18. What are your career goals? This question tests whether you’ve established career goals, and whether your goals match what the organization has to offer. Sound clear and definite about your goals, but express yourself based on what you know about the organization. Mention only those goals that you feel the organization can help you attain. Express them in terms of the experience you hope to receive and the expertise you hope to develop. You could use the opportunity to describe your present level of expertise and then how you want to further develop yourself. You want to leave the impression that you are a growth-oriented person with realistic expectations regarding promotion opportunities.
19. What do you really want to do in life? Sometimes this type of question is inserted so the interviewer can think of the next question. Still, you want to be prepared so that your every response will demonstrate enthusiasm and potential. This could be a time to share one of your dreams. Perhaps you want to enjoy a cruise around the world someday. Or you could select a job-related dream. Perhaps you want to help produce affordable housing in your city, in a volunteer capacity. Almost anything will be positive as long as you are genuinely enthusiastic about it.
20. How long have you been out of work? The employer who asks this question may simply be curious, in which case you would merely mention the month by saying, “I left in June.” The employer could also be implying that he knows you’ve been out of work several months and wants to know why you haven’t found a job yet. If you had to take care of certain personal or business-related responsibilities before you could get fully into your job search, you might want to mention those responsibilities. If you’ve had some job offers, mention that and state that they just weren’t what you were looking for. Demonstrate that you intend to be selective. Then state that you are excited about the position you’re interviewing for because you are being selective.
Do not be defensive when answering a question like this. Emphasize that you’ve been carrying out a systematic job search and that you’ve met many interesting people. Also see question 16, Why have you been out of work so long?
21. What personal, non-job-related goals have you set for yourself? If you take time to consider your goals in life, both job- and non-work-related, the answer will be easy. The interviewer will be determining if you are a thoughtful person. Goals related to your family are always acceptable and often preferred because they demonstrate stability. Anything related to personal growth is very acceptable, such as taking night classes, learning a foreign language, building your own home, or jogging.
22. Are you willing to relocate? The only response is, “Yes, I’m prepared to make a move.” If you answer “no,” the interview is over. At this stage no harm is done by saying “yes;” you merely keep the interview alive. Actually what you’re saying secretly to yourself is, “Yes, I’d relocate for a great opportunity.” Of course by the time the job is offered, you should know whether you would actually be willing to relocate. It helps to know where you would likely be relocated, how soon it would likely occur, whether moves always include a promotion, and how much the company helps you when you move. Some companies, for example, will buy your home at market value if you have been unable to sell it. Others will pay a wage differential if you are moved to an area with a much higher cost of living. Some, unfortunately, will squabble over the cost of hiring a moving company.
23. Are you willing to travel overnight? The question may be worded as generally as this, or it may be more specific: “This job involves at least four nights on the road each month. Is that acceptable to you?” Prior to the interview you should have an idea of whether the job you are seeking typically involves overnight travel. Even if the amount of travel mentioned in the interview is more than you had anticipated, respond with, “That’s no problem.” This response will simply keep the interview alive. Later you must determine whether you are willing to do it. If the amount of travel is more than you want, but you believe there are ways to reduce it, keep selling yourself. Get the offer, then negotiate the travel issue.
24. How do you feel about overtime? If you’ve had jobs that required overtime, simply describe how you handled it. If you have not had a job which required much overtime, you might respond, “I’m the type of person who will do whatever it takes to get the job done right.” Before accepting the job, however, you will need to know whether you will be expected to work overtime regularly or only occasionally.
25. What have you learned from your past mistakes? What were some of them? We all have made mistakes. Often, there were lessons to be learned from these mistakes. So, when you answer this question, share some mistakes, but not major ones. Determine in advance whether you will discuss personal mistakes or business-related mistakes. The best mistakes to share are those that you were able to recover from. For instance, you might describe a mistake that created a temporary setback for you, or one you recovered from by putting in extra time. If a mistake cost you or your employer money, show how the lesson ultimately benefited you or your employer. With some mistakes, enough time has elapsed that you are able to laugh about them. Thus, they may offer an opportunity to inject some humor into the interview. In any event, use your mistakes to show how you have matured and grown from these experiences.
26. What do you think determines a person’s progress with a good company? A survey by Korn-Ferry, the international executive search firm, indicates that senior executives believe that hard work, high integrity, intelligence, and excellent human relations skills got them where they are today. Your answer should reflect those main points plus factors such as the ability to get results and sell ideas.
27. Who has exercised the greatest influence on you? How? This question is designed to discover what type of person you are and to reveal a side of you that the interviewer might not otherwise see. People will often mention parents, relatives, former bosses, coaches, and teachers as having influenced them. Being asked this question is an opportunity to describe what they taught you. Emphasize that these qualities are deeply ingrained in you.
28. What public figure do you admire most, and why? Identify two or three people you admire. Generally they should be people who are widely admired but not overly controversial. Political figures are more risky, but can be used effectively. In the late 1970s I had a client who indicated he admired both Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat for the courage they showed during the Middle East peace negotiations. Another person, preparing for an interview in 1989, did a good job with Richard Nixon. He said he did not like everything Nixon ever did, but he admired him for the way he opened up contact with the People’s Republic of China. A local figure who is well known would also be an acceptable choice. Usually the question will be worded in such a way that the interviewer clearly wants a living person, so don’t use historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln. Generally, your reasons for admiring the person are more important than the specific person.
29. What are your primary activities outside of work? All of your activities reveal things about you so choose your answers carefully. You may want to mention one activity and then balance it with another. For example, mentioning family activities shows certain positive qualities, but might be balanced with mentioning that you enjoy reading trade journals in your field.
30. Would you have any concern if we did a full background check on you? What would we find? The immediate response should be a simple, “Not at all.” If damaging information would be discovered, however, this might be the time to share it so you can put it in the best light. But be discreet. This is not the time to bare your soul and confess everything you ever did.
31. What qualities do you most admire in people? Pick four or five and explain why you value them so highly. This tells the employer more about you and your character.
32. What have you done to increase your personal development? The employer is trying to determine whether you are a growth-oriented person. You might mention courses, seminars, or self-study you have undertaken. Whether you were engaged in these activities on your own time or company time does not matter. The things you mention need not all be work-related unless the question was worded that way. You may have started studying a foreign language, taken up karate, or joined Toastmasters. Be prepared to discuss why you started these things and how they have helped you.
33. What types of books and magazines do you read? This question may be asked to determine whether you are growth-oriented and whether you keep up on the technical side of your profession. If you subscribe to any periodicals that keep you up to date in your field mention those, along with any recent books you’ve read which do the same. You can also mention novels, biographies, or other genres, as well as any specific books or authors you’ve liked. It’s fine to mention news magazines, business magazines, or periodicals that deal with a hobby of yours. If you’ve recently read a book which is highly recognized in your field, you could mention it and describe what you found useful in it. Avoid mentioning trashy novels or other types of reading that would not help sell you.
34. What was the last book you read [movie you saw] and how did it affect you? Your response need not necessarily be the absolute most recent book or movie, but you would certainly want it to be recent and one that you can discuss easily if the interviewer asks follow-up questions. Mention a book or movie that makes a positive statement about you and shows you to be a discerning individual. What you say about the book or movie is more important than which one it was. The interviewer is assessing how thoughtful you are. If you’ve recently read a book that deals directly or indirectly with the work you do, mention it and describe what you gained from it. With movies you would generally not want to mention the most recent action thriller you’ve seen. Instead you would select a movie which dealt with major themes and emotions, perhaps one in which people show uncommon courage. Or it could be a more “artsy” movie which plumbs the psyches of its characters.
35. How do you feel about your career progress? If you are not feeling good about your career progress, you could mention that as one of the reasons you’re looking for a new position, particularly if career progress in your current company is blocked. Indicate that you have done the right things and have received excellent reviews, but that lack of company growth, or some other factor, is preventing you from moving ahead. Indicate that you know patience is important, but state that your strong ambition to take on more responsibility is also important to you.
If you’ve made rapid progress in your career, you should acknowledge this and supply the reasons for your progress in terms of your results and accomplishments. Be sensitive to your interviewer’s situation, however. If you know that the interviewer has not been promoted for some time, you might want to tone down your own success, so as not to appear to be a threat. In such a situation, you would also have to determine whether your prospective boss’s lack of progress could block yours.
36. What was the most useful criticism you ever received? This is a difficult question since criticism is usually given in ways that are not very helpful. You could begin by stating that on several occasions you have received constructive criticism and that you always listen to criticism, constructive or not, in hopes of learning from it and getting better at your profession. Think back to some of your best bosses and coworkers and try to recall advice or criticism that they gave you. Jot down several such occurrences and write down any action that you took as a result. Then select an instance in which the criticism was difficult to accept, and perhaps you initially rejected it or planned to ignore it. Within a day or so, however, you began to recognize that the comment had validity and that you needed to take some action. Then describe how you used the advice or changed a behavior. Then describe how it has made you a better employee and better at your profession.
37. What is the biggest change you’ve made in your life in the last ten years? Select a change that has made you a better person or a better employee. It could include giving up a bad habit or starting a good one. Perhaps you stopped smoking, started exercising more, began attending professional seminars on a consistent basis, or became a better listener. Describe how this change has benefited you and past employers.
38. If you won the $5 million lottery today, what would you be doing a year from now? The most important thing is to be genuine. I’m going to exaggerate to make a point, but you would not say, “Well, I just love to work so even if I won a $100 million Powerball lottery I would still keep working, and I would keep working here to help us achieve our mission.” Give me a break. Don’t just say, “I would probably retire and travel for a year.” Or, “I would want to keep working because I think I need to work.” Give a thoughtful answer. Admit that you would be tempted to quit your job and do something you really wanted to do. Even though some people who win big lotteries continue to work in their current job, don’t be so sure that you would. Describe the process that you would go through. You might indicate that you would want to stay in the job and not make any major changes in your life until you adapted to your new financial status. You might add that if you were enjoying your job, you would probably stay because you like to work. You might add that you have had a dream of starting a foundation that would help dying children or help people get off welfare. After a year or two you might quit to do that work. This is sincere and employers will appreciate it and learn a lot about the kind of person you are.