3 Questions Every Candidate Should Ask in the Interview

Posted: September 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on 3 Questions Every Candidate Should Ask in the Interview

During my morning coffee today, I logged on to my LinkedIn profile  to peruse the job postings of the day for a few clients I had in the back of my mind.  As I was on there I realized it had been a while since I answered any job seeker questions and made a quick mental note to go back this afternoon and do so.

We all know how great mental notes are when you’re past the age of…mmm…sorry, must have gotten a pretzel crumb stuck in my throat there. I digress. In any event, my crackberry reminder beeped to remind me that I wanted to post an article I read this morning on Yahoo! Finance about the drop in jobless benefit applications. Somehow in my insane entrepreneurial mind that told me that I needed to head back to LinkedIn and do some question and answer posting.

Meet Carl. A candidate who posted the question “What questions are good to ask in an interview?” If I had a dollar for every time I was asked this question, I’d have a whole lot of dollars. This is such a frequently asked job search question, I have dedicated: a sub-chapter of my book, “Career Sudoku: 9 Ways to Win the Job Search Game”, created a Do-It-Yourself Impressive Interview Kit and professional speak at conferences around the country on Impressive Interviewing in Today’s Market.

It occurred to me that it’s been a while since I wrote about this on my blog. What’s a candidate need to ask in today’s interview? Here are a few questions to get you started.

Six months from now how will you know you hired the right candidate?
This question elicits information on how your performance will be measured in the position. If the interviewer is unsure in their response, proceed with caution. Your performance may be measured subjectively rather than objectively at this company.

Listen carefully as the answer also provides insight into what characteristics the hiring manager is looking for in a new team member.

What do you see at the Top 3 challenges in this position?
Set yourself up to win before you even land the job starting when you ask this question. The answer to this one gives you the functions to address on days one through ninety of your new position. This is also good information to use when formulating answers during a second interview and in writing your personalized thank-you note.

If you had one piece of advice to give the person coming in to this position, what would it be?

I love this question. It always takes the interviewer by surprise, a good surprise. It also elicits some of the best “insider” information and can quickly get to the root of a company’s culture.

Real Life Story: One of my clients had a day of back-to-back interviews and asked each person she met with this question. Her most surprising answer came from the last person she met with who said, “Eat oatmeal.” When the interviewer saw the surprised look on her face, he elaborated. “everyone here eats oatmeal every morning. If you want to fit in right away, bring oatmeal and eat it every morning. It’s the easiest way to fit in.”  She wasn’t sure if he was serious. She scanned the office as she was being walked out and noticed 3 large containers of Quakers Oats around the office. A few weeks later she was sitting in her new office eating a nice big bowl of oatmeal and chatting up her new colleagues who were all delighted to see that she, too, loved oatmeal. What a coincidence.

Interview questions are a way to make connections both during, and after, the hiring process.  The guy that gave her the inside scoop on the oatmeal has become one of her closest colleagues and has helped her establish everything from new accounts to procedures along the way.

Career Coach Confession: Candidates that walk in with at least 4 to 6 questions written down in advance on a pad folio convey confidence, interest and motivation.

Women's Wage Gap – Is this really news?

Posted: September 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Women's Wage Gap – Is this really news?

Women in Washington, D.C. make an average of $54,000/year (they ranked #1) compared to women in Puerto Rico who make an average of just $20,000/year (they ranked last). Hold on to your hats though because the ladies in Puerto Rico are pulling in 103.3 cents for every one dollar man makes compared to just 88.2 cents in Washington, D.C.

Okay, I’ll admit that these stats and facts are interesting but is it really news? The whole idea that this is something “new” is a bit insane to me. As a Hispanic woman, I’ve known that I make less than white men for a long time (read: over 17 years). Why is the media so up in arms about this? By the way, as a group, Hispanic women are the lowest paid professionals.

Here’s the skinny on what American women really make, by ethnicity. According to the U.S. Census Data, updated, and released, in September 2010:

Rate per white male dollar:
All Races, women | 77 cents
White, non-Hispanic, women | 75 cents
Black, or African-American women | 61.9 cents
Asian women | 82.3 cents
Hispanic women | 52.9 cents

Interestingly enough, I just read a new report, apparently released on Tuesday from another government agency, that gives different figures from those above. Is it surprising that two government agencies have different figures for the same data? Of course not. Then again, they have different dates on this data so I’ll cut them a bit of slack.

The Government Accountability Office released their report after 20 years of data showing that, as of 2007, women earned 81 cents to every one dollar a male manager earned, up from 77 cents in 2000. Only problem is that this information is already three years old. Thanks for the timely data, GAO. Oh yeah, this is the report that the national and local media outlets are all hyped up over. Hey, Bloomberg, anyone bother to notice that three year old wage data is about as relevant as three year old unemployment numbers. Oh wait, it’s not relevant. Women don’t make 81 cents/dollar; we make 77 cents/dollar.

Here’s a little proof for that pudding. My book, “Career Sudoku: 9 Ways to Win the Job Search Game” was published on July 14, 2010. The statistics about this wage gap issue, including the breakdown by gender and race, are listed on page 206 and address head on how to take the bull by the horns and negotiate your way to a better paycheck.

The one piece of insight the GAO report had was what having children does to a woman’s paycheck. As Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, (Democrat, New York) said, “When working women have kids, they know it will change their lives, but they are stunned at how much it will change their paycheck.”  Just how much does it change their paycheck? According to the GAO report, mothers earned 79% compared to fathers, and their married, childless colleagues earned 83%.

Career Coach Confession: This news is not at all surprising to a Hispanic businesswoman and recovering Fortune 500 executive. I do think I’m happy I don’t have kids just yet though. (sorry, mom)

Questions NOT To Ask During The Interview

Posted: September 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Questions NOT To Ask During The Interview

I am often asked “What questions should I ask during an interview?” and “How do I answer____ question?”  Fill in the blank with any of the Top 10 Toughest Interview Questions from “Tell me a little about yourself” to “What are your weaknesses?”  

What surprises me is that candidates rarely ask me what questions they should avoid asking during an interview. This was exactly what Maria Hanson, contributing writer for Monster HotJobs (formerly Yahoo! HotJobs), asked me and other career industry experts, for her article “14 Questions You Should Never Ask At An Interview”.

In a conversation this morning this very topic came up and a senior manager for The City of Chicago looked at me and said “I know exactly what to ask in an interview.  There’s only two questions and they are completely appropriate. How much are you going to pay me and When do I start?

I grinned and replied to him, “That first question was the number one question to avoid asking in an interview; based on asking it the answer to your second question is likely never.” Given that he and I are friends, we had a good chuckle. He has had the luxury of not interviewing in….44 years. Realizing that the 55+ age group is one of the most impacted in today’s market, and many have not interviewed in 20+ years, I share this story because it’s important to learn from others.

Today’s Confession of a Career Coach: Use a padfolio to write down interview questions (to ask) in advance of your interview. This keeps you from asking “dangerous” questions and shows the hiring manager you’re interested, smart and motivated.

Lessons from "The Apprentice"

Posted: September 23rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Lessons from "The Apprentice"

Last Thursday night, I cancelled my business dinner and curled up on my couch for a little “me” time. We all have those nights when we need to just relax alone and this was one of those nights for me. I put on my glasses, a comfy pair of pants, t-shirt and grabbed my remote. Ah, time for a little TV. Donald Trump had other plans for me when he announced this season of “The Apprentice” was recession-based. What? My mind jumped to action.

My clients can definitely benefit from this season’s show!  So much for relaxing TV night. My ears perked up, along with my posture, and I was tuned in to the show like it was CNN‘s latest report on the unemployment numbers.

This week’s lesson from “The Apprentice” that all job seekers in America can use:

Lesson #1:  You are what you wear
Clint, while in the Boardroom, decided to show up for the most important interview of his life, without a tie. Did it go without comment? Nope. Don Jr. called him out in front of all 16 candidates, Donald Trump Sr. and Ivanka. Clint’s response was that he’d wear a tux, a suit with tie or anything else if it meant getting the job.

The reality is that he didn’t though, he showed up in the boardroom dressed too casually and it showed. Every other person in that room (a.k.a. his competition) was dressed to impress and ready to take the job right from under him at any minute.

Always remember that you are what you wear and the details matter.  Donald Trump responded that years ago Wall Street guys would show up in shorts and shirts to sell him and now every one of them walks in his office in a suit, tie and polished shoes.

Tonight’s episode of  “The Apprentice” airs on NBC at 10/9c and if you’re in the high-stakes game of looking for a job, you just might want to tune in…or set your DVR to record it. You can bet I’ll be tuning in each week to find out what these feisty candidates are up to and how I can coach you on turning their antics into successful job search strategies the next week!