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  1. #1

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    Interview questions and how to answer.

    Gawd I hate interviews. Keep in mind as I ask these, I am a secretary and applying only for secretarial or administrative support type jobs. I really have no desire to ever move into any type of management or supervisory type role. Some of my friends say I lack ambition but I am very happy doing this type of work, so have no desire to do anything else. Anyway ..... how do you answer these?

    Biggest one ... I am completing a Debrief Questionnaire on an interview I just went on yesterday. One question is "what are your salary expectations". I know I cannot expect to make what I was at my previous job (due to length, seniority, etc.) so I'm clueless as to what I should put. I don't want to price myself out of the job either. Should I just pick an amount that is my minimum I could live on?

    Next one ... why should we hire you. Hell I don't know .. cause I need a job? I think I rambled on about what I am good at doing, but couldn't think of anything else to say.

    Next one .. what do you know about us. Exactly what should I know about the company before I go to the interview? Too late for this one, but its like, uhm uhm ... you make jet engines. I mangled this answer. What should I "know" for future ones?

    Describe your personality. What?? Hell again I dunno. Once you get to know me I think am a nice person, but I am mega introverted and low key at work. How can I make this sound not bad, since it seems no one wants introverted people to work for them (just read job descriptions .... practically every one says "outgoing, bubbly, fun, high energy personality", etc. That just ain't me. But I get the job done and I get it done fast and I get it done well.

    Those are the only ones I can think of right now.

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    The biggest thing is to try to match your answers to the the ad or job description that you replied to in the first place (or the one you are interviewing for). When asked to describe your personality or strengths, you can refer back to that ad..."I'm a detail oriented person who enjoys the challenges of keeping track of the banking records for multiple departments. I am a team player so I know that I will be an asset to the ______ department's efforts to grow, etc. However, I'm also comfortable working independantly and find myself appreciating those days when I am able to just plow through tasks." They are asking about that to find out about your fit for the job. They honestly don't care about your personality other than how it affects them.

    The what do you know about us...read the company's website at least before an interview. Reading their media relations section or investor relations section is usually helpful. I try to know what they make/do, but also have they merged recently, opened a new office, closed an office, announced a new product line, or anything else that is making news for them. Again, relate it back to your experience and desires. For example, "I have read that you make airplanes and recently received a large contract from the government for new ones. That is terrific news. I actually have experience with government contracts from my time at XYZ company that I think would be beneficial to you."

    The why should we hire you. As someone who just sat through some awful interviews, I can tell you that few people answer this well. This is my technique. I take three ideas and focus on those. If they have already given me the speech about what they are looking for, I try to repeat some of that back to them. "You say that you are looking for someone organized. From my track record at managing a media relations database of more than 400 reporters, editors, and producers, I have proven myself to be on top of things and proactive and keeping appointments and information in a format and way I can retrieve it, but most importantly you can find it when you need it. You also mentioned a self starter. Well I can provide that for your company as well. I am always working toward improving systems and making sure my job is being done in a professional and efficient manner. [insert ]example of that]. Finally, I think that I am a great candidate for this job because the work here brings together my skills and abilities in a way that I'm sure will allow me to be an asset to you and this company."

    I'll let someone else add about salary. That is my least favorite question and one that I hate with a passion. I hope my suggestions help.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by BaileyCatts View Post
    Next one .. what do you know about us. Exactly what should I know about the company before I go to the interview? Too late for this one, but its like, uhm uhm ... you make jet engines. I mangled this answer. What should I "know" for future ones?
    I've worked for plenty of organizations who ask this question because they want to hear that the applicant has, at the very least, gone to the website and read about the agency. It shows that you are interested in the company, not just a paycheck. I know for many folks, it *is* just a job, but if you think about it, familiarizing yourself with a potential employer is just smart. And in this climate, it's rather essential. Even for administrative positions (if the job involves being a front line for phone calls and/or email inquiries, it's pretty essential, actually).
    Q: Why can't I read the competition threads?
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    Quote Originally Posted by BaileyCatts View Post
    Biggest one ... I am completing a Debrief Questionnaire on an interview I just went on yesterday. One question is "what are your salary expectations".
    Negotiable. I leave salary discussions till after a job offer. I don't ask about it, and I don't directly answer other than to say it's negotiable.
    why should we hire you.
    Say how you will contribute to the company in specific terms, and how your experiences makes you uniquely qualified.
    what do you know about us.
    I would research any potential employer prior to an interview. Look at their website, see what their mission statement is, look up news articles, etc.

    Along with that, I would craft beforehand questions to ask about the company, its future direction, etc.
    Describe your personality.
    Focused, down-to-earth, a team-player and results-oriented. I would avoid saying you're an introvert. Stress you're someone who gets the job done and doesn't pass off your responsibilities onto others (that's the team-player aspect).

  5. #5

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    So basically: embellish the positives, re-frame the negatives, and lie well if necessary.

    I was never good at job interviews because I was too honest - if I were young and looking for a job now, I would definitely invest in job interview coaching.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Japanfan View Post
    So basically: embellish the positives, re-frame the negatives, and lie well if necessary.

    I was never good at job interviews because I was too honest - if I were young and looking for a job now, I would definitely invest in job interview coaching.
    Actually, NEVER, NEVER flat out lie. It's too easy for employers to check. Omit, yes. Lie, no.
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  7. #7
    drinky typo pbp, closet hugger
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aceon6 View Post
    Actually, NEVER, NEVER flat out lie. It's too easy for employers to check. Omit, yes. Lie, no.
    ^ This. Especially when it comes to questions about previous employment.
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    Salary on a questionaire: negotiable. During the interview if they ask you point blank say, at my last position I made X...quickly gauge the response, and then say, but I would be okay if it were slightly lower than that, as that seems to be what you indicated would be okay. DO NOT tell them the minimum you could live on- unless that's the amount you want to live on- they will rarely go above your minimum, but will often try to cut slightly from the number you give.

    Why should they hire you? Because you are qualified for the job and excited about the field. Tell them why you are qualified and what interests you about the position.

    What do you know about them. At the very least google their company and try to see if it has any major stand out features- an industry leader, known for being an awesome work environment etc. I hate when I have a good list of questions prepared and then the interviewer goes on for 15 minutes covering them all before I get to ask, and then I have no questions left

    Personality- You could say - I'm a very independent worker and do not require a lot of direct supervision. However, when required to I think that I am good at working in groups and contributing towards team efforts.

    I find that the truth is generally the best way to get hired at a job you'll like It doesn't do any good if you lie and then are the not a good fit for the position. I don't think you need to embellish really, just put more emphasis on positives that most people take for granted and wouldn't mention normally.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by BaileyCatts View Post
    Gawd I hate interviews. Keep in mind as I ask these, I am a secretary and applying only for secretarial or administrative support type jobs. I really have no desire to ever move into any type of management or supervisory type role. Some of my friends say I lack ambition but I am very happy doing this type of work, so have no desire to do anything else. Anyway ..... how do you answer these?
    As a fellow admin. "lifer", I tell people that I enjoy the variety that administrative work has to offer. I spent five years as a mortgage analyst - spreadsheets and Excel 8 hours a day. The secretary of our department let me do our monthly vacation calendars in Publisher, her labels in Word and reorganize the supply cabinets.

    I've been at a temp job for almost a year now, scanning and prepping files, and I really, really miss being the "go to" person that an admin is and doing all the things I've done at admin jobs for 20 years.

    Uh, if anyone in the south Dayton area is looking for an admin..................
    (and consider this my interview?)

  10. #10
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    I just read the rest of the posts, geez, you guys are good talkers!

    I've always said I couldn't sell ice in hell so how can I sell myself at an interview. I need one of you to go with me next time!

    Although, I did know the "negotiable" thing and to state how much I made at my last job, hoping they could come close, but not telling them that. Heck, at this temp job, I'm making less than 2/3 of what I am used to. Can't even afford medical benefits.

    I agree with BaileyCatts though - the reason "they" should hire me is because I need a job!! What else can I say?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Susan1 View Post
    I agree with BaileyCatts though - the reason "they" should hire me is because I need a job!! What else can I say?
    You are uniquely qualified to contribute to the company by bringing your team to a new level because of X, Y, and Z.


  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by agalisgv View Post
    You are uniquely qualified to contribute to the company by bringing your team to a new level because of X, Y, and Z.

    What agalisgv said. For the "why hire you" question, I always try to show ways that I could contribute to the Company. If you've researched the Company and know things about the Company's goals/policies etc., this is a good time to try to show how you can help support these goals.
    "The Devil is joining in, and that's never a good sign." Phil Liggett

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    Make a point to research what are the local market salary ranges in your area, and ask for something in the upper 10%, I would think. That shows that you are aware of the average salary range, and that you have confidence enough in your abilities to know you should fall near the top. Also make a point to do some basic research on the company you are applying to, so you can answer the "why do you want to work here" question; just having a basic knowledge of their reputation, their goals, what their position is on "green" topics, whatever is important to you.

    Don't lie about your personality; just emphasize the positives. If you are not bubbly and outgoing, don't say you are (I'm sure as hell not); it's not a flaw. Focus on "determined, intelligent, hard-working, strong team player" whatever else you think helps you advertise yourself. Anything you say can be a double-edged sword, and if an employer wants to think that you saying one thing means you aren't another thing (i.e., saying you are a good team player means you aren't a strong leader; no, one is not exclusive of the other), that is something you can't prevent. Just present the positive aspects of yourself the best way you can.

    The hardest question I ever was asked in a job interview, as a nurse, was "Everyone makes med errors and judgement errors in their nursing care; what was the worst one you have ever made, what was the outcome, and what did you learn from it". It sucks to have to admit to a major fcuk up in your job interview!
    I am free of all prejudices. I hate everyone equally.~W. C. Fields

  14. #14

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    At one interview, I was asked what book I was reading or just finished. I lied...I couldn't tell them it was book with something like "Sinful Surrender" in the title and an half-naked man on the cover!

    I was between jobs and reading trash novels

  15. #15

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    Thanks for all the great info. Keep it coming! Here's one I'd love to get the FSU opinion on that my BIL and I disagree on .....

    When you have to actually confirm your previous salary, my view is tell 'em exactly what it was. However, my BIL thinks I should slightly lowball what my previous salary was because people would look at that and go uhm, no, and I would not automatically get that same amount anyway as a new hire, and I would price myself out of a job.

    Here's an example of what he means, using fake numbers.
    Say my salary was $12,000 a year at old job. My BIL says I should say my salary was $9,000 so that I am just under that "10/rounded" mark, and you could always say you forgot about that last salary increase if you are ever questioned about it, which he says you never would anyway. I disagree and say I need to say exactly to the dollar what it was when asked since it can be confirmed. And then go the 'negotiable' route when asked about what your salary requirements are.

    Who does FSU agree with?
    Last edited by BaileyCatts; 03-17-2011 at 08:24 AM.

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    Personally I would try to avoid giving actual numbers until you are offered something. At that point they are invested in you and won't dismiss you based on a high previous salary. Prior to that they very well could. Instead, I would say something like, "My previous salary was within current industry standards, and I'm confident we can work out an acceptable salary from both of our perspectives should I be hired here." I would leave it at that.

    jmho

    You mentioned you've had interviews already--have you received any feedback on how they've gone so far?

  17. #17

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    No feedback at all. At least I got standard "some else more qualified" letters to at least close the loop though. I've had several phone interviews, and then you never hear anything. Why can't they at least follow up.

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    Do you have a sense how the interviews have gone by the end of the interview? Has the interviewer given you any clues during the interview?

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    Quote Originally Posted by BaileyCatts View Post
    Say my salary was $12,000 a year at old job. My BIL says I should say my salary was $9,000 so that I am just under that "10/rounded" mark, and you could always say you forgot about that last salary increase if you are ever questioned about it, which he says you never would anyway.
    Don't lie. One of the questions I was authorized to look up and answer when I worked in an HR department when checking references was what the salary was. (And there was NOT much we could say for references "yes, he worked here". "3 years", "$12,000" "He did not leave on negative terms" "I'm sorry, I am not authorized to give a character assessment.")

    If you have room to right you could say "Started at $9,000" but if your salary was $12,000- well, you don't just "forget a 30% raise!" Lying in an interview is a really bad idea, getting caught is NOT a good thing.

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    I've never answered that question with a number. First, bonuses and non-salary benefits vary widely from company to company. A $60,000 salary at a company with no bonus plan, a high deductible health plan and less than 3 weeks vacation is actually less than a $50,000 salary with a company with a decent medical plan, opportunity for bonus, and more generous vacation.

    I've said things like "my total compensation consisted of x, y, and z and I feel it was comparable to the total compensation for similar positions in other companies" and "the total compensation package at company A included factors that may not be relevant at company B"

    Company B KNOWS what Company A pays. Don't give them a reason to exclude you from the applicant pool before you find out what the job pays.
    AceOn6, the golf loving skating fan

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