Tag Archives: Interviews

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.


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


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)

How to be memorable in a job interview beauty contest

I can only remember one Miss America winner.  She had a bold nose, played a lap harp like a rock instrument, and her family spent 3 years in South America as missionaries.  That was Charlene Wells.

Charlene was different, really different in a few big ways.  She won without getting a nose job.  It was the first time she had entered a beauty contest.  She wanted to win, but didn’t obsess about it.

Charlene was practically odd in those things.

Job interviews are often beauty contests.  If there are more than 3 people being interviewed, 2 could do the job.  If there are 10 people being interviewed, there will be at least 5 who could fill the position.

So how do you get picked?  You have to be memorable in a lot of good ways.

What is different about you and your background? School grades, hobbies, the network in your basement and that you wore a nice suit may make you stand out.  That you sold out the High School Yearbook ads in one month by yourself or you lived in a cave in college will be even more memorable.

Make sure your interviewer observes how you are different.  Don’t rub their face in it, but be different.  Give them a couple of personal tidbits to remember you by. Distinguish yourself from the herd. It could be that you have 5 brothers, raise rabbits, or love dogs. Yes, it may even be that you are incredibly qualified.  Something about you must be memorable or you will be an also ran.

Want to really stand out?  Send two thank you notes to everyone you interviewed with.  Send one email as soon as you get home.  Send another thank you on paper.

Being grateful for an interview will set you apart.  Two days later when they get the paper thank you, it reminds them who you are. 

So you have a lot of competition?  Chances are slim?  Grab the opportunity by the throat and be memorable in a nice way.


Something To Do Today

Make a list of things that are noticeably different about you in a good way.  Be sure personal notes of interest are on the list.  Get some help from your friends and family.

4 things to make the hiring manager believe so you get more

Talk about bad hiring interviews.  Here is what happened to the founder of Apple.

So we went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us?  Or we’ll give it to you.  We just want to do it.  Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’  And they said, ‘No.’ So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, ‘Hey, we don’t need you.  You haven’t got through college yet.’  (Steve Jobs on founding Apple Computers)

Your pay reflects your interview

Two identical openings are being filled.  You are going to be paid just below the listed salary range.  The other candidate, someone with identical experience and the same pay in his previous job, will be paid at the top of the listed salary range and 10% more than you. Why? The interviews.

No recruiter can tell you what you will be paid, not even for working the counter at McDonalds.  The difference in pay reflects how you interview.

Every hiring manager wants you to help with an immediate problem.  They also hope you will help propel them personally to a bigger job and higher income. The trouble is that hiring managers have no crystal ball.  All they have is interviews. So they offer higher pay to the person who impresses them the most in the interview.  If you knock their socks off, they’ll even pay you more than they had budgeted for the position.

Hiring managers want 4 things:

  1. Help with a critical problem right now.
  2. To save money.
  3. To make more money.
  4. To make processes work faster.

If you can convince a manager that you will do all 4 of these things better than anyone on his staff, he’ll pay you very well.

Next we start on how to convince managers you are better than anyone else.


Coming up

You, the movie – stay focused

You, as Ed McMahon

The most powerful questions

Beating the tests

1 good, and 3 bad jokes for interviews

I cannot call to mind a single instance where I have been irreverent, except toward the things which were sacred to other people. (Mark Twain)

I admit it.  This is my biggest problem.  I make a jokes in interviews.  I’m irreverent. These jokes really have been used in interviews.

Q.  When do you like to arrive at work?

A.  One hour before quitting time.


Q.  How much do you want to earn?

A.  Enough to retire after my first day on the job.


Q.  Are you honest?

A.  Yes, if you don’t leave food in the refrigerator or money in your desk drawer.

You need to establish a good relationship with your interviewer.  You also need to figure out what is “sacred” to him and be reverent.  Honesty and hard work are two good areas to be careful about.  If you want to joke, taking hard work too far is a better joke than being a slacker.


Q.  When do you like to arrive at work?

A.  My biggest problem is making sure I go home at night so that I HAVE an arrival time.


Be human.  Have some fun.  Just do it in a way that benefits you and your interviewer.

Something to do today

Think about the negative jokes you tell.  Can you turn them around and make them about doing too much that is good?


Later: Start a salary bidding war

Top secret job hunting

Read want ads even if you are NOT job hunting


Free career intelligence

How to turn your dishwasher into a snowplow

7 interview tricks to be clean and undistracting

There is nothing like being trapped in a small, poorly ventilated interview room with a noisome, pungent candidate (or interviewer).

One guy I worked with….. smelled…. funny.   Another always wore each white dress shirts for 4 days.  A woman I worked with had a mouthwash she used at lunch with a bouquet like bourbon (hmmm). I lived with 3 elevator installers who showered once a week, used lots of cologne, and changed their bed sheets daily. No one wants to work with someone whose lack of cleanliness is distracting.

Clean is a minimum for an interview.  Clean and sharp looking is better.

Consider these ideas for the 24 hours before a job interview:

1.         Fill up your gas tank the day before so your hands don’t smell like gasoline at the interview.

2.         No onions, garlic, beans, curries, pungent cheese, or other strong smelling foods.

3.         Avoid perfumes, colognes, perfumed deodorants, strongly scented soaps, etc.  Some people react allergically to the smells and their sinuses plug up.

4.         Consider buying 2 or 3 shirts or blouses just for interviewing and take them to the professionals to have them cleaned and pressed before every interview. Buy new neckties so the knot is crisp and clean.

5.         Polish those shoes.  A few people still set a lot of store by how shoes shine.

6.         Shave before an afternoon interview.

7.         Put a TicTac in your mouth when you pull into the parking lot.

A lot of people are hired despite being sweaty, having wrinkled clothes, and a 5 o’clock shadow.  But, it is always at a lower salary than they could earn otherwise. Cleanliness will make a difference.

Something to do today

Put a box of TicTacs in your glove compartment just for job interviews.


Later: Interview like an Eagle -Final

Start a salary bidding war

Top secret job hunting

Read want ads even if you are NOT job hunting

Free career intelligence

How to turn your dishwasher into a snowplow

Do you have to tell the truth? How?

I had two people axed for falsifying their resumes in a year.  The saddest part is that in both cases the lie that cost them their job was not significant to getting the job.  In other words, if they told the truth they still would have gotten the job, they would still have it.  One was a lie about education.  The other was a lie about a previous job.

So how do you let people know about a problem in an interview and still get the job?  By being accurate and brief.  If you merely attended a school without graduating, say it.   They can ask you about your degrees if they care.  Don’t make up any jobs. If they care about a gap in your resume, they’ll ask.  They understand taking 6 months to find a job.  It happens.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you what to say about a job that was horrible with a boss from… never mind.  That’s tomorrow.

The way you get people to trust you is to be honest.  Gasp!  If you have to talk about something you want to avoid, say only one sentence.  Be accurate and very brief.  Get on to the next question and anwer, the one they will remember.

Something to do today

Write down one sentence replies to questions you don’t want to delve into during an interview.  Go over the list an hour or two before the interview.  Right before the interview read the list of things you want to emphasize.  You need to be thinking positively when you go into your interview.


Later: Interview like an Eagle – 3

Start a salary bidding war

Top secret job hunting

Read want ads even if you are NOT job hunting

Free career intelligence

How to turn your dishwasher into a snowplow

How you can accidentally make job search success impossible

This story relates directly to your job search, phone calls, interviews, writing your resume, and getting a job offer.

Complete panic, worry, and unhealthy fear were created by my 17 year old daughter as she graduated from high school. In an hour she was going to get her wisdom teeth removed. She’d kill me if I use her name, so let’s call her Gina.

Gina and a friend spent a few days swapping stories about cowardice in the face of needles. They talked about it often enough to amplify their concerns. So Gina was panicked about getting the IV before they put her under. The thought of getting near a needle is horrible to her now. Her friend was bragging about cowering against a wall while she was restrained two years ago to get an inoculation. Gina was fantasizing about how badly she would react when the needle gets close.

Gina came back from the oral surgeon alive.  She had tears streaming down her face before the needle even touched her. She had three holes in her arm because they didn’t get it right. I think part of the problem was hers. Competent nurses became incompetent when faced with her dread and complete lack of faith.

People who need to leave their job are often the same way. They focus on visions of starvation and divorce for months and years before they leave.  All the horrors stories they have ever heard play through their mind over and over.  The will to better themselves is frozen and then shattered by fear.

Even worse than mere fear, you can attract all your worst dreams to you.  As you concentrate on horrible possibilities, you will be drawn to those situations.  The characteristics you concentrate on, will be in your new company.

I don’t know the exact mechanism, but most people get the job they think about the most.  If they concentrate on finding a great job, they usually find at least a good one.  If they concentrate on avoiding horrible, mean spirited, lying, deceitful people in their new company, the usually join below average or horrible companies.  They get the coworkers they dreaded. They are trapped in job after job in companies of despair.

Instead of spending your time talking to someone unemployed who lost their job in November of 2011, talk to someone who just got a new job. Talk to people who have made great job choices. Reminisce with folks who did things right.

Look for a job while you are still employed.  Find out about the company you are moving to.  Talk to your new coworkers before you take the job.  There is a lot less danger than you have been worrying about.

If you concentrate on the positive, you will find the good in every experience.  If you concentrate on the negative, you won’t have a good experience, no matter how good the experience is. You can make good things possible or impossible.

Something to do today

Make a list of the people who tell horrible war stories about job changes.  Stay away from them.  Stay away from everyone who teaches you fear and panic.

Buy The New Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, or Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.  Read it. Absorb it.


Later: The rubber band solution for nervousness

No BS interviews – stop the ugly questions

I never did give them hell. I just told the truth, and they thought it was hell.  (Harry S. Truman)

How about this for answering an illegal or immoral question without losing the job?

Q: “Do you have any children?”

A: “I don’t have any entanglements that will keep me from traveling as needed. In the last year I have had to hop a flight 5 times with only an hour’s notice.”

Q: “That’s good, but are you married or divorced?”

A: “My personal life is very stable.  It is a great support to me in my work and is why I have been able to increase sales 40% this year at my current job.”

Q: “Are you living with anyone?”

A: Smile and laugh “If you are worried about my goldfish, don’t.  If you will ask me what you are really worried about, I’ll answer the question. What are you concerned about?  What red flags have been raised because of previous people who held this job?”

Three times is too much.  If an interviewer comes back to an inquiry you don’t want to pursue for a third time, stop them.  One way is with the Shirley Temple laugh I mentioned in my last article.   The other is to stop the interview cold and ask what the real problem is. You can combine the two effectively. I have found that if you ask for respect, you’ll get it. Smile, chuckle with your interviewer about the question, and then lay your concern on the line.  If you have to yell and threaten to get respect, you will only get an enemy, not respect or a job.

If you help your interviewer cure the underlying concern, you will be respected.  If you allow a lot of BS questions that are offensive to you, you won’t want the job and it won’t be offered to you.  The interviewer will have felt your resentment and pass over you.  So stop things and discuss the real problem. You have a right to ask questions too.

Something to do today

Send me a list of offensive or difficult questions you have been asked in an interview.   I’ll answer them in my newsletters.


Later:             The meek will inherit…

How to quit

The old boy network

Exploit the old boys

The money question

A dozen ways to stand out, be remembered, and be hired

A moth trap can teach you how to stand out, be remembered, and be hired. The principles can be used in interviews, resumes, and networking.

The moth trap in our pantry is supposed to be much better than the average one.  It has the same sticky glue and pheromones, but instead of just a white sheet of cardboard, it has black stripes on it.  I don’t know if it really is better, but I paid a few dollars extra for it.  If it is better, great.  I made a great decision.  If it is only as good as the cheaper trap, I still made a good decision.  Either way the trap will catch the bugs before they lay eggs in our flour, cornmeal and popcorn.  I get protection either way, and maybe I get a little better protection with the more expensive traps.

Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.  (Mark Twain)

In every interview you have to have something that sets you apart. It is nice if it is a huge difference, but that is not absolutely necessary. One of the reasons a college degree or certification in your field is valuable is because it sets you apart.  People can remember how you are different and hopefully better.  Other things that can set you apart are:

  • Putting yourself through college
  • Courses you have taken
  • Projects you have lead
  • Having lots of kids…. or having no kids
  • Your volunteer work
  • Your passions and hobbies
  • Dressing sharper than is required
  • Shoes that shine like the sun…. or suede tennis shoes
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Someone you know who already works there
  • Long hair…. or a marine haircut
  • Something amazing and relevant you did in high school

Remember why I bought the expensive moth trap…. it MIGHT be better. Anything you can do to show you just might be better than Mr. Bland will help.

For the moth traps, it was just a black stripe on cardboard.  What is it that you can do, say, be, or show that makes you worth a few extra dollars?

Something to do today

Every time someone is hired at your current job, go find out what was different about that person.  When you are told, “They were more qualified,” ask, “Were there any small details that seemed to confirm that they were better?”  You may be surprised what little details separate first place from no place at all.

The harsh truth about job interview questions

There really are only 3 job interview questions.  If you understand that, you’ll do much better.

Click here for the article in Forbes.