March 2001 - Finding the Right Job for You
Last month's topic talked about Hiring the Right People. This month we talk about the other side - finding a job.
No matter why you are looking for another job, it is an activity that few people enjoy and can be somewhat stressful. Minimizing the stress and maximizing the results are the goal of this article.
There are many resources available to job seekers, some of which we list in the Resources section.
Defining your ideal job is one of the most important aspects of any job search, yet is often ignored. Why? Because many people simply search for a job like the last one they had.
If you left because you weren't happy there or you are now thinking of leaving, it's time to spend some time defining what you want in your next job. Even if you were laid off, fired or out of work for some other reason, spending some time thinking about what you want is helpful in focusing your time and efforts.
An excellent resource is the book, What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles. This book give lots of exercises that help identify your interests and what types of jobs use those interests. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) described in David Kiersey's book, Please Understand Me II, provides useful information on personality temperaments. Our Personality Game provides another look at personality. A new tool is the book Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham that includes an Internet test to identify your unique talents and strengths. There are many other useful and helpful personality systems that may work for you.
Some tips for getting started:
Now comes the more difficult part - finding a company right for you (assuming you want to move to a different company).
From the exercise above, you have identified the types of jobs, the values of the companies where you want to work and potential industries.
You next task is to search out companies and jobs that fit what you want. The Internet is an invaluable resource tool for this effort as most large companies have at least a website. The challenge is trimming down the millions of possibilities into a useful pool of target companies.
You might start by searching the various job posting boards available to see what companies have jobs that fit your job description. Then, as you identify potential companies, visit their website to learn more about them.
Keep your ideal job description and your answers from the first section in front of you as you search out possibilities.
Some tips on locating companies:
* A percentage obtained by dividing the number of jobseekers who actually found work using the method, by the total number of jobseekers who tried to use that method, whether successfully or not. Source: US Dept of Labor, 1996
According another survey of how people found a job where we are shows:
The most important trait for interviewing is your Attitude. A positive attitude comes across in your bearing, your dress, your voice and your enthusiasm.
If you have not interviewed for a while, work with a friend or associate to practice answering the standard interview questions.
In addition, we recommend that you write out your answers to all the questions in the resource section of this article. There are more than 90 questions listed. If you do this, you should be prepared to answer any question that might be asked. The more prepared you are, the move confident you will be when you interview.
On the day of the interview, dress carefully and be there early. When you get to the company, before you get out of your car, take a few minutes to review your resume and your description of your ideal job. Take a few minutes to meditate or to calm the butterflies in your stomach. It is natural to be nervous. However, if you are well prepared, you will do well.
Be confident, energetic and enthusiastic. Be honest and sincere. Most of all, be the best you can be. Be pleasant with everyone you meet. People who see you walking across the parking lot may form an initial impression of who you are without you being aware of them. You may see someone in the hallway that turns out later to be the president of the company or the person you are interviewing with.
Keep your responses to 2-3 minutes at most for each question, then turn control back to your interviewer. If they want more details, they will ask for them. If you are not sure what they are asking, be sure to clarify the question before answering.
Some of the tough questions you are likely to encounter are:
1. Tell me about yourself
This open-ended question is a favorite of interviewers. It forces you to be organized in your answer and it allows you to express who you are and your accomplishments.
Do not tell your life history. Keep your response directed toward your professional career as they relate to the job your interviewing for. Describe major accomplishments and how they apply to the position you seek. Identify a couple jobs with accomplishments then ask the interviewer if they want to delve into more details.
2. Why are you leaving your current position (or why did you leave your last position)?
This is a crucial question. You must be prepared with a good answer without "bad-mouthing" your current (or former) company, your current (or former) boss or your current (or former) co-workers. If there is a buy-out, shut-down, down-sizing or merger those are the easiest to explain.
If you feel stifled in your present position, explain it in a way that shows you are not being disloyal or unappreciative of your current (or former) company by looking elsewhere. If you have previously discussed the situation with your boss and they cannot offer you any hope of advancement within the company, tell your interviewer that.
If you are relocating to another area, explain your reasons for moving to the new area, why you plan to stay there and ways that you will be productive quickly.
3. What do you consider your most significant accomplishment?
This is another very crucial question and could be what gets you the job you seek. Allow your enthusiasm to show as you describe how you solved a problem or met a significant challenge.
Give insights into how your skills, talents and abilities were used to do something beneficial for your company. If there were financial benefits associated with what you did, identify them. If you managed a team of people, also give the team credit and show your pride in your management ability for helping them accomplish something rewarding.
4. Why do you believe you are qualified for this position?
This is a tough question that shows you understand the job that is being filled and how you will fit into it. If you are interviewing at a new company, you will need to demonstrate insight into the new job and company in order to answer it "correctly" from the interviewer's perspective.
Choose two or three main factors about the job from the job announcement or from the interviewer's description that match your experience and talents. Select a specific technical skill, management skill or personal success to emphasize your accomplishments.
5. Have you ever accomplished anything that you did not think you could?
This question asks about how goal-oriented you are and how persistent you are in the face of adversity. Provide an example of something you have done that required you to overcome numerous difficulties to succeed. Demonstrate that you don't give up when something is important or demonstrate how you overcame failure.
6. What do you like/dislike most about your current/last position?
This question gets to how compatible you are with the new position. Be careful how you answer this one! The exercises you did about what you want will really come into play here. If you really need lots of freedom and autonomy in your job and you are interviewing for a government job with lots of bureaucracy, you probably won't fit the mold they are looking for. If what you need to be successful fits the company culture where you are interviewing, it should reveal itself through your answers to this question.
7. How do you handle pressure? Do you like or dislike pressure situations?
High achievers usually like pressure and respond well to it. How you explain yourself and what you say about such situations will let the interviewer know whether you can handle a high-pressure job. The question could also be a clue that the job is pressure packed or out of control. If so, be careful to learn what the expectations are and whether you want to have a job with high pressure all the time.
If you do perform well under pressure, provide some detailed examples of situations where you have been successful.
8. The sign of a good employee is the ability to take initiative. Describe some situations where you took initiative.
A person who demonstrates initiative does not need to told how to perform, and is one of the hallmarks of a successful career. Give some short examples when you took the initiative in a situation and the results. Describe one situation in more detail that helps the interview understand how you approach the challenge.
9. What is the worst or most embarrassing aspect of your career? Looking back, how would you have done things differently?
Be candid and explain what you learned from your mistakes. Don't be afraid to talk about your failures. Every successful person has them. Learning from mistakes is what makes high-quality managers and executives stand out from people who pretend they are perfect or keep making the same mistakes over and over.
10. How have you changed in during the past few years?
Demonstrating how you have progressed gives an indication of how you will perform in the future. Give examples of the progress you have made by broadening your management responsibilities, gaining new insights into managing people or learning new aspects of your industry. If you have gotten additional education, traveled to other countries, tackled new types of projects or expanded your view of the corporate world, explain how that has helped you in your work. Your answer shows maturity and your enthusiasm for your own personal growth shows that you will continue to be interested in your development in the future.
11. What do you consider your major strengths? ... your major weaknesses?
For strengths, know your key strengths. Be able to discuss them easily with specific examples of how you used each one in your current or recent position. Be sure that they fit with the job you are interviewing for.
For weaknesses, describe one or two that you acknowledge and what you are doing to overcome them. Explain how this weakness hurt you and how you have managed to improve it or minimize it. For example, if you are too detail oriented, you might explain that you have asked others to check your work so you don't spend so much time on it. Or, if you are impatient, explain how you have learned to be more calm under pressure. Or, if you talk too much, explain how you have learned to listen more.
12. What do you think of your boss? How was he/she to work for?
You don't want to "bad mouth" your boss or discuss confidential aspects of your relationship. Explain the major positive attributes of your boss and how you were successful in working together. If you had differences, explain how you were able to maintain a good working relationship in spite of them. Don't go into details about what you disagree about because that would violate their right to privacy.
One thing my mother used to say is a good rule of thumb here: "If you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all."
The last thing you want is for your interviewer to think that you will spread gossip about the people you work with. Or, worse, find out that your boss and your interviewer are best friends.
13. How do you handle deadlines, onerous people and silly rules that make a job difficult?
Since most companies have these situations, you must be able to deal with them in order to be effective - especially in management or executive positions. The more experience you have in being successful in spite of the common corporate challenges, the stronger you will appear.
Explain how your diplomatic skills, perseverance and sense of humor have helped you overcome these problems. Give an example or two of how you have used them in other situations.
14. One of our biggest problems is < fill in the blanks >. What has been your experience with this? How would you deal with it?
This is one of the questions we especially recommend to interviewers because it gives them a chance to see how well you think on your feet, your creativity in solving problems and your initiative in developing strategies on the spot.
If necessary, ask for more details so that you are sure you know what problem they want you to solve. If you have similar experience, describe that. If not, explain how you would approach the problem and what process you would use to come to an appropriate course of action.
15. How do you compare your technical skills to your management skills?
Many managers try to minimize their technical skills. For many jobs, some hands-on knowledge and skill is required or expected. If you have (or had) technical skills, describe them honestly. If some of your technical skills are rusty or are not current, admit that.
Don't ignore your management skills in answering this question if you are a manager or interviewing for a management position.
16. How has your technical ability been important in getting results?
This question probably indicates that technical ability is important in this position.
Most managers were in technical positions at some time in their career. If you have used your technical skills to solve a management problem, describe a situation where you were able to use your skills in spite of them not being current. Or, if you had to beef up or refresh your technical skills for some reason, explain that.
17. How would you handle a situation with tight deadlines, low morale and inadequate resources?
Such situations are typical in many companies and most managers have had to face them at one time or another. How strong your management skills are will be determined by your answers to this question. Describe your toughest management challenge even if it doesn't meet all of the points asked and how you were able to deal with it. If you have performed in turn-around situations, that should be described for this one.
Good answers to this question will demonstrate your strong management skills, prioritization skills, creative problem-solving skills, leadership skills, communication skills, teamwork skills, problem anticipation/planning skills and budget management skills.
18. Are you satisfied with your career to date? What would you change if you could?
Be honest when answering this one. Your own motivation to keep your career is important to explain. If you overcame challenges, explain how those contributed to your success.
Most interviewers are not looking for someone who is completely happy to let life take its course without guidance. Nor are they looking for someone who is constantly jumping to the next job for immediate rewards. They usually are looking for someone who has an idea where they want to go and will work on making sure they don't get too far off course while being willing to look at reasonable opportunities as they appear.
19. What are your career goals? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? ... in 10 years?
This is a tough question for many people. Especially in the early years of a management career, it's hard to imagine yourself as president of the company in a few years. If you can see the next step or two up the career ladder from where you are, that's probably the best answer for the time being. If you are already a vice president, a presidency is a reasonable goal.
Part of your answer, of course, depends on what is available at the company where you are interviewing. There's nothing wrong with stating that in your answer.
20. Why should we hire you for this position? How long do you expect to be with us? What kind of contribution would you make? How long would it take for you to be successful?
Usually these are the last questions asked. Here, you want to summarize everything you have learned about the position and how your experience and skills match the job.
Restate the major problems the job will face and how you see yourself solving them. Don't assume you already have the position but explain that you will have to get more details before jumping in too fast. Be confident in your abilities but not arrogant or cocky.
Emphasize how well you feel you will fit with the company's culture (if that is true) and that you plan to stay as long as you can contribute positively.
If you have been a quick-start person in the past, emphasize that. If you have had long-term success, emphasize that. Demonstrate with your answers that you will be a positive asset to the company and can expect to make strong contributions to whatever challenges arise.
You've finished all the interviewer's questions and are breathing a sigh of relief!
Your interviewer may ask if you have more questions. Be ready with them! In your interview preparation, you should have researched the company.
If your mind goes blank, ask about their plans for the future, new products or services on the horizon, their history, why they changed industries or any other questions based on your research.
Before you leave, be sure to ask about the time frame for choosing a candidate to fill the position. Restate your desire to work for the company in the position you interviewed for. Ask if you can call in a few days to follow-up. You may be told that successful candidates will be called back for additional interviews.
Most management positions require multiple interviews or intensive interviews with many people, so you will have to temper your questions to fit these situations.
DO NOT ask about salary or benefits until the position is offered to you and you start negotiations. Several articles in the resources section address this topic.
If it is clear to you that this position is not right for you or you sense that the interviewer is not happy with your answers, it is better to know this and discuss it before you leave. Sometimes, it is just not a good fit for whatever reason. Don't drag out the process if you are clear that you don't want the job.
Following the interview, send a 1-page follow-up letter recapping your experience, the highlights of your strengths and your interest in the position. Make sure you get a business card or the correct name and address of the person you interview with.
Salary and benefit negotiations are a very sticky issue since each situation is different. If you have researched your industry and similar jobs, you know what the job should pay.
Some companies will make a very attractive offer the first time. Others will attempt to offer less and expect to negotiate the rest. How you deal with such situations depends on your own needs, your personality and your situation.
If the company offers something less than you are willing to accept, you must be ready with a counter-offer. You may land somewhere in between or they may accept your counter. The result will depend on many variables, including bonuses, stock options and other benefits. The higher you are in the corporate hierarchy, the more negotiable the salary and compensation package becomes.
We highly recommend the book by John Lucht for in-depth discussion of negotiating points. The articles included in "Negotiating Job Offers" and "Job Offer Negotiation Strategies" as well as others listed on the Resources page provide many good suggestions.
A job search can be stressful at times. Remember to keep your goals clear and your list of what you want in front of you at all times as a reminder. Know that the perfect job is searching for you just as you are searching for it.
If you are comfortable using affirmations, create a Vision of Your Perfect Job and affirmations to go along with it.
Trust that you will find what you are looking for. If you need help, join a support group or ask some friends to be available.
Write your own to fit your ideal situation. Read it out loud at least once each day. Check all possible jobs against your Vision Statement.
Food for Thought:
"You have been drawn into this situation to gain experience. This is not a test of what you know; it is a test of how you deal with what you do not know. Invoke help in learning what you need to know" .. [Healing Lines, 4 Indiscretion, pg 38]
"If you knew the answer, you would not need to ask. This time of inexperience forces you to grow, to gain new insights and to further develop your character" .. [I Ching Workbook, 4 Inexperience]
Interviewers should be familiar with these restrictions. However, it is possible you will be asked them. You can tell the interviewer that they are illegal questions or you can answer them.
There are specialized websites about almost every conceivable job or career. Use one of the search engines to search for your interest area in addition to the links listed here.
See February 2001 article for more resources.
Orange County Resources
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Page updated: October 16, 2023
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