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Interview questions and how to answer.

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by BaileyCatts, Mar 16, 2011.

  1. BaileyCatts

    BaileyCatts Well-Known Member

    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 :blah: 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.
  2. ArtisticFan

    ArtisticFan Well-Known Member

    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. genevieve

    genevieve drinky typo pbp, closet hugger Staff Member

    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).
  4. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

    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.
    Say how you will contribute to the company in specific terms, and how your experiences makes you uniquely qualified.
    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.
    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. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

    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.
  6. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Hit ball, find ball, hit it again.

    Actually, NEVER, NEVER flat out lie. It's too easy for employers to check. Omit, yes. Lie, no.
    PeterG and (deleted member) like this.
  7. genevieve

    genevieve drinky typo pbp, closet hugger Staff Member

    ^ This. Especially when it comes to questions about previous employment.
  8. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

    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. Susan1

    Susan1 Well-Known Member

    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. Susan1

    Susan1 Well-Known Member

    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. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

    You are uniquely qualified to contribute to the company by bringing your team to a new level because of X, Y, and Z.

  12. Garden Kitty

    Garden Kitty Tranquillo

    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.
  13. Kasey

    Kasey Correcting President Trump's grammar on Twitter :)

    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!
  14. GaPeach

    GaPeach New Member

    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:slinkaway
    KatieC and (deleted member) like this.
  15. BaileyCatts

    BaileyCatts Well-Known Member

    Thanks for all the great info. Keep it coming! :D 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. :D
    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: Mar 17, 2011
  16. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

    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.


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

    BaileyCatts Well-Known Member

    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. :(
  18. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

    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?
  19. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

    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.
  20. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Hit ball, find ball, hit it again.

    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.
  21. antmanb

    antmanb Well-Known Member

    I don't understand why having a highly paid last job would be a turn off to a new employer. If the job you are applying for has a clearl salary expectation, then you must be prepared to work for the money they are offering, if in your last job you were paid 20% more than then the maximum this job offers then i would expect a reminder in the interview about it but that's it.

    In this ecomony I have heard of a number of people in my indutry who were on six figure salaries who have taken a 30% cut of that salary just to have a job. Employers know they can get really good people for not nearly as much as they cost before the recession :yikes:
  22. ArtisticFan

    ArtisticFan Well-Known Member

    While it stinks, it is true that potential employers look at previous salary as an indication of qualification. We recently hired a part-time writer where I work. The applications that were submitted were for the most part very impressive. However, the general attitude about them was that most were overqualified for the position that would only be 19 hours a week. People applying for this job that paid $15 per hour were coming from jobs where they had been making $70,000-plus a year.

    Yes, the economy stinks and a year ago I was looking for work too. The unfortunate thing it is still an employers' market. There are hundreds of applicants (or more) for almost every opening out there. Looking overqualified (by skill set or salary) gives the impression that you are willing to take "any" job and that you won't stick around very long once higher paying jobs start opening up again.

    That being said, I appreciated the ones that were honest about their salary history when asked. "Yes, I made $70,000 a year in my previous job. However, it is time for a change from that career and I feel that this job would provide me the opportunity to learn more about ______ field. Obviously I realize I won't be making the same salary here and am prepared to work at an appropriate rate of pay for this work, as it is something I am very interested in doing and something I know I could be successful at for you."

    Yes, it is a load of BS, but we were hiring for someone in PR who needs to know how to spew BS.
  23. genevieve

    genevieve drinky typo pbp, closet hugger Staff Member

    I really don't get the benefit of saying you made less than you did (I'm ignoring the fact that lying about your salary is just a terrible idea - which it is). That just reduces your value in the eyes of the interviewer.

    I've been fortunate to be in the position where I can be choosy, but in general I don't respond to ads where the salary range isn't available. Based on previous experiences, I just assume it means they pay less than my minimum requirements.
  24. Susan1

    Susan1 Well-Known Member

    That bugs me too. And I haven't been on an interview for over a year (for the temp job). I don't even get responses when I apply for a job beyond the website generated email "we have received your resume".

    But I do understand why they can't follow up on every rejection personally. Before my last "real" job, I called to follow up after applying for a job I was perfect for and really wanted. The HR person said they had over 3,000 resumes to weed through. (I didn't get the job.) And things are 10 times worse out there now.
  25. Castlerock

    Castlerock Member

    I have done plenty of interviews on the employer side and we have never asked how much they made at their previous jobs (I can usually guess from the type of job they had).

    We usually end the interview with the question "Why should we hire you?" We want to see if the interviewee is confident and can explain what they can bring to the job. To me this is one of the most important ones to answer (and many struggle with it).

    Our first question is to tell us about our company - what they know. Even if they just printed out something from our website or say they googled us, we are fine with that. We are always amazed at how many people have no idea what we do and make up things! I would rather have them say, "I am not sure, can you tell me about your company". Agree with everyone here about NOT lying in an interview.
  26. Louis

    Louis Well-Known Member

    About accepting a job that is far below your previous salary..... Employers (rightly or wrongly) may feel you will leave as soon as the economy gets better or a better offer comes along. Turnover is costly and reflects negatively on the manager/department.

    In 2008-09, my department head hired a lot of people who were far overqualified for the positions they were hired to do. The economy was weak, the industry we are in had massive layoffs, and people were willing to take any position that paid something.

    Well, all of the people hired are now gone (several of them lasted less than a year), and we have a massive staffing problem that has attracted all kinds of negative attention. As soon as the economy picked up, recruiters started calling and completely raided the department.

    In our current search, we are being extra careful with people who have been laid-off from higher-level positions or who were previously earning much more. The thought is that if we can't bring someone in at their previous salary, we'll pass unless they convince us beyond a doubt that there is something extraordinary about this position that makes it appealing long-term to them.

    My advice would be not to lie, but to emphasize the unique qualities of whatever position you're applying for that interests you.
  27. Cupid

    Cupid Well-Known Member

    You have to remember that in an interview you have to basically "sell" yourself. When asked why they should hire you, that is when you make your "sales pitch." You say what they wanna hear, basically, and try to be sincere about it.

    As to salary expectations, don't sell yourself short. The job that I have now I learned about through a help wanted ad in the local newspaper. The ad said to send a resume along with my salary expectations, those not listing that would not be considered.

    Well, I put in my salary range (I was hoping to get the middle range figure at the very least). When I went to the interview and the discussion of salary was brought up, would you believe he started talking about the lowest figure in my range as if I had already accepted that! It was then that I said I was hoping for the middle range, but I didn't get it. He came up a little bit but not much. So, be careful with your low salary figure because that is most likely what they want to give you. But, the health benefit package makes up for the lack of salary. I have my entire family on the plan at no extra cost to the employee. But still I wished I had gotten a bigger salary.

    So if I were ever to look for a new job, I would say my total compensation would be "X" amount which includes salary and benefits. I would certainly NOT want to start off somewhere making the salary I'm currently making, with perhaps NO benefit coverage for my family and a farther drive.

    Good luck, and keep us posted. MY only other advice is to act happy and enthusiastic in the interview, upbeat, the kind of person everyone would like to have around on a daily basis.
  28. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Hit ball, find ball, hit it again.

    Well said. Your current compensation is the value of your paycheck + incentive pay (bonus, commissions, etc.) + benefits + other factors such as commute time and expense. A typical benefit package for a white collar worker costs the employer 20-25% of salary, so the total package "price" for your labor is higher than just your salary. If you were an independent contractor, you would need to charge $x to equal your current situation.

    For the analytical among us, you can take all the factors including commute time, cost of benefits, difference in vacation/holiday time, and calculate an effective hourly rate for your current job and use that to compare offers.
  29. FiveRinger

    FiveRinger Well-Known Member

    I know this isn't my thread, but I wanted to take the time to thank everyone who contributed to this thread. And a special thanks to BaileyCatts for starting this.

    It's amazing how the current happenings on FSU parallel what's going in my world, but as of late, that's been happening. I just had a job interview this past Friday, and thanks to everyone and their great advice, I think that I did well and impressed my interviewer.

    For those of you who didn't know, I had been looking for a professional position since I completed my B.A. almost two years ago. I applied for this position on a Monday, received an email response from human resources Tuesday, responded to said email that evening and had a phone interview that Wednesday. The following Tuesday I had an interview scheduled for Friday. I have been told that I will know something by end of this week, first part of next week, and, justified or not, I am optimistic, especially since I was there for 4 hours being introduced and shadowing.

    Anyway, much of what was said here really helped a lot. I did some research on my potential employer and the interviewer was really impressed with how much I knew about the company. She remarked about that. I also had some questions prepared for her. I don't know if I was going in the right direction here, and I hope someone here can tell me. One of the things that was obvious from the website is how this is a not-for-profit organization, and is extremely member based. I asked how/if the organization encourages employees to contribute locally to the community. This never would have crossed my mind except that the organization that I currently work for actually requires that we work at the local food bank during our work schedule once a quarter......

    I do have one question, though. Because time is of the essence, and I was concerned about a thank you note getting lost in the mail (not just because this is a large organization and has to go through office mail, but decisions are expected to be made within the week), I sent my thank you as an email. I wanted to know how acceptable this is. I read on the internet that it is, but I feel better about getting some confirmation from people who actually work in HR who could give their opinions.

    Again, thanks for all of the great advice and good luck to all of you job hunters!
    genevieve and (deleted member) like this.
  30. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Hit ball, find ball, hit it again.

    I'm not in HR, but am one of our department's team interviewers. I always appreciate the follow up email. When choosing between two equally qualified folks, I figure the one who sent the follow up might be more interested in the job than the one who didn't. The followup can be the tipping point for us.

    As for snail mail, it's beginning to look quaint as it frequently arrives days after we've made our decision on the best candidate(s). YMMV.

    Keeping my fingers crossed for you!!!