Interview Q&A - Part 2: Basic Questions, continued

By Mike Rollins, vice president of sales at RecruitMilitary and a veterans of the United States Navy.

This is the second of a series of articles in which I will provide questions that are typical of job interviews, along with answers of the kind that veterans should provide. Between each question and its answer, I will make a comment or two


BACKGROUND

Margaret is interviewing for a job with a company that manufactures rugs and carpets. The employer’s human resources department has selected her for an interview based on her resume. The interviewer, Charles, has already asked six questions. For those questions and Margaret’s answers, see part 1 of this series.


THE INTERVIEW

Charles: Tell me about your experience at your present job.

Charles has read Margaret’s resume, so he is probably not interested in a recitation of Margaret’s various job responsibilities. Rather, he may want to see whether Margaret would bring any negative baggage to his company. So Margaret should accentuate the positive.

Margaret: My colleagues and superiors were very effective and very supportive, and I believe I was as well. I enjoyed the work, and was pleased with the promotions. As a result of my experience, I believe I am ready to move into a middle management position with your company.


Charles: How does your work experience relate to the requirements of the job here?

Margaret should have an answer prepared for this kind of question. Her answer should set forth one-to-one relationships between her past job duties and requirements of the new job.

Margaret: When I was with Martin and Ludlow, I was in charge of all expedited truck shipments – which relates to the handling of special rush orders for your company. I also handled emergencies that retailers had when they starting running low on stock – especially during the holiday season. Sometimes, I couldn’t give them everything they wanted; and that relates to the customer-consulting work I would like to do for you. In my present job, I manage all inventory in two warehouses, so I would come into your company strong on the logistics side. Going back further, I learned to work quickly under pressure when I was in the Navy.


Charles: What was the biggest problem you ever encountered at work, and how did you handle it?

Charles is looking for frankness, but he does not want to hear Margaret throw any customer or individual under the bus by naming names. An answer to this kind of question can run a little long if necessary to get in the essential details.

Margaret: One of my former colleagues at a past employer failed to post a rush order from a customer we had acquired less than six months before. When the products didn’t show up on time at the customer’s place of business, they called. The call came in after hours, but I was still in the office. The colleague was no longer working for us; and, of all the people there, I was the logical one to take the call. I told the customer, who was really desperate, that we would rush the order to her immediately. The customer was halfway across the country, so I had to reroute a routine shipment that was headed for another customer near there. The driver in this particular case owed me a couple favors, so that worked out OK. But this was still a little bit dangerous because there was a risk that the second customer’s order would arrive way too late. So I juggled a couple of other orders around to spread the risk. Then I called my superior and told him what I had done. I was holding my breath, but he told me I did a good job.


Charles: What do you consider your greatest skills?

Margaret should focus on skills that would be most useful in dealing with what she perceives to be the greatest challenges of the new job – based on her thorough study of the job description and her research on the company.

Margaret: I take care of my customers when they are in dire straits – upset, worried, desperate customers. I am good on the phone and so I can calm them down and assure them. And I can do that because I always know where product is – in production, in the warehouse, on the road, on the rails, in the air, wherever. I am forceful enough to get our own people to move – even when I don’t have authority over them. I do that by presenting the customer’s case very clearly and explaining what we have on the line as a company. I became really good at doing that kind of thing when I was in the Navy and had to make strong recommendations to my superiors.


NOW IT’S YOUR TURN.

For practice:

  1. Read the first question below and my comment.
  2. If you have a recording device, record an answer immediately – playing the role of Margaret. Do not think long before answering, because you would not want to take too much time during an actual interview.
  3. Go through all of the questions in this manner.
  4. Listen to yourself.
  5. Type out an improved answer to each question. Take plenty of time with this step.
  6. Repeat Step 5 until you are satisfied with your answers. If you do not have access to a recording device, type out your first answers as rapidly as you can, then go to Step 5.

Where do you need to improve?

Charles wants to see whether Margaret is aware of her faults and is confident enough to reveal them fully. In her answer, Margaret should also explain what she has been doing to correct her faults.

How do you deal with failure?

Margaret needs to be open about how her past failures affected her emotionally as well as professionally. Charles also wants to know what steps Margaret took as a result of lessons learned – and how she rebounded emotionally. Then whether, afterwards, she worked out some internal procedure for dealing with future difficulties.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

_Margaret should answer in terms of her career – not necessarily in terms of a career with Charles’s company. Charles wants to know whether Margaret has realistic expectations and whether she would be satisfied with growing professionally in the position for which she is interviewing. _

What salary would you accept?

The job description did not specify a salary, and Margaret’s resume did not mention a salary expectation. In this kind of situation, many interviewers will not even mention salary in a first interview. Nevertheless, Margaret should have an answer ready. In this case, Charles wants to be sure, again, that Margaret has realistic expectations. After reading the description, Margaret should have searched the Internet to find out what other companies are paying for similar work – including salary and benefits. She should tell Charles what she found, in terms of a range of compensation. She should not commit herself to accepting a figure in this range, however. To move the interview along, she might state that she would be very interested in learning more about the job and then getting back to the numbers.

What questions do you have?

During the interview, Margaret should have asked questions whenever she did not understand something that Charles said. But if she did not, now is the time. In addition, she might ask a question or two resulting from her research on the company. However, if she does not actually have an good question, she should not try to make one up on the spot – she would risk “unselling herself.”

By Mike Rollins on Friday November 13, 2015

This article appeared in the May-June 2015 issue of Search & Employ Magazine