How to answer the interview question “How do you handle competing deadlines?”

Yesterday we discussed how to handle salary questions. If you haven’t gotten a chance to read that one, I recommend checking it out “What are you looking for in terms of compensation?”. Today we are going to tackle the interview question, “How do you handle competing deadlines?” This is another question you will find yourself asked frequently.

I think it makes sense to discuss why this question gets asked first. This question gets asked because at some point, someone in the interview process thought it made sense to get an idea as to how you deal with multiple tasks. Now, they might be asking this because it is a big part of the job that you are interviewing for. Another reason is they want to get an idea of how detail oriented you are, how you schedule your time or how self-sufficient you are.

I have had hiring managers tell me they would like me to ask this question solely for the purpose of weeding out candidates they think will come to them with every little issue. They might want to avoid candidates who answer this question by saying something like, “I would ask my manager what task is more important”.

Now there are two ways you might get asked this question. The first is the way I phrased it in the title of this post. If they ask you how, then they are looking for your methods and strategies for handling those types of issues. However, they may also ask the question like this, “Give me an example of a time when you had to handle competing deadlines”.

Now if they ask the question the second way, they aren’t looking for hypotheticals, they want an example. As a recruiter, when I ask for a specific example but instead a candidate answers with a hypothetical, it is quite frustrating. It says to me that you can’t think of a time or are avoiding the question.

So, if you are asked in a way that allows you to answer hypothetically, make sure you give a clear, concise explanation that demonstrates your ability to both plan out your time effectively as well as make decisions yourself when appropriate.

If you are asked for a specific example, make sure you have one prepared. The example should demonstrate your strategies for staying organized, it should show your ability to prioritize tasks based on timelines or important and ultimately it should demonstrate a successful outcome. Bonus points if your example is something you can realistically expect to run into in the job you are interviewing for.

Well there you have it. If you can do those simple things you will nail this interview question. Come back tomorrow when we discuss how to answer the interview question, “Give me an example of a time when you had a conflict in a professional environment?”

How to answer the interview question “What are you looking for in terms of compensation?”

Welcome back, yesterday we covered “What is your biggest weakness?”. If you haven’t read that, check it out after this. But don’t skip today’s question because it is one of the big ones! This is another question I knew I absolutely must cover. In fact, I think if I was to put a poll out there it might be the question people fear the most. I ask this question to people every single day and the response I get is unique to this question. People sight, people say “I knew you were going to as that” and all kinds of other responses.

The fact of the matter is most recruiters don’t like asking it either. I have had recruiters tell me they hate asking the question just based on the responses they get and the way candidates sometimes react. Not me however. I know it’s a question that absolutely needs to be asked and I have no problem asking the question.

I have seen posts saying that your salary requirements are none of the recruiter’s business. That is certainly one way to look at it, I however, disagree. If I send a candidate over to a hiring manager and they have absolutely no idea what that person is making I am not really doing my job. So, I ask every single time.

Now I also get why candidates don’t want to give up that information. Candidates often feel that by giving that information up they are compromising their ability to negotiate later. That’s fair. However, I would counter that just because you tell them what you are making now in no way keeps you from countering an offer or walking away.

However, I know some of you want to know how to avoid giving your salary requirements, so here is my advice on that. If you are asked what you are currently making you can respond by saying “In terms of a new role, salary is not the most important thing to me but I am open to a fair a equitable offer”. Now, some people will press further and ask what that means. If they do, I would recommend giving them a salary range and say something like “it is open to negotiation but I am targeting a salary in the 75-95k range in order to make a move”. This gives them a wide range and if they are willing to accept that answer, you still haven’t given them what you are currently making.

Now, I always think that in terms of negotiation, you are better off not giving them your current salary. If you are able to tell them a range instead of an exact amount, it will help you down the road. However, you are going to deal with recruiters who hear that answer and still want to know specifically what was on your W2 last year. If they continue to push and as for this, I would recommend telling them.

Probably not what you wanted to hear but the fact of the matter is, the situation becoming hostile doesn’t help your chances at landing the role. Some people will also say, if they are going to push you here, then that’s a company you don’t want to work for. I disagree, one person not taking not taking no for an answer doesn’t mean it still isn’t a great company. So, if they really push I would say something like “I am currently making 65k but would be targeting a salary of 75-85 in order to make a move”.

If they wont take no for an answer, better to move forward positively then get into a hostile back and forth. By stating what you need to move you are reinforcing the fact that regardless of current compensation, this is what it will take of you want me to join your organization. And as I said earlier, if they come back with 70k because you are currently at 65k, you don’t have to accept that. Counter. And if they are willing to lose you over 5k, you probably don’t want to be there anyway.

The biggest takeaway here is don’t be afraid of this question and don’t let it turn into a hostile exchange. At the end of the day you decide your worth and don’t need to accept anything that doesn’t appropriately value what you bring to the table. Another takeaway is that asking is part of the job, so don’t be too hard on your recruiter.

Well there you have it. The way to properly handle the most dreaded interview question. Come back tomorrow when we answer the interview question “How do you handle competing deadlines?” Until then, please like and share this post on social media. Thanks for reading and remember, there is never a bad time to hear about a great opportunity.

How to answer the interview question “What is your biggest weakness?”

Welcome back! Yesterday we covered answering the interview question “What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment?” If you haven’t read that yet, head on over there after you read this post. I am actually surprised I was able to wait as long as I did to answer this question. This is a stable of interviews and I think what really makes it interesting is there is a general consensus on how to answer this question that I think is wrong.

I think the general school of thought on this question is you answer this question with something that really isn’t a weakness but rather is a strength. The problem with that is everyone see’s through that. Everyone immediately dismisses your answer as disingenuous. I mean think about it. I imagine your are interviewing someone for your team and you ask this question and there answer is “Well, I guess my biggest weakness is I am willing to stay late to make sure I accomplish all my goals and I meet my objectives”.

Do you take the answer seriously? I have heard that answer and guess what, I didn’t. Its seen as dodging the question and really isn’t appreciated. You are actually much better served picking an actual weakness that wouldn’t impact your ability to function at a high level in the role you are interviewing for followed up by the ways you are working to bolster that weakness.

So, first, make sure it isn’t a weakness that is going to severely impact your ability to do your job. So, if you are applying to be an internal auditor, your weakness should not be your inability to stay focused and occasional lack of attention to detail. If you are applying to be a surgeon, it shouldn’t be that you get really shaky hands when under pressure. You get the idea.

Instead find something that is reasonable that you have been working on improving. For example, I often ask the question, “What areas would you like to improve upon in your career?” That is essentially the same question. Some of the best answer are just honest answers about what they value and want to make sure they can turn into a strength. I want to get better at mentoring more junior engineers. I want to make sure continue to learn as the technology advances in my industry.

I had a person answer the other day that her greatest weakness was public speaking. This is an excellent answer to the question. Why? Because it wasn’t a major component of her role, it’s a fear many people share and it’s something she is working towards improving. That right there is the trifecta. If you answer does those three things you will be just fine.

There you have it! Make sure you come back again tomorrow when we cover answering he interview question “What are you looking for in terms of compensation?” Also, if you like these posts, go down load my FREE Interview Prep Guide, its totally free. As always, I appreciate any likes or shares of these posts. Thanks for reading and remember, there is never a bad time to hear about a great opportunity.

How to answer the interview question “What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment?”

Welcome back to 31 interview questions in 31 days. If you are new to this, I have committed to answering 31 interview questions of 31 business days. Today is the 5th day, so we have 26 more to go. Over the next 26 days I will answer a variety of interview questions, including behavioral interview questions, motivation questions and even salary questions. Yesterday we covered the interview question “Where do you want to be in 5 years?” If you haven’t read that one yet, hop over there when you finish today’s!

Speaking of today, we are going to cover the interview question “What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment?” Now on the surface this might seem like an easy question to answer, right? I am not so sure about that actually. You see this is another question where if you are prepared to answer the question, then it should be an issue for you. However, if you are unprepared and fumble the answer on the spot it will give the person interviewing a lot of questions about you as a candidate. Does this person really not have anything they are proud of in their career?

So, the first key here is to be prepared. Know that this is a question that could very likely be asked and know exactly what you are going to say ahead of time. Secondly, do not make something up. Recruiting Legend Lou Adler once held a full day training class with my company. He spent the entire day teaching us what has worked for him in his storied career and towards the end of the day he talked about what he considered the most important interview question you can ask.

The question today was the question he was referring to. The reason being is that you can really get a solid idea about what this person’s level of ability is with this question. You can also get the people they interface with, scope of their role, organizational impact and a lot of other information when you ask the right follow ups. You see, for a recruiter, the key isn’t to ask the question, take down the answer and move on. The key to this is in the follow up questions. A good recruiter will ask what their specific role was, who they interfaced with, how long it took, who else was involved, who did you need signoff from etc.

It’s easy for a person to be asked this question and exaggerate their impact if there are no follow up questions. However, if you ask the right follow up questions it is near impossible for a person to keep fabricating without it becoming obvious. So, to recap, have an answer prepared and don’t lie. The one additional tip I will give is that it helps if your biggest accomplishment is something that would add value to your potential new role. Most of us will have several accomplishments we are proud of so if you can pick one that would be particularly attractive based on what you know of the company and role, then it’s a good idea to use that as an answer.

Well there you have it. This is a pretty straightforward question as long as you can avoid those pitfalls. Tomorrow we will cover the question “What is your biggest weakness?” If you liked this post, please feel free to like and share it with your social media. Thanks for reading and remember, there is never a bad time to hear about a great opportunity.

3 Absolute Interview Killers – Avoid saying these at all costs

In the past I have written posts about things you shouldn’t say, things you should say and ways to phrase certain things. However, after some recent feedback on an interview I felt it made sense to share this post on things you absolutely have to avoid saying. These are things where if you say them, you will absolutely not be getting that job. Now, I will say this is of course subject to the Welding Engineer exception. If you have read any of my posts in the past I have referred to the fact that some of the standard rules may not apply to people who happen to have a really rare skill set, like Welding Engineers. Bit for the rest of us, like you and me, if we say these things in the middle of an interview, you might as well save everyone’s time by picking up your stuff and going home. So with that being said let’s look at the things you must avoid saying at all cost if you want to be successful in your interview.

My last job/boss was terrible!

Most of us have had several bosses or jobs that were terrible. Maybe the culture was toxic or perhaps there was no work life balance. This happens. It’s out there and if you have avoided these situations, that is awesome. However, most working adults have situations we look back not so fondly on. However, if at any point in your interview you mention that your prior boss sucked you aren’t getting that job. That’s pretty black and white and yes, perhaps there are instances where you will get the job. However, you just put yourself at a disadvantage, unnecessarily I might add. If you were going to run a marathon, would you want to eat a bunch of McDonalds right before the race began? Of course not. Could you still end up finishing? Yea, of course. But is it a smart idea? Of course it isn’t. Be positive and take the high road for your own good.

 

I decided to take this interview just to see what’s out there

I want to start by saying that obviously this one isn’t as bad as the first. However, you still need to avoid saying it.  Imagine you go on a date and the person you are out with says something along the lines of “the only reason I am here is to see what’s on the menu at this restaurant”. How excited are you about that response? Might you have taken the interview out of curiosity? Sure. However, that goes under the category things you may actually feel but make no sense for you to disclose. That answer benefits no one. And quite frankly, it’s not true. Nobody goes on an interview solely out of curiosity. There is more to it. Perhaps they heard great things about the culture or feel like their current role doesn’t afford them the growth they desire and they want to know if this role might. There is always something else. That something else is usually way better than just seeing what else is out there. If I have said it once I have said it a thousand times, people buy passion. People want to feel the excitement in your voice. They want enthusiasm and if you really want to move forward in an interview process you would be wise to give it to them.

 

Saying anything offensive or inappropriate

This falls under the no brainer category. That being said, much to my shock and bewilderment, it still happens all the time. Most people spend a very short amount of their professionals lives immersed in the interview process. They occasionally interview or if they have a team, they occasionally hire someone to join it. As a recruiter, a live in it. Every day of my working life I am involved in it in some way or the other. The fact if the matter is people say things that are shocking all the time. If its political, inappropriate or in any way offensive, you need to avoid it. If you would have a hard time explaining yourself in an HR meeting or in front of your grandmother, don’t say it. If its political or religious, I would avoid saying it. You might say something and the person interviewing you agrees. For the sake of argument, let’s say 50% of the people you will ever interview with will have that same opinion. Well guess what, with that math, 50% of the time you will offend the person you are interviewing with. Do you like that math? I don’t. Now let’s circle back. Imagine the 50% of the people who agree with you. Let’s be conservative and assume that will half of them will find what you said to be poor judgement, which most reasonable people will. Given that you exhibit poor judgement they will probably opt for a different choice. That means that your comment will disqualify you 75% of the time. Guess, what, that other 25% of the time it doesn’t actually help you, it just doesn’t hurt you. If you were in a room with two doors and you had to make a choice which one you exited through and one of the doors you had a 75% chance of getting kicked by Connor McGregor and the other had a zero percent chance, which one would you chose? Also, the Connor McGregor door doesn’t add any additional benefit remember. It’s an easy choice. Well so is this, avoid saying those things and you will be much better off.

 

Well there you have it, those are my 3 absolute interview killers. If you can avoid saying them, you will be much better off. I hope you found value in that post, if you did please feel free to “like” it and share it on social media. And if you haven’t checked out last week’s post, give it a read here, When does your interview start?. Thanks for reading and have an awesome day!