Should you answer, “Where else are you interviewing?”

Spy asking Spying or helping?

Are they going to use the information to hurt you or to help you?

Who is asking you, “Where else are you interviewing?” That should change your answer.

During a police interrogation you answer questions differently than you do when you are talking to your spouse.  For example, “Where have you been?” can be more dangerous coming from one of those two sources.

There are two correct responses to the question, “Where else are you interviewing?”  If you are talking to a hiring manager or HR person, tell them.  Let them know what is going on. Give them details if they ask. It will most likely increase your desirability if they know others are talking to you.

If you are talking to a recruiter at an agency, you need to decide if you trust the recruiter.  Ask the recruiter, “Why do you want to know?”  After the recruiter acts defensive or offended, ask your real question, “Do you ever submit resumes to jobs you find out about from candidates?”

The recruiter should answer, “I will only submit a resume to a job you mention if I am already working on it, or if you tell me you are out of contention there.  I will never reduce your chances of getting a job by submitting competition unless I was already working on the job.”

Do you trust the recruiter?  If so, give him the details of your interviews. He can help you much better in your job search if he knows everything. All the recruiting trainers and over half the recruiters will play fair with you. They will not ruin your chances where you are already interviewing. If you have serious doubts about the recruiter, tell them you are interviewing, but not precisely where.

Basically, if someone will hurt you with the information, protect yourself.  If the information works to your advantage, tell them.

Something To Do Today

Evaluate every recruiter you work with.   Which ones do you trust?  Which ones are questionable?  Why? Trust your instincts.

I am going on vacation the week of the 4th of July.  I’ll be at a family reunion in Gila, NM and totally unavailable.

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Later:                          Why don’t they give you an answer, Yes or No?

The company’s reputation

Will you do anything we ask? – the interview question

waist deep in water

Will you really do “whatever it takes” ??

“Will you do whatever it takes to get the job done?” is a common interview question.

In “The Firm” a new lawyer finds the perfect job: great pay, wonderful benefits and  a really high flying lifestyle.  Then he finds out he is a part of the mafia and can’t get out unless he is the guest of honor at his own funeral.

Let’s get realistic.  Even in high flying corporate scandals no one is murdered.  If you feel you have to blow the whistle you can go to newspaper reporters and the police.  You will be safe physically.  Your only real worries are social and financial.  The company’s risk is to its very existence.  It can be destroyed just by bad press.  Also, legal action can take away any profit the company has had for years.

There is no reason to suspect that your employer wants you to do something illegal.  It is much more likely he wants you to work late.

Go ahead and be enthusiastic when they ask the question, “Will you do whatever it takes?”  The proper answer is to give examples of how you have gone the extra mile in previous jobs.  Tell when you worked late to finish projects or help a teammate.  Carrying a pager is a great example of doing “whatever it takes.”  Mention the inconvenient business trips.  The support you had from your family when you had to work late or travel is a valuable story.

I hate to go back to it, but, don’t mention when you did something borderline illegal.  Don’t assume they want you to do something immoral.  If they ask you to do something that is wrong, ask them to clarify.  Ask for examples.  If you are sure they are asking you to do something illegal, immoral, or fattening, refuse the second interview or the job offer. You can even bring it up with the CEO or the SEC.

Some people have been burned by a previous bad employer.  You may have been hired by a place with dubious morals. You are out now, or in the process of getting out.  Assume the best of the companies you are visiting.  Give examples of how hard you are willing to work to succeed. Focus on what you can do for the company.

Something To Do Today

Assume the best.  Ask for examples.

The intelligent man finds almost everything ridiculous, the sensible man hardly anything. (J. W. von Goethe)

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Tomorrow:     Where else are you interviewing?

Later:              Why don’t they give you an answer, Yes or No?

The company’s reputation

How to talk about money in a job interview

beggar on the street

You aren’t a beggar in a job interview.

Do you hate to be asked about money in an interview?  Are you afraid it will go something like this:

“I really like your background.  I think you would do well.  How much less than $55,000 will you take as a base salary?”

You probably won’t be asked that particular question. It is brutally bad. But it does happen.

Employers hate to ask any money question.  It isn’t polite.  But, you and the employer need to be in the same salary ballpark. Wouldn’t you feel upset if after 3 interviews over a period of a month you were offered a salary of half of what you are willing to take?

What makes the money question worse is that you cannot give a solid answer and win.  If you give a number too high, they may refuse to continue the interviews.  If you give a number too low, they’ll pay that low number and not a higher one you could have gotten.

There is only one way to answer the question.

  1. Compliment — Start out with a compliment.
  2. My now — Let them know what you earn now or in your last job.
  3. Best offer — tell them you want to hear their best offer.

Here’s an example:

“How much do we have to pay you?”

“(Compliment) I like this company.  The opportunity is just what I am looking forward to.  The team is a real winner too.

(My now) I currently earn a $63,000 base plus a bonus of $2500 last year.  I certainly wouldn’t want to earn less.

(Best offer) What I would like is to be able to entertain your best offer.

This answer gives them information to work with.  It is not a refusal.  The heartfelt compliments at the start make them feel good.  You tell them what your baseline for comparison is.  Finally you give them a chance to be generous.

Can I bring up money?

Don’t bring up money in any interview, ever, unless you get a feeling they are going to be way too low. Even then, use the 3 step formula. You can discuss your expectations with an outside recruiter/headhunter any time, but not with the company’s internal HR recruiter or a company interviewer until they bring it up.

If you have questions about benefits, vacations, the 401K program, relocation payments, or other benefits you can ask the internal HR recruiter when you are interviewing face-to-face with HR. You can ask the external recruiter/headhunter any time.

So, what do I do?

Wait for them to mention money, then 1. Compliment them, 2. Tell them your “now”, 3. Ask for their best offer.

Never, ever suggest they don’t have to pay you.  What they pay for, they’ll value.  What they get for free, they’ll take for granted, and then demand as a right.  Hold them up for all the market will bear.  (Lois Bujold)

Something To Do Today

Most people cannot clearly state what they earn.  I don’t know why.  Before you go on an interview write down the clearest, shortest way you can state your current earnings.  Then practice answering “the money question”.

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Next:     Why are you leaving your job?

Later:     Will you do anything we ask?

Where else are you interviewing?

Why don’t they give you an answer, Yes or No?

Horrible interview answers, and a good one – the weakness question

Woman saying WRONG!

Wrong answer! You lose. Now leave.

In an interview you are asked, “What are your weaknesses?”

You reply, “I really don’t have any weaknesses.”

Wrong answer.  Every religion I know of says that you have weaknesses.  Don’t fight it.  Come up with one.

“My biggest weakness is my cheerfulness and high character.”

That just made everyone who heard it sick.

“I like to humiliate people with sexually explicit jokes.”

That weakness will get you escorted out of the building by security.

“As a project manager I have a tendency to give people too much freedom.  When they tell me they are just a little behind schedule, my tendency is to believe them even when I know deep in my heart they are in trouble.  I have to constantly remember to dig into problems my people are having and make sure they get help early.  That way we can hit all of our deadlines. I’ve gotten very good at it.”

That one is true.  It is my personal weakness.  It is the virtue of not micromanaging, that I take too far.  Did you notice that I mentioned what I have learned to do to overcome that weakness?

When you are asked, “What are your weaknesses?”, be honest.  What is a strength that you take too far?  That’s a good place to start.  The most important part of your answer is to show that you have learned how to cope with your weakness.  What do you do to make sure that the weakness DOES NOT CONTINUE to be a problem?

Don’t be syrupy and sweet.  Don’t deny that you have problems.  Honestly evaluate your performance.  Take a strength that you over-exercise.  Explain it.  Explain what you do to keep it under control. When they know you have figured out how to compensate, they will accept it as self-realization instead of weakness.

Build up your weaknesses until they become your strong points.  (Knute Rockne)

Something To Do Today

Make a list of virtues you take too far.  Add to that list what you do to compensate.

Take your strongest weakness into your next interview, along with its solution.

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Tomorrow:     What do we have to pay you?

Later:              Why are you leaving your job?

Will you do anything we ask?

Where else are you interviewing?

Should you tell them where else?

Why don’t they give you an answer, Yes or No?

The pause that destroys a job interview

shocked woman

It is not when YOU pause that destroys you.

Silence is golden when you can’t think of a good answer.  (Muhammed Ali)

An interviewer said, “Tell me what your biggest weakness is.” The candidate gave one example.  There was a pause. The interviewer looked puzzled. Uncomfortable, the candidate gave another weakness.  The surprised interviewer sat for 10 seconds after that admission trying to gather his thoughts.  The candidate gave another weakness.  In all, the candidate gave six weaknesses.  The interview was over a few minutes later.  The candidate was not hired.

When you finish answering a question and the interviewer looks at you without saying anything, what do you do?  Do you start talking again?  No! Stop! Shut up!  You need to learn to outwait your interviewer.  If he wants more, let him ask. If he raises an eyebrow as if to say, “Is that all?”, then you should look puzzled or confident and wait for him to talk.

Most interviewers do not consciously use silence as a weapon.  They will be happier if you let the silence stretch.  They are gathering their thoughts.  Don’t interrupt them.  Let them have the time they need to feel comfortable.

Interviewers who purposely use silence will be impressed if you have the guts to let a silent break stretch to 30 seconds while looking them in the eye, occasionally glancing down to their hands.  To them it is a sign of self worth and assurance.

A big turn-off for many managers is someone who just can’t stop talking.  Make use of the old saying, “It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

Something To Do Today

Practice talking and then being quiet.  Watch how the person you are addressing gets nervous. Just for today, don’t let them off the hook.  Be the strong silent type today.

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Tomorrow:     What are your weaknesses?

Later:              What do we have to pay you?

Why are you leaving your job?

Will you do anything we ask?

Where else are you interviewing?

Should you tell them where else?

Why don’t they give you an answer, Yes or No?

How to deal with interview traps

bear trap

Questions that are really interview traps can kill your chances

Thumb screws and the iron maiden are no longer considered proper interview tools. Nasty traps are rarely set for candidates.  The most common snare is a reasonable question or a pause that becomes the killing moment in an interview.  We’ll talk about pauses another day.

Reasonable questions that are dangerous include:

  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What do we have to pay you to get you to work here?
  • Why are you leaving your current job?
  • Are you willing to do anything necessary to get the job done?
  • Where else are you interviewing?

When you get a dangerous question you should answer it accurately.  That doesn’t mean you need to go into a lot of detail.  Over the next few day we’ll touch on each one of these questions.  For now, remember to be brief.

Any one of these questions can bring out old job wounds.  Job wounds are things that happened at a previous job that you are afraid will happen again.  Get over them. This is a new company.  Don’t yell, whine or complain about the past.  If you have to mention something that is ugly, state the fact in one short sentence and stop.  Don’t explain.  Don’t fill in the details. Let your interviewer assume what he wants. You will find that their imagination is often more generous to you if you are extremely brief and only mention facts.

The secret to avoiding interview traps is to prepare an answer in advance.  Use that answer and avoid going into areas that are painful for you. Brevity is a key.

If all the world’s a stage, I want to operate the trap door. (Beatty)

Something To Do Today

Write down a one sentence answer to each of the questions above.  Next week compare those answers to the guidelines for each question.

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Next:     Pregnant pauses

Later:              What are your weaknesses?

What do we have to pay you?

Why are you leaving your job?

Will you do anything we ask?

Where else are you interviewing?

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How to answer unasked interview questions

scared kid in a bag

If the interviewer won’t ask, answer anyway.

Séances and interviews sometimes have a lot in common. Primarily, no one really believes in the person being interviewed.   The answers are suspect.  Everyone involved is afraid to act on what they heard.

Interviewers believe you may lie about the following questions:

  1. Will you work hard?
  2. Can you do this job?
  3. Will you make the team better?
  4. Do you want this job?

Because they don’t trust your direct answers, they ask a lot of indirect questions.  There is only one way to answer.  To be believed you must give concrete examples.

Give concrete examples

You must be enthusiastic, positive, believable, happy and self-assured.  But, that’s not enough.  They won’t believe you unless you give concrete examples. Examples in the last year or two are most effective.

Let me help you come up with believable examples.  Write down the answers to these questions:

Will you work hard?

When did you work late?  Did you get in early regularly to finish a project?  How often did you carry a beeper?  What assignments did you volunteer for?  Who did you take over for when they were on vacation? Did you travel out of town on assignments? How much work did you do from home after hours?

Can you do this job?

What parts of this new job have you already done in your old job?  When did you work independently on applicable tasks?  How do you do research on related problems? Who did you mentor that had these responsibilities?  Which similar projects did you manage? How big was the team you worked on?  Did you lead a team doing this kind of job?

Will you make the team better?

When did you take over for a team member? How did you deal with a difficult coworker? Did you work late to help someone else? When did you back your manager in a tough call?  Were you a mentor?  What questions did everyone come to you with?  Which team awards did you win?  Why did they pick you to lead a team?

Do you want this job?

(Be careful NOT to complain and whine.  Don’t beat up your old team or boss.) What will the new job let you learn?  How much can you bring to this company?  Why will you be able to hit the ground running? Can you start in 2 weeks?  What do you like most about the team members you met so far?  Which facts about the company appeal to you most?  Which specific projects sound fun?

If you have answers to all these questions, you can turn your interview from a séance into a fact finding session.  Give short specific examples and you will be believed.

Something To Do Today

Take a notepad and jot down specific proof from the last two years. How have you absolutely proved your answers to the unasked questions?  Write down undeniable examples.

Take those undeniable examples with you to review right before your next interview.

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Later:    Other most common interview questions – traps, money, intimidators

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What they would have to say to ask you the question they really want:

I’m not intending to imply insult or judgment here but I am curious to know in order to be able to respond to your posts in an appropriate manner, so please forgive what appears to be, but in fact is not intended as, an insulting question:  Are you stupid?  (Shore)

The most common interview questions – asked and unasked

interview mouse trap

Yes, that question is a trap. Get the cheese without danger.

 

Have you asked, “Why didn’t I get the job when the interview went so well?”

Often it is because an interview question was answered wrong.

The most common interview questions are:

  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. Will you work hard?
  3. Can you do this job?
  4. Will you make the team better?
  5. Do you want this job?

Only the first question is usually asked straight out.  The rest are so obvious that interviewers don’t want to ask them plainly.  They figure you will lie.  So let’s deal with #1 today, and the rest later.

Tell me about yourself

When an interviewer can’t figure out what to ask next, they say, “Tell me about yourself.”

You now get to tell the interviewer what to ask next.

Your answer should prepare the interviewer to ask about your greatest accomplishments and your job progression.  They don’t need to know about your dog, fishing, or your marital problems.

Set them up to ask about how you can help them. What have you done that would help them the most?  What were you recognized for doing very well?  Why did you get a past job or a promotion?  What have you been doing well in your latest job?

Keep your answer short. 60 seconds is fine. You are setting up your interviewer to ask questions.  A 20 minute speech on your part is not going to help.

Practice answering, “Tell me about yourself.” Each interview is different.  Make sure you briefly mention the things that are most important for THIS job.

Tomorrow we’ll start dealing with the other questions.

Something To Do Today

Write down the two most important things you have done as far as your interviewers are concerned.  Practice working those accomplishments into an answer to “Tell me about yourself.”

Do you think Titus Livius was in a job interview when he said:

I approach these questions unwillingly, as they are sore subjects, but no cure can be effected without touching upon and handling them.  (Titus Livius 59 BC – 17 AD)


Later:  Unasked interview questions

Other most common interview questions – traps, money, intimidators

How To Be Imperfect and Highly Paid – 3 things 

unique girl in a crowd

What makes you stand out? Worth more?

What about you is unique? Amazing? Unemployable? Mediocre? Inspiring?

My daughter Merrilee has Down Syndrome and is low functioning within that group, but she is amazing.  My son James got a perfect score on the SAT Advanced Calculus II college entrance exam. He is amazing. Each can do things the other can’t.  We look at James and say, “He can do anything!”   No, he can’t.  He doesn’t have the patience his sister does.  They have different realities and infinite possibilities.

The highly paid people I recruit all know their strengths and weaknesses.  When I call up their references, every reference lists the same strengths and weaknesses the candidate lists.  Often the poorly paid people give me a list of strengths and weaknesses that bear no resemblance to what their references think.

Really knowing your strengths and weaknesses allows you to do three things:

  1. Play to your strength
  2. Get someone to cover for your weaknesses
  3. Turn your weakness into a strength

Man is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness from which he emerges and the infinity in which he is engulfed.  (Pascal)

Stephen Cannell flunked three grades in school.  He is severely dyslexic. He can’t write readably. He also won two Emmy awards for his writing. He created 40 television shows and 6 novels.  He has learned to compensate for his severe problem. He plays to his greatest strengths, creating fun characters and complex plots. His assistants translate his unreadable typing into the words he wanted to put on paper.

Figure out what your talents really are.  Do you have one or two real weaknesses that prevent you from exploiting that talent?  Find a way to compensate.  Get help. Find out what others have done to overcome that weakness.  You may have to adequately do the part of the job that the weakness prevents you from doing excellently. Better yet, can you get someone else to help with your weakness?

No one can do everything.  Figure out what help you need to achieve your dreams.

Something To Do Today

Take an aptitude test and a personality test.  Free ones are available at your local Job Center.  Some are available online. Do you know anyone who would dare to tell you what your real strengths and weaknesses are?  Ask them.

Make sure you know your strengths and weaknesses.  Are you exploiting your best qualities?

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Later:     The most common interview questions – about you

Other most common interview questions – traps, money, intimidators

He ignored $100,000,000 to get a new job – it’s magic

ace up his sleeve

Resume magic may get you a job.

I turned a $100,000,000 food scientist into a Java programmer. Seriously, I did. I used resume magic to give him a career change.

It wasn’t as easy as it sounds.  He was proud of his PhD, and that was hurting him.  He had to stop emphasizing the $100,000,000 product revenue stream he had generated for his company.  Instead he had to emphasize his work in developing computer systems.  He had to finish getting his Java programming certifications. He also agreed to a 40% pay cut.

When we finished, he found his own job.

Writers fall in love with their work.  Every word is a work of art.  When you put together your resume, you are even more in love with your work because it is about you.  You can’t possibly leave out how you gave CPR to a chipmunk and saved its life. Leave it out anyway.

Now do something even harder.  Stop looking at the things YOU find most interesting.  Look in your career for proof that you can do the job you are applying for. Make a list of all the duties of the job you want.  Now make a list of all of the times you have done those duties.

That food scientist had helped design computer systems.  He had put together a few small applications to help him track data.  He passed the Java certification test.  We expanded those programming related accomplishments.  It took him a year, but he got the job.

Magic is the art of misdirection.  Illusion is achieved by getting people to concentrate on what you want them to perceive.  Put a little magic into your resume. Get rid of the things that don’t apply, even if they are your proudest achievements.  Emphasize what is important.

You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it come true.  You may have to work for it, however. (Bach)

Something To Do Today

Just for the exercise, take a job you want to apply for and create a ½ page resume for it.  Only leave your greatest accomplishments that apply towards that job.  I’ll bet you cut out a lot of fluff.

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Later:  Imperfect and highly paid