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“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
—Steve Jobs

For many years, I struggled with the question most people are asked at the age of 5, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

After I graduated college, I still had no clue what I really wanted to do with my life, career-wise. I wanted a career doing something I loved, while providing a reasonable financial wellbeing for myself.

I always thought the overall goal in life was to make as much money as possible, even if you didn’t like your profession. My plan was to make a six-figure annual salary and retire at the age of 60. I only had to work approximately 38 years before I could be happy and retire rich. Who wouldn’t be happy making a six-figure income? I graduated from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. I thought working in the business world would bring me happiness, since that was my area of study. My concentration was marketing, but I ended up taking a sales job right out of college. I was miserable from day one. I loved sales, but disliked what I was selling.

After three years of working in sales, I met one of my friends from college for dinner. We had lost touch after graduation and wanted to catch up on old times. David majored in Elementary Education. He was an elementary school teacher who advanced at a rapid pace and was recently promoted to Assistant Principal. Over our dinner conversation, his eyes lit up when he spoke about his new job and how much he loved what he did. I could hear the passion and excitement in his voice. It seemed like the whole dinner conversation was centered on David’s career joy. I let him share all the details because I could tell it made him happy to talk about it. He explained that he woke up an hour early every morning just to prepare for his day. He absolutely loved what he was doing. He found his calling in life by leading and mentoring children and teachers. Even though his job was very stressful, every morning he woke up excited about going to work.

I never told David, but I always had a deep down jealously of him after that night. David wasn’t a millionaire, but was financially very comfortable. “How could this be?” I always thought to myself. How could David really like what he was doing and still make a decent living? I mean, can anybody really be happy going to work? I desperately wanted that happiness for my life.

The Purpose of Passion

You should discover your passion for whatever brings you the most happiness in life—and you need to do this before you start interviewing for a job. If you are not passionate about your career, you will become bored, miserable, and will hate your life. I understand you may need to take an entry-level job to work your way up the ladder, but the ladder should lead to your dream job. I think one of the best career counselors and coaches in America is Dan Miller. Dan has written one of the best job books out there called, 48 Days to the Work You Love. In this book, the underlying theme is your “vacation needs to be your vocation”. The time is now to discover what you want to do with your life. If you are going to the interview just because you see a good job opportunity—but you know you would hate this particular job day in and day out—then don’t go to the interview. I don’t care how much money you think you are going to make, eventually you will burn yourself out and be looking for another job. Then you will read this book again to refresh your memory about successful interviewing. Find your passion in life and once you do it will lead you to happiness and financial peace.

For years, I read many self-help books on trying to discover my passion in life. What was my calling? What could I do that would bring me the most joy? I grew very unhappy in my job as the years progressed. I would search for answers from friends, relatives, books, TV, prayer, self-help articles, etc. No matter how much time I invested reading, soul-searching, pondering, studying, and meditating, the answer never came and it seemed like all hope was lost. I kept praying and begging God to let something hit me like a ton of bricks to alert me to my calling for life. Days, weeks, months, and years passed. I looked up and it had been eight years since meeting with David. Nothing had changed in my life. I was still stuck in the same industry with a job I really didn’t like. I was making a decent living, but dreaded work. I never had my “aha!” moment. I grew more depressed each day, but I never gave up. I continued to wait for my moment.

I’ve learned by talking to many people that David is an exception to the rule, rather than reality. Most people whom I have interacted with don’t like their day job. Most of them say the same cliché’ statements:  “It pays the bills.” “I am just glad I have a job.” “I don’t really like it, but there’s nothing else out there.” “This is all I know how to do.” I don’t like my job, but I have no choice.”

I know these statements very well. In fact, I’ve recited them to everyone I knew and even to random strangers.

David knew what he wanted to do since he was a child. He majored in elementary education, and volunteered at the local church, tutoring children. If he weren’t around children, he would live a very miserable life. My goal was to one day be David—joyful and fulfilled in my career—but how could I ever achieve this goal? I never had a passion for a career when I was growing up. I had pretty much picked my college major because time was running out and I had to choose something in order to graduate in four years. Business seemed liked the easiest route to make the most money. I figured magically, one day, I would wake up and the answer to my life’s calling would flash before my eyes. For years, I waited, but the epiphany never came. At this point in my life, I doubted it would ever appear.

My revelation of my calling never came as an ”aha” moment, like I always assumed it would. I spent years reading, praying, and meditating. I spent most of my free time reading books on career decisions, because I hated my day job. I recall reading a book called Start by renowned career author and speaker John Acuff. I read Acuff’s first book, Quitter. Both of his books helped me along my journey. I was a big fan of his thoughts, ideas, and advice. This was my second time reading his book, and a simple statement spoke to me the second time (it usually takes me two reads, then studying, to have true comprehension).

Acuff said in the book Start, “ I always wanted to be in a plane crash”. When I first read this, I thought, “Wow! He was really suicidal about his career at the time.” As I read farther, Acuff explained that he never heard a story from someone who had survived a plane crash and then come home and not fulfill dreams. After coming so close to death, they didn’t waste the precious small amount of time they actually had on earth. “His point was how many people [who] had a near death experience, that survive, come back in life and say, ‘Wow! I really wished I had watched more television!’” People who survive a near-death experience often come back and live a more fulfilled life. It was time for me, personally and metaphorically, to crash a plane in my life and come back. It was time for me to start investing every single waking moment thinking, meditating, pondering, and soul-searching with a renewed vigor to identify the ultimate career path. I wanted to mentally have a near-death experience that would ignite a fire that would light the way through the path of a better life for me.

I went back to the drawing board to find my passion and calling in life. Over eight years, I had accumulated a wealth of self-help books, articles, and handwritten notes to myself. I thought maybe something would speak to me through the books, journals, and articles the second time around reading and studying. I remained diligent and focused, but once again, another year had passed without any significant progress. I never gave up searching to find my passion.

By now, you are probably thinking, “Does this story ever end with happiness or does he just keep going on and on about how this poor soul couldn’t find his passion?”

Good point. The whole reason for the long, drawn out story is, most of us won’t find our passion overnight. It takes time, prayer, commitment, and a 100 percent focus to find our calling in life. Most of you probably will not have an “Aha!” moment.

My best friend on his way to work won’t listen to the radio, talk on his cell phone, or do anything else he shouldn’t be doing while driving (e.g., texting). During this time, he delves into deep thought and prayer about his life. What things can he improve on as an individual? How can he improve professionally? He always has a spiral-bound notebook in his car. When he arrives at work, he jots down some of the ideas. He tries to implement and execute these new ideas to improve his life. He calls this quiet period his “me time”. I challenge you to have your “me time” each day. Most of us commute to work. You have plenty of time to enjoy some valuable “me time”. Dedicate 30 minutes a day to yourself.

That moment of enlightenment won’t come if you are sitting on the couch, reading people’s Facebook posts, some other activity that steals your focus from your goal. It takes hard work and effort to uncover that passion, but the reward from your effort and commitment is a priceless discovery that will lead you to a life of joy. Be patient, yet diligent, when it comes to discovering your passion in life. When you get frustrated, read something encouraging, keep a positive spirit, and remain fervent in finding your dream.

I finally found the answer when I mentally crashed my plane, combined with selling my house. I kept a career journal. I took the advice of some of my previous sales managers. They always recommended their sales teams at the beginning of the year to set realistic, measurable, achievable goals with a certain timeframe attached to each. These managers were also adamant about the importance of handwritten goals. I completed a questionnaire similar to the one found later in this chapter (page 17) and I never thought anything more about it. Fast-forward five years:  I sold my house and moved to a bigger city. Before the move, I began packing up miscellaneous items around the house. I started in my home office, cleaning out some things from my desk. I found a journal and opened it up to find some answers to questions that I had written seven years ago. My passion, dreams, and goals were etched in stone. My journal read something like this:

“I love to teach, write, speak, and help people achieve success in life. God’s blessed me so much with the gift of speaking in front of large audiences and I actually enjoy it. I am good at teaching, mentoring, and coaching. I would love one day to write a book about my past experiences and speak to an audience to try to help motivate them to achieve ultimate happiness.”

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life?

You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)  

We aren’t promised life tomorrow. I was recently attending church service at Passion City Church in Atlanta, Georgia. In his sermon titled, “Goliath Must Fall”, Pastor Louie Giglio said one simple quote that really resonated with me. “Life is short God is great”   We don’t have very long to live on earth. We graduate high school, college, or vocational school and begin a job. The majority of people become complacent in their line of work. They get comfortable following a routine and get used to a certain amount of money. When people become complacent, they are stuck doing the same job everyday, until they retire or die. They never find their passion in life. Complacency sneaks up on each one of us. We must not become complacent in our careers. Life is so short. It’s worth the time to try to discover our passion, calling, and purpose in life. Don’t let life pass you by with so many regrets. Do what it takes to find what you love doing each and every day.

I discovered that my passion was teaching, speaking, and writing. Reading that list motivated me to write The Hot Seat. Even if you don’t know what you want to do in life, begin by taking career assessments and questionnaires, and starting journals. If the answer doesn’t speak to you instantly—like it did for me—then maybe the answer will resurface eventually. Never stop trying to find the answer.

The moment for me was a career journal/questionnaire (like the one below). This questionnaire is a good starting point to begin your career journal. If you have a hard time answering some of the questions, be prepared to ask some for your closest friends and family members whom you respect for some constructive, honest feedback. Even if you don’t have a hard time with this task, ask friends and family for their ideas about your talents. Commit to spending time answering the questions. It may even take you a few weeks or months, but don’t stop till you can write down some thought-provoking answers. Before you start applying for job positions, let alone job interviewing, take time and write out answers to the following questions:

FOR YOUR CAREER JOURNAL:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What are your talents?
  • Have you asked friends or relatives to identify the talents you possess?
  • What feedback have you had from them?
  • What skills do you possess?
  • With those skills, which ones do you appreciate most and want to improve?
  • What are you best at doing?
  • What subject in school did you love to study?
  • What are some possible careers in that area of study that you could see yourself doing?
  • What did you dream of doing when you were a child?
  • If money was no object, what would you do career-wise?
  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • What are some of your hobbies?
  • What are your dreams?
  • What do you want to be doing in five years?
  • What do you want to be doing in ten years?

I challenge you to answer these questions by writing them down, by hand. not typing into an electronic device. Handwriting tends to permeate your mind more deeply than typing.

My guess is 10 percent of you actually will do this important step, and the other 90 percent will later regret not doing it. It won’t take you very long to jot down some brief answers. Along with answering the questions, write down some career goals. You would be surprised when you later revisit your list and experience what it does for you, personally and professionally.

I decided to write The Hot Seat because of a similar process. I personally outlined some my dreams, aspirations, skills, attributes, and talents to help transform my day job into my dream job. Studies indicate successful people actually have handwritten goals. This concept seems so simple to grasp, but how many people actually do it? The answer: Only the successful ones. “Of course, most people don’t bother to write down their goals. Instead, they drift through life aimlessly, wondering why their life lacks purpose and significance.”

By now, you are probably thinking to yourself, “Wait. I thought this was a job interview book?” It is a job interview book, but for this book to ultimately help you, you must discover your passion, first and foremost. I want you to be passionate at what you’re doing career wise. You may be reading this because you’ve been laid off from a job, in transition from a career, or in need of a new job to survive. I can understand all those reasons for just finding a job, but I would be doing my readers a huge disservice if I didn’t encourage you to find your calling, passion, and purpose. If all you need is an income, a job will suffice temporarily, but this shouldn’t be your long-term goal. You can do a job for a little while, but before too long, you’ll want to be working on your passion. Keep working to discover your passion.

Patience and Pushing

Does that mean I’m an advocate for you to wait on your calling by eating Doritos, relaxing in bed, and watching every movie Netflix has to offer? No. You have put the work in mentally and physically to achieve success. Bill Gates is one of the greatest innovators of all time. He transformed how we use computers to this day with his program, Microsoft Windows. Although Gates had the passion for computers and programming from an early age, he worked hard at discovering his purpose in life. Gates realized that he wanted to transform the way the world used computers. Does that mean he sat around reading comics waiting for a program to fall in his hands to change the way the world used computers?

The exact opposite occurred. “Microsoft is infamous for working its employees hard—but few work harder than Bill Gates himself. Between 1978 and 1984, Gates took only 15 days off work, including four days he squandered at a tennis ranch in Phoenix.”

You may have discovered your passion or dream, but need a little bit of professional experience or education in order to live your dream. If you love helping people, love science, and want to be a medical doctor, you can’t just set up a room and start seeing sick patients. There are steps to take in order to become a doctor—first, the education part, followed by medical school, and then the real-world practice. Like becoming a medical doctor, you may have to take an entry-level job, acquire more education, or gain a certification. If you have discovered your passion and need a little professional experience at an entry-level position, then jump in The Hot Seat as well!

MUST DO Action Items

  • Read a book in the self-help category, about finding your passion in life, or a career book in general.
  • Seek some advice from a career coach.
  • Take a personality profile tests to find out your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Start a career journal to learn more about yourself.
  • Write down some of the questions from the questionnaire and begin answering them with deep thought. Jot down some notes on potential entry-level job opportunities.
  • Is there an entry-level job you wouldn’t mind doing for a while if it had potential to advance you to a dream job?

Basic Job Interview Tips

  • Give the interviewer a firm handshake
  • Be enthusiastic, confident, courteous, and honest
  • Arrive early and don’t be late
  • Prepare a list of questions to ask the interviewer
  • Convey interest and knowledge in the position and the company
  • Complete a practice mock interview beforehand
  • Dress professional and be well groomed
  • Listen to the questions carefully and give clear, concise, and thoughtful answers
  • Practice interview questions
  • At the close of the interview, establish a date for follow-up
  • Always thank the interviewer for his or her time
  • Always send a thank you letter

Good, Old-fashioned Networking

It’s all about people. It’s about networking and being nice to people and not burning any bridges. Your book is going to impress, but in the end it is people that are going to hire you.”
—Mike Davidson

Networking is a strategic action. It involves a plan, effort, and close communication. Networking takes time, and the art of networking is building a professional relationship that will last forever. You have to continually work at networking. It’s a lot about relationship building and keeping close contacts. Lynne Waymon, co-author of the book “Make Your Contacts Count”, says, “It’s about teaching and giving. Teaching people who you are… and what kind of opportunities to send your way. And it is about giving -- listening so generously that you can also help people accomplish their goals.”

There are four distinct methods that make up the foundation of professional job networking:

  1.  Network with everyone;
  2. Network with someone from the company your interviewing with or someone that knows the hiring manager;
  3. Network with people working in the industry; and
  4. Network with previous hiring managers.   

Three of the methods are designed for specific people to add to your network and the fourth consists of people already in your network. All of these connections can play a role in landing your dream job. These four methods are extremely important to be able to implement in the job market you face today. Networking is the number one way most job offers are procured. The Internet presents the job seeker with an infinite amount of resources, network communication capabilities, and information. This connectivity power tool also created the ability for the job seeker to easily apply to multiple jobs, using websites like Monster, Indeed, and Simply Hired.

Most jobs, however, aren’t gained through websites like these. Matt Youngquist, the president of Career Horizons, summarizes it best by stating, “"At least 70 percent, if not 80 percent, of jobs are not published," he says. "And yet most people — they are spending 70 or 80 percent of their time surfing the ‘Net, versus getting out there, talking to employers, taking some chances [and] realizing that the vast majority of hiring is friends and acquaintances hiring other trusted friends and acquaintances."

Internet job boards have certain limitations. Simply sitting around all day applying online might not be enough to land your dream job.

Think about it for a moment. If a company posts a job on an online search board like Monster, hundreds of applicants may apply to this one opportunity. Most of the applicants are unknown to the hiring manager.

Let’s say, for example, that Joe is employed with a well-known organization, called XYZ Corporation. He has established a great reputation as a loyal, dedicated, hard-working employee. Joe has been working at XYX Corporation more than five years and most of his managers respect his input. The company is rapidly growing and the decision has been made to expand to the company. They need to hire a few more employees.

Joe and Fred previously worked together at a different company. Joe worked with Fred for three years and thought he was an honest, hard-working guy. They stayed in contact for a few years and maintained their friendship, despite changing companies. Fred now needs a job because of his employer’s recent downsizing. Guess whom he calls? Joe. Fred lets Joe know about the downsizing and Joe has no problem recommending Fred to his hiring manager. Fred more than likely will have an opportunity to interview and already has a leg up on other applicants. Fred still needs to perform well in the job interview, but common sense would tell us Fred has the best chance over Suzie, who doesn’t know anyone at the company and found the job on Monster.

1. Network with Everyone, Course 101:

A great example of the definition and importance of networking is explained at help.org: “The vast majority of job openings are never advertised; they’re filled by word of mouth. That’s why networking is the best way to find a job. Unfortunately, many job-seekers are hesitant to take advantage of networking, because they’re afraid of being seen as pushy, annoying, or self-serving. But networking isn’t about using other people or aggressively promoting yourself—it’s about building relationships.”

How do I begin networking and what do I need to do? Start with contacts you already know and build relationships with them. You already have a vast array of contacts at your disposal. You probably have not realized all of the potential employment opportunities that already exist within your network. There are a few great places to start searching your network. Your professional network may consist of Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections, contacts on your phone, work colleagues, employees, managers, close friends, relatives, and friends of friends. If you are at the high school or college level, look inside current organizations you are a part of already, such as church, fraternity/sorority, non-profit organizations, sports groups, clubs, etc.

Network with professionals from all walks of life. Never hesitate to strike up a conversation with someone next to you on an airplane, a janitor cleaning the floors, or a salesman who provided you with a product or service. Networking can be as simple as talking to a friend on Facebook about a company they work at and letting them know you’re interested in possibly securing a job there. Use your contact and build a relationship with that person. Invite this friend for a free dinner to pick their brain about potential job opportunities at their company. The possibilities are endless when it comes network basics. With social media exploding all around us, there are limitless options through Internet communication. You would be surprised at how easy it is to start a networking/professional relationship right over the computer or phone. If you find a key contact consider job shadowing and doing some work for free to gain some experience.

2. Network with someone from the company where you’re interviewing or someone who knows the hiring manager:

Let’s reverse roles for a minute for this example. You are a hiring manager for XYZ Corporation. Your job is to hire the next best, greatest-since-sliced-bread sales representative who has had a few years of business to business selling experience, been ranked high in selling anything B2B, and has a strong track record of success even in academics. Your boss, XYZ sales manager, is with you to help you choose between two candidates that your search has determined to be the best. You have two candidates whom you are dying to hire and can’t make up your mind between them. Both candidates interviewed with you last week and you selected them to move on to the second and final round of the interview process. Let’s look at the two candidates’ credentials and then you decide which one you would like to hire for your organization:

Candidate 1: Kathy is a real go-getter. She finished at the top of her class at the University of Kentucky. She graduated with her psychology degree and had a minor in communications. Kathy has no real-world job experience, but she has ambition, drive, and the “hustle factor.” Kathy learns the name of the hiring manager, Edward, and connects with him via LinkedIn. She knows the hiring manager covers the state of Kentucky only. Kathy researches for a few hours and learns through LinkedIn that John and Dan work with the hiring manager. Kathy invites John and Dan to connect with her. In her message to them, she explains she is interviewing for a sales position with their organization. Dan and John accept her invitation to connect. Kathy reaches about via email and asks if she can call them to talk about the company, the position, and some of the challenges of the job. Dan and John have no problem in doing this and spend a fair mount of time on the phone with Kathy, answering all her questions. Kathy takes notes on everything they say and compiles a report, based on their answers.

Candidate 2: Cindy is a current sales representative for ABC Corporation. She graduated from the University of Arizona and also finished first in her class. She majored in biochemistry with a minor in business administration. She landed a sales job right out of college and has been working at ABC for two years now. She is looking for another opportunity due to a company downsizing. Cindy performed well in sales at her first job while at the company. Cindy showed up at the interview without doing any type of job networking in advance.

Who will get the job? Cindy has more experience than Kathy, but Kathy has done her homework. Kathy proves she really wants the job. Kathy has taken a few steps above her competition by networking with key contacts within the company. If the hiring manager equally likes both candidates, Kathy’s job networking will pay great dividends. The hiring manager is likely to confer with Dan and John and see what Kathy asked them and their opinions of her. Job networking with someone at the company you’re interviewing with will help you stand out far above your competition. Devote some time and creativity to gain key contacts inside the organization. In Ramit Sethi’s New York Times’ bestselling book, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, he explains how networking can easily lead to a job offer.

“AVERAGE PERFORMER: “I spent an hour browsing their website and Googling around for news about them. I also talked to my friend on the phone for 5 minutes about what kind of questions he thought I should expect.”

“TOP PERFORMER: “I’d already met with 3 people on the team before the interview, so I knew exactly what their challenges were, and even the words they used to describe them. I wrote all those notes down, then compared them with what I found on the web. Then I crafted my narrative.”

Networking with someone at the company where you will be interviewing immediately places you above most of your competition. Most people don’t apply the time, energy, effort, and boldness to accomplish this step. You’ll show the hiring manager you have done your homework and want to work for the organization, and you create the opportunity to gain a recommendation or a strong endorsement from an employee already working there!

3. Network with people working in the industry:

After my first sales job out of college, I wanted to pursue a career in pharmaceutical sales. I knew that networking would be an important factor in helping me to land a job.

I didn’t know anyone doing that type of work. I searched far and wide to find someone—maybe a friend of a friend or a relative—who knew someone in the industry. I found someone after an exhausting search. Guess who my first connection was? When school let out for the summer, as a child, I would travel from Tennessee to Michigan to visit my mom and dad. My mom lived on the lake and I was spent my time fishing, swimming, or outside playing basketball. I remember her neighbor, Sue, was always down by the lake sun tanning after work. I would talk to her all the time and eventually met her family over the course of several summers. I met Sue when I was 13 years old. Fast-forward eight years later. I was trying to break into pharmaceutical sales and didn’t know anyone inside the industry. My mom found out what I wanted to do, career-wise, and recommended I get in touch with Sue. Sue’s son worked previously in pharmaceutical sales and was a current medical device sales representative. I called Sue and she gave me her son’s phone number. I called Ben and he was more than happy to help me. He offered me a good perspective of pros and cons of the industry, résumé advice, networking ideas, and job interview tips. Looking back on it, I don’t think I would have made it into the industry without following Ben’s lead.

Search your contacts far and wide. You would be surprised at how you might have an old neighbor’s son who is working in a desired industry. Search LinkedIn contacts to see if you can find a contact.

4. Networking with hiring managers from failed interviews:

I always recommend collecting hiring manager’s business cards at the end of an interview. Even if you already have his or her email address, ask for the card anyway. Here is the rationale behind this method. I recommend keeping all business cards from potential employers with whom you interview, because you never know where you will end up in five years. If, for some reason, you were laid off from your company, it would be a great idea to reach out to the people who have already interviewed you. You never know—you may have been their second or third choice, and they could be with the same organization or a different one searching for a candidate. Even if you were not their first choice, you could have been a good candidate in a huge pool of highly qualified candidates. The fact that you kept their business card and pursued them later shows the hiring manager you take initiative—a desirable quality. If you and the hiring manager hit it off during that earlier interview, reach out to them by email and ask them how they are doing. I still communicate with a couple of hiring managers who never offered me a job and this has been years ago, but you never know when they may have an opportunity that suits you—or maybe vice versa: they may want an opportunity with your current organization.

And don’t forget that hiring managers have peers as well. You could ask if any of their fellow colleagues might have openings. Then find out if you can add any of these hiring managers on LinkedIn and see if they have any possible openings at their organization. By creating a relationship with a hiring manager, he or she could keep you informed about any upcoming opening in their company. If you stay connected, they may hire you for the next opportunity that presents itself.

Networking does take a lot of time and dedicated focus. Most people just expect to apply online to Monster.com and to then be hired the next day. The job market doesn’t work like that anymore. Networking is the key to landing your dream job. Focus on all four methods and formulate a strategy to network with key professionals. Don’t skip this important step.

Like a Mockingbird

“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”
 —Vince Lombardi

It’s that time of year: your family reunion. At the gathering, you are enjoying some of granny’s fried chicken and Uncle Jimmy’s BBQ pulled pork. It never fails that there is someone in the family snapping picture after picture, creating quality family memories. Even worse, there is that one relative filming the entire event with a video camera the size of a suitcase. As your scarfing down your BBQ and the sauce is slowly dripping down your chin and fingers, Uncle Cletus shows you the video he made of you. OH MY GOD! DELETE THAT! Often times we don’t like the way we look on a video especially because it always seems to add a pesky 10 pounds. In my case, it tends to add an extra 30! We don’t like way we sound, look, act, and gesture on video. I don’t ever remember a time when I was on video and thought to myself:  WOW! I love how I look!

I recommend you practice and record a real-world job interview scenario. Find a friend, family member, educator, or a professional, and have them ask you a list of questions while you provide answers just as if it were an actual job interview. Technology nowadays makes it easier then ever to practice a mock interview. The University of Washington’s career website suggests, “Mock interviews are a neat way to both practice and receive feedback in a safe, supportive environment.”

Record these practice interviews with a computer webcam, smartphone, tablet, or just a plain, old, video camera. Take the interview questions listed in the “practice questions section” and answer them in various ways. Then play back the video and see how well you performed. I would venture to say that most people reading this book will not perform this important recommendation, due to the hassle factor, but this a crucial part in developing, improving, and mastering your interview skills. Whether you are a beginner at interviewing or a seasoned professional, this is an essential step to becoming a master at the interview process. Nancy Shuman, Vice President of Lloyd Staffing, says, “In preparing for job interviews, it is important that you do some practice interviewing, both alone and with others. Rehearsing for the interviews will allow you to work on any problems that may be viewed as negatives by the interviewer. Shuman also states “Rehearsing will also allow you to become more comfortable about the interview process.”

I’ve been in sales for almost 10 years now. I view interviewing as a sales call. There is no such thing as a perfect sales call. You may land a sale, but there is always something that you could have done better, whether it be, engaging, listening, overcoming objections, closing, etc. The most successful sales representatives have the ability to be confident enough during the sales process, but also a willingness to handle constructive criticism from a manager to develop them from a good to a great sales representative. Even if you are a seasoned professional or advanced in your career, I still strongly recommend a mock interview. I promise you will be surprised at how much it will help you in the Hot Seat.

Who is the best person to administer the interview? Multiple people could help you with your mock interview. If you happen to be on a on a short time crunch, conduct the mock interview with a friend or family member. Choose a relative who may have had experience as a manager, or a friend who may have climbed the corporate ladder. Most career centers on university campuses offer this service for free. Take advantage of this service! The career counselors can often offer advice on your posture, pinpoint any annoying habits, or give objective, professional feedback on your answers to the interview questions. You would be surprised at some habits you aren’t aware of. These might be simple things as saying “like” all the time, picking your nose, making off-the-mark gestures, or some other off-putting practices. The hiring manager may be more focused on your annoying habits than your terrific answers. We have all sat through a presentation for school, church, or some informative session, and you found yourself focusing more on the presenter’s distracting quirks than the material. While the way you deliver information during an interview is important for the hiring manager, it is also equally important to direct their attention to the information you are presenting.

I had this one professor in college who smacked his lips after every sentence. I think I learned more about how he smacked his lips in front of a group than I did about macroeconomics. That explains my final grade in the class.

There are no right answers to common interview questions, but there are some wrong ones. You need to make sure you aren’t saying anything that is making an employer doubt your abilities to do the job.

I was interviewing a gentleman years ago for a job. I asked him, “What is something you need to work on as far as a developmental area from a previous job or a perceived weakness?” He responded by saying he had a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. The position required the individual to work independently, working mornings, and arrive promptly to begin work. Do you think he was hired? He did so well on all the other questions in the interview, but this one answer was a deal-breaker. He might have been an extremely qualified candidate—if only he could manage to get out of the bed in the morning. The poor guy will never get a quality job if he keeps answering that question the same way. Catch those missteps on video before the actual interview. If you can master interviewing on video, you can definitely master a real world interview. Do not skip this section; it is critical in gaining the job you want. With that being said, “LIGHTS, CAMERA, and ACTION!!”

Interview Kit in a Box

“I terminated the interview when I didn’t know what he was talking about and went upstairs to lunch.”
—Graham Kennedy

What does a job interview candidate do before leaving the house? The average, normal candidate grabs a cup of coffee, a couple of résumés they printed off the night before, and bolts out the door. I am not average or normal in this book (or at least that’s what my psychiatrist always told me). If I had a job interviewing business, I would sell you a kit that would be worth every single penny you paid for it. I strongly recommend that you have all the materials that I would sell in the “interview kit in a box” to make you the most prepared candidate.

It looks more professional to walk into an interview with a briefcase or computer bag, instead of prancing in with a few wrinkled copies of your résumé that have dried coffee circle rings on the bottom of the page. Remember, managers sometimes have a candidate hired within the first three to five minutes of the interview. According to Christine Pardi, a career expert with Robert Half,  “Succeeding in your job interview isn't easy. But, did you know that hiring managers can form an opinion of you in the first five minutes or less?”

If you were a hiring manager, what would be your first impressions of the candidate waltzing in with a wrinkled résumé in his or her hands and his sidekick named “Coffee Stain” hanging out with him or her? Walk in with a professional-looking briefcase and not a gym bag that was kicking around in your car. Here is a list of items I recommend you bring in a professional computer bag or briefcase

1. Pens and paper

The hiring manager may start out with an overview of the job position along with specific details that you will want to jot down for your reference. You need to take notes on the hiring process, the dates of training, or anything else that is relevant. Don’t write throughout the entire interview, but at the beginning, it may be a necessity. At the end, when you get to ask the hiring managers some questions, take some notes on their responses. Do not ask them to borrow their pen or some paper during the interview. It’s like asking your dinner guest if you can borrow their fork so you can eat the rest of your food. Keep a few pens in your bag and test them in advance to make sure they work.

2. Several copies of your résumé

What if three people are interviewing you and each of them needs a copy of your résumé? Don’t show up to the interview with only one copy! You will obviously need a copy for the hiring manager and yourself. This is specifically important when the interviewer asks you to, “walk me through your résumé”. I recommend bringing several copies .It’s better to be prepared for any circumstance. “Also, many hiring managers forget to print out your résumé in advance…. Having a clean copy shows you are prepared.”

Don’t bring wrinkled copies of your résumé to the interview because you’ll appear sloppy and disorganized. Make sure when you hand the hiring manager your résumé, it is clearly printed on a clean, crisp sheet of paper—preferably that really expensive kind of computer paper.

 3. Company research that you have compiled in a notebook

When you arrive early to your interview, use the time to look over your research once more to make sure you’re up to snuff on the company. If you neatly compile the information in a bound notebook, you can leave it behind with the hiring manager to show how much work you put into your preparation for the interview. Do what you feel is comfortable. The hiring manager may or may not want you to leave it behind.

4. A folder or binder with significant career or educational accomplishments

Plan to leave this information behind with the interviewer as proof. If it is some kind of physical award, like a plaque, don’t bring the plaque; just make a photocopy of it. Do you have a letter from a professor in college or a high school teacher? Bring it to the interview to use for “show and tell” for a situational question. For example, if the interviewer asks you to name a time you took on a leadership role, show your example with the copy of the professor’s note explaining how you took on a leadership role during the course. Hiring managers are very visual people and love to see examples. Did you win an award for something at your current job? Have you been recognized by management in an email? If so bring those letters along to the interview.

5. Relevant questions that you have prepared for the interviewer at the end. Have a list of 10 to 15 questions prepared just in case. Some hiring managers may only have time to answer a few questions; others may have an opportunity to answer more. I have prepared a recommended list of questions just as a guide later on in the pre-phase.

6. Application

If they have asked you to fill out an application, don’t forget to bring it already completed. You don’t want to be sitting outside the door, filling out the application during your scheduled interview time. I have heard this happening way too often. Candidates will forget to fill out the application, and the hiring manager will just make them complete it at the interview. The problem with this is, it’s taking away time from your interview!

RING YOUR COMPLETED APPLICATION!

7. Any additional assignments prepared before the interview 

Sometimes, hiring managers will want an assignment done prior to the interview taking place. I have had to do PowerPoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets, take personality tests, complete a job application, interview customers, and compile a research paper. Make sure you have any of the required assignments packed internally and externally. In other words, have it printed out, stored on a laptop, email it to yourself, email to the hiring manager (if they ask for it in email form) and stored on a jump drive. No matter how trivial of an assignment it may seem, have everything completed prior to the interview.

Prepare your “interview kit in a box” before the actual interview. What do you do before you drive to the job interview? Did you check the oil level in your car, adjust you side mirrors, check the tire pressure on all four tires, make sure your windshield wipers are working. Do you have enough gas? Did you check your spark plugs, antifreeze, brake, and transmission fluid level? Okay. The automobile shop did a good job for you, but this is not what I am meaning by, “Before you drive to the interview”. The last thing you want to do is forget something and have to head back home. I recommend you have everything packed and ready to go the night before your job interview, no matter what time of day it is.

Make sure you don’t forget anything before you leave for the interview. I have done this before and it makes you look extremely disorganized. Hiring managers want to hire candidates with good organizations skills. I was supposed to print out an application and have it filled out prior to the interview. Guess what? I completely forgot about it. I was going to do it the morning of my interview and with all the other stuff on my mind I completely forgot about it. I felt embarrassed when the hiring manager asked me for my application and reluctantly had to admit I completely forgot about it. The other job candidates remembered to bring the application signed and filled out, but forgetting mine at the house did not set a good first impression. There may be other assignments that could have been asked of you to complete before the interview. I have had to prepare PowerPoint presentations, business plans, a SWOT analysis, research papers, and other multiple side projects. I will admit when it comes to some things, I procrastinate like crazy. This is not a good habit to get into especially for pre-interview assignments. Have these projects completely finished the night before and review them the next day for any grammar, spelling, or miscellaneous errors. Make sure you have done them in all entireties and don’t leave them setting on the kitchen counter. It may sound cheesy, but before I go on vacation I write down everything I need to do before I leave my house and also write down everything I need to pack in my suitcase. I use this same method when job interviewing:  I like to write down a list of what all that I need to bring to the interview, double check my brief case and car before I leave to make sure I have all the items. The chapter, Interview Kit in a Box, is a good checklist on items to bring for your interview.

Questions During the Job Interview

The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.
—Thomas Berger

I have prepared a list of the most frequently asked interview questions. I can promise you that one or more of these questions will be asked on your next job interview. One of the cardinal sins of interviewing is not being prepared for commonly asked interview questions. Prepare for these commonly asked questions and have your answers readily available. Even if these questions aren’t asked directly, the general theme you learn from the answers will help during the next interview.

The Web also can provide useful suggestions and note I use the word SUGGESTIONS. Don’t just copy answers off the Internet, but rephrase answers into your own words. I provide the outline to some of the questions as well as sample answers. Everyone answers questions differently. Some of the interview questions have no definitive right or wrong answer. Individuals bring different talent to the table and can relate to their past experience and circumstances. These interview questions are extremely important and used so frequently that I have dedicated a whole chapter with in-depth answers.

I should note this book is different from a standard interview book. The bulk of interview books feature 1,000 of the most commonly asked interview questions with the author’s own opinion on how best to answer questions. I do highly recommend these books, but realize that most people are not nerds like me who sit around all day, giddy about reading job interview books. These books are often long, tedious, and can become quite monotonous to the average nerd. Most interview books are so tedious, in fact, people often end up thumbing through and not fully reading them. In The Hot Seat, I sought to provide you with the basic core principles on what to do from the very beginning of a job interview and all the way to after you’ve had the interview. This chapter only has a few of the main questions with samples answers. I strongly encourage you to branch out and find articles and books, or use the Web to continue to find and practice interview questions. There is no such thing as doing too much studying, reading, and learning about the art of job interviewing.

Think about like this:  You have an important exam or test the next day. The exam answers you provide will only be in essay format. One of your friends has already taken the exam and provides you with some questions that could possibly be asked. You would probably begin preparing answers for what your friend has outlined from his or her experience. This is how these questions can become a useful resource before your next interview. The last thing you want to do is walk into the interview sounding like a robot that has memorized a bunch of answers off discovered on the Web. Regurgitated answers are what the competition does, practiced answers and tailoring answers to your achievements, ambitions, talents, and skills puts you above those other applicants. A good presenter practices their presentations. You need to practice the answers that you will give, while making your answers as conversational and unrehearsed as possible. Practice the answers by doing a mock interview and gather constructive feedback based on your answers.

I have heard the following interview questions the most:

  • Walk me through your tell/Tell me about yourself.
  • What is your greatest strength?
  • What is one of your weaknesses or a developmental area?
  • Why do you want to leave your job?
  • What do you like/dislike about your current job?
  • Why do you want to work here? What do you know about our company?
  • Where do you expect to be five years from now?
  • Why should I hire you?
  • What sets you a part from your competition?
  • What is your current salary?
  • What school did you go to?
  • What was your GPA in college?
  • Why did you pick your major in college?
  • What is your greatest achievement?
  • What motivates you?
  • What would your current manager say about you?
  • Who’s the best/worst boss you have worked for and why? (And other forms  of questions pertaining this theme)

Tell me about yourself.

The goal is to deliver a brief, two-minute summary/presentation highlighting what the hiring manager needs to know about you. Answers should be based on the following information: your academic background, job experience, presentation skills, awards, leadership abilities, and life achievements. The hiring manager is looking for significant achievements, what is most important to you, skills and talents, and why they should hire you for the job. The hiring manager isn’t looking for a novel such as, War and Peace.

They don’t want to know your life history. For example, “ I was born in San Diego, California. When I was 5, my mom and dad decided to move to Austin, Texas, for a better job opportunity. My grandparents lived in Austin and I attended a private school. I had my wisdom teeth removed at 12 years old. At 16 years old, I won the prestigious award of being prom king. My first car was a 1980 Ford pick-up truck...”

Who cares? You are not at an ice cream social, telling everyone about yourself. This is a job interview; give two minutes that highlight the most important aspects of your life as it pertains to the job.

Most job interview candidates struggle with this question because they simply aren’t prepared. Your communication skills will be put to the test. You are demonstrating your presentations skills, presenting yourself to the hiring manager. You’re meeting a person for the first time and delivering a presentation that’s designed to persuade the hiring manager to buy a product. The product is you. There are multiple recommendations and suggestions on how to begin the process of answering this question. Here is a sample answer for a recent college graduate or someone who wants a career change.

Tell me about yourself:

“I graduated with…[describe where you graduated, or where you are about to graduate from].

I’d like to work with….[give specific detail about where you'd like to work, targeted to the employer].

In the future, I’d really like the challenge of…[be very specific about the impact you'd like to make].”

Walk me through your résumé

More than likely, you will get asked this question. The rationale behind asking this typical question is that the answer provides the interviewer with a framework for the entire interview. Hiring managers generally start a job interview by asking, “Walk me through your résumé”. In fact, I have had several interviews conducted by the interviewer, just asking this one, simple question. They can learn everything about you by opening the interview with this broad question. While you’re explaining your background, the hiring manager can stop you to clarify answers or seek additional information based on your answer. “Great answers to this question include ones that are planned out. Your response should actually be memorized. You should plan out the response to this question well in advance of an interview because you will most certainly receive it at some point.”

This is where you need to know your résumé like the back of your hand. Not knowing what’s on your résumé is a potential deal breaker with most hiring managers. Your résumé is a brief snapshot of your work history, experiences, achievements, and duties. You are responsible for knowing all about you. Before entering an interview always brush up by reading and studying your résumé once more. Have a copy of it in front of you to assist you in “walking the employer through you résumé”.

Most interview candidates jump right into talking about their résumé and what all they did at their first job. The hiring manager wants you to talk about yourself. Have a couple of brief talking points ready with some of your qualifications, experiences, and why you are interested in the position.

Then, ask where they would like you to begin. What if the hiring manager wants to know more about your educational background and you completely skipped it? What if they couldn’t care less about your first job and want to hear all about your current position? What if the hiring manager wants to know about your skills and talents first and not about your education? All hiring managers are different and I have heard broad ends of the spectrum where hiring managers wanted you to start. Some will want you to begin with your education and talk about why you chose to attend the particular college you graduated from, while others will want you to start with your very first job. Ask, so you don’t waste any of the hiring manager’s precious time.

If you are asked about a particular job, I find it helpful to begin with when you were employed with the organization, why you were hired on in the first place, and then transition into your duties and responsibilities at the company. Then, end your answer with some of your accolades or accomplishments. For those of you who are fresh out of college and lack professional work experience, use examples from school, volunteer organizations, important school projects, organizations outside of the classroom, and part time jobs. Some hiring managers like a systematic approach to this, which is why I normally start off answering in chronological order—start with explaining your most recent job all the way back to your first one. Why? Most companies want to know “what have you done for me lately?” and not just “what have you done for me?”

I have listed two different ways to answer this question.

Example 1:

“My first job out of college was in 2002. I wanted to go into sales, based on my strong communication skills, my interest, and my ability to persuade people. When XYZ Company had an opening as a territory sales manager, I researched the company and learned more about the job functions and knew this would be perfect fit for me. I interviewed with the hiring manager, his boss, and finally the vice president of sales. I sold zippers for the company to different clothing stores, as well as trained store employees on how to sell my zipper line to the customers. I started off strong and, in my first year, I finished in the top 25% of sales and had maxed out my sales commission for the fiscal year. My sales manager also praised me on my year-end evaluation and said that I had a unique ability to connect with people. Today, I am ranked 21st out of 100 sales representatives. This year, I am currently ranked in the top 10% of the company.”

Example 2:

“Mr. Hiring Manager, first, I want to thank you so much for the opportunity you have given me to interview for this position. I know that you are very busy and your time is valuable. I want to let you know that I am very qualified for the position. I have done extensive research on your company and, based on what I have found, XYZ Company is where I want to be. The future looks very strong at your organization, based on some of the venture capitalists that have taken a strong interest in your organization, your recent joint venture internationally, and the acquisition of your latest company. I think my skills uniquely align with what you’re looking for in a qualified candidate. I have the unique ability to deliver impactful presentations to audiences, captivate and hold their attention during the delivery of a presentation; I possess dynamic communications skills at an advanced level, and display strong organization skills to multi-task. I know that is what the position requires on a daily basis. Mr. Hiring Manager, where would you like me to begin, my educational background, job experience overall, or my most experience at my most recent employer?”

This is just a guide or a simple foundation to “walking the hiring manager through your résumé.” There are many ways you can approach this question, but the key is to be prepared. This answer will be like delivering a formal presentation to one of your most important clients. The more you rehearse your answers, study your résumé, understand your unique abilities, as well as remember your accomplishments, the easier this question will become. Practice this question because I can almost 100% guarantee you that this question will be asked in one form or another. Become comfortable with your résumé, what you want the employer to know about you besides what’s on your résumé, and highlight your skills and accomplishments.

What is your greatest strength?

What is one of your weaknesses or a developmental area?

We all have a developmental area or a weakness. What is one of yours?

Hiring managers normally supervise a team of people and they realize that all employees have developmental areas or what we call a “weakness”. They want you to be honest with yourself and during the course of the interview. They know and respect that you have developmental areas, so don’t go into the interview without some type of developmental focus to explain to the hiring manager.

Most of the interview experts agree that you should turn your perceived weaknesses into strengths. This makes sense during a job interview to demonstrate your strengths more than your weaknesses. For example, you may tell your hiring manager one of your weaknesses is that you work too hard. You always find yourself working and never able to stop thinking about your job, always put in extra hours, work excessive amounts of overtime, volunteer for extra projects, and are willing to go the extra mile where most employees won’t. All that sounds really good, doesn’t it? Maybe, maybe not—depends on the hiring manager. They may ask, “How is that a weakness?” This answer generally isn’t well liked among hiring managers. Most candidates think they work hard. Whose going to tell the hiring manager, “I just don’t work hard at all”? Hiring managers can generally find out through job interviewing who has a strong work ethic. Working too hard isn’t considered a weakness.

As you advance within a particular organization, you will have developmental areas maybe even written in a year-end or mid-year evaluation. This makes sense, as you gain more experience and better equip yourself with knowledge, the better leader you will become. Don’t necessarily look at your weakness as a flaw, but as a learning or developmental area. None of us are perfect. There are always new skills, trades, and information we can learn.

Developmental areas are key part in career growth opportunities. Even if someone has been an event planner for 20 years, there is still something more he or she could learn to further develop his or her career or business. With this type of mindset, it will better help you answer this question. The hiring manager may even frame the question, “What is something your current manager would say either about your, developmental focus, learning area, improvement area, or weakness?”

“Don’t be taken off guard by these questions have a developmental area ready for at his disposal. The best way to handle this question is to minimize the trait and emphasize the positive. Select a trait and come up with a solution to overcome your weakness. Stay away from personal qualities and concentrate more on professional traits.”

I try to better myself daily through listening to motivational speakers such as Zig Ziglar and stay current by reading the latest leadership books. I love to learn and motivational speakers inspire me to read more non-fiction books to better educate myself on the marketplace. I realize one of my developmental areas is reading more about the competition on a daily basis. I currently work for XYZ Company and sell zippers to local retailers. My competition is fierce and my biggest competitor is continually putting out other zipper product lines to try to steal market share. My current sales territory has one of the biggest market shares in the company and I know that the competitor is doing everything they can to gain ground. Based on my sales performance, sometimes I am too confident and feel like I already know everything about the competitor’s zipper clothing line. One of my weaknesses is not studying new information every day on our biggest competitor’s zipper line. I am a very organized person, so I have been adding this to my planning calendar each morning to read something, even if it’s small about the competitor’s product line. This is my biggest learning area and I am confident that I can improve on this area with a little more self-awareness and discipline. I have devoted time each morning to get up 20 minutes earlier to read something about the competition’s new sipper line. I mark off each day with a green highlighter to ensure that I have completed my goal. Putting a focus on this developmental area will help me become a better sales representative for XYZ.”

The key-take away point: Everyone has developmental areas. Don’t just named the developmental area and stop with that answer. Explain your answer and what you are actively doing to improve on that area.

If and when you are asked to name your greatest strengths, always offer more than one particular skill, trade, or ability you possess. Focus on spending a great deal of time laying out your strengths. This should be a longer answer than your weaknesses. Invest more time, effort, and energy on this question, and provide a thorough answer. Don’t be afraid to take too long on this particular question. This is your opportunity to show the hiring manager what unique skills you possess and why they should hire you over your competition. When prompted by the hiring manager to answer this question, your answer should be carefully thought out, well prepared, and thoroughly discussed. You know more than anyone about you and what you can bring to the table. You know that a good poker player doesn’t show their cards until the end; you are not playing poker in your job interview, so it’s time to show your hand to the hiring manager upfront. Your hiring manager wants you to explain why he should hire you for the job. This is not the time to be shy; this is the time to be confident in your abilities. You will be hired based on your strengths and what you can bring to the table as far as your talents, abilities, and skills. This is very important to know that you will not be hired on your weaknesses, but on your strengths.

A sample answer would be the following: “My current boss has highlighted my core competencies and greatest strengths. The strengths I bring to an organization are very apparent, so much so that even my current hiring manager agrees with me on my greatest strengths to our organization—my ability to work in a team environment, demonstrate leadership though action, and foster a culture of accountability. I work in groups daily and have won several leadership awards in managing group presentations to our retail clients. My team is responsible for presenting financial information and revenue reports to outside investors interested in investing capital with company XYZ. I have taken the lead in this group and we have raised the most revenue since 1977, based on outside capital investment totals for the fiscal year. It was a great privilege and honor to be presented with a prestigious leadership award in my company for fostering accountability and making a huge financial impact on our organization. This award is a coveted prize and I have my named engraved on the company wall at headquarters. I also have excellent communication skills, including interpersonal skills and group presentations skills. I also have strong analytical skills because my background was in finance and I had a 3.7 GPA in college. My brain thinks analytically and can problem solve through quantitative tools as well as qualitative decision-making”.

Why do you want to leave your job?

People change jobs for many different reasons throughout the course of their career, either due to their own accord or through a possible company downsizing. The first thing you need to be aware of is it’s okay for you to want a new job, but you need to have a reason for it.

“I really would like to make more money and you guys are paying $1,000 more a year.”

“I am bored and I hate my job.”

“My boss sucks and he is a real pain to work for.”

“I hate my current job and I am miserable.”

All of the above statements in quotations should not be stated as a reason for leaving a current job. The second thing you need to be aware of is the potential for you to put your foot in your mouth big time. There is never an appropriate time to start bad-mouthing current employees, your boss, upper management, former colleagues, or the organization as a whole. I’ve actually dedicated an entire chapter in the book to this topic, because it’s that important.

Finally you will need to give clear explanation on why you are looking to leave your current position and why the new job would be a lot better fit for you.

Sample answer: “My current job as a financial advisor has taught me many things over the past five years. I have learned extensively about financial management tools, investment vehicles, analyzing mutual funds, and how to communicate with individuals and offer financial products that will satisfy my client wants and needs.” I feel like I am ready to take the next developmental role in leading and managing people. I have taken leadership development courses through my company, as well as enrolling in a college course, entitled, “Leadership Development and Organizational Management”, and I have been reading books on leadership styles. I have had the opportunity to train new hires, as well as conduct training for employees on maximizing ROI with their current investment clients. I think this new opportunity would better suit my talents, because I have the experience, education, and skills to lead my team. I have been a financial adviser for the past five years and have learned valuable knowledge about the financial sector. I have enjoyed my time at my current company, but I am ready to move up from a traditional investment advisor. The duties and description of this opportunity precisely fit what I’ve been looking for, career-wise. This experience, along with me being a team leader in my current role, has prepared me to be one of the best financial management leaders for your organization.”

What do you like/dislike about your current job?

Just like you don’t want to bash your current boss, you shouldn’t bad-mouth your current company. I know it seems like this has been printed a thousand times through the book, but there is a great reason for it. So many candidates end up talking negatively about their boss or current company in some fashion and don’t end up getting hired for their dream job. If you like your current job or if it is truly your dream job, then there are still certain things that you don’t like doing. I love to sell. I am good at establishing relationships and turning those relationships into business through servant hood. Part of sales is to respond to customer’s needs, not pushing something on a customer. I love doing sales and I love my job in that role, but I don’t like doing the paperwork at the end of the day. Does that mean I hate my job? No. I just don’t like the paperwork but I appreciate that it is a necessary and important part of the job. I still love my career in sales, but the over-arching point is that there is always some duty or responsibility that we don’t like doing in a job that we like doing. Make sure those things you don’t like doing aren’t things that could damage your chances of being hired by the new company. For example, you don’t want to state, “I hate doing accounting at my current business because it is really boring, it sucks, and I hate it every time I have to even think about performing the task.” What is wrong with this answer? Well, maybe nothing if you are applying for a sales opportunity, but if you are interviewing for a current accounting role with the new company, this may hamper your chances of being hired. The new job you are interviewing for may just be a better opportunity, and if that is the case, then clearly state that to the hiring manager.

With that being said, some hiring managers are fishing for an exact answer to  their questions. They may ask you again, “ I understand that you love your current job, but if you had to pick one thing, what don’t you like about it?”

Many hiring managers may sense that you don’t like your current job, but you need to paint a positive picture of your current position, in some minute aspect, at least. I didn’t like my very first job out of college. In fact, I loathed it, but I never went into a job interview and told the hiring manager that, “I can’t stand my current job and please rescue me out of this situation before I go postal.” In all honesty, the jobs that I have hated the most have taught me the best lessons in life and best prepared me for my career aspirations.

Successful people are successful for one reason: They have overcome adversity and continued to persevere despite the many challenges they face. Even though, in high school, I hated working as shift manager in fast food, the position taught me how to effectively communicate with customers, use problem-solving skills to deal with customer complaints, and successfully manage a small group of employees. We can look at the doom-and-gloom side of our jobs, but there are always positive things we can take away from our past positions. Those lessons we have learned are what we share with the hiring manager.

I choose to talk about how that first job prepared me for the current job that the hiring manager has available. I talked about how the sales job made me work long hours, helped me to understand business-to-business sales, what it takes to be successful, how to effectively manage employees, and overall, to operate a successful sales territory. Even though I didn’t like my current job, I wasn’t lying—all of those things are very true. It helped me gain valuable experience and build a résumé of success.

Why do you want to work here? What do you know about our company?

This is when you want to show the hiring manager you’ve done your homework and researched the company. Make sure you have a firm understanding of the entire industry, as a whole. You should state specific examples that illustrate why you would want to work for this company over any of the rest. Having done your background research, you should be able to cite specific reasons on why you would prefer to work for XYZ Company over the rest of the companies, and what you can add to the organization. For this particular question, you can use some of the company information you researched and incorporate it in your answer.

For example, “Based on my extensive research, XYZ is the market leader in zipper production. XYZ Company is also the most innovative, robust zipper company in the country. Industry experts agree that XYZ is and will continue to be the market leader for many years to come. I also read an article on the Web about how XYZ Company is starting to compete in the niche zipper production sector. I printed out the article and read it and found it interesting. A synopsis of the article is that your new state-of-the art zipper line will revolutionize what blue jeans look like. This technology is not well known to the public yet, and I think this is an exciting time to join your organization because of this new product line. Your company was started in 1976 and has compiled a strong track record of earnings each year. XYZ Company last year made a total of 1.2 billion in sales, which was an all-time record. Dan Crowder, the current CEO, has a vision of becoming the leader in the entire apparel arena. My experience in communications and in business-to-business sales makes your current opening for a communications specialist a perfect fit for me at this current stage in my career. I’m excited for the opportunity, because I feel that this is one of the top 5 companies to work for in country. The company culture and values fit with my core beliefs as well. I think, because you are the market leader in other lines of zippers for jeans, this would be an exciting time to join your organization than any other company out there at the moment. Based on all the research I have compiled, I would love to work for your organization.”

This is a framework example of how to answer this question using your knowledge of the company, competitors, and the market. Based on the reaction of the hiring manager, you can continue answering the question with your research. This again is another reason why it is critically important that you have thoroughly researched the company. You want to answer this question starting off with information you know about the company, then incorporate your skills into the discussion. The hiring manager wants to know why you want to work for the company, but also how your particular skills and talents would align for the for position you’re applying for as well as the organization.

Where do you expect to be five years from now?

Where do you see yourself in five years? Where do you see your self in ten years? What could you see yourself doing in the future with the organization? The hiring manager wants to be reassured during the interview that you are a goal-oriented individual. They want to make sure that you have set reasonable and realistic goals that are achievable. The last candidate a hiring manager would choose is someone whose isn’t goal-oriented, ambitious, or motivated. When the hiring manager asks about your future with the organization, you want to have a firm game plan in place. Don’t stumble and offer an awkward, unprepared answer. The type of answer you provide will show your passion, preparation, and desire to be a part of the company. Put a definitive plan in place and be ready and able to verbally relate that to your hiring manager. Don’t state goals that are not realistic. There are as many inappropriate ways to handle this question as there are appropriate ones.

If you are interviewing for job as an engineer, you shouldn’t tell the hiring manager, “In two months, I’d like to be in charge of the human resource department.” The hiring manager wants to see that you are interested in the position currently available. Your long-term goals—whether it is five or ten years—needs to be based on the position and field you are interviewing for at the moment. If, later on, you feel that your talents and abilities align with a different department or career goal, then you can relay that information on to your supervisor. If you have never worked in that career or field, then how do you know that’s where you will want to be in five years?

            “I want to be an engineer with XYZ Company and stay in this same position for the next 30 years and retire after my service.” The hiring manager may find this answer to reflect someone who is complacent in his or her line of work, and unwilling to advance. Everyone needs to have career goals. The hiring manager would like to know that you are going to excel in this current position and anticipate promotions becoming open. Even if you really don’t want to move up in the company, your answers should be tailored around a situation where you would consider alternate opportunities, based on superior performance. After all, you never know if, after five years, the opportunity is right, what you would take and what you wouldn’t. You need to have in mind a promotional role where you would be five years in the future.

A sample answer might be, “I would love to be an engineer at XYZ Company. I think that I would be good at it because of my educational background and my extensive experience in electrical engineering. I know that I would bring useful ideas, perform at a high level, and deliver customized results to our vendors. I love the idea of being an electrical engineer at your company as a long-term plan. I have always had a unique ability to lead and motivate individuals. I have been a team leader at my current company for a little over a year and raised the level of production in my department, with revenues increasing by 10% year over year. After some time and experience in this particular role, I could see myself being promoted to a department manager. XYZ is a growing company and I believe there will be promotions in the near future. I talked to one of your employees who is currently an engineer with your company. I have researched the role of a department head and can comfortably affirm that I could see myself being a department head in five years, after excelling in the this role. I am so excited about this current opportunity with XYZ Company.”

Demonstrate to the hiring manager that you make rational decisions and know enough about the industry to prepare sufficient answers—based on facts, not wild guesses. It is important for you to do your homework for your future plan. For example, if you are applying to be sales representative, and you could envision yourself being a sales manager at the organization in the future, then you need to define a quantifiable timeframe for your goal. Your reply might be, “I could see myself as a sales manager in five years or something to do with managing people because of my past leadership experience and the ability to influence and motivate individuals.” You need to answer the questions with a particular job title, a justification as to why you chose that particular position, and a finite time frame. This is where your research becomes important. What is a reasonable amount of time for your promotion? Based on your research on the job posting, speaking with human resources or interview planner, a current employee, or conducting a simple Web search, you should have an idea of a reasonable amount of time it takes to gain that promotion you want. I know, in my field, it usually takes three years of solid pharmaceutical sales experience and great sales numbers in order to become a district sales manager. Sales manager is the next career path promotion. It would be unreasonable to come in and explain to the district manager that I could see myself as a district manager in six months with the organization. That would be very unreasonable and would show a lack of knowledge on my part. With that being said, don’t make your goal too long either because that shows lack of ambition. If I know that it normally takes three years of sales experience and solid sales number to become a district manager, then I shouldn’t tell the hiring manager that I could see myself in management in eight years. When these questions are asked, make sure you have done your research, created a plan, defined rationale to support your plan, and set a quantifiable time to achieve your goal. This is how most goals are created and met.

Why should we hire you? What sets you apart from your competition?

This is not the time to be modest, shy, or embarrassed to talk about yourself. Brag and keep bragging. I tend to be more on the narcissistic side, so it’s pretty easy for me. For some of you this maybe a difficult, daunting task, but you will need to overcome this fear. They don’t want someone to answer without confidence; if you doubt that you can do the job, then so will the hiring manager. It is good to be confident in a job interview, but not cocky. Well, there is a tiny exception to this rule and you now have my permission. I want you to be cocky with your answer. Yes, I did just say “cocky”—but not the annoying cocky that gets you bounced out of the interview. I mean, lean forward with a resonant voice, shoulders forward, back firm and straight, and speak boldly and confidently about your skills, talents, experience, achievements, and what you can bring to the table as a possible candidate. When the hiring manager asks you this question, you have my permission—actually, my urging—to be a little cocky and very confident. Explain to the hiring manager that you are the best candidate for the job and then back it up by giving specific reasons and justifications why they would be absolutely crazy not to hire you on the spot. You may want to pretend you are giving your greatest Broadway performance with the goal of being chosen on the spot. When the hiring manager asks the next interview question, you can revert to your confident mode for the remainder of the interview, and park the cockiness.

“I feel I am the most qualified, competitive, and determined candidate you have here today. I will do everything, within an ethical nature to be the very best at XYZ. I have been working in business-to-business sales now for five years and have been one of the top producers for my current company. I have the unique ability to quickly establish strong relationships and cultivate those relationships into sales numbers. Even at a young age, I demonstrated persistence, determination, and a will to win in everything that I competed in whether it be a recreational sport or a part=time job. I wasn’t the quickest on the team, but I always worked harder and practiced more than anyone else on my basketball team. I consistently shot 50% in three-pointers. My part-time job at a temp service led into a full-time job offer. I was attending school, so I couldn’t take the position. The hiring manager said no one had been offered a full-time job within three months since she had been at the company. I always wanted to be the very best at whatever I did and I am not happy until I am the absolute best at what I do. I exceeded my quota in less than three months with my current company, and I was the youngest individual ever to do that. I know the zipper market better than any other candidate you have here today. I met with one of your current sales representatives, who explained the business, inside and out. I have also compiled a business plan here to demonstrate my knowledge on what it takes to be a successful sales representative at XYZ Company. I have a systematic methodology outline in my business plan and measureable goals for my first 30, 60, and 90 days with your organization.”

You give this kind of answer and be ready to sign your offer letter soon (this is me helping you to become a little more cocky with this answer by saying this.)

What is your current salary?

Self-explanatory here, don’t lie, exaggerate, or fabricate what you earn. Nowadays most companies run background checks on everything from verifying high school or college graduation to seeing what your latest credit score is. With the information superhighway, it is easy for companies to pay an outside firm to run a background check on you and find out when was the last time you changed your underwear. While the company can’t subpoena the Internal Revenue Service (aka the IRS) for your taxable income, they can calculate a range of what you made at your last job. Never lie about anything in a job interview and don’t tell the hiring manager you make $150,000 a year when you are serving tables at the local diner. When you always tell the truth, you will come out better in the end—I promise you. Hiring managers normally look for your taxable income last year. If there are any other payment methods, such as bonuses, commissions, or cash rewards, they will want to know that as well. General rule of thumb is, they want to know your base salary plus any of these supplemental income items. More than likely, they want to know if they can afford you. Hiring managers normally have a set of guideline established by the company as to what they can offer their new hires. For example, the human resource department may tell the hiring manager they can offer a range between $45,000 and $50,000 annually to a new hire. If the hiring manager wanted to make an offer more than that maximum amount they would need an approval and justification from their boss. In this particular example, if you are making $55,000 dollars annually they may want to know why you are there to interview for a position that pays significantly less. Companies don’t like to hire people who are over their threshold, because they think you may be looking for another job on the side to supplement your income to total the annual salary that you were making. Be prepared to provide justification in this scenario as to why you would take less money per year. There may be a legitimate reason you are entertaining a lower annual salary. For example, you may have been laid off and willing to start off at a lower salary, you might be willing to take an entry-level job to get your foot in the door for a bigger opportunity in the future. Always be honest

I currently make $45,000 a year as a call center monitor. I monitor all the customer service representatives’ interaction with our clients. I know your current position as an inside sales representative is offering $38,000 plus bonus. Call center monitor is the farthest advancement position at my current company. After five years of being successful in multiple roles at my current company, I am ready to advance my career to the next level. My long-term goal is to eventually be an outside sales person with XYZ Corporation. I am willing to take a pay cut, because I feel like I could easily exceed my current salary with the bonus potential your company offers. This is a perfect position for me, because it allows me to interact with customers, practice my sales skills, and advance to the next level in my professional career. I don’t feel like this position is step back, but a huge step forward, based on the growth of the company, my desire to be in sales, and my past track record of advancement.”

Why did you pick your major in college? What school did you go to and why?

What was your GPA in college?

“My parents made me pick my major in college, because I was drinking too much in a frat and it took me eight years to get my bachelor’s degree in communications.”

This answer will probably not impress the hiring manager. Be prepared to offer rationale for why you picked the school you graduated from. It could be a simple reason, such as a financial decision. Simply explain that to the hiring manager. It may impress the hiring manager that you chose not to rack up huge financial debts, but instead selected a state school in order to be able to afford it. You may have paid your way through college, so you wanted the most inexpensive route, received an academic scholarship, or chose the school because it had a top ten program in a certain field of study. There are many reasons for choosing a particular college; just be prepared to offer your criteria behind the decision.

The hiring manager wants to know how you think, plan, and organize. They want to know how you make decisions. This is an important part of the interview process, so don’t slack on this question or turn it into a big joke, like,, “It was the number one party school in the country” or all your friends from high school decided to go there and you wanted to be around your drinking buddies.

Your GPA probably won’t be that important. If you made it to the interview, then more than likely, a poor GPA won’t be the end of the world. Why would the hiring manager waste his or her time if you had a poor GPA in the first place? Under normal circumstances, before you even made it to the job interview, the application online asks for your GPA upon graduation of high school and college. If you had a good GPA in college, then there’s nothing to sweat. When prompted, tell the hiring manager what your GPA was when you graduated. Don’t lie or exaggerate high school or college GPA scores. Companies can use verification companies easily to find out what your GPA was, when you completed college, and/or sometimes even high school.

I have heard stories of job applicants exaggerating their GPA upon graduation. The hiring manager made notes of the applicant’s answer. After the interview, the hiring manager liked this particular applicant, but when the background check came back, he was surprised to learn there were fabrications. The hiring manager had verbally offered the job to this candidate. When the third-party background check was performed, the applicant’s GPA was different from the college transcript. The job offer subsequently was retracted because the applicant had intentionally embellished their GPA (embellished is a cute little word outright lying). If your GPA was poor in college, don’t make excuses—how life at college wasn’t fair, the professor was unreasonably, or it was the academic institute’s fault. Don’t make excuses to the hiring manager. Give a reasonable explanation for why your GPA was low and, more importantly, what lessons you learned from it.

Sample answer with a good GPA:

“In my senior year of high school, I chose the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. In high school, I played in the band and my favorite musical instrument was the flute. I played for several years, even in elementary school, and developed a passion for playing this instrument. My high school music teacher always told me I was really good at playing the flute and recommended I apply for some college scholarships. I worked hard in high school to become a better player and had a naturally ability as well. Many nights, I would practice playing the flute and I began putting several hours a week into additional practice.  My dream was to work for a large record label company.  I thought the best way of doing that would be double majoring in business and in music.  I ended up getting a scholarship to a few different colleges and universities. The University of Tennessee offered me a full ride to attend college. I researched all the schools that offered me college scholarships and they had the best business schools. Not only was I getting a full scholarship to college, but I also would be attending a top ten business school as well as working on my musical talents. I always had an interest in business, excelled when it came to analytical thinking, and enjoyed working with numbers in excel spreadsheets. I chose to major in accounting and music.  I loved every minute of it! This is exactly how my brain thinks, operates, and comprehends knowledge. I think this explains why I finished with a 3.75 GPA in my college major.”

Sample answer with an average GPA:

“I finished my general studies curriculum at the a small community college near home. After completing the general studies requirement there, I attended the University of Ohio. I financed the majority of my college education by working through school. I chose these universities solely based on cost reasons. I did not want to graduate college with a high amount of debt after school. I worked full-time for all four years of college. My GPA was a 2.0. My first year of college was a major adjustment for me. I found the classes pretty challenging, as well as trying to balance that with a full-time job. High school came pretty easy to me. In college, I really had to learn to study. I didn’t perform up to my expectations the first few semesters at the community college. As I developed a routine for an appropriate work/school balance, my GPA began to improve. Even though my cumulative GPA was 2.0, I finished my last semester as senior with a 3.45 in all of my upper-level classes. This is demonstrated improvement over the course of time. I am happy to say that I was the first person from my family to graduate from college and I also don’t have huge student loans hanging over my head.”

What is your greatest achievement?

There is no right or wrong answer for this question. Wait. I take that back. Not having an important accomplishment or achievement prepared to offer to the hiring manager would be considered a wrong answer. The other wrong way to answer this is citing something that goes without much merit or nothing to do with your personal involvement.

“I don’t have one single achievement in my life.“

“The biggest achievement of my life is winning 1,000 dollars from a scratch-off lottery ticket.”

“I won a free ice cream cone at McDonalds.”

“I funneled a beer the fastest among any of my frat brothers.”

Theseare examples of unimpressive merit achievements. While it was nice to pad you’re a wallet with the extra money you won from a scratch off lottery ticket you bought, you didn’t have to do much to accomplish a winning ticket and, by no means, did you earn it. While it may have been nice to out-drink everyone in your frat, it does not demonstrate much skill. Be prepared to provide a significant life achievement that was important, impressive, and was earned on your own merit. What achievement has made you the most proud?

There will be many situational questions asked during the course of a job interview. These questions may require you take a pause, gather your thoughts, and speak in logical sequence as to how you would handle a particular situation or conflict. When a hiring manager asks, “What is your greatest achievement?”, this is not a situational question and your answer should roll of your tongue like you have prepared for the question. This makes sense, because if it is your most significant achievement, you’re going to remember what it is without having to think too long. Everyone has a particular career, education, or life achievement that they are most proud of. . Your greatest achievement should be something impressive to the hiring manager. Remember you wouldn’t have had a chance to interview with them if you didn’t.

Here is an example: “I would have to say the most significant achievement of my life and what I am most proud of is financing my own college education. I finished my undergraduate degree in Business Administration in three years. I self-financed my own education and loaded up on credit hours during the fall and spring semesters and during the summers to be able to finish my bachelor’s degree in three years. I wanted to do this because I knew it would be cheaper to finish in three years and find a job after school than it would be to finish in four years. Not only was it difficult to take so many credit hours, but also I had to learn to be extremely organized. I worked three part-time jobs while attending college. I worked at a computer lab on campus, at a gas station on the weekends, and on the side cleaned houses—all while maintaining a rigorous academic schedule. While most of my friends took the summers off, I was going to school full-time and working full-time, but I had a goal to achieve. I graduated with honors, graduated with no student loan debt, and finished with a GPA of 3.48. I would say this is what I am most proud of and my biggest accomplishment.”

What motivates you?

What are you passionate about? What do you just love to do and wouldn’t mind doing for free? What gets you fired up and excited? Why do you choose to work? Most people who are successful financially are very motivated and determined individuals. Motivation is a very powerful thing. It can help you achieve many goals in life and give you persistence to overcome any obstacle that you may face during your life. Hiring managers are looking for a person who is extremely self-motivated and who can encourage others through an inspiring personality. A hiring manager wants to know what makes you tick. What sparks your motivation?

Sample answer: “ Several factors motivate me, but I would say the biggest factor for my motivation is my family. When I was young, I was always taught that family is the most important thing in life, and I still hold this value to be true today. My parents were very poor and I did not have a lot of opportunities. I am very fortunate that I can provide a better life for my family. My wife and children are my number one priority. I want to give them opportunities that I didn’t as a child. I want my kids to have a better life. I work hard to provide for my family. When I look into my children’s eyes at night, that’s all a father needs for motivation.”

What would your current boss say about you?
What’s the best/worst boss you have worked for and why?
How well do you get along with your boss?
How would you describe your relationship with your current manager or supervisor?
Describe you and your manager’s relationship?
What would your manager say your strengths and weaknesses are? Situational:  Tell me about a time where you and your boss disagreed about something. What was the outcome?

Bottom line: There will be some question regarding your relationship with your current manager. I listed multiple sample questions that could be asked. The hiring manager wants to know how well you get along with your boss, how you view leadership, if you are a team player, and how well you get along with your superiors.

When the hiring manager asks these types of questions, a horrible answer would be “well, he or she is a complete A-hole”. You would be surprised how people will indict themselves by responding with a negative answer. The candidate will suddenly bash their current boss in a negative rant. These questions should not invite an angry verbal barrage on your part, but an opportunity to stand out above your competition. Never speak negatively about a current or former boss in a job interview.

A hiring manager once told me that a candidate said her current boss was a lazy, incompetent, ignorant, pathetic, desperate, lonely loser who leads by negativity. She went on to say her boss should have never been hired and, in fact, should have been fired years ago. She didn’t stop there. She went onto indict herself even further. Trust me, this was already enough for the lady to be kindly escorted out of the interview, but she had a lot more to get off her chest. She said had filed a complaint with human resources about him and was trying everything in the world to get him fired over the injustices he had committed while he was her manager. She was investigating a possible lawsuit against her organization for transgressions that her boss had committed. Do you think any manager would want to hire this woman? My goodness!!!!! She sounds like a federal prosecutor, ready to pounce on her prey like a cat on a fish head. No one in the world would want this lady in any organization. While this an extreme example, don’t even begin to wander down that forbidden path.

Even if you absolutely hate your boss, there is away to frame your answers in order to satisfy the hiring manager without lying. Don’t fall into the subtle trap of saying anything negative about your current or former boss. This also includes not saying anything negative or bashing former leadership, employees, or the company. Don’t answer the question by stating “yeah he’s great at communication, problem solving, and analytics, but he does have some room for improvement with his personable skills.” If I am a hiring manager, this answer signals to me you really don’t like your boss. You just came up with some fancy adjectives to throw in, and then slam him in the end with a cute, subtle manner, because he’s terrible at managing people. Even a hint of negativity about your current boss is not recommended during your job interview.

Should I be honest with the hiring manager if I don’t like my boss? You may be job interviewing because you want to leave a boss that you despise. I’ve been there, and have left a few organizations for that specific reason. With that being said, you can be honest that you have disagreements with your current manager when prompted, but don’t turn it into a scenario like the lady mentioned above. We all had a boss at one time in our life whom we did not like working for. If you have loved every boss you have ever worked for, then congratulations to you. For the vast majority of us out there, this is not the case. I worked for a hard-nosed, screaming, arrogant manager years ago. Do I tell the hiring manager that I hated him because he was arrogant, annoying, demoralizing, and stubborn? No. I explain what I learned from the situation and I cite specific examples of how I was able to work with him despite having differences of opinion.

A great example would be, “My current boss is great at motivating his employees with positive reinforcement. He goes above and beyond as far as recognizing his team for performing outstanding customer service. While we don’t see eye to eye on some things, he has taught me how to become a better customer service team member and, for that, I will always be grateful. My current manager is best at listening to the customer needs. He has many years of experience. He is an expert at resolving customer service escalation issues. If someone in customer service can’t think of a way to satisfy a customer, somehow my manager is able to resolve the majority of our customer complaints. Sometimes, it’s better to work with someone who has a different opinion, idea, solution, or recommendation to handle a task—a manager who teaches you different perspectives that you otherwise wouldn’t have thought of. He’s really challenged me to maintain a high level of customer service, resolve escalation issues, and provide personal development for future advancement opportunities.”

You get the point? You can turn it back on the hiring manager that you can work with many different types of personalities because you view it as a learning experience.

Have you interviewed with anyone else?

One job interview expert urges you to brag away to the hiring manager that you have interviewed with six companies and you are expecting job offers from all of them. You are in demand and you’re letting them know they’d better hire you because all these companies are chomping at the bit. You’ve actually had many job offers to turn down. You even had to turn your cell phone off at night because companies have been calling during the day begging you to come work for them. The hiring manager should feel grateful that you were even able to make it today due to the extensive number of job interviews you have booked.

Another career interview expert may state, “No. Tell them you are only interested in their company and you would never leave your current employer unless it was for their company. If this opportunity hadn’t opened up you would remain at your current company for life since you love it so much.”

Both philosophies seem logical, so which is the right one? I think sometimes the career experts try to outthink themselves through extensive studies they have conducted in organizational psychology and behavior. Career experts have their own opinion on which type of answer you should go with during your interview. My answer may seem to be a little too “simple” or “old-fashioned” for some of you. I would tell you to answer this with the good old fashion truth.” Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) NIV (4)

Sounds crazy, right? But it just might work. Here is my rationale behind this notion that defies the career expert: When you tell a lie, you become more nervous and it will show. Anxiety is common during an interview. If you start tossing out a bunch of B.S., your nervousness may cause you to fumble over your words, and not sound truthful. The last thing you want to portray to the hiring manager is that you are being deceptive or dishonest. If they found out you have been, the interview will come to an abrupt halt and you will not be considered for the position. Play it safe. Play it smart. Simply tell the truth. If you are or have interviewed with another company, tell the hiring manager. If you haven’t interviewed with another company, then relate to the hiring manager that you aren’t actively looking and would love to work for their company and state specific examples for your choice.

Post Interview Contact

“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

Thomas Jefferson

We can now breath a collective sigh of a relief. The preparation for the job interview was completed and you have finished the face-to-face meeting, either with the hiring manager, a recruiter, or someone in the human resource department. The job interview has officially concluded.

Does this mean our work is done? Not so fast.

If you’ve only completed one interview, there could be multiple steps left in the interview process. If there are more steps remaining, then refer back to the pre- and during sections of the Hot Seat. If you’re in the last step interview process, then you have to seal the deal. Many applicants fail to do the steps in Phase Three, but the outlined steps can make or break a job offer.

Pretend you are selling a computer to a customer. The customer told you beforehand that they have to purchase a computer for their new business. After a well prepared, thorough presentation of what your computer offers over the competitors, the customer is interested. The customer informs you they are also interested in a couple more brands as well. They actually may tell you upfront that they have narrowed it down to two or three different models, including yours. The customer needs some time to make an educated decision on which model to purchase. After your preparation, presentation, and research, you wouldn’t just walk out the door and say, “Okay, thank you so much, good luck, and have a great week!” What would be the most logical question to ask the customer to expedite a potential sale?

A close or ending to the sales presentation may include, any of these questions:

“Okay, that’s completely understandable. When can I follow up with you?” “When do you expect to make a decision?”

What is your preferred method of contact?”

“If you don’t have a preferred method of contact, could I call you?”

In sales, it’s all about follow-up and closing the deal. These are reasonable and fair questions a sales person would ask a customer. Same concept applies to the interview process.

First, you want to be familiar with the full interview process. Are there additional steps? What does the whole process entail? What is the best way for me to contact you? I am constantly asked, “Zack, when should I call the hiring manager?” “Should I email them or call them?” “When is best to follow up with a company after the interview?” “How many days should I wait?”

I always reply, “I don’t know. What did they say when you asked them?”

Most of the time, I get a blank stare in reply, followed by a downward glance slanted with a grimace and a look of disappointment. These are important questions to ask the hiring manager. We cover this in the Pre Phase, but this section rehashes it’s importance in sealing the deal. Writer for “Hot Jobs”, Margaret Steen says, “You should also ask what the next steps are in the process: Will the most-promising candidates be called back for another interview? Is the company about to make a hiring decision? How soon does the hiring manager expect to move to this next step?”

And I get, “Zack, I didn’t ask that, so when should I follow up with the recruiter?” If you didn’t find out the information from the recruiter or the hiring manager, the general rule of thumb is a “thank you” letter within a 12-hour period of time, follow-up by email or telephone call within 3 or 4 days. I prefer to touch base by phone; it’s more personal and intimate, even if you just leave a voicemail. I have a sales background and I am very aggressive with my follow up. I understand you don’t want to be a pest because that could definitely come off as overbearing, but you do need to demonstrate you have a strong interest in the job opportunity. Don’t call everyday or send multiple emails saying, “Hey did you not get my email?” Check your sent folder in your email account.

“Being over-eager and bombarding the company with follow-up emails and phone calls is not a good idea and can actually harm your chances of getting the position. Follow the three-strike rule - one thank you note, a longer thank you letter, and a follow-up email or phone call to find out whether a decision has been made.”

The three-strike rule is the best follow-up method to use after the interview. If your third attempt of communication is unsuccessful, then it’s probably time to move onto the next opportunity. Three attempts of follow-up communication by a candidate will suffice.

Avoid a Cheesy “Thank You”

"Failure to follow up can be the deciding factor in rejecting a candidate who is otherwise a great fit."
—Amanda Augustine of The Ladders

When it comes to the topic of job interviewing, most publications—whether books, articles, or newspapers—highly recommend you send a “thank you” note afterwards. There is normally a specified time frame each author suggests for taking this step after the interview has ended. Some experts are adamant it should be right after the interview, others have stated you have a maximum of a 24-hour window, and some often argue that it’s reasonable to take up to 48 hours to send a note.

I would argue that 48 hours seems a bit too long and right after isn’t always feasible. The Hot Seat generally recommends sending the note within a 12-hour time frame. Why? Technology controls most of our lives today. Most smartphones are equipped with email features. You can easily submit a “thank you” email right after the interview via your phone, tablet, or a laptop. Just do it and get it over with. Besides, the longer you procrastinate, the greater the chance of forgetting to email it at all. I would send a note the day of the interview or later that evening. This effort is one more thing that sets you apart from your competition. A prompt “thank you” note may show the hiring manager you’re excited about the position and enjoyed the conversation.

Compose a handwritten “thank you” after the interview. I always write both an email communication within a 12-hour window and a handwritten thank you note. Have a blank thank you card with you and fill it out immediately after the job interview. The hand-written note doesn’t need to be a novel. A paragraph or two will completely suffice. Your detailed letter will be composed and sent via email. A common excuse I hear is, “but my handwriting is terrible”. Well, my own handwriting looks like chicken scratch from a one-legged bird. It’s absolutely terrible! That’s no excuse for me not to leave a handwritten note for the hiring manager. My handwriting is still terrible, but I can take my time to make it look legible as possible. With handwritten notes, the general rule thumb is that it’s like the bad Christmas present Aunt Kathy gives you each year: it’s the thought that counts.

Not many people write notes nowadays, which makes them even more distinctive. The best place to leave the handwritten note is underneath the meeting room door after the interview, with a receptionist, or someone who can be trusted at the venue to get into the hiring manager’s hands. Most of the time the address on the hiring managers business cards are from their corporate office. Are they ever going to even be at the headquarters to receive a letter? Even if they do, your note may arrive after the hiring decision has been made.

There are several thank you letter templates and examples floating around on the Web. While these boring pre-formatted, unoriginal examples are readily available, your note still needs to be customized to you, the job, and the interview that took place. It doesn’t need to be a cookie cutter note you copy and paste. Do you think the interviewer has seen that same template before? Do you want to give the impression that you are sloppy, lazy, or uninterested in thanking the interviewer for their precious time?

Scenario:  You and the other person interviewing for the job are each sending a thank you letter after interviewing with ABC Marketing for an executive administrative assistant in marketing research. You both have equal qualifications and have interviewed extremely well. Now, it’s time for the hiring manager to make a very tough decision.

YOUR THANK YOU LETTER COPIED FROM THE WEB:

Dear Mr. Smith:

Thank you for the opportunity to interview with your organization. It was good to learn more about (insert company name). I wanted to let you know I am a qualified candidate for the job. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at anytime. I look forward to your decision.

AN EVEN CRAPPIER THANK YOU LETTER FROM A LAZY PERSON: 

Dear Mr. Smith:

Thanks for interviewing me today. Have a good weekend. Don’t drink too much like I will this weekend. TTYL

THANK YOU LETTER TAILORED TO THE DUTIES, QUALIFICATIONS, AND INTERVIEW THAT DAY. (The Correct Type)

Dear Mr. Smith:

Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you and Mr. Daniel. After speaking with you today, I am excited about the opportunity to bring my skills and talents to your organization. As we talked about during the interview, I have extensive experience in product promotion and, in college I was able to gain an in-depth understanding of marketing research. In addition to possessing an analytical way of thinking, my presentation skills will benefit me in this position. You stated today that it was critical to be able to hold the attention of audiences. I demonstrated that in college by delivering dynamic sales presentations in my business strategy classes.

I know you and Mr. Daniel will be making a decision soon. If you have any additional questions for me, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am enthusiastic and passionate about working as a marketing assistant at ABC. I would love to be a part of your growing organization.  I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Do you see the difference? Don’t just leave the interview with a cheesy thank you letter. Customize, personalize, and change your thank you letters to stand above your competition. References specifics in the conversation you and the interviewer had that day. Don’t just simply copy an online thank you template verbatim. A hiring manager can tell if a thank you note is not customized. You can use a template, but make sure the letter has relevance to the organization, yourself, and the hiring manager. A customized thank you letter will come across as more personal and show that you put time into it. You have one more chance to remind the interviewer of your skills, abilities, and competencies. Double- and triple-check your spelling and grammar. “According to surveys, about 85 percent of executives say that a post-interview thank-you note has some influence on the hiring decision. While only half of candidates send thank-you notes, it seems to be an easy gesture everyone should use to greatly impact the hiring process.”

“Reiterate you Qualifications. Use your follow-up as an opportunity to reiterate why you’re qualified for the position.” This may be the last chance for candidates to sell themselves. Hiring managers generally have short memories. Remind them why you are the best candidate for the position with your note. The hiring manager may have revealed reservations about extending you a job offer during the interview process. Your note can be customized to address why they should feel confident in your candidacy and eliminate any reservations in their mind. Handle any objections that came up during the interview. Depending how your interview played out, thank you notes can become anything from reiterating skills to overcoming objections revealed during the interview.

Last note on thank you letters: If you interviewed with more than one person, make sure each interviewers receives a separate, customized thank you letter. Don’t just leave behind one handwritten thank you note for the group. Likewise, don’t send the exact same email to each interviewer. This often suggests laziness on the candidate’s part. Customize thank you notes for each individual who was part of your interview process. Should I write a handwritten thank you letter or an email? The answer is, do both!

Some job interview trends stay, and some trends go. I have the unique inside knowledge of private sector job interview trends to know what trends will play a bigger role in the future of job interviewing. My partnership with college career service centers has prompted me to turn my expertise towards how new professionals can meet the challenge of a new era in job interviewing. Let’s explore five hot interview trends and some ways for today’s professionals to prepare for these.

Skype Interviews: Skype interviews are becoming more prevalent especially with advances in technology. The reason many companies begin a job interview process with Skype is due to its cost effectiveness. Skype interviews lend themselves to allowing companies and students to make informal first impressions.   Some companies have even replaced dated phone interviews with Skype interviews. As technology continue to advance at a rapid pace and companies are constantly searching for cost savings, it is safe to say Skype interviews are not going away for a long time.

Student Advice: I have seen many “How to Skype Interview” videos on You Tube. A hiring manager I knew recommended a short 4-minute video on Skype interviewing. This video teaches a student almost everything he or she needs to do for a Skype interview. This video should be played in classrooms, career advisement centers, or made a mandatory requirement before a Skype interview. Check out Matt Gnaizd’s video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQwznxQmFn.c The video covers Skype interview basics such as proper sound, lighting, professional dress, potential distractions, posture, eye contact, computer set up, and appropriate speech. Also make sure students have professional screen names; any inappropriate or unprofessional screen names should be avoided. Make sure to advise students to have a strong Internet connection and have them test it out before going live.

Quirky Questions: I was doing a career presentation at a small college a few months ago. I asked at the end of the presentation if any of the students had any questions. A student asked, “How do I answer the tree question?” I had no idea what he was talking about. The scenario went something like the following, “If you were a tree, what would it be, and why?” Questions like this have a particular purpose in interviews, and it is important to know why they are being asked.

Student Advice: Quirky questions don’t necessary have a right or wrong answer. I have had them in my own professional career. “How many marbles are in this jar?”   “If you could meet some one famous living or dead who would it be and why.” “If a genie could grant you 3 wishes, what would they be?” The students need to make sure to come forward with at least an answer. The worst thing an interviewee can say is “I don’t know,” or, “That's a weird question”. Keep in mind the interviewer wants the candidate to stay professional.   The student should recognize the answer is not that important itself. The interviewer wants to see the interviewee’s analytical skills, sense of humor, creativity, and how well he or she thinks on his or her feet.

Group Interviews: Most people hate group interviews. They are not necessarily a new trend, but they are becoming even more popular. Companies are consistently looking for ways to reduce expenses and increase revenues, and group interviews are cost effective measures for companies. These interviews also have importance for hiring manager because they can gather a second opinion about a candidate. The group usually discusses the candidate’s skills and abilities, how the candidates present themselves, if any red flags emerge during the interview process, and how the candidate would fit in their organization.

Student Advice: Which students do the best at group interviews? The student who is most prepared does the best. It is usually that simple. A student is naturally nervous during a job interview, but if they have researched the company, participated in mock interviews, and practiced the most commonly asked interview questions, she or he is naturally more confident and less nervous. Students need to be advised on how to address a panel. For example, if one panel member is asking the questions, the student should focus on that member but should also speak to the other members on the panel with good eye contact. Students need to send individual thank you letters to each member in the group and customize each one.

Video Profiles: Video profiles may be required by a company or it can be used as a tool to set you apart from your competition. I have talked to many career center directors that had students who were required to make a video profile. If they are created well, they can be utilized as a phenomenal tool to set the student apart from their competition. Video profiles may be used in highly competitive job field.

Student Advice: When making a video profile, the same concepts apply as a Skype interview: Professional dress, proper lighting & sound, eye contact, and a professional background are all necessary elements. Hiring committees requiring a video profile generally have specific instruction on what they want the student to address on camera. For the most part, video profiles are used as a short 2-minute introduction to the candidate. In other words, students answer the famous question, “Tell me about yourself”.   Students who are doing these when they are not required should use them to give the students the best elevator speech on “Tell me about you.” Career services professional should review the video and offer any constructive feedback.

Shared Screen Presentations: Shared screen presentations have not become nearly as popular of a career trends. For the most part, shared screen presentations are utilized with STEM majors or a highly technical field. For example, a student may be given a certain time to write a computer program, a graphic designer may have to show their manager they can use publisher effectively, or a programming major may have to write a query in front of a hiring manager. I have also seen these utilized when using Microsoft PowerPoint. If a student is presenting information, they may be required t do a shared screen presentation.

Student Advice: Students should familiarize themselves with these programs as they will be judged on problem solving, analytical thinking, and virtual communication. They should practice scenario questions during mock interviews. This practice is very important; make sure the student utilizes the time they have been given. Do not cut presentations short because this shortening suggests a lack of preparation. Cutting it short can also give the perception of laziness. On the flip side, make sure the presentation is not too long to avoid the risk of getting cut off or appearing inconsiderate of the hiring committee’s time.  Job interviews evolve over time. Some trends stay and some trends are abandoned. Who would have ever thought that job interviews would be conducted in noisy venues like Starbucks? Who would have imaged fifteen years ago a program called Skype would change the way we job interview? Who would have imagined in the 1970’s bellbottoms would see a candidate dismissed from a job interview nowadays? It is important we keep on these trends so that we can be able to offer the best advice for our students.