ALC Consulting

June 30, 2009

Interviewing—More Wacky Interviewing Questions

Filed under: Interviewing — Anne Cloward @ 1:48 pm
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div>These questions are culled from an extensive list compiled by Monster. In no particular order:

  1. Why do you want this job?

    I need something to do to keep busy during the day.

  2. There’s no right or wrong answer, but if you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?

    Somewhere where someone isn’t asking me some wacky questions.

  3. What is your favorite memory from childhood?

    What has that got to do with my ability to analyze Crystal reports?

  4. What do you do in your spare time?

    Go on interviews to see how many silly questions people can ask me.

  5. What do you like to do for fun?

    Stay up late playing video games till three in the morning.

  6. Sell me this pencil.

    Why should I waste your time? Aren’t you looking for a DBA, (Project Manager, Systems Analyst)?

  7. Can you describe a time when your work was criticized?

    I am an editor, my work is always up for criticism, it comes with the territory.

  8. Tell me one thing about yourself you wouldn’t want me to know.

    I still don’t want you to know, so I won’t tell you.

  9. What is your biggest regret, and why?

    That I am sitting here interviewing when I really would rather be at the beach.

  10. What are three positive character traits you don’t have?

    Um. Pride, patience, and honesty.

  11. What irritates you about other people, and how do you deal with it?

    Asking silly questions that have no relevance to the job. I am trying to be patient and not walk out of here.

  12. How many times do a clock’s hands overlap in a day?

    Can I put this in my file of “Dumb and Irrelevant Questions that really don’t have anything to do with the position, but give someone a chance to see if they can make me squirm.”

  13. How would you weigh a plane without scales?

    See above.

  14. If you could choose one superhero power, what would it be and why?

    See above also.

  15. If you could get rid of any one of the US states, which one would you get rid of, and why?

    Another one.

  16. With your eyes closed, tell me step-by-step how to tie my shoes.

    Again, please stop these!

  17. Tell me 10 ways to use a pencil other than writing.

    I use it to clamp on when I am having a seizure.

  18. What was the most difficult period in your life, and how did you deal with it?

    I don’t think this is the time to mention that when I found out my husband was having an affair, I was ready to kill him on the spot.

    Then there is the time the FBI wiretapped my phone for a year.

  19. What kind of car do you drive?

    Maybe, like many Portlanders, I don’t have a car and use public transportation. See Questions 12-17.

    Next: More questions that really don’t make sense, including my all-time favorite one.


Wacky Interview Questions

Filed under: Interviewing — Anne Cloward @ 10:59 am
Tags: , ,

I love this picture and wanted to use it in this series.

Today I am going to digress a bit and talk about some wacky interview questions that I have heard over the years. Yes, I have been asked some of them myself.

  • If you were a tree, animal, bird, “Lost” character (or other creature), what would you be?

I honestly feel that this has nothing to do with my being a developer, writer or designer. project manager or marketing analyst. It certainly doesn’t give me a chance to show my stuff and wastes time.

  • Or If you were a tree, what would be your greatest weakness?


  • Why is there fuzz on a tennis ball?

Again, I have no idea why anyone would want me to know that fact in order to obtain employment.

  • If you won the $10 million lottery, would you still work?

Do you think I am crazy as well as unemployed!

  • Silence. You answer and interviewer’s question and instead of asking another, the interviewer just sits there in silence.

This is meant to unnerve you. If this comes after a tricky question (the fatal flaw or who was your worst boss one), you are tempted to rush in and fill in the void with babbling.

Refuse to be intimated. Just shoot back, after a reasonable length of time, “Is there anything else I can fill in on that point?”

  • What do you define as sexual harassment, or pornography?

No one in his right mind would touch that one. Walk out on the interviewer fast!

  • What is the airspeed of an unladen swallow?

The only correct answer to this one is: African or European swallow? Or get fancy and go with:

“I would have to ask for more information on the circumstances. Now the obvious first question is the geographic origin of the swallow but I doubt that that would actually be a large determining factor in coming to a meaningful conclusion. I can’t imagine that the differences in sub-species of swallows would account for more than a small fraction of a difference in airspeeds given that all other factors are the same.

More important aspects would be the density and makeup of the air the swallow is traveling in, whether the swallow is traveling in any sort of wind, whether the swallow is traveling under its own power, etc.

A scenario where our hapless bird is shot out of a cannon with a head wind in Denver will have a dramatically different answer than a swallow traveling under its own power at sea level in calm.

Additionally, even if I was given this information I would have to confess my ignorance being that I am neither an aeronautical engineer nor an ornithologist”

I mean, if they want nerd I am going to give them NERD!!

  • Where do you see yourself five years from now?

One classic answer from comedian Mitch Hedberg is, “Celebrating the 5-year anniversary of you asking me this question!”

  • What would you like to see on your tombstone when you die?

Um, let me get back to you on that one. Or, I plan to be cremated and have NO tombstone to worry about.

  • Based on what you know about us, (from a 30 minute interview) what would you suggest we change in order to improve our mission?

Write a new mission statement and figure out what it is you as a company want to be.

  • Have you ever brought a lawsuit against an employer?

No, but I’m always open to new experiences.

  • What interests you about our company?

Um, I heard you were hiring?

Next: How to blow a job interview by your behavior

June 27, 2009

Interviewing—Answering the Tough Questions–Part 1

Filed under: Contracting,Interviewing — Anne Cloward @ 3:39 pm
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For many people, an interview is faced with as much anticipation as a visit to the dentist. They view it as a necessary step to getting a job.

Depending on who does the interviewing, it can be a very painful experience, that’s for sure. Are you interviewing with an HR professional or a hiring manager?

Does it make a difference? Absolutely.

Most HR people are not familiar with the skills needed fill a position; after all, they have it right in front of them. They really don’t know what a lot of the acronyms mean, but they can talk their way through it. Hiring managers are the worker bees. They know what the job entails, because they work with the team and know how things work in the company.

Anyway, here are some typical questions that you will get almost all the time (with my editorial comments).

  1. Tell me about yourself.

    No, the interviewer doesn’t want to know your life story, just do you have the skills and background to program, design, write or whatever.


    Use this question to discover the employer’s greatest need. Say something like, “I have a number of accomplishments, I’d like to tell you about, but in order to make the best use of our time together and talk directly to your needs. To help me do that, could you tell me more about the most important priorities of this position? All I know is what I (heard from the recruiter, read in the job description, etc.).

  2. What are your greatest strengths?

    Hokey at best. Try to keep your cool here.


    Try to set a balance between arrogance and humility. Mentally you should have prepared a list of your 8 greatest strengths and you want to get them into the mix during the interview, according to Scott Olsen of The Olsen Group in Portland. But if you answered the previous question properly, you will know what they are looking for.

  3. What are your greatest weaknesses?

    This question is designed to shorten the candidate list. Either you get an A for honesty, but an F for interview.


    Disguise a strength as a weakness. For example, “I sometimes push myself too hard,” or “I’m a nitpicky editor.” A problem with this strategy is that it is so widely used that it may come across as so canned to the interviewer.

    Another way to handle it is to go back to the needs identified by the interviewer as important and work them into the conversation. If you were applying for a sales position, you could say. “If given a choice, I’d like to spend as much time as possible in front of my prospects selling, as opposed to shuffling papers back at the office. Of course, long ago I learned the importance of filing paperwork properly, and I do it conscientiously. But what I really love to do is sell.”

  4. Tell me about something you did—or failed to do—that you now feel ashamed of.

    This is a trap! No interviewer should be asking a question like this. It’s none of their business. Some inexperienced interviewees get caught here, and use this as an opportunity to unburden themselves of a long ago incident that is way too personal. Don’t use the tactic by some members of a previous administration to declare they have no regrets.


    Say that you practice some self reflection at the end of the day, and that if you recognize something is awry, you try to remedy it as soon as possible, and by doing that, you don’t let the garbage pile up.

    Next: More Tough interview Questions

June 22, 2009

More Help from Your Friends–Part 1

Filed under: Interviewing,Preparing — Anne Cloward @ 6:04 am
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Are you brave enough to do this?

As part of your interviewing preparations, ask for some help from your friends. But not just any friends; the friends you need to find have two major qualifications:

  •  They have fashion sense and know what is appropriate dress:They always look well put together, no matter what the occation:
  • They are willing to be honest with you.

By fashion sense, I mean, the person who always looks put together at work. Disqualify anyone who wears the following: 

  • Shorts.
  •  Jeans.
  •  Skirts that are too short.
  • Pants that are too low-rise or too tight.
  • Blouses that are too low-cut or too short – don’t show your cleavage or your belly.  
  • Underwear (bras, bra straps, briefs, boxers, etc.) that is visible. Don’t wear any underwear that shows – even if your bra straps match your top.
  • Flip-flops or sneakers.

Refer to the photos above for an illustration of what they should not consider appropriate work dress.
Inappropriate dress translates to inappropriate work. Some people honestly believe that sloppy people do sloppy work, and that carelessness carries over to the work place.

From the Career Solvers Web site:

Every year after the big celebrity awards shows, the pundits weigh in on the best and worst dressed of the evening and Sunday night’s Golden Globe Awards was no exception. Many of the popular style columns and blogs are already “dissing” Renee Zelwegger’s dress, Susan Sarandon’s sunglasses, and Beyonce’s poorly contained cleavage. And while an interview isn’t quite the same as a walk down the red carpet, hiring authorities are paying attention to what candidates wear to job interviews. Here are some of the biggest fashion mistakes I see job seekers make.


  1. Long fingernails with bright or distracting nail polish. Nails should be clipped short and it is recommended that you wear clear or light polish.
  2. Short skirts. Make sure you can sit and cross your legs comfortably. If your teenage daughter thinks your skirt is the right length, it is probably too short.
  3. Too much jewelry. Multiple bangle bracelets can be noisy and distracting during an interview. Only wear one pair of earings (and only in your ears).
  4. Too much perfume. An overpowering scent can quickly turn a one hour interview into a 20 minute interview. Go easy on the perfume or skip it altogether.
  5. Inappropriate footwear. It is fine to wear a shoe with a heel, but stay away from stilettos and open-toed shoes.
  6. Big Hair. If you plan to wear your hair down, try to keep it off your face. Otherwise opt for a neat style that pulls the hair away from your face.


  1. Unruly facial hair. Clean shaven is preferred. If you have a moustache or a beard, get a trim before the interview.
  2. Long Hair. Off the face and ears is best.
  3. Unkempt fingernails. Nails should be trimmed and clean.
  4. Too much cologne. Same reasons as stated for women.
  5. Unpolished Shoes. It’s not just about having a nice suit. Clean, polished shoes complete the look.
  6. Lose Change. Jostling change in your pocket can be noisy and distracting. Clear out your pockets before the interview.

During an interview you want to be remembered for what you said.

Action Steps

Have your friend review your wardrobe with you and make suggestions for improvement, if it is needed. Have them shop with you. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to get good clothes. If your budget is tight (and whose isn’t these days?) learn how to shop thrift shops.

If you need a haircut, get one from a decent stylist. It’s the cheapest form of plastic surgery.

Becky Meier, who manages two weekly job seeker meetings in my town, mentioned one day that men who are clean shaven are 30% more likely to be hired. Clean shaven men are perceived as being more honest. Grey is fine for a man’s hair, but a grey beard ages him.

 Next: Making more use of friends and their advice.




June 18, 2009

Interviewing—What Not To Wear


In case you haven’t heard, when you get to the point that you have landed an interview, you have a good chance of getting the job. Since your résumé has presented you well, and you meet enough of the requirements, the company would now like to see if you will fit in. This decision may be made in less than four minutes.

How much information can you communicate in four minutes? Not a lot. So much of their decision is made based on non-verbal cues. What you wear, how you present yourself, how you introduce yourself, all influence that decision. As my friend Rich Kolikof, from the Winthrop Research Group, states, “There is always an emotional element to hiring decisions.”

Piercings and Tattoos

I know that you feel that you are yourself and people should accept you for who you are. But many people are offended by multiple piercings and tattoos. One or two earrings are fine, but leave the bolt in your tongue, your two nose rings, lip and eyebrow rings at home. Cover your tattoos with sleeves. If you look anything like these two photos, make the appropriate adjustments. Just follow the instructions below.

Cover those Tattoos!

Take it out!

Get rid of the casual clothes that make you look as if you are headed to the beach, or anywhere but the office.

Leave these home!

Cover your shoulders!

No dumb T-shirts!

Ditch the torn jeans!


Try for a more professional look. It does not matter how casual the office is, you are the newcomer here. Take your cue from this collage of tastefully dressed ladies.(Just kidding!)

One city went so far as to make it law. Check out this link.

Next: Interview questions

June 17, 2009

Interviewing—More Homework

Filed under: Interviewing,Preparing,Professionalism — Anne Cloward @ 4:47 pm
Tags: , ,

Step 2- Looking for Connections

Now that you have the scoop on the company, go to LinkedIn. You do have a LinkedIn account, don’t you? (I will publish a quick start on Linkedin one day.)

No matter what page you are on, the search functions is always at the top of the page. Look at all the Search options you have. Look up the company and then look at people who work there who are on LinkedIn. Read as much as you can about the company and its people.

Step 3—Logistics Planning

This is just common sense, but bears repeating. You know the address of the place you are going to visit since you asked the Admin who made the appointment for it. If you are the slightest bit unsure of where you are going, either plan a route using, MapQuest, Google Maps, or the local public transportation planner. If you have a GPs, and plan on using it, program in the address.

Even better, (and I have done this before) make a dry run the day or night before your interview. By doing this, you will be sure you know where you are going. If there is any local construction, you will be aware of that too.

Step 4—Your Folder

Compose a folder for your interview. I like to do this the night before, so I don’t forget things. It should contain:

  • Two copies of your résumé (someone may not have read it, so be prepared)
  • Any notes you have on the company, or questions you might want to ask at the end of the interview
  • All your job history information. (If you need to complete an application, you will have dates, company names and addresses)
  • The names, addresses and contact information for your references
  • Any confirmation information that you have from the company, including the phone number of the person who you need to report to.
  • Your directions to getting to the interview site.

Next: What to wear to an interview.

June 16, 2009

Interviewing—Doing Your Homework

Filed under: Interviewing,Preparing — Anne Cloward @ 4:20 pm
Tags: ,

I know, you thought your days of doing homework were long past you, but when you are searching for a job, you are always doing homework. If you get a phone call requesting and interview at XYZ company, your assignment begins now.
Before you hang up: Get as much information as you can about your interview.

Who are you going to interview with?

What is the title of this person? (HR Specialist or Hiring Manager?)

Will it be a group interview?

Where are you located? (Unless you are very familiar with the area, this can be quite important, since some large companies have multiple buildings on their campuses.)

Get on the Internet and start searching:

    Look up the company’s website. Even if you know Nike makes shoes, go find out more about the company and their philosophy, etc.

If they have a business site, so much the better. This is where you can research the company from a business standpoint. Sometimes this is a part of the public site.

See what Business Week and Fortune Magazine have to say about them. That should give you a wider view of the company.

Don’t read the negative stuff. All companies have their flaws and someone will write about them. This stuff can stick in your mind and come out at the worst time. I know this from personal experience.

Next: More Interviewing Homework

June 11, 2009

Interviewing—The Phone Screen

Filed under: Interviewing — Anne Cloward @ 8:42 pm
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Once upon a time, there was a TV show called Laugh-in. It was edgy and irreverent and terribly funny. Ernestine, played brilliantly by Lily Tomlin was a star in her own right.  Ernestine had her own agenda and stuck to it, no matter who was on the line. And her laugh was pure snarkiness.  Today’s topic deals with the phenomenon of the Phone Screen.


I do have a phone screen story to tell from my tech writing days. I applied to a Very Well Known Company in Salt Lake. They were famous all over the world for their seminars, books and planners. I won’t name names, but they did have a stadium named after them at one time.

I received a call from someone. She had one question for me.

“How low will you go?”


“How low will you go for a salary? If you answer with too high a number, we won’t call you in for an interview.”

I could not believe that was their main requirement for selecting a technical writer! So the Well Known Company in Salt Lake City missed out on having my talents define their seminars and other products. Their loss, I am sure.


For those of you who think that the phone screen is a preliminary call made to weed out people and once you ace it you are on to the “real interview,” don’t dismiss it lightly. The Phone Screen is becoming a tool of choice for hiring managers these days.

Sarah Needleman of the Wall Street Journal has a great article on the subject this week.

Job seekers, beware the telephone.

For years, the phone interview was a preliminary step that allowed an employer to give a candidate the once-over and schedule an in-person interview. But these days, many recruiters are using the phone interview to pose the kinds of in-depth questions previously reserved for finalists. What’s more, job hunters say the bar for getting to the next level has been raised much higher, catching many of them off-guard.

In a recent first interview for a senior marketing job, Robyn Cobb was grilled by a hiring manager for an hour and a half on topics ranging from her work history and marketing philosophy to her knowledge of the company and its industry.

“I thought it was never going to end,” says the 45-year-old Ms. Cobb, who lives in Alpharetta, Ga., and was laid off in December from a midsize communications firm.

Until recently, candidates could often breeze through most phone interviews in 10 minutes or less by answering a few softball questions. Little preparation was necessary, and most people could expect to be invited for a “real” interview before hanging up.

These days, job hunters are finding that they need to reserve an hour or more for a phone interview. They may be asked to discuss their full work history, including the exact dates of their experience in various business areas. They may also be expected to cite examples and exact stats that illustrate their strengths and offer details on how they would handle the position.

During a call earlier this year about a director-of-Internet-marketing job, Jaclyn Agy of Wheat Ridge, Colo., says she was asked to describe about 10 different marketing initiatives she’s worked on, plus provide metrics resulting from each. “I didn’t have those stats off the top of my head,” she recalls of the hour-long conversation. “I expected to be asked that in a face-to-face.”

Ms. Agy, 30, says she assumed she’d need only to describe two or three past accomplishments in general terms. “I was taken back by how specific [the interviewer] was getting,” she says. Ms. Agy was better prepared for a follow-up phone interview. She was later invited to meet with eight members of the hiring company in its Denver office, though she didn’t land the position.

Employers say they’ve raised the phone-interview stakes in part because they’re attracting more candidates who meet their basic qualifications. They’re digging deep to identify the best ones, and in some cases adding second-round rigor to phone screens as one way to accomplish that.

“You can be pickier,” says Joyce A. Foster, vice president of human resources at Hilex Poly Co. LLC in Hartsville, S.C. Salaried job openings at the company’s 10 U.S. locations have been attracting up to three times as many qualified applicants — including more candidates with experience in Hilex’s niche, plastic film and bag manufacturing and recycling — than during more robust economic times, she says.

“Before, if a person had only recycling experience in paper, we might have said OK,” Ms. Foster says. “Today we can be more specific. I’m going to find someone who’s an even better fit.”

Recruiters are also seeking to weed out those who seem likely to change jobs as soon as the economy turns around. “We’re trying to determine whether what we’re offering truly meets their long-term objectives,” says Paul Newman, assistant vice president of human resources at OppenheimerFunds. And when it comes to candidates who were laid off, recruiters for the New York-based asset-management firm want to know the circumstances behind what happened. “Was this person a high-performance, talented individual who was let go because of the economics of the business,” he says, “or an average employee let go in the first round” of layoffs?

For many firms, evaluating candidates over the phone also serves as a way to save on recruiting costs. “In this economy, you can’t afford to fly every person out for an interview,” says Jeff Cousens, vice president of organizational development at Patrick Energy Services Inc. in Lisle, Ill. After joining the energy concern in January, he instructed recruiters to complete up to four comprehensive phone interviews with candidates before inviting finalists in. Previously, they made just one brief call, mainly to schedule in-person interviews. “When a candidate comes in to meet the hiring manager, recruiters have already gone through every detail to make sure they’re a fit,” says Mr. Cousens.


Job seekers should prepare for a phone interview as seriously as they do for an in-person one. When asked about your qualifications, for example, you can craft a better answer by asking what the company wants and why, says J.T. O’Donnell, a career strategist in North Hampton, N.H.

If you’re asked how many years of experience you have with a program you have used extensively, but not for years, you could reply by asking how much is required and at what level, says Ms. O’Donnell. Maybe the company chose a number based on how much experience the last person in the position had, and you might have just as much, but in a condensed time frame. You can then provide a convincing reason as to why you should be considered for the job even if your answer doesn’t match exactly what the recruiter is looking for.

You should also prepare to answer more complex and detailed questions in phone interviews by creating a list of key statistics and abbreviated answers to commonly asked questions, says Bill McGowan, founder of communications-coaching firm Clarity Media Group Inc. Some examples: What do you know about the company? Why do you want the job? What are your greatest strengths? What are your career goals? How do you see yourself fitting in?

“What traps a lot of people is they think and talk at the same time. They make up answers on the fly,” says Mr. McGowan. “It’s better if you know your conversational path.”

Don’t expect to defer answering questions to your first meeting with a hiring manager, says Maureen Crawford Hentz, a talent-acquisition manager at Danvers, Mass.-based lighting manufacturer Osram Sylvania Inc. That may have been the case in the past, but not now. “People think if you’re talking to someone in HR, this isn’t a real interview,” she says. But these days, it might be your only shot.

Be sure to brush up on your phone etiquette, too. Ms. Crawford Hentz says candidates have put her on hold while they answered another call or tended to their children. Once she could tell a candidate was visiting a drive-through restaurant during a call because she heard a loudspeaker requesting the person’s lunch order.

Finally, be mindful of common faux pas, such as giving long-winded answers that go off topic. “Sometimes the longer you talk, the more it sounds like you’re trying to explain your way through something,” says Mr. McGowan. “The most confident people don’t need to drone on.” Another common flub: answering recruiters’ questions before they’ve finished speaking. Not only does that show disrespect, but it “makes it seem like you have stocked, canned answers,” he says.

Write to Sarah E. Needleman at

June 5, 2009

Informational Interviews– Part III: The Bad and the Ugly



These get pushy, in my opinion.

About preparing for this career:

  1. Does your work relate to any experiences or studies you had in college?
  2. How well did your college experience prepare you for this job?
  3. What courses have proved to be the most valuable to you in your work?
  4. What courses do you wish you had taken that would have prepared you?
  5. If you were a college student again, what would you do differently to prepare you for this job?
  6. How important are grades/GPA for obtaining a job in this field?
  7. What do you feel is the best educational preparation for this career?
  8. How do you think [name of your college]’s reputation is viewed when it comes to hiring?
  9. How did you prepare for this work?
  10. If you were entering this career today, would you change your preparation in any way to facilitate entry?

About your interviewee’s career path:

  1. In what way did this type of work interest you and how did you get started?
  2. What was your major in college?
  3. How did you get your job?
  4. Did you enter this position through a formal training program?
  5. What jobs and experiences have led you to your present position?
  6. What kinds of things did you do before you entered this occupation?
  7. Which aspects of your background have been most helpful?
  8. What other jobs can you get with the same background?
  9. What were the keys to your career advancement?
  10. How did you get where you are and what are your long-range goals?
  11. What is the job above your current job?
  12. If your job progresses as you like, what would be the next step in your career?
  13. Where do you see yourself in five years?
  14. If your work were suddenly eliminated, what kinds of work do you feel prepared to do?
  15. If you could do things all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself? Why? What would you change?

About the culture of your interviewee’s company or organization:

  1. Why did you decide to work for this company?
  2. What do you like most about this company?
  3. How does your company differ from its competitors?
  4. Why do customers choose this company?
  5. What is the company’s relationship with its customers?
  6. How optimistic are you about the company’s future and your future with the company?
  7. Has the company made any recent changes to improve its business practices and profitability?
  8. What does the company do to contribute to its employees’ professional development?
  9. What systems are in place to enable employees to give management feedback and suggestions?
  10. How does the company make use of technology for internal communication and outside marketing? (Use of e-mail, Internet, intranets, World Wide Web, videoconferencing, etc.)?
  11. What other technologies are integral to the company’s operation?
  12. How would you describe the atmosphere at the company? Is it fairly formal or more laid-back and informal?
  13. Do people in your department function fairly autonomously, or do they require a lot of supervision and direction?
  14. What are the people like with whom you work?
  15. How would you describe the morale level of people who work here?
  16. Do you participate in many social activities with your coworkers?
  17. Is there a basic philosophy of the company or organization and, if so, what is it? (Is it a people-, service- or product-oriented business?)
  18. What is the company’s mission statement?
  19. What can you tell me about the corporate culture?
  20. Is the company’s management style top-down, or do front-line employees share in decision-making?
  21. Is there flexibility in work hours, vacation schedule, place of residence, etc.?
  22. What’s the dress code here? Is it conservative or casual? Does the company have dress-down of casual days?
  23. Can men wear beards or long hair here?
  24. What work-related values are most highly esteemed in this company (security, high income, variety, independence)?
  25. What kind of training program does the company offer? Is it highly structured or more informal?
  26. Does the company encourage and/or pay for employees to pursue graduate degrees? Is there a tuition reimbursement program?
  27. Does the company offer an employee discount on the products it sells?
  28. What’s the best thing about the company?
  29. How does the company evaluate your job performance?
  30. How does the company recognize outstanding accomplishments of its employees?
  31. What does the company reward?
  32. Are there people within or outside the organization that the company holds up as heroes?
  33. Does the company observe any rituals, traditions, or ceremonies?
  34. What is the typical job-interview process at the company? How many interviews do candidates generally go through before being offered a position?
  35. What does the company do to foster innovation and creativity?

About the company’s needs:

  1. In what areas do you perceive there to be gaps in personnel in this company? If the company had unlimited resources for creating new positions, in what areas should those positions be created?
  2. In what areas do you see the company expanding? Do you foresee the opening of new markets or greater globalization? Do you predict development of new products and/or services? Building of new facilities?
  3. How can employees prepare for any planned changes at the company?
  4. What obstacles do you see getting in the way of the company’s profitability or growth?
  5. If you needed someone to assist you in your job, what tasks would you assign to your assistant?

About opportunities for advancement within this company and/or field:

  1. How does a person progress in your field?
  2. What is the highest-level job one can hold in this career?
  3. What is a typical career path in this field or organization?
  4. What are the advancement opportunities?
  5. What is the average length of time for an employee to stay in the job you hold?
  6. How rapidly do people move to the next level in this career?
  7. What incentives or disincentives are there for staying in the same job?
  8. Would someone in this field need to relocate to advance in his/her career?
  9. If I performed well at this company, where could I expect to be in five years?

Seeking advice if you are a career changer:

  1. My current career is ________________________. How easy or difficult do you think it might be to make a transition from that career to your career?
  2. The skills I use the most in my current career are ________________. To what extent and in what ways do you think those skills are transferable to your career?
  3. What aspects of my background do you feel would be the most helpful in making the transition to your career field?
  4. What aspects of my background do you feel would be the biggest obstacles to someone making the transition to your career field?
  5. What skills needed in your career field do you think someone in my current career might be lacking and might need to develop?
  6. What would be the best kind of training to get to make the transition from my current career to your career?
  7. What’s the best way for me to get more experience in your field without taking major steps backward from the level to which I’ve progressed in my current career?
  8. How do you think someone in my current career would be viewed by those with hiring power in your career? Would you personally hire someone coming from my current career field?
  9. The things I like the best about my current career are: _____________________. Will I find some of those same things if I switch to your career?
  10. The things I dislike the most about my current career are: _____________________. Will I encounter any of those same challenges in your career?
  11. Do you know of any other people in your career that have made the transition to your field from my current career or a career similar to my current career? How did the transition work out?
  12. I’ve heard that people in your field have characteristics such as _______________________, which I have not had the opportunity to develop in my current career. How important is/are that/those characteristic(s).
  13. What sacrifices do you think I might have to make to make the switch into your career field?
  14. Knowing what you know about your career field, and knowing what I would have to do to get into this field, do you think you would make the change if you were me? If not, can you suggest any other fields that might be more appropriate for me?
  15. Could you take a brief look at my résumé and suggest ways I could tailor it to make myself more marketable in changing from my current career field to your career field?

Seeking general advice and referrals from your interviewee:

  1. Can you suggest some ways a person could obtain the experience necessary to enter this field?
  2. What is the best way to obtain a position that will get me started in this occupation?
  3. What do you wish you’d known before you entered this field?
  4. What are the major qualifications for success in this occupation?
  5. What are the skills that are most important for a position in this field?
  6. What courses should I be taking?
  7. How can I assess whether or not I have the skills needed for a position such as yours?
  8. With the information you have about my education, skills, and experience, what other fields or jobs would you suggest I research further before I make a final decision?
  9. Do you know of other people whom I might talk to who have similar jobs?
  10. Do you have any advice for someone interested in this field/job?
  11. Which professional journals and publications should I be reading to learn about this career?
  12. Are there any other written materials (such as company brochures) that you suggest I read?
  13. Which professional organizations associated with this career should I join?
  14. What kinds of experience, paid or unpaid, would you encourage for anybody pursuing a career in this field?
  15. Who else do you know who is doing similar kinds of work or uses similar skills?
  16. What other kinds of organizations hire people to perform the functions you do here?
  17. If I am unable to obtain a position in this field, what other fields would you recommend I consider?
  18. What special advice do you have for a student seeking to qualify for this position?
  19. Do you have any special world of warning or encouragement as a result of your experience?
  20. These are my strongest assets (skills, areas of knowledge, personality traits and values):___________________________________. Where would they fit in this field? Where would they be helpful in this organization? Where might they fit in other fields? Where might they be helpful in other organizations?
  21. What should I do to prepare myself for emerging trends and changes in this field?
  22. How would you assess the experience I’ve had so far in terms of entering this field?
  23. What qualifications would you be looking for if you were hiring for a position such as yours?
  24. What qualifications would you be looking for if you were hiring for a position subordinate to yours in the office?
  25. Do you have any written job descriptions of positions in this field/company?
  26. What areas of the company would be most interested in hiring people with my background?
  27. If I wanted to obtain a job here, who would the best person to contact?
  28. If I wanted to obtain a job here, what would be the best way to learn of job vacancies?
  29. If you were conducting a job search today, how would you go about it?
  30. Would you be willing to answer more questions, by phone or in person, if I need additional advice in the future?
  31. [If you feel comfortable and it seems appropriate:] Would you mind taking a look at my resume to see if you have any suggestions?
  32. How would you react if you received a resume like mine for a position with this company?

June 4, 2009

Informational Interviews—Part II: The Good and the Bad


This came from Google, and I think it is way off base. Someone got lost along the way and felt the need to turn an informational interview into a job interview. I have bolded the questions that I think are inappropriate. (from me)

Be prepared when you conduct an informational interview with questions to ask your interviewee. Below are 200 possible questions. Of course, you can’t ask anywhere near this many in an interview of 20-30 minutes, but this plentiful list will ensure that you choose questions to which you really want the answers. (Google talking here)

General questions about your interviewee’s career field:

  1. What are the various jobs available in this field?
  2. What types of training do companies offer those who enter this field?
  3. In what ways is your occupation changing?
  4. How is the economy affecting this industry?
  5. What is the employment outlook like in your career field? How much demand is there for people in this career?
  6. How quickly is the field growing?
  7. What are the growth areas of this field?
  8. Can you estimate future job openings?
  9. What parts of the country offer the best opportunities in this field?
  10. What are the opportunities in this career like in [geographical area you are most interested in]?
  11. What is the typical entry-level salary in this field?
  12. What is the salary ranges for higher levels in this occupation?
  13. Is there a salary ceiling?
  14. Aside from such visible compensation as money, fringe benefits, travel, etc., what kinds of mental dividends (such as job satisfaction) does this career yield?
  15. Is this industry heavily regulated?
  16. What do you find unique about your career field?
  17. From everything you’ve observed, what problems can you cite regarding working in this career?
  18. What skills or personal characteristics do you feel contribute most to success in this industry?
  19. What sacrifices have you had to make to succeed in this field, and do you feel the sacrifices were worth it?
  20. When people leave this career, what are the usual reasons?
  21. What are the typical entry-level job titles and functions?
  22. What entry-level jobs offer the best opportunities for the greatest amount of learning?
  23. What are the most significant characteristics of this industry?
  24. What trends in the field would be most likely to affect someone just entering this career now?
  25. What kinds of people experience the greatest success in this field?
  26. What is the most important thing that someone planning to enter this career should know?

All about your interviewee’s job:

  1. What is your exact title?
  2. Do other people in your company with the same job title that you hold have the same responsibilities?
  3. What was your title when you first started here?
  4. What precisely do you do? What are the duties/functions/responsibilities of your job?
  5. What is your job like?
  6. To what extent is it you expected it would be?
  7. How much job security do you have in this position?
  8. What is a typical day like?
  9. What kind of hours do you normally work?
  10. Do you have to put in much overtime or work on weekends?
  11. Are the time demands of your job specific to this company, or would anyone in this career be expected to put in the same hours?
  12. Do you ever take work home with you?
  13. What kinds of problems do you deal with?
  14. What do you do if you can’t solve a problem on your own?
  15. Do you have to deal with a significant amount of conflict in his job?
  16. What systems are in place for dealing with conflict?
  17. What constraints, such as time and funding, make your job more difficult?
  18. What kinds of decisions do you make?
  19. Describe some of the toughest situations you’ve faced in this job.
  20. To what extent do you interact with customers/clients?
  21. What percentage of your time is spent doing each function?
  22. How does your time use vary? Are there busy and slow times or is the work activity fairly constant?
  23. Which other departments, functional units, or levels of the hierarchy do you regularly interact with?
  24. How much flexibility do you have in determining how you perform your job?
  25. Is your work primarily individual or predominately in groups or teams?
  26. How are work teams or groups organized?
  27. What are the most important personal satisfactions and dissatisfactions connected with your job? What part of this job do you personally find most satisfying? Most challenging?
  28. What are your interests and in what way does this job satisfy your interests?
  29. What do you like and not like about working in this job?
  30. Do you find your job exciting or boring? Why?
  31. Are there aspects to your job that are repetitious?
  32. Is multi-tasking a skill that is required for this job?
  33. What projects have you worked on that have been particularly interesting?
  34. What particular skills or talents are most essential to be effective in your job?
  35. How did you learn these skills?
  36. What are the educational, requirements for this job?
  37. What other types of credentials or licenses are required?
  38. Is graduate school recommended? An MBA? Some other graduate degree or certifications?
  39. What obligations does your employer place on you outside of the ordinary work week?
  40. What social obligations go along with a job in your occupation?
  41. Are there organizations you are expected to join?
  42. Are there other things you are expected to do outside work hours?
  43. How has your job affected your lifestyle?
  44. To what extent does this job present a challenge in terms of juggling work and family life?
  45. What are the major frustrations of this job?
  46. If you could change anything about your job, what would it be?
  47. Is there a great deal of turnover in this job?
  48. What interests you least about the job or creates the most stress?
  49. What is the job title of your department head or supervisor for this job?
  50. Where do you and your supervisor fit into the organizational structure?
  51. How many people do you supervise?
  52. How would you assess your prestige or level of status in this job? In the company?
  53. If you ever left your job, what would most likely drive you away?
    Next: More interview questions, the Bad and the Ugly.
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