What’s Your Greatest Weakness?

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Dear Perfectionists,

Answering interview questions disingenuously is easy to spot.And refusal to address zingers that force you to take a cold, hard look at yourself may imply hubris.So lose the fear, do some self-evaluation, and learn how to conquer everyone’s favorite “Weakness” question.

Employers are looking for stand-outs in the interview process.Knock-em-deads who bring new ideas to the table and address problems with creativity and confidence.Hence, the individual who answers an interview question with a cliché fails on that count.What’s that archaic exchange?The classic:“What’s your greatest weakness?”“I’m a perfectionist!”Readers, it’s going to get you nowhere.Hiring managers have been around the block far too many times to swallow that one anymore, and in this job market, you cannot risk throwing away an interview question like that.

Similarly, don’t come back with the insufferable, “I don’t have any”.You are human…you are fallible.Any person that self-absorbed is going to have only him or herself to answer to at the end of the day, because they’re not going to get the job.

The going advice on this one nowadays is to be honest.Now, that’s not to say that you can’t navigate this question tactfully.But when an interviewer asks you for information, it is your sole duty during that meeting to provide it.

That said, focus on a weakness that won’t doom your chances of scoring a job in the first place.You don’t want to mention how you are chronically late, and often let important meetings slip your mind.You also don’t want to bring up that you find it near impossible to get along with others, and have been known to get into office altercations.And steer clear of mentioning weaknesses that are irreconcilable with the job you are applying for, i.e. bringing up that you are terrible with numbers when you are interviewing for a job at a bank.

Think of something to say that’s genuine, but find a way to turn that weakness into a positive experience.Perhaps you tend to take on too many projects at once, sometimes to the detriment of the quality of your work, but you have recently taken to using a daily planner to keep you on track.Maybe you are shy, but in the past few months you have been making a better effort to network and reach out to organizations, coming out on the other end with a little more confidence.

Everyone has weaknesses.And countless people excel in their career.So it’s clear that weaknesses aren’t going to render you useless when it comes to taking up a new position at a company – and employers know that.So give some thought to this question before you walk into your next interview, and answer gracefully and honestly.Because in the end, how you answer the question says a lot about who you are.

 

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3 Ways to Stand Out in an Interview

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There is no question the interview process is a tough one. Although the unemployment rate has dropped slightly, 6.6 percent of the country is still struggling to find a job. Competition for the best jobs is fierce, and separating yourself from the pack can be difficult. With a little creativity and preparation, however, you can stand out to employers and kill it in your interview!

Network Until You Drop

There is no “right” or “best” way to land an interview. Most candidates flood the market with their resume and wait. This is about as efficient as tossing a bucket of bait into a pond and hoping some of the fish are hungry.

Set yourself up to stand out in an interview by making an impression through networking. According to some estimates, as many as 80 percent of landed jobs come from savvy networking. Leverage all personal connections to your targeted companies. Ask to be introduced to hiring managers. At the very least, a personal recommendation from someone who already works in the company is an invaluable way to set yourself apart from the pack.

Using social media and industry-targeted websites is another efficient way to “be seen” by hiring managers if you lack a personal connection. By posting your resume on huge job websites, you risk being ignored or passed over. Aim for the smaller, focused sites hiring managers are more likely to frequent in their candidate search process. However you decide to approach it, successful networking means you will stand out before you even enter the room.

Do Your Homework

During an interview, many candidates know a great deal about the job description. They may even have ample experience in that particular job, and will spend the interview impressing hiring managers with their accomplishments. Although related experience is important, it creates a one-sided image — a personification of the resume.

To stand out, you should become an expert on every company you interview with. Know the company history and place in the market. Leverage connections to find out as much as you can about company culture. Instead of reciting your skills and experience, explain how your skills could be of value to your prospective employer and give examples of ways you could use your experience to the benefit of the company. Go beyond the humble brag to let the hiring manager know you could be an asset.

A candidate who demonstrates knowledge of the industry will also be a stand-out. Hiring managers interview multiple candidates for a position, but the individual who demonstrates a level of expertise and passion is likely to be productive immediately without suffering from a learning curve — a rare quality!

Engage the Interviewer

Most candidates wait to be engaged. They sit back and politely wait for questions, always responding and never actively participating in interviews. This smile-and-nod approach allows the candidate to fade into the background of the interview process.

Make the interview process interesting for the hiring manager. You should obviously allow them to run the show, but don’t be afraid to ask a few questions of your own. Respond to things you find interesting and ask for clarification when they ask a tough question. Expand on issues the interviewing seems to emphasize.

For example, does the interviewer mention building PowerPoint presentations are an important skill for the job? Find out why. Ask how this has made an impact on the company in the past, propose new and exciting ways to use these presentations, and illustrate your mastery over all things PowerPoint.

Finally, do not be afraid to make a personal connection with the interviewer. If the interviewer mentions being an avid runner and so are you, share this! You will be elevated from Joe Candidate to Joe Runner, and will immediately stand out in the interviewer’s mind during the decision-making process.

There are many paths to landing the job of your dreams. Unfortunately, there are lots of other people on those paths, all hoping for the same thing. This is why standing out from the rest of the candidate pool is imperative for your success. Leverage your networks, become an expert on each company you interview with, and keep the interviewer engaged during your interview. Instead of being one of many “walking resumes” who are so easily forgotten, you will be a top contender!

What do you think? What are some ways to stand out from the crowd to land a great job?

About the Author: Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.

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3 Most Important Topics to Hit On During a Job Interview

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You submit your resume to a couple of places you would like to work and after a few weeks you get a call from one of those employers asking you to come in for a job interview.

The next step is preparing for your interview. You should treat the job interview like your life depends on it, dress the best, be there on time and be sure you have these 3 aspects covered during the interview to boost up the chances of you getting hired.

Be Sure You Have Enough Information About The Company

Do you really wish to work at this place? Have you done your research? Start digging the moment you receive the call for the interview. Look into the company’s history and familiarize yourself with details such as:

  • How long has the company been operating for?

  • What is the volume of business carried out each day by the company?

  • What are their primary products or services?

  • What is the number of locations the company has?

  • What are the timings?

  • What is the role they’re considering you for?

  • How large is the team?

If it’s possible, try visiting the company in person and looking around to get insight about the company that might help you during your interview. Also try researching what the position you applied for requires you to do, as getting hold of such information will obviously put you ahead of other candidates and it will also show your interest and willingness to work there.

Know Yourself

If you have taken part in previous interviews, you might be familiar with the question “Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?” This question is something that baffles the most prepared candidates as well. What does an interviewer/recruiter want to see in you? If I was interviewing candidates, I would definitely be looking for ones who know more about themselves.

I would look for candidates who have definite goals set for themselves, not just 5 years from now but for the entire professional life ahead of them.

The cheesy answer, “I see myself in your chair 5 years from now!” is a mistake you should definitely avoid making. Interviewers aren’t fond of the answer as they are likely to interpret you as an over-confident person. Considering you have done ample research for the position you are being interviewed for and you know the hierarchy well, only then would you be able to answer this question wisely. Define the position you see yourself at after 5 years, the pay scale you are looking for and then explain how you plan to pave your way all the way to that position.

Is The Job For You?

Your productivity depends solely on one factor, the level of satisfaction you get from your job. How can you be sure that the job you are being interviewed for will be satisfying in all aspects? This is one topic you cannot miss hitting during a job interview.

First off, you need to be clear how you see your ideal job as. Consider asking the interviewer the following questions to be clear on the environment you were looking for:

  • How would you define the organizational culture? (formal/informal, centralized/decentralized)

  • What do you think is the best part about working at your organization?

  • Is it a new position for which I am being interviewed, or did someone leave?

  • How do you evaluate employees and measure their performance?

These are some basic questions you should definitely hit on during an interview. Not only will you be able to get information which will help you decide the suitability of this job; but this will also help the interviewer understand how serious you are about working at their organization and that you are not ‘just another candidate’!

About the AuthorGerald Buck is the editor of ejobapplications.com, a site offering job applications and resourceful information. He is passionate in providing advice to those seeking job opportunities.

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Nail Your Next Interview

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Recently, we shared some advice about asking questions at the end of job interviews. To sum it up, you should always ask the employer questions–even if most of them were answered during the interview, but you should never  ask these five questions if you want the interviewer to take you seriously. (Hint: avoid asking about about vacation and other benefits during a first interview)

The questions that you ask at the end of the interview will help you and the employer mutually determine if you are a good fit for both the position and the company, but what else should you keep in mind when preparing for an interview?

Check out the following articles for more tips and tricks to help you get an offer:

Good luck with your next interview!

[Photo Source: Zoho]

 

 

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5 Career Stories You Need to Know for Your Next Job Interview

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Don’t prepare to give answers about your skills and experience at your next job interview. Instead, be ready to tell your career stories.

Well-crafted career stories can be a powerful tool for helping a prospective employer see what kind of worker you are. And, when you craft your stories ahead of time, you’re less likely to stray off topic, talk too much or give information that you’d rather not.

General guidelines for career stories:

  • Be sure they are true
  • Make them succinct
  • Show professional growth

Here are 5 career stories you should be able to tell at your next interview (this list is by no means exhaustive!):

1. The mistake/failure –This is your chance to show that you recognize your own fallibility; that you can take responsibility and be accountable; and that you can fix your errors and learn from them. When telling your story, don’t come off as sheepish or overly embarrassed – everyone makes mistakes, it’s how we handle them that matters.

2. The difficult situation – Your difficult situation story should illustrate how you faced a challenge, prevailed and became a better employee for it. Note: You might want to come up with a few stories in this vein dealing with different situations, such as meeting a challenging goal, dealing with a difficult coworker, dealing with a difficult client and so on. Also, while a mistake or failure can certainly lead to a difficult situation, with this story we’re looking for a challenge presented to you, rather than one you created for yourself.

3. The disagreement with your boss – This story should show that you are assertive and stand up for what you think is right. If you were able to sway your boss to your point of view, all the better. If not, though, the story should demonstrate that know when to set aside your idea and get with the program (unless, of course, it’s an issue of ethics). It may also be handy to have a story about disagreeing with a colleague or client ready to go.

4. The success – Hopefully you have plenty of material for this one. When choosing a story, stay away from anecdotes about easy successes. A hard-won achievement will be more impressive. Mistake/failure and difficult situation stories often can double as success stories.

5. The collaboration – This story should recount a time that you worked successfully with a group to complete a project or reach some other goal. Key elements: your role in the group and how you influenced the outcome in a good way. This story may have elements related to your difficult situation and success stories. And, it can also be a good story for illustrating your leadership skills, or your powers of persuasion.

For this post, Doostang thanks our friends at Career Bliss.

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The 5 Worst Questions Interview Candidates Ask

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The interview process can be a slippery slope. While it can be the opportunity to really sell yourself, you also pose the risk of royally messing up your chances at getting hired. Plus, you don’t have much time to state your case: 33 percent of recruiters claimed to know within 90 seconds whether or not a candidate is a good fit for the position. Scary, right?

There’s one major hiccup many candidates make, however: Asking the wrong questions. While you should definitely have thoughts at the end of your interview, there are a few questions that not only turn hiring managers off, but also give you a way-one ticket to Rejection Land. So, which ones should you avoid and what are some alternatives to consider? Check out the following below:

“What do you do?”

Asking what a company does isn’t exactly great interview practice. First, it shows you didn’t do research on the organization. Second, it illustrates your lack of interest in the company, its goals, mission, history, and where it stands today. A viable candidate does their homework beforehand. An unqualified candidate expects others to do the work for them. In an employment market where there are always other options to fill a position, a hiring manager may dismiss you for the next guy in line.

Instead: If you’ve done your research but aren’t sure about a certain practice or how particular operations work, go into specifics. So, instead of “What do you do?” say, “I’d like to learn more about the marketing team and what its day-to-day tasks entail.”

“How much will I get paid?”

Money can be a touchy subject. While you’d like to know how much money you could potentially be making, you’re not in a position to ask in the first few rounds of an interview. Even after, you should tread lightly and do your research: 18 percent of employers will eliminate candidates whose salary expectations are too high. Don’t play the money card until it’s been played to you first.

Instead: As a rule, avoid this question until after you’ve received an offer. If you’re curious about ranges, check out industry averages or salary resources likeGlassdoor.com, which provide you with company estimates from current and former employees.

“How much time off do you provide?”

While vacation time is important, asking how much time off you’re going to get before you’re hired may show that you’re already “working for the weekend.” That is, you’re ready to jump out the door before you’ve accomplished the work that bodes a vacation. While it’s important to understand vacation policies, framing it in this way illustrates indifference, not dedication.

Instead: Many employers will list vacation policies on their website. Check that out first before you ask about time off. In addition, if you’ve read about how the company promotes alternatives like flexible work options, you can definitely say something like this: “While researching the company, I read about your flexible work options. I’d like to learn more about that. Can you provide me with some insight or direct me to a resource online?”

“Can I use Facebook (Or Twitter or Instagram) at work?”

Social media is all the rage these days. With 89 percent of job seekers using social networking sites, it may seem like something you should always have access to. However, every company is different. Some are more lenient with social networking tools while others have strict policies. While you may want to use social networking as a way to perform tasks, a hiring manager may believe you’d use Facebook, or any other platform, as a means to waste time or not follow through with projects.

Instead: Ask what tools the company uses to be productive. This can pave the way to a social networking conversation that will allow you to find out if the company uses social media to connect with customers or if these platforms are used internally to respond to questions.

“How did I do?”

This is the ultimate job interview no-no. Asking how you did may sound like a way to connect with the interviewer, but it also shows that you don’t have enough confidence in yourself. Confidence is key in a job interview. It asserts that you have the knowledge and experience to do the job right — without formal reassurance — and that starts by proving yourself in a job interview.

Instead: Show you’re interested in continuing the conversation by asking the following: “What are the next steps in the hiring process process?” This not only shows you’re interested in the position, it also gives you some insight into what you can expect next.

While job interviews are definitely a tough bridge to cross, make your job search a little easier by avoiding these questions! You’ll have a much better experience, and a more favorable outcome, when you do so.

What do you think? What are some other terrible job interview questions candidates ask?

About the Author: Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author ofLies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.

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Interview Tips: A Few Good Questions

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I am often asked whether you need to ask questions in an interview, even if all your questions were answered during it. YES! YES! YES! You should always have several questions ready to ask at the conclusion of the interview when the interviewer says, “do you have any questions?” Asking questions shows the interviewer that you are truly interested in the position and that you are a thoughtful person.

The easiest thing to do is jot down at least three questions (five is better) on a notepad that you bring along. Do this before coming to the interview when you are researching the company and the people with whom you will be meeting. If you get to the end and find that all of your prepared questions have been answered, here are a few good questions that I like to ask and like to be asked as an interviewer:

  • How long was the person who held this position previously in the job and what are they doing now?
  • What is one thing you like about working here and one thing you would like to change?
  • How do you define success for someone in this position (for example, what qualities and accomplishments are most important)?

If you feel that the interview did not go very well and you are still interested in the job, you may want to ask “do you have any reservations about hiring me for this position?” If they say yes and are willing to tell you what those reservations are, you have an opportunity to address their concerns and turn the interview around. However, this could be a risky question if you’re not prepared to assuage their apprehensions.

The most important thing you can do is to prepare. Too many people go into an interview thinking, “I am perfect for this job!” and don’t prepare. Don’t get caught! An interviewer can easily tell the difference between someone who has thoughtfully prepped and someone who has not. What else can you do to practice besides thinking of questions to ask the interviewer? Think of questions the interviewer might ask you and brainstorm your answers. Answers with specific examples from your experience are always best because they demonstrate to an employer how you operate in an office setting, which is very hard to gauge when you’re sitting in an interview. Questions will vary greatly based on the type of interview, industry, company culture and number of interviewers. Try to get as much information as possible before the interview about how the interview will be structured and who will be present. General questions that could be asked include:

  • What is your greatest strength and weakness?
  • Describe a failure you’ve encountered and how you handled it.
  • With what kind of people do you work best?
  • What motivates you?

Practice your answers, jot down notes and bring them along. Review them right before you go in. It’s just like studying for an exam. You need to take it that seriously. Think about it. You’ve been invited there – given the opportunity to present yourself in person – while many other candidates do not have that chance. Don’t blow it. Preparing well for the interview shows an employer that you are organized, smart, capable, thoughtful, insightful, determined – and just the kind of person they want on their team.

About the Author: Marcelle Yeager is president of Career Valet, where she helps people transition their career through recognizing skills and job possibilities they didn’t know they had. She has worked for over 10 years as a strategic communications consultant in the private sector and federal government, including overseas. 

 

 

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How To Make Yourself Stand Out For A Competitive Job

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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the financial industry sector is expected to see dramatic rises in employment by the year 2022.  The securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments and related activities sector, a relatively small portion of the overall industry, is expected to see more than a 20% increase in employment. Comparable advances are expected in many of the other sectors as well. Even with this growth, the competition for desirable jobs still remains fierce. With that in mind, what can a current student or recent graduate do to improve their chances of landing that dream job in the financial sector?

Building The Foundation

To successfully build a career, laying a firm foundation is crucial. This foundation building includes:

-Taking the right courses

-Adding proper experience to your resume

-Making the right connections

Set Education Goals

For current and future students, explore the job market for the industry sector you want to join and adjust your curriculum to include courses that will be of value to employers, not just now but in the future as well. This requires examining current trends towards new technologies and software being used in the industry as well as developing a knowledge of available certifications and skill sets that are sought after by employers. By creating a curriculum that includes these trending skills and certifications, you add appeal to your resume.

Gaining Experience

After setting educational goals, your next step should be adding some work experience to your resume. This has been the bane of many new graduates. Every employer wants to hire someone with experience but how can you get experience if no one will hire you?

To get the experience you need to stand out among the throngs of other qualified applicants, you must become resourceful. Look into the possibility of internships, job shadowing and other resources that will provide actual hands-on experience in your chosen field. That unpaid summer internship program or leadership conference might cost you a bit of time and money now but the experience gained from these sources adds some real value to your resume.

Get Connected

The third, and perhaps most important, point in building your career’s foundation is creating the right connections. Whether you choose the old fashioned meet and greet method or opt to go online through social media, the connections you make can deliver some very rich rewards. Connections made through joining professional organizations, people you met during internships and conferences or those you met through a digital platform such as LinkedIn can help you get your foot in the door with competitive companies. Even the most seemingly insignificant connection may be your link to the CEO of that Fortune 500 company you want to work for.

If you are just a faceless resume among hundreds or thousands of other faceless resumes, it is hard to get that dream companies attention and  the call for an interview. When you lay out a solid foundation for the career you want, it becomes much easier to stand out in the crowd and get noticed.

 

How do you get noticed?  What are you doing to build the resume for the career you want? What techniques have worked for you? Leave a comment and share your thoughts 

 

About the Author: Gerald Buck is the editor of ejobapplications.com, a site offering job applications and resourceful information. He is passionate in providing advice to those seeking job opportunities.

 

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5 Dos and 5 Don’ts To Ace Your Interview

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The job-hunting process can be long and drawn out. Many people battle their way through CV-writing and application forms, only to fall at the final hurdle. Interviews can be stressful – however, there are some steps you can take to improve your chances of getting the job. Follow these dos and don’ts to find interview success.

Do’s

Be confident

An overly nervous candidate will stick in the interviewer’s mind for all the wrong reasons. If you’re physically shaking and struggling to talk at an interview, how will you cope with pitching ideas to a large team, or meeting with important clients? It’s natural to be a little jittery, but don’t let it ruin your chances of getting the job. If you’re nervous, pretend that you’re not. Take some deep breaths before you go in, smile, and offer a firm handshake. If you’re acting confident, you’ll start to feel confident too.

Do your research

It’s not unknown for interviewers to open with the question ‘tell me what you know about our company’. If you perform poorly on the first question, you’re going to feel stressed and uncomfortable for the whole interview. Research the company thoroughly – check out their website, read any recent news articles about them, and investigate their market and main competitors.  If you know the names of your interviewers, you could even take a look at their profiles on LinkedIn.

Think of questions before you go in

The interviewer will always finish by asking if you have any questions for them. Saying no implies that you’re not interested in the company – and is a sure-fire way to stay unemployed. If you’re worried you won’t be able to remember them, write them down (in a notebook, not on a scrappy bit of paper). Good questions demonstrate either that you’ve researched the company, or are genuinely curious about the role you’ve applied for.

Be polite

It’s important to be polite to everyone you encounter at your interview – from the receptionist to the people you stand next to in the lift. Your interviewer may ask their colleagues what they thought about you – they’re the ones who’ll be working with you, after all. If you’ve made a bad impression on someone, it could harm your chances of getting hired.

Write it down

It may be tempting to walk out of your interview and try to forget about it – particularly if you feel you performed badly. However, it’s important to write down all of the details you can remember, while it’s still fresh in your memory. If you get offered a second interview, you’ll struggle to remember what was discussed – and you don’t want to spend the interview repeating yourself.

Don’ts

Don’t be late

If your interview is in an unfamiliar area, try to do a run-through the day before. If this isn’t possible, give yourself plenty of room for error when setting off. Google maps might say the journey takes half an hour – but that’s without traffic jams and late trains. If there are no delays and you find yourself there early, find a nearby café to wait in. Aim to arrive at the office between ten and fifteen minutes before you’re due to be interviewed.

Don’t lie

Most interviews are based around the information you provided on your CV. Interviewers will pick up on interesting details and grill you about them – if you’ve embellished your credentials, you’re going to find it very difficult to keep the lie going.  Many people ignore this advice – but beware. If you get the job, you’ll have to maintain your lie the whole time you work for the company. If you’ve lied about having a particular skill, it will be evident as soon as you start the job – and your new employer could fire you.

Don’t complain about your last job

Your interviewer might ask you about your previous position – try to be positive, even if you had issues. It’s highly unprofessional to criticise your past employers, and it won’t sit well with your interviewers. Instead, be positive – if you had a conflict with a colleague, explain what you did to overcome it. Demonstrating that you can calmly handle problems in the workplace will impress your interviewers far more than complaining about them.

Don’t sell yourself short

Rather than telling your interviewer that you’re a team player, give them an example of when you’ve worked well as part of a team. Better still, give two – although be sure to keep your answers concise. Some interviewers will encourage you to do this, asking ‘tell me about a time when you…’ questions. However, others will be less forthcoming, meaning that you’ll need to do the work yourself.

Don’t panic

Things often don’t go to plan, no matter how prepared you are. If something does go wrong (you’re late, you give a bad answer to a question, you trip up on your way into the room), there’s no point in panicking about it. It’s already happened and there’s nothing you can do to change it. Take a deep breath, smile, apologise if necessary – and keep going.

 For this post, Doostang thanks our friends at Under30CEO.

Image Credit: www.forbes.com 

 

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Ten Questions You Should Never be Asked in an Interview

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There are numerous state and federal antidiscrimination laws designed to assure that employers hire based upon skill, rather than stereotypes. Therefore, there are some things an interviewer isn’t allowed to ask. How do you know what’s fair game? Here are some questions that should raise red flags.

1. “WHAT’S YOUR RACE?”
It is illegal for an employer to ask you questions about race or skin color. Unless appearance is a “bona fide occupational qualification” (BFOQ)-for example, if you’re applying for a modeling job-you cannot be required to submit a photo with an application.

Fair questions: None. An employment application may include a space where you voluntarily indicate your race.

2. “WHAT IS YOUR NATIONAL ORIGIN?”
An interviewer cannot ask if you are a U.S. citizen, where you were born, or remark upon your accent. Unless a business case can be provided, a company can’t specify that English be the only language spoken on the job.

Fair questions: “Are you eligible to work in the U.S.? Could you, once employed, submit documentation to that effect?” Companies now require all employees to fill out an I-9 form, in order to confirm that you’re a citizen or resident who is eligible to work. If fluency in a language other than English is a job requirement, an employer may ask how you learned that language.

3. “WHAT IS YOUR MAIDEN NAME?”

An interviewer can’t discriminate on the basis of gender or marital status. Recruiters may not ask different questions of female and male applicants or of married and unmarried women. It’s also inappropriate for an employer to ask if you’re planning to have a family or have young children.

Fair questions: An employer can ask for your full name or whether you’ve worked under another name-in order to check your employment history. Interviewers may inquire about childcare and other family issues by asking: “Where do you see yourself in five years? What hours are you available to work? Do you have other responsibilities that may interfere with your ability to meet the requirements of the job-such as overtime or travel?”

4. “HOW OLD ARE YOU?”
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects people over the age of 40, who work in companies with more than 20 employees, from employment discrimination. Employers may specify an age limit for a position only in rare cases where it can be proven that age is a BFOQ. (For example, the choice of one actor over another, using age as a basis for authenticity.)

In all other cases, an interviewer may not ask when you were born, when you graduated from high school (since most students graduate at age 17 or 18), or any other questions from which your age may easily be determined. Individuals under age 40 aren’t covered by the ADEA, but many states offer them some protection.

Fair questions: Are you the minimum age required to perform this job? (Federal allows those aged 14 and 15 to work in a limited capacity; 16 and 17-years-old can perform non-hazardous jobs.) Some job applications include a space for your date of birth, along with a disclaimer.

5. “DO YOU HAVE ANY DISABILITIES?”

Under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an employer may not discriminate against a qualified candidate who is disabled, and must make “reasonable accommodations” for physically or mentally impaired employees.

The ADA also states that you can’t be asked about the existence, nature, or severity of a disability. The following questions are also unacceptable: “How many days were you sick last year? Have you ever filed for worker’s compensation? What prescription medications do you currently take? Are you an alcoholic? Have you ever been treated for drug abuse?”

Fair questions: “Can you perform the basic functions of this position with or without accommodation?” The ADA doesn’t cover illegal drug use, so it’s perfectly legal for an employer to ask whether you use these substances. Some companies also request all new employees to have a medical examination.

6. “WHAT IS YOUR RELIGION?”

There is no reason for an employer to ask you about your religion or about any holidays you observe.

Fair questions: “Weekend and holiday work is required. Will this pose any difficulties for you?” Also, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 allows religious organizations and sectarian educational institutions to express religious preference when hiring.

7. “HAVE YOU EVER BEEN ARRESTED?”

You are innocent until proven guilty; therefore, it is illegal for an interviewer to ask if you’ve ever been arrested.

Fair questions: Employment applications often include questions about felony convictions, along with a disclaimer saying that a conviction won’t necessarily remove you from consideration.

In accordance with U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) policy, employers must weigh a variety of elements when factoring convictions into hiring decisions. These include the nature and severity of the offense, the time that has elapsed, and whether the offense has any relation to the position advertised.

8. “WHAT TYPE OF MILITARY DISCHARGE DID YOU RECEIVE?”
An employer may not ask whether you received an honorable or dishonorable discharge.

Fair questions: The interviewer is allowed to inquire about your rank when discharged and discuss the skills you gained while in the military.

9. “HAVE YOU EVER FILED FOR BANKRUPTCY?”
Questions about your financial status, whether you own a home, or have previously had wages garnished are off-limits.

Fair questions: If good credit is a requirement of the job, a company is within its rights to perform a credit check.

10. “DO YOU BELONG TO ANY ORGANIZATIONS?”
It’s inappropriate for an interviewer to ask whether you are affiliated with or are a member of any political, social, or religious groups-including unions.

Fair questions: An interviewer may ask you if you’re a member of a professional organization, like the American Bar Association.

HOW TO REACT TO UNFAIR QUESTIONS
Try and determine what type of information an employer is looking to receive with her questions. For example, if an interviewer asks if you have children, you may deduce that she wants to know if you’d be missing work often to care for them. You might simply answer that you have no problem meeting the position’s attendance requirements.

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