Asking Better Questions During Your Interview

female interviewee shakes hands with one of two interviewers

Asking Better Questions During Your Interview

April 25, 2022

In my last article, I talked about “behavioral questions,” and preparing for behavioral interviews.

I’d like to take this topic one step further, because YOU can ask behavioral questions during the interview as well!

During a formal interview, you will be given the chance to ask questions. This is an important opportunity because the answers you receive can help you determine if it’s the right job for you.

For example, let’s say your interview is with the person who would be managing you. Here are three standard questions that interviewees might ask:

  • Can you describe your managerial style?
  • How do you recognize your employee accomplishments?
  • What professional development opportunities are available?

Again, those are common questions, and they aren’t bad! But they also won’t get you a lot of information. How a person describes the way things are supposed to be is very different from how their employees experience it or the stories that emerge from the organization.

What if we turn these standard questions into behavioral questions?

Here are some ways that you might do that:

  • Can you give me an example of feedback you’ve given one of your employees before the review process?
  • What type of recognition or acknowledgement have you given your employees over the last couple of months?
  • Can you give me a couple of examples of how your employees have taken advantage of your professional development opportunities over the last year?”

If you’re thinking that asking these types of questions might be difficult to ask, I’m going to agree with you. It’s a different way of asking and so they take practice!

Asking behavioral questions like this can be very powerful for helping you determine if the company you are interviewing with is the right fit for you. So, take some time to practice, whether it’s with a friend or a career coach. That will enable you to ask your questions with confidence and conviction.

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How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview

two people facing each other in an interview setting

How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview

April 11, 2022

Have you ever been in an interview and the interviewer asked a question that began with the phrase, “Tell me about a time when you…”?

That is a standard opening to what is called a “behavioral question” and the interviews that use this style of question are known as “behavioral interviews.”

Through these questions, the interviewer is asking about how you’ve behaved in certain circumstances in your past. They ask these questions to get an indication of your knowledge, skills, and even your beliefs, under the premise that your past behavior indicates your future behavior.

It is important that you give the correct responses to these types of questions. To respond correctly, you need to prepare ahead of time. Coming up with examples from your past can be difficult under the pressure of an interview, so going in with your stories already in mind will help you show up confidently.

HOW TO PREPARE FOR A BEHAVIORAL INTERVIEW

The best way for you to prepare for this type of interview is to break apart the job description and pay close attention to what they are looking for in behaviors.

For example, they might be looking for someone who:

  • Manages stress well
  • Organizes multiple priorities
  • Uses effective communication skills
  • Manages difficult customers with calm and grace
  • Makes sound decisions in urgent situations

After you’ve identified the behaviors that they are looking for, spend some time identifying examples from your past when you were in a situation that called for this behavior.

From the list above, for example, identify a time when you managed a difficult customer successfully or needed to make important decisions while things were moving quickly. If you can’t think of a work example, consider drawing from your volunteer or professional association work.

HOW TO PRACTICE FOR A BEHAVIORAL INTERVIEW

After you’ve identified the stories that you want to draw from, you need to practice telling them. It’s a good idea to mimic the interview environment so if it will be face-to-face or via video, set up your practice session in the same way. Invite a trusted friend to have the conversation with you so that you’re talking to a real person.

Answering this type of question isn’t easy if you aren’t used to it, so practice is important. When I do this type of work with my clients, I help them focus on the key points of their stories and make sure they connect their story back to the question.

It is very possible that you won’t get to tell the exact stories you’ve identified during your preparation, and that’s ok. The practice is as much about getting used to drawing from your past and telling those stories as it is identifying the specific scenarios you want to draw from.

You’re developing the skill of answering these types of questions, and that is the whole point. Without a doubt, you need to anticipate that you will be asked these types of questions. It will make an enormous difference if you are prepared. You’ll show up with calm and grace under the pressure of an interview and that will tell a story unto itself.

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5 Tips for a Successful Informational Interview

informational interview

5 Tips for a Successful Informational Interview

February 28, 2022

informational interviewAre you thinking about entering a career, industry, or company, but you have questions that you wish you could ask someone?

If so, you are prime for doing an Informational Interview.

Informational Interviews are conversations with key people that help you gain information and advice about the companies you are targeting, industries you’re interested in getting into, and the career goals that you’re considering. As an added advantage, these interviews can help you develop your professional network and your relationship building skills.

It’s imperative that you keep this one thing in mind: Informational Interviews are NOT about asking for a job!

However, through these conversations, you can learn what employers are looking for in new hires, the trends in specific industries, plus which hard and soft skills you should focus on. You can also build a professional relationship that does, in the end, lead to an actual job, so don’t discount the benefits to your job hunt altogether.

So how can you get the most out of an informational interview? Here are 5 tips:

1. Be prepared before you set up your meeting

Prior to reaching out for to set up the interview, there are a few things you should get in place:

  • A formatted resume – Though you are not using this conversation to ask for a job, your resume will help them understand who you are, what you’ve done, and where you’re hoping to go. This will help them get a sense of who you are prior to your interview.
  • A completed LinkedIn profile – Make sure everything is up to date because it’s highly likely that they’ll check you out sometime before your meeting.
  • A targeted list of 5-10 companies that you think might be a good fit for where you’d like to go next. Even if the list is just a guess at where you think you’d like to be, it serves as a starting point and can create context for your conversation as well as your job search.

2. Aim to make a great impression

Some of the things you need to do to make a great impression are obvious: Be early for your meeting and dress professionally (even if it’s a virtual meeting!). But there’s more that you can do to leave a great impression:

Be gracious by thanking them for meeting with you both at the beginning and at the end of the conversation. This step is crucial! They are taking time out of their day to help you, and so it’s important that they know that you are aware of this and that you aren’t taking it for granted.

Since YOU asked for the meeting, it’s your job to run it. After your initial greeting and saying thank you, get to your questions. Your being prepared will show them that you respect their time and it could increase your chances of being introduced to new contacts.

When you put in the time and effort to make a great impression – through your graciousness, preparation, and professionalism – you deepen your professional relationship with the person you are meeting with. The chances of them thinking of you if an opportunity comes up increases dramatically!

3. Do your research

Do some initial research so it’s clear you already know a bit about the topic you’ll be asking about.

Now to be clear – the Informational Interview is a form of research! What I’m saying here is… don’t go in with a blank slate. There are things you can learn online so start there. Then use the Informational Interview to deepen your understanding.

This means that instead of asking, “What does a person in this role do?”, you can say: “I understand that this role involves doing x, y, and z. Can you tell me a little bit more about what a person in this role does beyond that?”

When it’s clear that you already know a bit about what you’re discussing, it can raise your conversation to a new level. They aren’t talking to someone who has no clue… they’re talking to an informed and interested party who is trying to make a decision. This will shift their approach and increase the quality of the information they share.

4. Ask them these two final questions:

Use these two final questions to bring a close to your conversation:

  • Is there anyone else that you think I should talk to about this? If they do suggest someone, either ask them to introduce you or ask if you can mention the referral.
  • Is there anything I can do for you? Don’t discount this question! You never know how you might be of service in return! At the very least, just you asking this question will tell them something more about your character and it will help you to leave a great impression.

5. Follow Up

The follow up is where most people go wrong, and yet it’s the most powerful work that you can do. Do not drop this ball!

When you follow-up, you are creating an ongoing connection with the person you spoke with, and you are deepening a professional relationship that can serve you (and them!) for many years to come.

Here’s your quick follow-up to-do list:

  1. Send a thank you card through the mail or, if you don’t have their address, an email will do
  2. Send a personalized LinkedIn Connection request mentioning you look forward to staying in touch.
  3. Mark your calendar to reach out in a couple of months. Let them know how meeting with them helped you further your search, update them on where you are in that search, and ask if there’s anything that you can do to help them.

Throughout this entire informational interview process, your focus is on building the relationship with the person you are meeting.

Throughout the process, I invite you to keep Dale Carnegie’s words in mind:

“You can develop more relationships in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can getting people interested in you.”

If you’re looking for a more in-depth conversation about this topic, I talked about it recently in one of my LinkedIn videos. You can check it out below:

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Solve the Hidden Talent Shortage with a New Approach

Solving the Hidden Talent Shortage with a New Approach

Solve the Hidden Talent Shortage with a New Approach

October 4, 2021

Solving the Hidden Talent Shortage with a New ApproachAccording to the Manpower Group, almost 70% of employers report that they cannot find the people with skills they need. (Manpower Group, 2020, The Talent Shortage.) In the U.S., employer intentions to bring on workers is at a ten-year high. (Manpower Group report, Q4 2021)

At the same time, the U.S. unemployment rate was at 5.2 in August 2021.(Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 3, 2021, The Employment Situation – August 2021)

In short: There are jobs available, and there are plenty of people looking for those jobs.

So, what’s the problem? The operative word is “talent.” There are plenty of people who are looking for jobs. But companies struggle to connect with the job seekers who have the right skills and experience to fill the open roles.

I believe this challenge exists because companies are using old ways to find new talent.

Thanks to improved technology and changes that we’ve need to make around the globe to adjust for a global pandemic, the use of video interviews and social media outlets to drive recruiting strategies has increased. But where companies find the talent to interview has not changed.

Until companies start approaching the talent pool from a different direction, finding the right talent to fill open roles will continue to be a challenge.

The strategies for finding talent that companies typically use are no longer working. To get ahead of the trend, companies need to become proactive not reactive in finding talent, and they need to bring in more of a human touch to the process.

There are some nuances to this problem that I want to address: It starts with where companies are looking for talent, but also includes what they are looking for from within the talent pool.

First, companies habitually look for talent when the position is ready to be filled. They open the position and only then do they hit up LinkedIn and other online platforms. They work their way through the pile of unknown talent via resumes from people they’ve not yet met. Bigger companies may even filter those resumes with technology using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), which removes any sense of the human behind the words.

But what if companies reversed this process?

What if they started with the pool of talent and got to know the people interested in working with them… and at the same time, gave those people an opportunity to get to know the company and its culture better?

What I’m suggesting here is that companies could build their own Hidden Talent Network where they can gather the pool of interested job seekers before the job is open.

This would allow the companies to address the second nuance that I mentioned above: Changing what they are looking for from that talent.

Typically, companies look for ideal candidates who already have everything that is listed on the job description. That means they miss one key factor: the candidate’s potential.

Finding the right person for a job isn’t just about whether they’ve got all the boxes checked. It’s also about their potential to check more boxes as they grow with the company.

Why does this matter? Turnover is expensive!

It can cost a U.S. company $4000 or more to hire one employee, and it can take up to 52 days to fill a position. (Toggl.com) If you hire someone who doesn’t stay, the company starts the process again, losing more money and time in the process.

Therefore, the goal should not be to hire someone who checks all the boxes in the job description; rather, hire someone who has the potential to check those boxes and much more. Hire someone who envisions themselves staying with your company for the long term, and who you already know fits the culture.

Building your own Hidden Talent Network would help you do this. It provides you with a pool of people that you already know, and who have gotten to know your company as well. Before the job is even open, you can identify the people who tick most of the boxes and show potential to grow with your company. You’ll shorten the time to hire and potentially reduce how much money it costs to find them.

So how do you build a Hidden Talent Network? Slowly, over time, by scouting talent and giving the talent the opportunity to scout you.

For example, you could host talent events where you can speak to them in groups about where your company is going. In what ways is it growing and what types of talent do you hope to be looking for in the future? Talk about your organizational culture and what you value. This would also be a great time to set expectations: What can job seekers expect during your hiring process? Which skills and qualifications are mandatory? What can they do to be an even better fit as the anticipated jobs come open?

Transparency on your part will help you find the right people and get the conversations started early.

From all the years that I’ve spent working with job seekers to help them find the right positions that will help them build a career for themselves, the one thing that I’ve consistently seen is that the best jobs are found through the hidden job market.

That “hidden job market” is something that a job seeker builds for themselves by making connections with the companies that they are interested in working with.

Companies could do this as well by making it easier for individuals to connect with them and speeding up the whole job placement experience for everyone involved. It could also provide them with an untapped market of talent that they could onboard quickly.

The world has changed and continues to do so. If companies want to get the best talent, they’ll need to change with it. The global pandemic has made us all more human. Connection matters more to us. The companies that are embracing this humanness are the ones that will find the best people.

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The Best Questions to Ask a Hiring Manager

The Best Questions to Ask Your Hiring Manager

The Best Questions to Ask a Hiring Manager

July 12, 2021

The Best Questions to Ask Your Hiring ManagerIf you are truly focused on finding a job with a company that has right culture for you, the questions you ask the hiring manager will be key.

The hiring manager is the person who would be your boss. And as I mentioned in a recent article, the best time to ask questions about culture is during the interview.

What you ask matters. Those answers will give you your best insight because they are being provided by someone with whom you’ve had time to build up a rapport.

The questions you ask your hiring manager are key because you need to know not only whether you’d be happy at this company, but also: Would you be happy working for this person at this company?

The thing is, the company might be the right fit… but if you get stuck with the wrong manager, you could still not do well.

Before we identify exactly which questions to ask, we need to go back to the definition of company culture, which refers to beliefs and demonstrated behaviors. The values of the organization need to permeate throughout and align with what it is and how it is demonstrated.

The key words in the definition above are demonstrated behaviors.

In other words, your questions need to be focused on how the hiring manager behaves, not just what they believe or say about themself.

What does a behavior-focused question sound like? Here are some examples of questions you can ask the hiring manager:

What you want to know: How does the manager recognize and reward their staff members?
Ask: Can you provide me with a recent example of how you recognized one of your employees for a job well done?

What you want to know: How does the manager deal with mistakes?
Ask: Can you give me an example of when one of your employees made a mistake and how you handled the situation?

What you want to know: How do they respond to feedback?
Ask: Can you tell me about a time when one of your employees gave you feedback? How did you react to it?

I hope this gives you a sense of what questions you might ask, and how to ask them in a way that gives you specific examples. After all, you want to work for the right company! By asking these types of questions, they will help you make a better career decision.

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How to Tell if This is the Right Company for You

how to tell if this is the company for you

How to Tell if This is the Right Company for You

June 28, 2021

how to tell if this is the company for you

How can you identify whether the company you are interviewing with has the right culture for you?

This is the question that most of my coaching clients come to me for help with.

They are tired of working for companies whose cultures don’t support them doing their best work.

Ok – wait. Let’s be clear about what they (and maybe you) actually want.

My coaching clients WANT to work for a company where they will:

  • Be able to do their best work
  • Feel proud because they work there
  • Enjoy the work they do
  • Feel like they fit in with the people
  • Anticipate staying for a long time

They want to work for a company where they can be their authentic selves, their best selves, do work that they enjoy, and can see themselves staying at for the long term.

In short: They want to be happy.

The question then becomes: During the interview process, how can I tell whether or not this is a company where I’ll be happy?

This is a two-part answer.

Part 1: Go into the interview with a clear sense of what you’re looking for.

If you aren’t sure, download my free guide, What is the Right Corporate Culture for you? It walks you through a series of key questions to help you identify what is important to you that needs to be matched by the company you work for.

Part 2: Ask specific questions about the culture at the company you are interviewing for.

You benefit in asking these questions because:

  • They will help you stand out because they aren’t the usual questions that others ask.
  • It will be clear through the questions that you ask that where you work matters to you.
  • The answers will help you gain a clearer understanding of the organizational culture.

So… what are some good questions to ask?

That will depend largely on what you are looking for, so here are some great questions to get you started:

  • How would you describe the culture of this company?
  • What do you value most in your employees?
  • What is the predominant leadership style in your company?
  • How do you reward people for exemplary work?
  • What type of people thrive in your company culture?

These are great opening questions specifically because they are open-ended. They enable the respondent to answer freely. Answers to these questions and others like them will give you some nice insights into the company and the perspective that your interviewer holds about that company.

If you hesitate to ask questions like this, I encourage you to dare to ask them anyways.

Remember: you aren’t the only one being interviewed. What you think of the company matters just as much as what the company thinks of you.

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How to Get Clear on What You Want in Your Next Job

How do you figure out what you want in your next job?

How to Get Clear on What You Want in Your Next Job

June 14, 2021

How do you figure out what you want in your next job?Almost everyone I have coached through a job transition wants to find a job with a company whose culture enables them to do their best work.

The big question here is: How do you figure that out?

How can you tell whether the culture of any given company will support you in the way that you need it to so that you can show up as your best self and deliver your best work?

To help my coaching clients work this out, I always start with this question: “What did you not experience in your last role that you are looking for in your next company?”

I love this as a starter question because it tunes us in to the one thing that they know for sure: What didn’t work for them last time and why. For my clients, it’s one of the most powerful pieces of knowledge they own because, if nothing else, they know what they don’t want!

But that is just the beginning.

We then take a deeper dive, reflecting back on their previous two or three roles to give them a broader perspective of their whole career so far, rather than just their last job.

The thing that I think makes these coaching conversations so powerful is that by the time we’re done talking, my client has a clear view of two very important things: (1) what they want in the next company they work for, and (2) their own values.

Knowing their own values is imperative because the next time they interview for a job, they’ll be able to evaluate that company through this new knowledge. And that will enable them to make a much more informed decision.

If this kind of a coaching conversation sounds like just the thing you need to get clear on what you want in the next company you work for, I invite you to download my free guide, What is the Right Corporate Culture for you? It walks you through a series of key questions to help you identify the values you bring to the table that need to be matched by the company you work for.

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Haunted by Interview Ghosting? Here’s How to Stop it

Don't get caught waiting for a phone that doesn't ring

Haunted by Interview Ghosting? Here’s How to Stop it

October 26, 2020

Don't get caught waiting for a phone that doesn't ringYou interviewed for a job and you thought it went well. You asked what the next steps were, and they responded, “We’ll get back to you in two weeks about next steps.” That sounded hopeful!

But then… silence.

You reach out to the hiring manager.

And still… silence.

So, you move on to the next interview with slightly less enthusiasm, but you’re holding on to hope.

You interview. It goes well. You ask about next steps. They say they’ll get back to you.

But then… Silence.

You reach out to the hiring manager

And still… silence.

Welcome to ghosting!

Has this happened to you? It might help to know that you are not alone.

When companies don’t get back to you after your interview, it can be very frustrating and demoralizing. It’s even worse when you’re certain that the interview went well!

Unfortunately, ghosting has become the norm in today’s interview process. It has become so standardized that I often warn my clients about it: “Expect that you will be ghosted while you are interviewing.” Managing your expectations will help with disappointments.

That being said… there are things that you can do to minimize how much ghosting you experience.

I’m going to offer you some tactics that have helped my clients reduce ghosting.

But before we get to that, we need first to take a look at what’s going on here.

Why does ghosting happen?

You thought the interview went well.  What information have you based this on?

What if you didn’t do as well as you thought you did? Maybe your qualifications and experience didn’t match up in their eyes. Or maybe they’re interviewing other people (They should be!) and found someone else better qualified.

Are these the things that have been going through your head while you’re waiting for that call back that never came? Listen to those concerns and be honest with yourself. Are they valid?

At the end of the interview, when you ask, “What are the next steps?”, the interviewer’s easiest answer is to tell you, “We will get back in a couple of weeks.”

First, they may actually need those weeks because they’re doing other interviews.

Second, if they don’t think you did well enough, they don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, so they push you off with an easy answer.

And lastly, at the end of all of their interviews, if they decide that you don’t meet their needs, no one there wants to tell you bad news so...

Yup. You’ve been ghosted.

Are you ready to eliminate ghosting from your interview process?

Here’s what you could do differently.

Most people ask, “What are the next steps?”  or “When will I hear back from you?” They shy away from questions about the viability of their candidacy.

Instead, ask how your skills, experience, and qualifications match up with the job description, and inquire about specific next steps. These questions show the interviewer how serious you are about the role. Bonus: This builds a stronger relationship as well!

And honestly, wouldn’t you want to know if you are not being considered for the next round? It’s certainly a better experience than the feelings of limbo that ghosting creates.

To help you to ask more thought provoking questions that will improve your chances of hearing back even if you are not being considered for the role, I’ve offered some specific suggestions below.

New questions:

The next time an interviewer asks you, “Do you have any final questions for me?“ skip the standard response.

Instead of saying, What are the next steps? When can I expect to hear back about moving to the next round?” try these new questions:

New Question 1: “Based on our time together, how do you think my skills, experience and qualifications align with your need? Is there any disconnect that would prevent me from moving to the next round?”

Upon hearing the response, say: “Thank you for the information, I appreciate your feedback.”

New Question 2: “If I am not being considered, would it be possible for you to let me know and share with me the reason why? I would be grateful for the feedback so that I can focus on improving in the right areas as I move on to find a job that is a better fit.”

Note on Q2: Hiring managers are sometimes not comfortable providing this information, which is why it is so important to ask while you are interviewing.

It is simply a fact that ghosting happens. However, that does not mean it has to happen to YOU.  

Ask better questions at the end of the interview to get a clearer sense of your candidacy status, and at the same time, you’ll develop a stronger relationship with the interviewer. These better questions also tell them a bit more about who you are and how you think. That can help you get the job!

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Interviewing? This is How You Answer the Money Question

Interviewing? This is How You Answer the Money Question

July 18, 2020

When you are in an interview, how do you answer the question, “What are your salary expectations?’

The simple answer is: “You don’t.”

Why?

If the number that you give exceeds the salary budgeted for this role, you could put yourself out of contention before you’ve even begun.

If you list a number that you think may be a lower salary, you may put yourself in a position to work for less than you are worth.

Regardless… If you answer this question at all, you begin negotiating your pay before you even know if you want the job.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say you’re shopping for a used car. You’ve got your eye on a car on the lot, but you haven’t taken a good look at it yet. The salesman asks you: “How much do you want to pay?”

Would you give him a number?

Or would you say, “I don’t have a number yet because I haven’t looked under the hood, inside the car, or taken it for a drive. Until I do, we can’t talk about that number.”

Your salary discussion should run the exact same way. 

Until you have a solid sense of the position, the work you’d be doing, the people you’d work with, the people who would manage you, a sense of the business culture, and all of the particulars, it’s best not to answer this question.

Honestly, it’s hard to have an accurate number without all of that information!

So, what should you say?

There are a couple of ways that you can answer the question, “What are you expecting for a salary?” that will increase your chances of negotiating for a higher one when you receive an offer.

OPTION 1: 

“I don’t have an exact number in mind because I do not know enough about the role, responsibilities, challenges, or the company. Can you give me the salary range for this role?”

If the range they give is within the range of what you were hoping, your response can then be: “That fits within my range. Thank you for sharing it.”

If they tell you that they cannot share that information, you can say: “I understand. Thank you.” And then take note of this as a useful piece of information about the organization that you’re thinking about working for.

OPTION 2: 

“Can we table this discussion later in the interview, after I’ve heard more about the expectations, responsibilities, and challenges of the position?”

This delays the conversation until a later time when you will have more of the information you need to represent yourself well in the salary negotiation.

Regardless of which option you go with, choosing to not answer the salary expectations question too soon in the process puts you in a better position to negotiate for a higher salary when you receive an offer!

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