The Worst Interview Questions

Posted on: May 19th, 2015 by
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As an interviewer, you might think these are great questions to ask. As an interviewee, these are questions you love to hate! So why not prepare to answer these questions in the most effective way?

Position yourself as an articulate and focused candidate. What response would be the most impressive to the interviewer? You want to respond in a way that sets you apart from everyone else: A top candidate.

While the interviewer doesn’t expect a “No” or “Maybe” answer, you don’t want to be boastful or grandstanding either. Objectively match up your key results with the key issues of the position. By applying your past experiences to the position description, you are showing the parallels between your successes of the past with the potential success in the new position. Potential responses:
“I believe there’s a high correlation between the issues you are experiencing and the results I have achieved with my current company. There’s no reason I can’t do it again given the support from management”
“My track record speaks for itself. Applying the skills and experiences from over the past 5 years in my current position is a strong indicator of what you can expect from me here.”

Of course you can’t answer this question because you haven’t seen all the other resumes. And the interviewer knows that. But how you answer gives the interviewer some insights into how you respond to the unanswerable. Potential response:
“I can’t answer for other candidates, but I know what I’m capable of achieving for you. I have always achieved a high performance level, am a fast learner and a team player. Those are the qualities I assume you’re looking for in a candidate.”

That’s an easy one that you can hit out of the ballpark. This answer will give the hiring manager a vision of your capability.
“First is to identify the issues preventing results. This can be done through a Needs Analysis within the first month. Second, is to develop a strategy to problem solve those issues and compare them with the hiring manager’s vision. Then integrate a mutually developed time line and strategy to begin implementation, with benchmark reviews every month.”

What hiring manager wouldn’t be delighted with a new hire giving those kinds of responses? Your problem, of course, is to deliver on those promises. So make sure you can perform at a level that you promise. If you do, you’ll be a star within 6 months.

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Are You a Master Performer?

Posted on: May 12th, 2015 by
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Master Performers are a special kind of employee, no matter what the level. They usually can do more work, in less time, at a higher quality level than anyone else doing the same job. Many times they are individual contributors who are secure and well respected in their current organization. Master performers are usually better paid than others.

So what’s the problem? It’s almost a good news/bad news proposition. Here are some of the issues you’ll need to consider.

Master Performers are unique and a valued asset in most organizations, or at least they should be. If not, then you’re either not a Master Performer; the organization discounts your value; or you need to reassess your contribution
Master Performers are one-of-a-kind. One problem is you may be too valuable to move, you’ve reached the outer limits of your contribution, or the organization isn’t going to grow, which limits your opportunities to develop.
Master Performers tend to relax their efforts and coast over time. Why? Because no one can come close to paralleling your performance. But be careful, because technology and time will catch up to you if you don’t keep your skills sharp and state-of-the-art.

So what’s the best career strategy for a Master Performer?

If your company continues to grow and you can grow with it, you’re way ahead of the game. Master Performers in a growing organization tend to become managers or trainers for the next generation of performers. On the other hand, companies that remain static or are shrinking find their Master Performers very expensive and may try to save money when it’s time to cut back.
Master Performers must stay current or advanced in their field. They have leverage when or if they need to seek another career option, internal or external. Expansion into a tangential area is the best way to grow rather than try to master a totally new field
Another option is to move up to a larger organization. Internally, you might change from a smaller operation to a larger one; or be responsible for a number of divisions; or move into a corporate role. An external move could be to an organization that desperately needs your skill set. The pay increase with that kind of move is usually large one.
Master Performers usually do well as a consultant. Since you are the “go to” person as a Master Performer, you are well known either in your industry or your function. Test it out to find your marketability.

If you are a Master Performer, talk with someone who understands your unique position, marketplace opportunities and potential career directions. Let me hear from you.

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Play the Game, or Not?

Posted on: May 5th, 2015 by
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Two professionals were Directors of HR for major divisions of a corporation (out of 5 divisions). Both applied for the Corporate VP job. John was from the consumer products division and looked like a marketed product (wing tipped shoes, sharp dresser, silk tie). He was also highly political, a glad-hander and brownnoser with below average competence in HR. Fred, on the other hand, was highly competent in HR with a solid reputation, had a more rumpled professorial look, was non-political and on the industrial side of the corporation. Guess which one got the top job? Right… John.

Which leads me to several questions: Is it worth playing the game, or not?

Is there a correlation between the company’s business and the type of people in it? Absolutely! Anyone in a marketing/sales role working in the mining industry would have great difficulty in the same role within an advertising company. The same is true for most other functions. People in basic industries tend to be “salt of the earth” types, while glossy, urbane industries tend to look for similar types to match.

Should you “act the part” in order to get a job or promotion? Absolutely not! Play-acting to get a job usually means being someone you’re not during a series of interviews. Acting as someone else is impossible to maintain for months and years. If you can’t be yourself and be accepted, it’s very tiring, emotionally draining and sometimes leads to depression. All this impacts your results in a negative way.

Should you change your values and style to “fit in” the corporate culture? The answer boils down to the ethical question: Will you do what your told, or do you actually do what’s right? Actors will make a decision because they know it’s politically expedient but not the right decision. The true professional may not fit into one organization but shines in another, usually at a higher career level, with greater job satisfaction and contribution…. but not all of the time.

Should a hiring manager only hire people in their own image? Hiring in your own image is a sign of a weak or insecure manager. Each hiring manager should commit to all the employees they bring on board. Think of the analogy: A sailing ship on smooth waters will never outpace a ship with strong winds and a competent crew. A mix of the right kind of people is always preferable than a group of the same kind of people.

Are the relationships within the work group more important than performance? Look at the results: Are you sacrificing performance for smooth relationships? Can higher performance be managed through higher standards and teamwork?

Usually higher results are based on both relationships and performance. The right mix and fit determine results.

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Yes or No to a Job Offer

Posted on: April 28th, 2015 by
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How do you make the decision to accept a job offer or not? Many candidates wait until they’re already interviewing before thinking about the end game. Sometimes a candidate gets caught up in the process and forgets to objectively sort out the professional and personal issues.

First, before you even apply for a job, make a list of up to 5 items that you believe must be in a job offer. Name these items as your “MUST HAVE” list. These are “non-negotiable” items. This list could include such things as a title, compensation level, geographic location, industry, benefits, moving expenses, employment contract, a company car, short commuting distance, minimum vacation weeks, and so on. Anything can be on your list. Of course, the more demanding the list, the fewer the opportunities that may be available to you. What are the knockout factors? What is negotiable? What falls to the lower list?

Next, list up to 5 items that would be “NICE TO HAVE”. This list could include some of the items that were identified above, but drop down to the lesser important list. It could include such things as a quarterly performance review in the first year, increased responsibilities, a hiring bonus, added staff, and so on. These are the things that would make the job more interesting or acceptable to you but not imperative.

Thirdly, identify those items that you want to “AVOID “at all costs. This list could be a company that is in dire straights, is about to be acquired, has an autocratic management style, an industry you don’t want to work in, requires 80% travel or other mandates that make the job undesirable. The more constraints, the more difficult the search strategy becomes.

Can your “MUST HAVE” list change? Of course, priorities can shift. Some things can be changed for different jobs. Be careful of a hiring agent that says they “have a wonderful opportunity to match your requirements once your hired”. Get any promises in writing. If the hiring organization can’t put it in writing, then it’s a hope, not a commitment.

Now that you have a framework from which to assess each job opportunity, you should fine-tune your decision-making. Take each “Must Have”, “Nice to Have”, and “Avoid” items and rate each one of them from 0 to 100 against each job offer. If your criterion has been totally and completely met on a specific item, then rate it as 100. Assess how close each item comes to your ideal, whether it’s 75%, 50%, 30% or 0%.

When you’re finished, you’ll have a more objective perspective of the opportunities that meet or exceed your requirements versus those jobs that fall short. Your career direction and destination will be affected by your ability to diagnose the opportunity against your own professional and personal career goals.

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Compensation Negotiations

Posted on: April 21st, 2015 by

A TV host said that women are at a disadvantage when negotiating for a salary because they aren’t experienced or forceful enough. Not true. I always come out on the short end when I try to negotiate with my wife. Women have an intuitive sense of persuasion.

Here are some thoughts about negotiations, be it a man or woman. When you get a job offer with compensation dollars less than you expected, never say “no” to the offer. Instead, say “maybe” with the following alternatives:

1. Make sure you researched the position and comparable compensation. Look at the factors that determine salary levels such as education, prior experiences, responsibilities, and organizational level. Most companies want to pay at the mid-point or less within the salary range unless your skills are in demand or you have experiences that they must have. However, the lower the offer in the range, the more room to move up over time.

2. Communicate your rationale with these comments or questions:
“I was expecting a higher percent increase in salary. Do you have any flexibility within your control to increase the offer just a bit?”
“Given the market demand, this type of position is being paid between $X and $Y. (assuming you did your homework) Can you increase the offer to $Z?”
“Is there a reason why the salary is below or at the low end for this position?”
“The salary is below what I was expecting. If I accept your offer, can I have a performance and merit review after 6 months in order to move it closer to my anticipated value?” (Ask only if you’re really sure of yourself. There’s a risk involved)
“I would like to accept the offer even though it’s below my expectation. Can I expect a substantial increase/promotion after the first year assuming a high performance level?”
“Based on my track record of results, I know I can be an outstanding contributor to your objectives. I believe my value is worth an additional X% to your offer.” (Just make sure you can deliver)
“Until I know the complete compensation picture (bonus, incentive, benefits, costs to me, and expectation for results) I would find it hard to accept a final offer.”

In the end, you need to decide whether:
1. You’re in need of a new job and this is the best one so far, so you better take it
2. The job is what you want career-wise, even if the salary is below your expectations
3. You are willing to accept the offer as you see longer term opportunities
4. You feel comfortable enough to ask for an exception to the offer, at a higher level
5. You will stand behind your conviction of value and not accept the offer unless modified
6. You can find something better

Negotiations are dependent upon the balance of who needs the other more urgently. If you are one of a few that have something unique that the company needs, your position is strong. If you are one of many with the same skills in a flooded market, then you’re at a disadvantage in negotiations.

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