Interviewing for success

February 24, 2009 12:30:57 PM PST
So you got the interview, wipe off your sweaty palms. Calm your racing heart and try not to blow it.

Step one to a successful interview is say thank you before anything else.

A hiring manager who turned what he learned into a career consulting firm called is David Schmier.

He offers up a list of 7 questions you should not ask during an interview and 7 ways to pose questions you should always ask an potential employer.

Number one on the "never ask" list is what's my salary going to be? Save all salary discussions until later in the process, preferably when you are offered the position.

Don't ask about vacation, promotions, if you get an assistant or if you can work from home. And don't ask silly questions which don't pertain to the job.

Questions you should ask should be phrased in a way to allow you to find out about the position and brag about yourself and your past achievements.

Ask not what "problems" they're having, but what challenges face the person who gets the job.

Schmier says never be embarrassed about being out of work for awhile. In this climate you have a lot of company in the ranks of the unemployed.


As a candidate, there are lots of questions you'll want to ask in a hiring interview. But many of them are things you should wait to ask until later in the hiring process. OR you should never ask at all.

1. "WHAT'S MY SALARY GOING TO BE?" Asking about salary at the beginning of the interview process will give the impression that you care more about how much you'll make, rather than doing a great job and contributing to the success of the company. So, do what you can to delay talking compensation until later in the process, (preferably when they've made you an offer, or are about to). Also, discussing compensation as late as possible will give you more leverage to negotiate. But if a hiring manager presses you, simply say, "I'd like to hear a bit more about the responsibilities of the job before I give you an answer." Or, "I'm sure you have a salary in mind that is consistent with current industry standards and I would be very happy with that."

2. "WHAT KIND OF HOURS WILL I HAVE TO WORK?" Asking about hours early in the interview process gives the impression that your big concern is how hard you'll have to work. But if the hiring manager asks, "How many hours do you expect to work in this job?", you can answer "I expect to work a full day with the understanding that there may be times that require late hours or even weekends to get a specific project done. My goal is to do an excellent job and I'll put in whatever hours are needed to make sure that happens." 3. "HOW MUCH VACATION WILL I GET?" Most businesses follow U.S. standards on vacation time, typically 2 weeks per year along with major holidays. So, asking about vacation is a wasted question. It also gives the impression that you're reluctant to work hard.

4. "HOW SOON CAN I GET PROMOTED?" Asking for a promotion is really another way of asking for a raise. So, discussing a raise before you've even been offered the job is never a winning strategy. One of the more popular questions hiring manager ask though is, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" If you're asked this question I suggest you stay focused on the present. For example, "Well Bill, five years is a long way off. Right now I'm staying focused on landing a great job, that I'll enjoy doing, with a team I love working with. And if I do a great job in that role, I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunities to take on increased responsibilities at the company."

5. "DO I GET AN ASSISTANT?" It's completely appropriate to want to know what resources you'll have available to help you do your job. But this is the wrong way to ask it. It gives the impression that you're a prima donna and are looking for someone to do your work for you. Look under the following "7 Questions You SHOULD Ask at a Hiring Interview" to see the correct way to ask this question.

6. "CAN I WORK FROM HOME ONE DAY A WEEK?" Items like telecommuting and flex hours are usually considered compensation issues. Leave questions like this for later in the process.

7. "CAN I BRING MY CHILD TO WORK IF MY NANNY DOESN'T SHOW UP?" You should always avoid any suggestion that there are things in your personal life that could interfere with your getting to work every day or doing a good job. Make sure you find solutions to any possible disruptions at home before you start the job - that will keep them personal and not professional.

8. BONUS QUESTION. Any questions that don't support your argument that you're the very best person for the job should always be avoided. Questions like: "I hate dressing up every day. Do you have casual Friday's here?" Or "Is it okay if I bring my dog to work? She gets lonely sitting home by herself all day. Or "Are there a lot of singles at this company? I'm single and I think it's really great to go for a drink or hang out with my co-workers after work."


The questions you should ask are ones that support or enhance your argument that you're the very best person for the job.

1. "WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE JOB?" Before you can convince a hiring manager that you're the best person for the job, you'll need to be certain what the job is. Always start an interview with something like, "Mary, after reading the job description, it's my understanding that you need someone who can do X, X and X. Am I correct in that?" If Mary confirms your understanding, then you can continue to build your case that you're a perfect match for what they're looking for. But if your understanding is off, you now have the opportunity to adjust your presentation so that you do match up.

2. "WHAT'S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING THE PERSON WHO WILL GET THIS JOB?" The person they hire is one who will not only excel at the routine tasks but one who can successfully tackle the difficult bits as well. This question helps you find out what that big problem is so that you can build your case that you can help solve it for them.

3. "WHAT RESOURCES WOULD MY DEPARTMENT HAVE AVAILABLE TO HELP US DO A GREAT JOB?" This is the correct way to ask "Do I get an assistant?" Your question is based on wanting to do a better job. Also, you're not asking just for yourself, but on behalf of your entire team.

4. "HOW WILL THE PERFORMANCE OF THE PERSON HIRED BE MEASURED?" Getting the answer to this question will further help you identify what the company is looking for so that you can match yourself to that.

5. "BASED ON MY RESUME AND EVERYTHING YOU'VE HEARD TODAY, DO YOU THINK I HAVE THE RIGHT QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE JOB?" As the interview is coming to a close, asking this question will help you identify any weaknesses the hiring manager might feel you have. This will give you the opportunity to address it as you continue the hiring process. To address it immediately acknowledge what the hiring manage is saying, and respond by saying it's an area you felt you needed to work on as well. Then let them know how you're taking action on that - either with an online course or in a volunteer opportunity. Then in your follow-up contact with them, give an update on how you're doing with that effort.

6. "WHAT ARE NEXT STEPS?" After the interview, you'll want to be in touch with the hiring manager at key moments. But for that contact to be effective it needs to be at the right times. For example, if they're making a decision in a week on who they're bringing back for follow-up interviews and you check in with them in three weeks then you've missed the boat. Here's a good way to ask, "Ms. Garcia, do you know when you'll be making a decision on who you'll be bringing back for follow-up interviews?" Once you get the time frame for the follow-ups, you should ask, "And when do you expect to make a final decision on the person you're hiring?" Finish with, "If I have anything I wanted to add to what we've talked about today, or if I find something that you might find interesting, would it be okay for me to get back in touch?"

7. "SHOW THEM THAT YOU LIKE THEM AND THAT YOU'LL FIT IN". This is not about a specific question but how you'll pose any question you ask. Companies want employees who are excited to be working there. So, don't hesitate to show your enthusiasm at the prospect of joining their team. Companies also want to know that you'll fit seamlessly into their culture. Do this by incorporating their cultural symbols ? how they talk, what they talk about, how they dress, what their values and goals are, etc. You can easily find this information by researching them on the web or in the media, by talking to people who work there or did in the past, or by speaking to your recruiter if you're working with one. You can also stop by company location and discretely observing them for a few minutes.

8. BONUS QUESTION: "AS AN EMPLOYEE YOURSELF, WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT WORKING HERE?" Asking this question serves two purposes. First it gives the interviewer a chance to talk about themselves a bit, (and everybody loves to do that.) It can also reveal things about the company that you'll want to know. Even though we're in a serious jobs recession, you'll still want to be happy wherever you work. If you discover things about the company that you just don't think you can live with, it might be better to wait for the next opportunity to come along.

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