Tough Interview Questions

Of late, career counseling clients have wanted to focus on interviewing.  Here are some of the main issues/questions that have come up:

How do I look for a job when I have a job?

Quietly.  Never use company equipment for a job search.  Employers have every right to check what you are doing.  Some scan computers.  They’re their computers!  There is no privacy issue.  Never give out your office phone number.  Use your cell.  If you get a call for an interview just say, “I’m in the office right now.  When would be a good time to call you back?”  They’ll understand.

Try to schedule an initial phone interview (there probably will be one) during lunch.  In any case, you will have to take off from work for an interview.  Most employers looking to hire will be flexible, but sometimes you’ll just have to come in during regular business hours.  You may need to ask for a longer lunch hour, to come in or leave early.  In any case, give yourself more than enough time for the interview.  You never want to be rushed when interviewing for a job.

What do I do if they ask me about a gap in my resume?

What do you mean “if?”  They will ask you.  Here’s the secret: TELL THE TRUTH!

If the gap was because of criminality, explain it in a cover letter.  No excuses.  Admit to having made a mistake and explain what you learned and why that makes you a better employee.  If they still ask you during the interview, repeat what you wrote.

If the gap was because of compassion – you were taking care of a relative, raising children – explain what you learned and why that makes you a better employee.  What do “stay-at-home-moms” do all day?  They schedule multiple appointments.  They multitask.  They oversee a budget.  They negotiate with vendors.  All good skills that employers want.  But be certain to include in the explanation a statement that whatever situation kept you at home no longer exists.

What if I lack the proper training?

If it’s affordable, get it!  If you can’t afford it, and it’s a requirement for the position, don’t waste everyone’s time.  You are not going to get the job.

What do I say if they ask me why I am unemployed?

See above: TELL THE TRUTH!  One of my clients had an experience similar to my own.  We both had had positions which were new to the companies that hired us.  She lasted a year; I lasted six months.  Someone told her to say something like, “It just wasn’t for me.  I found it…”  Well, whatever the “it” was, by definition, highlighted a negative.  The correct answer is the truth:  “It was a new position.  I did not think it would work out and the fact is they never replaced me.”  Simple.

And if you were fired, I repeat, explain what happened (in brief), what you learned and why it makes you a better employee.

What do I say if they ask me what my weaknesses are?

Again, what do you mean “if?”  They will.  And the answer is not, as someone advised one of my clients, “Say something technical.  That way they will know it is easy to fix.”  Well, if it’s easy to fix why haven’t you fixed it?  Again, TELL THE TRUTH.  But make it a positive.  “Some people may think this is a positive, but I think that sometimes I get too involved with customers.”  “I don’t like to fail, so sometimes I may stick with a project too long.  Of course, I’ve learned when to pull the plug and move on.”

What do I say if they ask me what I have been doing while unemployed?

Candidate A says:  I’ve sent out 100 resumes a day – on average.  My full time job has been getting a job.  I’ve succeeded in getting an average of an interview every 10 days-2 weeks.  I’ve been learning how to market myself!

Candidate B says:  I’ve used the time to learn new skills.  I’ve taken some courses.  I’ve also done some part-time assignments to keep my skills fresh.  I don’t like to be idle.  I did my job search in the evenings.  I’ve probably sent out a few hundred resumes a week and secured an interview at least every other week.

Who would you hire?