57. Describe your perfect job. This is not the place to describe your dream job. Select those parts of your dream job, however, that you think could be found in the job you are interviewing for. If you dream of a job that would take you to Europe twice a year but this job offers no chance of that, don’t mention your desire to travel. The greatest danger here is in becoming too specific. If you mention things that cannot be fulfilled in the job, the employer may assume you would soon become dissatisfied.
58. What is most important to you in a job? What do you value in a job—challenge, good working conditions, friendly coworkers, a boss you respect? Mention one or two items and explain why they are important.
59. Why do you want to change careers? I define career change as a change of fields, such that the skills and knowledge required to adequately perform the new occupation appear on the surface to be significantly different from what was required in the former occupation. The key phrase is on the surface. Most would agree that moving from teacher to sales representative is a career change. But when you get below the surface, you will see the similarities in these careers. Both motivate—one to buy, the other to learn. Both must be able to simplify and explain difficult concepts. Granted, the teacher will have to develop product knowledge and learn specific closing techniques. But, because of the underlying similarities in these careers, teachers frequently make excellent salespeople.
Here’s my point: In most cases, refuse to accept the label of career change. You might say:
I don’t feel I’m changing careers. Basically I’ll be using the same skills I’ve developed during the last eight years of my career. My knowledge base will be somewhat different, but I took several college courses in this area, and during the last three years I’ve been subscribing to three trade journals and devouring every article in this specialty.
This is not just a question of semantics. The employer has stated that he or she believes you are making a career change. In essence, the employer has raised an objection about you. The employer is actually saying, “You don’t have a track record, so how can I judge your ability to perform this job?” Unless you can overcome the objection, no job offer will be made. Respond by saying, “I don’t feel I’m changing careers.” Avoid defensiveness and sell those skills which are similar to ones required in the new field.
60. Why do you want to get into this field? This is different than “Why do you want to change careers?” This interviewer is looking for evidence that you really know what you’re getting into. People getting into personnel work often respond, “I enjoy helping people.” That is the worst possible response and indicates a total misunderstanding of personnel work. In answering this question, it’s important to let the interviewer know that you are aware of positive and negative aspects of the field.
61. Why did you leave your last job? Here you must overcome the interviewer’s natural desire to hire someone who currently has a job. Even when a person has been laid off during a recession, the question in the interviewer’s mind is, “Most people in her company are still there. Why was she laid off?” The concern is that perhaps you sound impressive, but are not able to produce under pressure.
If you left voluntarily, make that clear and then explain the reason. A resignation due to a personality conflict must be handled carefully. Your explanation should make your leaving seem like a mature and responsible thing to do.
If you were fired, terminated, or laid off, you must handle this question very carefully. Do not become defensive and do not start criticizing your former boss. A good answer will require a carefully considered response. It is wise to know what your former employer will say about it. See question 14 for additional help if you were fired.
62. How long will it take before you make a positive contribution to our organization? This question tests your self-confidence. A good response might be, “After a brief orientation to your methods, I think I can contribute almost immediately. The duties you’ve outlined are very similar to the ones I’ve been performing at Jersey Central.” The interviewer will be looking for a realistic, self-confident response. You do not have to come across as a miracle worker.
63. What do you like least about this position? Most? By asking these questions, the interviewer is trying to get below the surface and force you to make some definite statements. This is a hard one to prepare for because you won’t usually know enough about the job prior to the interview to prepare adequately. An effective way to deal with these questions is to describe a minor duty as one you like least and a major duty as one you like most.
64. Tell me about your duties at your present job. This question provides an opportunity to really sell yourself, yet many miss this opportunity. Mention only those duties that will help sell you. Sometimes this even means overlooking a major duty simply because that duty would not be related to the job you’re interviewing for. As you describe your major duties, describe an associated accomplishment as well.
A good overview will require two or three minutes. Be concise, however. Because people know their duties so well, many go on and on, adding unnecessary details that bore the interviewer. Based on what you know of the job you will be interviewing for, select those duties that you would like to discuss, then practice sharing them concisely and with enthusiasm.
65. What is the most important aspect of your job? This is another question which tests your judgment. Although you have numerous responsibilities, the interviewer wants to have your view of what you do that contributes the most to your organization. You could begin by mentioning the four most important things that you do, but then finish by saying, “But I think the aspect that has the greatest impact on the success of my department [division, or company] is . . .” Then explain why it is so important and show that you have been very effective in that area.
66. Describe a time when you were criticized on your job. Describe a situation where you were criticized by coworkers, but make it one in which your idea or program was ultimately adopted and shown to be effective. Or you could describe a program you were responsible for which was not immediately achieving the desired results. You began to receive criticism, but you continued according to the plan and it worked out just fine. Or select an idea which was criticized, and demonstrate that you were mature enough to recognize its merit. Then show that by changing your plan you were successful. Try to avoid describing a situation where the criticism originated with your boss unless the interviewer absolutely insists on it. Be sure to have such an example handy. It should be one in which your boss was right, you then made the appropriate changes, and everyone lived happily ever after.
67. What is the most difficult situation you have ever faced? Typically your answer would be work related, but not necessarily. Your most difficult experience may have been going through a divorce and a child-custody dispute, but do not mention those types of experiences. Whatever example you choose it should be one in which you demonstrated maturity and good judgment, and perhaps even courage. This is similar to question 7, “Describe the biggest crisis in your career.”
68. What frustrates you about your job? Give concrete examples when answering this question. If you feel strongly about a particular frustration, and would refuse future job offers if you would continue to face that frustration, describe that frustration in bold terms. For example:
When I started in quality control, Acme was producing very high-quality drill bits. We applied stringent tests before they passed inspection. Because our new plant superintendent gets his annual bonus based on the quantity rather than the quality of production, I’ve seen quality really slip this past year. That’s why I’m especially interested in Best Tools. All of our tests on competitors show that you consistently produce high-quality drill bits.
If you don’t feel so strongly about any of your frustrations, or you wouldn’t let them stand in the way of accepting a job, you’ll want to choose more minor frustrations. Another quality inspector might say, “There really aren’t any major frustrations. I was frustrated a few times when I wasn’t allowed to buy new testing equipment when I felt we could use it, but we got by.” Your response should sound justifiable, such that your interviewer will think, “I’d be frustrated too, if I were in that situation.”
69. What jobs have you enjoyed most? Least? Why? To prepare for this question, think through and recall each of your positions. Relive them. What brought you satisfaction? What was frustrating? If you’ve been out of college several years, do not bring up summer or part-time jobs—most people assume that such jobs are unrewarding and frustrating. You need not admit that you hated any of the positions. The question only requires that you discuss which jobs you enjoyed least.
70. What duties have you enjoyed most? Least? Why? Select your favorite and least favorite duties based on what you have learned about the job for which you’re interviewing. In general, pick major duties to like and minor duties to dislike. A disliked duty might be one you have done in the past but would not be doing in the job being interviewed for.
71. What is the worst thing you’ve heard about this organization? If you’ve done your research, you’ve heard both positives and negatives. You could mention a negative you’ve heard, but then explain why you don’t believe it is true. A response might be, “Some people say you’re ruthless in the marketplace, but my observation is that you’re just aggressive and fight hard to get your market share.”
72. Describe a typical work day. Don’t just cover all of the little details of your job. Use this question as an opportunity to mention some of your key functions and how well you do them. To prepare for this question list all of the types of things that occur on your job. This is for your benefit to gain a greater appreciation for all of the things that you do. While you may rarely perform all of these things on any given day, you could still mention all of your key activities. This question is similar to “Tell me what you did yesterday.”