interviews

How to answer the most difficult interview questions

I received great feedback from last week’s email and received a bunch of questions from readers on how to handle particular interview questions.  Right now I’m compiling all the questions and ranking them based on the number of times they were asked. In the following weeks I’ll answer them and share a little surprise I’ve been working on.

Below is an actual question that was emailed to me although there were different variants of it from different people.

It reads:

“I had an interview where the director asked me the following: "I have 40 candidates that want this position, why should I hire you specifically instead of any of them?". That question made me freeze for a seconds, and it shook me. I wasn't expecting such a direct and personal question. Plus adding her strong personality and her fixation on me, made me feel a little intimidated instantly. I was answering all the questions in a good manner, until she hit me with that question.  

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear them.”

Most interview questions are the same and they just vary somewhat between interviews/interviewers.  However, sometimes you get a question from left field which you may have no idea how to answer. Instead of practicing 101 Interview questions, you should focus on creating an Interview Theme.  

An Interview Theme is what you think you want to be seen as.  In other words, what kind of impression do you want to make when you’re there and what do you want to be seen as once you leave the interview.  As long as you have your Interview Theme created, you should be able to answer any question that comes your way.  

Instead of just telling you to practice a question, I’m going to help you break it down to its different components until we get into the why (purpose), the typical answer and why it’s not the best answer, an example of the perfect answer, and what makes up the perfect answer.  

By understanding what makes a perfect answer, it will help you create your own perfect answer.  This is better and more authentic than parroting some generic answer from a book.

On to the question!

What makes you different than the other candidates?/Why should we hire you?/I have 40 candidates that want this position, why should I hire you specifically instead of any of them?

Purpose:  This question is typically asked towards the end of the interview and it is used to see if there is anything else you would like to mention to make your case as the top candidate.

Typical Answer: “I’m a hard worker, I’m dedicated, and I’m a team player.”

Problem with Typical Answer: What makes you think you’re the only applicant who is hard-working, dedicated, and/or a team player?  Chances are everyone else gave the same answer.

Best Answer:  “I haven’t met the other candidates so I don’t know if they’re better than me but something that I know makes me different is my ability to find solutions/get everyone on the team to work together/get done things on time.  

For example, there was a time when I found a solution/got everyone on the team to work together/finished a project before the deadline by.… (Provide examples).”

Why this is the Best Answer: For this question you will obviously come up with one of your strengths. This is what makes you different than the other candidates.  An important point is to use a strength that relates to the job at hand.

If you notice that the job description has several instances of needing an expert in Excel, bring that up as your strength.  If communication is what the job requires, bring up examples of why you’re better at communication than everyone else (member of debate team, editor of college newsletter, etc.)

However, what will turn this answer from good to great is citing examples.  Instead of just saying that you’re good with Excel, talk about examples where you have used Excel successfully in the past.  Tie that in to how your previous Excel experience will tie in with the hiring company’s needs.  

Your Turn: What makes you different than the other candidates?

Remember to cite your strengths, provide examples, don’t be generic, and tie it to the job at hand.

Be Bold!

Ramon

PS: Send me other questions you’d like me to answer and I might include them in my next email.

How to answer interview questions like Steve Jobs

I came across this the other day and I thought it was interesting.  It talks about how Steve Jobs (founder of Apple), handled an insult wrapped around a question during one of his famous keynotes.

You can see the video here: Steve Jobs Response

Aside from masterfully handling the question, the key to his answer was that he took time to think about his answer.  Many times when we’re in an interview or other high stress setting, we feel like we have to say something, anything, otherwise we might look like we don’t know what we’re talking about.  

Part of having a successful interview is being able to manage it.  A good way to manage an interview is to make sure you control the speed.  If you ever feel like you don’t know an answer or don’t know how to articulate something, don’t be afraid to say so.  

Just like Steve Jobs, don’t be afraid to slow it down and pause in order to gather your thoughts during the interview.  Not only does it show that you are human, but also that you are thoughtful about how you come across and what you say.

Below are two ways to handle this:

Situation 1: They asked you something you haven’t considered before and just need a little more time to think about it.

How to handle it: “I’ve never considered that before.  Can you give me a minute to think about it?”  

Use this time to figure out the answer to the question.  I’ve even gone as far as writing on my note pad some points I want to make sure I cover.  You would usually use this when you know an answer but you want to make sure you are concise and not ramble.

Situation 2: They asked you something you have no idea about.  It can be something technical or maybe a weird interview question.  You’re pretty sure you don’t know how to answer this one.

How to handle it: “Can we skip this one for now?  I’m not really sure how to answer this”  You can also say “I’m not sure about this.  How would you solve/answer it?” If you aren’t able to answer the question later on in the interview when they ask you again you can always tell them that you’ll think about it some more.  Once you get home, send them what you think your answer should be in the Thank You email.

I’ve used all of these during interviews that lead to job offers.  Interviewers know that sometimes you may get caught off guard by some question.  They realize that you’re human so they’ll cut you some slack. Now if they ask you something  that will be expected like “What’s your biggest weakness?” and you don’t know your answer, then maybe you won’t make the great impression you’re looking for.  

Have you had an interview question you weren’t able to answer?  What was the question and how did you handle it? What was the result?

You can read a detailed run-down of the video here: Steve Jobs answers questions with grace


Are you too good looking for your interview?

Are you too good looking for your interview?

Knowing why you didn’t get an offer can sometimes be difficult. Did you say something wrong? Were your examples not strong enough? 

Were you too good looking?

A recent study found out that being too good looking can affect your chances of getting hired. 

From the article:

“Researchers at University College London’s School of Management and the University of Maryland in the US carried out four experiments in offices.

They found that when men were hiring other men to work with them, their decision was affected by the attractiveness of the candidate and the type of job.”

Interview Questions YOU should ask

Interview Questions YOU should ask

If you’ve been following my blog, you probably know that my approach for interviewing is very different from what you’ve probably done before.

I don’t think you should go into an interview with hat in hand asking for a job. I think you should approach it as a conversation. Instead of sitting down and just answering questions, you should engage in a conversation and ask questions yourself.

Why your mantra should be "Better done than perfect"​

Why your mantra should be "Better done than perfect"​

Have you been in a situation where you mean to get something done but as more and more time passes, the harder it seems to get it done? I have not written in about 2 months (maybe more) because I wanted to make sure that what I wrote was perfect. I have several topics in mind like the best time to find a job (spoiler alert: it's when you already have a job), a salary negotiation book recommendation, and how to ask for help. Don't worry, I'll make sure to send them to you soon. 

I've done at least 3 drafts for each one, reworded, edited, looked for the perfect picture, and edited some more. Every single time I thought I was finished a new thing would pop up and so would another reason why it wasn't ready to be sent out. All of this to say that another week went by without me publishing an article

Did you fail? Or was it your process?

I was planning on writing you again until next week however I wanted to make sure I sent this out now since you may be struggling with this problem.

 I go to the gym on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday and since they’re small classes, I usually get to overhear what other people are saying during the workout. 

One of the exercises we do is to put a resistance band (basically a giant rubber band) right above our knees and move around.

 There is a secret process to putting them on. If you hold the band from the sides to stretch it out and then pull it up like you’re putting on a pair of underwear, the band doesn’t roll up and it doesn’t dig into the side of your knees. However, if you roll it up your legs when you put it on, it (surprise!) rolls up and becomes uncomfortable (in my case it also yanks off a bunch of leg hair.)

 This girl next to me (let’s call her Stacy) rolls it up and noticing it’s digging into the side of her knees says “This is uncomfortable. It’s because my thighs are too fat.”

 I found this interesting because I am a good 10 inches taller with thicker thighs and yet, I didn’t have the same problem.

 The reason I’m telling you this is because through my coaching practice and my day to day I consistently see candidates, and particularly women, personally blaming themselves for their failures when in reality, it’s not them who failed, but rather the process. 

Stacy thought her “fat thighs” was the problem when really it was the way she put on the resistance band that was wrong. Think about how those are two very different problems. One can be fixed in 5 seconds and the other would take months as well as a lot of mental energy and self-awareness to achieve. 

Same applies to your job search. Did you not get the interview because you were deficient or was it your resume that wasn’t up to par? Did they give someone else the job because you don’t have enough experience or because your Interview Theme wasn’t developed?  

 Let’s look at “Stacy” again.

Stacy probably thought this:

“This is uncomfortable because my thighs are too fat” = “It’s my fault I’m fat and it will be very hard and months of work to get thin thighs for this to work the way I want it to be”

 When really it should have been this:

“This is uncomfortable because the process I’m using isn’t correct” = Fix process in less than 5 seconds, gets a great workout.

 You’re probably doing the same in your career.

Instead of thinking this: 

“I didn’t get the job because I don’t have enough experience” = “I’m personally deficient and will take years to get that type of experience so I may as well just give up”

 Replace it with this:

“I didn’t get that job because my Interview Theme wasn’t the right one” = Takes about 90mins to develop an Interview Theme, gets awesome job.

 Next time you hit a roadblock, before you start thinking that things didn’t work out because YOU are too dumb/fat/skinny/tall/short/broken/deficient/etc, take a step back and first consider that maybe, just maybe, the process you used wasn’t the right one.

 Thoughts?

Be Bold!

Ramon

PS: Next week I will be in Houston for the World Autism Organisation's 5th Annual International Congress as a speaker discussing techniques job candidates who are on the Autism Spectrum can obtain white collar jobs at Fortune 500 companies.  I was selected based on my work and success rate I've had helping candidates start their careers. If you will be in attendance, feel free to reach out

How to calm your nerves during an interview with ASD

When I was in middle school, I was part of the Gifted & Talented program also known as the GT program.  Basically they grouped all the nerds and put them in all the same classes that were more advanced. In those classes, one of my friends, let’s call him John, was at the top of the class in the grade rankings.  He was the school valedictorian if there is such a thing for a middle school.

Problem was, taking a test was a big deal for him.  He would get so nervous that he would literally vomit before a test.  On more than one occasion I saw him get beet red, sweating profusely, shivering like he was in the middle of a snow storm, and cry his way through a pop quiz.  

A similar situation happens to many people during interviews.  Even though everyone gets a certain level of nervousness, a portion of the population suffers from severe episodes of nervousness.

I decided to write down the 6 step process I recommend people follow to help them control and reduce the way nervousness affects them during interviews.  

Plan

Fail to plan, plan to fail.  Planning doesn’t have to be stressful.  Instead of thinking of all the things you have to do, focus instead on the process.  Just like a cake recipe, you go from one step to the next which leads you to the end result.  Consider the planning phase the read through of the recipe.

Research

Something I have found very useful to calm my nerves before interviews is to remove all the uncertainty from the situation.  Many people get nervous because they’re afraid of what the other person may think of them. These thoughts run through their heads until all we imagine them yelling “Get out!” in the middle of the interview.  

What if instead of wondering what they may think, we do some research to get to know them better?  

Looking through their LinkedIn profile will give you some excellent clues on how they think and what they may ask you.  Write down what schools they went to, the companies they’ve worked at and things you find interesting. For example, if they got a degree in engineering but are now doing accounting, that career change may be something you can write down as interesting and ask them about.  Length of time at jobs, similar companies you’ve worked at and anything you think you two have in common. These are always good points to bring up during the interview.

You can also look at their facebook and other social media profiles to get a better idea of who they are.  I like to do a general google search and see what else there is about them online.

I’ve done this with all my other clients and it’s always amazing what we’re able to find.  One time we found a company newsletter that had a full article on the hiring manager and his how he did beekeeping as a hobby.  My client brought this up during the interview which immediately turned the interview into a conversation. Obviously the hiring manager was excited to talk about beekeeping as well as impressed that someone took the time to really prepare for the interview.  

Now instead of meeting a stranger, you’re meeting someone you kinda know.  This makes the whole interview a less daunting event.

Practice

Obviously practicing is important however there is a difference between practicing and rehearsing.  I don’t want you to memorize answers. I don’t think memorizing helps calm nerves because you might then worry about messing up your script.  Instead, create your Interview Theme which is how you want the interviewer to see you and practice the answers you think those answers would be to the questions.

Aside from our practices, you should practice on your own whenever you have some free time.  You can record yourself, do it in front of the mirror, with someone else as long as you’re able to practice out loud.  

You can use this free copy of my book to learn the framework to answering the most common interview questions.  

You want to practice so much, you’ll be able to improvise.  

Visualize

Visualization is something I feel strongly about.  I consider it part of your preparation since you are mentally practicing several scenarios in your head.  If any of those scenarios or even some you haven’t thought of, come up, you’ll be able to react accordingly because you’ve “been there before”.  

Below is an excerpt from the book The Power of Habit which has that story I use often during my one-on-one coaching sessions  about Michael Phelps and how he thought about his perfect swim every day since he was a teenager until he won 23 Olympic gold medals.  

“When Phelps was a teenager, for instance, at the end of each practice, Bowman would tell him to go home and "watch the videotape. Watch it before you go to sleep and when you wake up."

The videotape wasn't real. Rather, it was a mental visualization of the perfect race. Each night before falling asleep and each morning after waking up, Phelps would imagine himself jumping off the blocks and, in slow motion, swimming flawlessly. He would visualize his strokes, the walls of the pool, his turns, and the finish. He would imagine the wake behind his body, the water dripping off his lips as his mouth cleared the surface, what it would feel like to rip off his cap at the end. He would lie in bed with his eyes shut and watch the entire competition, the smallest details, again and again, until he knew each second by heart.

During practices, when Bowman ordered Phelps to swim at race speed, he would shout, "Put in the videotape!" and Phelps would push himself, as hard as he could. It almost felt anticlimactic as he cut through the water. He had done this so many times in his head that, by now, it felt rote. But it worked. He got faster and faster. Eventually, all Bowman had to do before a race was whisper, "Get the videotape ready," and Phelps would settle down and crush the competition.”

From The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Power Pose:  

This is something I also feel strongly about.  There is research that shows Power posing has immediate effects on your testosterone levels.  Just 2-5 mins of power posing can help you raise your testosterone (which helps you with focus and quick thinking).

From the Association for Psychological Science findings:

“High-power posers experienced elevations in testosterone, decreases in cortisol, and increased feelings of power and tolerance for risk; low-power posers exhibited the opposite pattern.”

There are several moves you can try and the easiest is the superman/wonder woman pose.  This is where you stand up straight, shoulders back, eyes forward, feet shoulder width apart and hands on your hips (see wonder woman pic below).  Your head should be straight almost like if you had a string attached to the crown of your head that someone is pulling up.

Breathe either with your eyes open or closed in this pose.  I like to do it with my eyes closed and visualize but you can also just stare at your reflection or just straight ahead.

Breathe

Look at this video ( It’s only like 10 mins long.):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sgb2cUqFiY

It has a great presentation on how to correctly breathe. Practice this in the days leading up to your interview as well as the day of.