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Interviews are a two-way street

You’ve prepared for the questions the employer is going to ask you. Now, you need to prepare questions to ask your potential employer about the position, your boss, and the company in order to be sure that this is the right job and right company for you. Think back to when you chose the particular branch you served in. Why did you choose the Navy? Why did you choose the Army?

You must consider why you would want to work for this new employer just as you chose which branch to serve. In addition, if you don’t prepare smart questions, you run the risk of the interviewer assuming you aren’t interested or haven’t prepared.

Your opportunity to ask questions usually comes at the end of the interview. You must prepare at least four questions that demonstrate your interest in the position, your drive to excel in the role, and the fact that you’ve done some homework (researched company, industry, department).

  1. Avoid yes or no questions and avoid questions that are so broad that they are difficult to answer. You don’t want to put the interviewer in an awkward position when you’re trying to make a good impression and develop rapport.
  2. What is the average tenure with the company? To break it down a little further, ask: what is the average tenure within the department you will be joining? If tenure is low, it could be a sign of high turnover which could indicate a sign of low pay, lack of opportunity for career advancement, or incompetent management.
  3. Describe the culture of the company. Are you a good fit for this particular organization? Make sure you are comfortable with the culture and the dynamic of the company.
  4. Does the company give back to the community? In what ways? If it is important to you that the company has an established corporate responsibility or gives back, then understanding their level of involvement offers important insight.
  5. Where do you think the company is headed in the next 5 years? If you plan to be in this role for several years, make sure the company is headed in a growth mode so you have opportunity to grow with the company.
  6. What do you like best about working for this company? Ask about the interviewer’s personal experience for additional insight into the company’s culture.
  7. What is the management style within the company? Within the department? Civilian corporations each have different management styles. After serving in a structured environment such as the military, understanding what style your potential employer works under is vitally important. If management is too “loosey goosey”, it will likely drive you crazy; if it’s too rigid, it may remind you of the military when you are no longer interested in that structure.
  8. Who do you consider your top competitor, and why? Having done your homework/research on the company, you should already have an idea who the company’s major competitors are, but hearing it from someone within the company gives you good insight to how they are handling the competition.
  9. How is success measured and over what time frame? You need to know if expectations are realistic with respect to what you will need to accomplish and by when. It doesn’t matter how many zeroes the paycheck comes with – if you do not or cannot deliver results, you will not be successful.
  10. Is this a replacement or addition to staff? If it’s a replacement, why is it open? An addition to staff indicates the company is growing and in a good place financially. If it’s a replacement, the answer to why can be very insightful.
  11. How many veterans currently work here? Is there a veteran resource group? If this is important to you, it should be asked. This will be an indication of the company’s programs and military readiness.

Red Flags To Look For In An Interview

It happens all the time – you’ve gone months without a phone call and then, suddenly, the phone finally rings. The voice on the other end introduces themselves and wants to set up an interview with you. So what do you do now? As we’ve mentioned in a previous post, you prepare for the interview. You anticipate questions and practice your responses, but what we didn’t talk about was that the interview isn’t just about their impression of you – it’s about your impression of them as well.

Many people fall victim to having blinders on during an interview. They want the chance to get the job so badly that they fail to prepare questions for the interviewer or take the time understand what red flags they should be on the lookout for. A “red flag” is anything that would make you question the environment you could be entering. So, here are a few things to look for during your interview:

  1. Is the interviewer significantly late? We all know things happen at work. A meeting with the CEO can run a couple of minutes over. It happens. But if you’re waiting for 15 minutes past your appointment time, that’s just bad planning on their part. The interviewer should respect your time as much as you do theirs. They should build in a few minutes prior to the interview to have time to prepare.
  2. Did they review your resume prior to the interview, or are they seeing it for the first time? If they haven’t reviewed it, this shows lack of preparation on their part. The interview should be conducted as if this is the “best day” at their company. If they haven’t made specific comments regarding your experience outlined in your resume or prepared questions to the same, this could be a sign of things to come. If this is their best day, what does a normal day look like once you’ve signed on the dotted line?
  3. Is the interviewer overselling the position? If they are working really hard to sell you on the position, be careful. This could be a sign that it’s a “high turnover” position – people get hired and leave too often. This is where you could have a question ready to go such as, “How long was the previous person in this position?” This may not be the case, but they should be spending their time asking you about yourself while you ask the questions about the position. Not the other way around. If it reeks of desperation? Red Flag!
  4. Is the interview conducted in an area without disturbance? Is your interview being interrupted? This is a big deal for many companies, and unfortunately not that uncommon. Again, if this is the company on their best day, they should ensure the interview goes start to finish without distractions. If you’re in a room with the ability for those outside to see there’s a meeting in the office, do they walk in? Or, do they respect the meeting and wait until it is over? If the interviewer has these sorts of walk-ins on a normal day, they should put up a Do Not Disturb sign or inform the staff to not disrupt the meeting. These interruptions can mess up the flow of the interview or break your train of thought during your response to a question. It’s incumbent upon the interviewer to set that expectation of privacy.
  5. If the interviewer doesn’t offer, ask for a tour of the facility. You need to imagine yourself in the environment. Your impression of the workforce’s morale is a huge indicator of what you’re getting into. This impression starts when you first walk into the facility. Did you meet a receptionist? Were they professional? As you walk around take notice. Do the employees look happy, or not? Is the place a total mess? Or, is it neat and organized? You should have a sense that you’re walking into a professional environment where the employees are treated well and enjoy their jobs. If you get the feeling this isn’t happening, you may want to consider walking away. Trust your gut on this one!

It’s a great feeling when the phone rings and they ask you to come in for an interview. Please make sure you look out for red flags along the way. The ones we’ve pointed out here are not all-encompassing, but they should help you actively plan your observations during your interview.

Good luck!

Preparing For Your Interview

The phone has finally rung and you’ve got your interview scheduled. Now it’s time to prepare for that interview. So what do you do to prepare?

The first thing you should do is to anticipate the questions the interviewer may ask. You should also have at least 5 questions of your own to ask the interviewer. We’ll discuss that in a later blog. There are plenty of interview question lists out there: I put together a list of 50 questions that my interviewer could ask. You don’t have to go that far, but you should have answers for some of the most common ones. Here’s a list of 10 questions the interviewer could ask.

1. Can you tell me a little about yourself?

Many people know that interviewers use this question as an icebreaker. But many of us fail to prepare for it, but you should. Be careful not to get too personal. There are HR rules that prevent an employer from asking certain personal questions. Come up with a general, concise response with 2 or 3 main things about yourself that could be tied back to the position if possible. Additionally, practice your responses out loud sometimes what is in your head doesn’t necessarily come out the same way. You don’t want to be in the interview stumbling through your responses.

2. What are you looking for in a new position?

Make sure you have read the job description and align your response with that description. Ideally, your wishes will already be in line with the duty description but you might not be sure. This is where you can develop some questions of your own to make sure the job is a good fit for you as well.

3. What do you know about our company?

At a minimum you should go to the “About” page to learn about what the company does. But don’t stop there, find out about how their product or service has helped someone or some cause and commend them on this effort. Check out what they do in the community, if anything, and see if there’s anything there that you can get behind. The interviewer will see you’ve done your homework.

4. Why do you want this job?

Companies want to hire people who are passionate about the job, so you should have a great answer about why you want the position. If you don’t, that will shine through during the interview and you might want to prepare to look elsewhere.  Identify a couple of things that make the role a great fit for you and tie it back to the company’s mission.

5. Why should we hire you?

This interview question might be intimidating for some, but be prepared to answer it. This is your underhand soft pitch you’ve been waiting for, you should practice this to hit it out of the park. Its your elevator speech at its best. Don’t only tell them that you can do the work, tell them you deliver results and how your skills are inline with the job. Tell them how you will fit in with the team and their company culture. Help them envision you working among their team.

6. What are your greatest strengths?

Give an accurate representation of yourself and don’t tell them what you think they want to hear. “I’m a hard worker” isn’t good enough. Consider your people skills or how you collaborate with others to build teams. You could even follow up with an example of how you’ve used these skills in the past.

7. What do you consider to be your weaknesses?

Again, give an honest response. Never answer with “I work too hard” or “I take on too much,” these are dated responses and the interviewers don’t want to hear them. Find something you can hang your hat on and then let them know that you “know” about this and you’ve taken steps to be better about it. 

8. What is your greatest professional achievement?

Who better to hire than someone who can show a track record of delivering results. Use the STAR method for this one. Describe the Situation and the Task you had to do to provide the interviewer the context, then talk about the Actions you took and most importantly the Result, or impact, of those actions.

9. Tell me about how you’ve dealt with a challenging situation with another person at work and how you dealt with it.

At some point in time, you will have to deal with someone you don’t agree with, or someone who is not performing to standards or breaking the rules. The interviewer wants to see how you deal with these sorts of situations. Put some thought into this and have an answer. Craft your answer with the STAR method mentioned above. Bottom line, they want to see that you handled, and resolved the situation professionally.

10. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Be honest about your future goals, but consider the hiring managers expectations. They want to know if you’ve set realistic expectations for your career, if you have ambition, and if the position aligns with your goals and growth. Think about this role and if aligns with your ambitions. It’s OK if you’re not sure what the future holds, but that you see this experience playing an important role in helping you on this journey.

These questions are just a few to get you started. But however long your final list of interview responses is, make sure you practice your responses out loud. It will help you “hear” yourself and help you make any corrections to prior to the interview. Good luck.