Tough Interview Questions – You KNOW They Are Coming
I am among thousands that I personally know of that are not working, knee deep in interviews and assessments or trying to better themselves career wise. It is still a tough economic climate, there are millions of unemployed/underemployed vying for career positions. Many of these people are friends or connections of mine, have higher degrees, some more experience, others a combination of the two. The questions are fast and furious as recruiters have to sift through what I have been told and perceive to be unseen before volumes and methods of resumes, assessments, personality tests and the like. But when the questions come, how do you handle them? When the phone rings are you ready for the call? Often times, myself included, there comes a new wrinkle or something not ready for, and always wish for a do-over button. All that being said we know the most common questions or the ones that will trip us up. Many times there are hurdles and barriers cannot overcome, but in the “know” part of this phase there are certain questions you KNOW are coming. In my case there are some for sure I KNOW are coming, such as the one most often asked because of my varied past around why so many jobs? (which is a nice way to say “How do we know you won’t sign with us, we invest in you and then you leave after a year or two?”)
Based on your own resume and your own scenario, you likely have at least one or two questions that you KNOW are coming. This is a tough one for me personally, and understandably one to expect every call I am on. If I were a hiring manager, which I was for the better part of 25 years, I see a glaring weakness that sticks out like a sore thumb when see what on paper is a perennial “job hopper.” Who am I to think every hiring manager isn’t thinking the same when they call me or see my resume? I am willing to bet I never even get a call from 90% of my applications simply because not even getting past screeners or initial screening processes in play. Systems are set up to weed candidates out, technologies are employed, scanners set to scan for buzzwords, age old recruiting schools teach of the 5 second scan. But for the times I do get through I am working and honing in on this – my personal target with a bullseye on it. We all have at least one or two.
To my mind, as an empowered candidate, is this even really a “weakness” or does it show increased value? Is this a quitter or someone who sees the bigger picture and makes moves sometimes “for the right reasons?” But the questions are coming: If truly career driven then why did he leave his last job so soon? If so successful why did he leave his previous employer? Why so many different areas? Why is he applying to my area when he doesn’t even live here? There are several questions that arise from a simple 5 second scan that cannot possibly be covered in a few paragraphs in an article but the main question of why so many jobs to me also can be to my advantage. Take this an apply it to your own candidacy.
What I have found through all of this, and being honest and transparent as always, is my greatest weakness if you will is also my greatest strength. The fact that I had varying roles but successful in each regardless of different times, locations, responsibilities and demographics also shows proven adaptability, willingness to put in the extra time and effort, a penchant for success, a hunger for results and the passion to overcome obstacles. It demonstrates the learning and ability to identify what matters, what triggers the results needed, and how to move the proverbial needle. For ex. By outperforming locals when look back at some of my larger successes after relocations it helps alleviate the perceived need for a local candidate even though conventional wisdom suggests otherwise. But ultimately it comes down to the most fundamental questions: what does a company gain by hiring me? Why would they “take a chance” on me?
There are truly solid intangible gains besides the obvious:
1) Experience. There simply is no better teacher. I consider myself fairly well read and studied. I graduated Top 5 in Business magna cum laude from SUNY, all the while school meant non-traditional nights and weekends as maintained full time supervisory / managerial roles at the time. All that being said there is no replacement for the life experience and work experience that comes over time and tribulation. HR and personnel movement. Knowing what levers to press and when. Identifying opportunities and seizing them in ways my predecessors did not. A fresh set of eyes and a new perspective but all drawn off a lifetime of experience, or in my case 25 years of sales, management and business/people development at many varying levels and degrees. There is nothing better than to document being battle tested over time and location. Results don’t make themselves, the top tier results produced are a truly indicative measure that experience is a prime indicator of what brought to the table every time, and what any employer will benefit from once I land in their system. Can see some of the recognitions and awards in part on my LinkedIn profile. None of it happened by luck. None of it happened by chance.
2) Resiliency. Call it thick skin, call it whatever you like, but to be able to come in, shake a few feathers, rattle a few cages, internally and externally (more difficult externally most times) and yet come through it all unscathed, landing with success in every measured way is proof positive of consistency: time and time and time again of overcoming obstacles. Some people that dodged me or wanted no part of me when I first moved here have since become best referral sources. Many that had negative things to say about me or simply donned me as the outsider have become friends and even a higher percentage networking partners because after the initial dust settled, I was deemed “great for business.” In a few cases, it was taking over inherently last place centers and turning them into top performers. I received multiple promotions within these same said companies, especially in a shorter amount of time normally needed to do so, showing a true resiliency to hone in on opportunities, concentrate the effort, put in the time and overcome things deemed “in the way” or in removal of obstacles once identify. As an outsider it takes more work, more time, more effort to win people over. Referrals are definitely not flowing or handed out, they are earned. As an outsider nothing was given to me, nothing was freely passed out and there was no call I could make or email I could send to bring people in on day one. It takes at least 6 months of increased time, extra effort, targeted approaches, better marketing, a resolute will and proven resiliency. I didn’t feel I was truly in my stride here until after 1 full year, but looking back my promotion to Bank Area Manager in Metro Detroit happened in about 7 months. The results came well before that said year, starting around month 4, and they never slowed. If anything they continually increased over time. Reputation and marketing grew stronger. Word of mouth is paramount in a service business – that is when we really started to see the merits pay off. None of it would have happened if not for the resolve and resiliency required to net those results.
3) Permanency. This is the big one. Many times it is not worded as such, but the key question employers need to hear answered from someone coming off of a shorter term tenure is how do I know you won’t leave? Anyone that has called me knows the reasons, and feel free at any point to call and get more in depth, but the simple matter is there are no guarantees, there are no contracts in my line so in order to assure will not leave, here’s is some of what I am working and thinking through:
- Investing in myself. Before I even get to my new role it is likely not only going to cost time in interviews, assessments, and drive time it will also cost me thousands. Unless I suddenly find something local that hits all cylinders or unless I get a very fortunate turn of events, I am the one typically fronting the bill to interview (gas, mileage/wear and tear on car, hotel stays) and will most likely be paying for lease terminations, moving expenses, transfer of licenses, changeover fees and the like. In coming from MI to Charlottesville that was a vast investment and one would do again for the right opportunity. As I am doing in my time off, I have renewed my licenses, taken on new courses and new projects, created and still administrate projects and groups, and as of this typing currently enrolled in the SBA Webinar Learning series. All continual investments of time and money in myself before any company pays me a dime. Not doing all of this just to get a job, it’s all about staying true to my main focus of a tenured long-term career.
- Right fit. I will likely have already researched the company, the area, and the demographics putting in an exhaustive effort to make sure it’s the right fit before accepting any new role. Just like hiring managers and recruiters look for right fit, so am I. I have taken countless assessments for that very reason. After all the hiring company is not really the one putting everything on the line, I am. I am not a spring chicken anymore (sadly) and I have had some offers come through. Yet surprisingly to some folks I turned them down. Why? Not the right fit. Didn’t feel the chemistry, cost of living didn’t add up. Saw no future. Spent time in the area and didn’t feel could make it my new home. Now more than ever, in more that just word but in deed, I cannot afford to make a mistake on this one. I refuse to take a role that I do not foresee lasting at least 5 years, and that is not speak, that is action. Call it damage control, call it protecting the resume, but I have intentionally not taken short term work, I have intentionally avoided straight commission as a stop gap, and turned down opportunities for “band aids.” I have very meticulously and intently decided to live off my reserve before making a move that isn’t the right fit or could possibly damage the resume. There are no panic buttons here, and again maybe against conventional wisdom, I am purposefully avoiding anything to fill in the gaps or serve as a filler. It’s either the right fit or nothing. Leads right to my main point, Point C.
- Cannot afford another short tenure on the resume. This is vital. Anyone that has the fortune of signing me, here is the simple truth. I will not be able to go anywhere for 3-5 years minimum. Even if I wanted to. Of course can move up within your ranks, but not leave your company, simply will not be an option. Think about this logically. My resume is already “damaged” for lack of a better word. I already get shot down more than I ever get called. My batting percentage of application received to call received is likely smaller than most anyone as have to also add in the relocation factors, not having a book, salary factors etc. to what is already weighed against me. Going to have to start over again, equaling more time, more money, and everything else already detailed. The odds I would want to leave, and even more comforting to my next employer, the odds that I realistically even can leave for a better option or a stronger opportunity…what do you think those chances are realistically? I hate admitting this about myself, but once I sign, my options to leave even if chose to in anything less than 3-5 years become even more limited at best. I MUST succeed, and that is stronger even than a contract these days! I am not only committed in word, but I am committed in time, money and action as anything less than likely a 5 year minimum, and I will end up further “damaged.”
I had written an article or two before such as “Why would I hire someone from the outside?” or “Entering a New Market: Relocation Specialist” but obviously still crafting best practices. What I gain most is through the feedback I receive from readers such as yourself that PM after reading. Please feel free to PM me or send me your thoughts. Or in the comments tell us your main questions and maybe other readers can offer suggestions as well. We are all in this together. You wouldn’t have just utilized your time reading this unless you are looking either as a candidate, someone with a vested or personal interest, or as a future prospective employer.