lose employees, and moral was at an all-time low.  I ended up asking my team for ideas to put us back on track, and together we figured out how to improve work flow and our overall quality improved as a result.  Now I make sure that I get department consensus before making sweeping changes to any type of work flow.”
Remember, some of the best successes in the work place start out as huge failures.  Make sure you show the employer how your failures guide your decision-making today.

Salary Data for Northwest Job Applicants-1

Salary matters—a lot. Better compensation and benefits were the #1 reasons employees chose to accept their current company’s job offer, according to LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends 2017 report. Still, for something so critical, lots of recruiters lack any advanced insights on the salaries they offer.

That’s about to change. Today, we’re sharing LinkedIn’s latest salary data for recruiters, including average salaries across sectors, cities, and company sizes.

Knowing how your salary stacks up against the competition is important tactical info. Sure, not everyone in talent acquisition actually has the latitude to change compensation offers—sometimes that’s handled by a totally different department—but it can still inform how you make your pitch.

If you’re paying more than average, maybe you can afford to be more selective. If your compensation falls short of others in your space, you’ll know to emphasize other aspects of your offer (or even lower your standards a bit).

Let’s dive into the data from LinkedIn’s inaugural State of Salary Report for the US. (These stats will give you a great sense of general trends—but to find the exact figures for your role and city, recruiters can use the new LinkedIn Salary tool.)

Read More on LinkedIn

New tip of the week-1