The Best Way to Answer “YES” to “Have You Ever Been Fired?”

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For some, the question “Have you ever been fired?” can inspire a pit in the stomach when the answer to that question is “Yes”.  You may be among an unfortunate bunch who had a horrific experience at a company (or with a certain coworker or boss), ending in a not so ideal ending.  And whether your termination was your fault or not, it can continue to haunt you in your search for future prospects.  So what is the best way to field this tough issue?

Be Honest

First things first:  don’t lie.  It may be tempting to dismiss the topic altogether, hoping that the company you’re interviewing with never finds out – but what happens if they do?  If they find out during the interview process, you’re certain not to get the job.  And if they find out a few years down the line, no matter how great an employee you are, they may still decide to let you go.  A second termination is not what you want on your record, so do yourself a favor and be upfront and honest from the get go.  It’s much safer, and you’ll stress about if far less in the long run.

Provide Some Context

Explain the circumstances surrounding the incident.  If it was a conflict of interest, let the interviewer know.  If it happened 15 years ago, tell them that you now have a lot of distance from the incident and that your stellar work performance since then speaks for itself.  If it occurred in the more recent past, explain that you have learned quite a bit from the incident, but don’t spend your time making excuses.  Lay down the facts, and focus on what you’ve done since and will do in the future to demonstrate that you are a valuable employee who understands what it takes to be an asset to a company.

Don’t Give Away Too Much

While it’s important to be forthcoming in your response to this question, you also don’t want to spend too much time addressing the matter.  Keep the focus of the interview on what makes you the ideal person to hire, and spend as little time as you can conveying what the interviewer needs to know about that particular incident.  People who feel the need to defend themselves tend to over-explain, and this can portray lack of confidence and lead you down the wrong road.  Certainly stray away from speaking ill of your former boss or company, remaining as objective and succinct as possible.

No one likes getting fired and everyone wants to find a new job.  Don’t let one obstacle in your past set the tone for the rest of your career.  Concentrate on what you need to do to land your next job and on the reasons you’re a perfect fit for it, and the rest will follow.

Have a wonderful day,

The Doostang Team

Outrageous Interview Questions

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC – GetInterviews.com

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Once you land a job interview, you may feel the hard work is done. You might even allow your enthusiasm to melt your inhibitions during the meeting. Don’t let your excitement rob you of a chance for the job you’ve been waiting for. Arm yourself with these key interview strategies that include practicing restraint as well as excellent preparation.

Outrageous

Don’t ask about salary.

  • This question shifts the focus to what you want for yourself as opposed to the value you will provide to the company.

Don’t ask about the timeframe for hiring decisions.

  • Every candidate wants to know the answer to this question but asking it can make you seem desperate or anxious for results. Most companies look for candidates able to separate personal from professional demands.

Don’t ask what the company does.

  • Conducting research on corporate initiatives is easily accomplished online. Do your homework to impress hiring managers.

Don’t ask about typical promotion policies.

  • Rushing ahead to promotions may make the interviewer question your judgment and understanding of appropriate business interactions.

Don’t ask about on-the-job training for basic skills.

  • Emphasize the skills you bring, not the deficits about which you are concerned.

Don’t speak ill of former employers.

  • Talking about how much you hated your former workplace or employer is a top interview “don’t!”

Don’t forget basic manners.

  • Offer a handshake to “seal the deal” when you leave. Thank the interviewer for their time and express your pleasure in meeting him or her.

Acceptable

Do debrief after the interview.

  • Take a few minutes to review on your own what went well and what could be improved. If appropriate, include additional clarification about your skills in a follow-up thank-you note.

Do express interest in the company’s initiatives.

  • Show off what you’ve researched about this company prior to the interview by linking your skills and work history to corporate projects.

Do speak positively about prior workplaces.

  • It can be tempting to bring up negative attributes about employers or co-workers, but this is not the time to identify that as your reason for leaving. Focus on more positive reasons for leaving, which might include a need to reach your full potential or to seek out new opportunities for growth.

Do use every phone or email contact as if it were part of the interview.

  • Essentially every contact is part of the screening process. Practice what you want to say so you are prepared for the unexpected call. For some people, it helps to stand while talking to convey a greater presence or sense of personal power.

Do prepare for the interview.

  • Compile a number of job history anecdotes that exemplify your strengths and help you respond readily to interview questions.

Do end the interview on a positive note.

  • Say something like, “Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you today. My talents and experience represent an asset to your organization and I would be a committed member of your team.”

Solid preparation for the interview will help you avoid asking ridiculous questions. Feeling too comfortable in an interview almost never produces good results. Practice how you want to perform in the job interview just as you would for an important sports event and you will find yourself in the winner’s circle!

About the Author: Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

Tricky Interview Questions

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We’ve covered a lot of tough interview questions in past posts, and here we come at you with yet another round.  Sometimes interviewers ask us questions that are more on the tricky side.  It’s hard to know what to say – it often seems the best approach is to tell them what they want to hear, rather than the truth – and sometimes it’s just confusing why these questions are being asked in the first place.  Here are a few examples:

What Are Your Hobbies?

Why is this question relevant to the job you’re applying for, and why would the interviewer care enough to ask this in a formal interview?  Try to look at this question as a means for the interviewer to understand who you are a little better.  If you’re hired, you’ll be absorbed into the company culture, so the company wants to get a more complete picture of you as an individual.  Understanding what you do for fun can help the interviewer determine what your working style might be like.  It can also help them determine how a job will fit into your life, given what you do outside of your work.

How Would Your Coworkers Describe You?

Do you even know the answer to this question?  Could you really provide an accurate assessment of what others think?  This question is more of a way for the interviewer to find out what qualities you most value about yourself, as you likely assume that these are the same traits that others appreciate.  It also showcases how modest or overconfident you might be.  Here you might take the chance to describe some positive interactions you’ve had with coworkers, citing instances where you have collaborated with them on projects.  This will give you a way to back up your answer, as well as to imply that you are able to work well in a team.

Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?

This question is tricky because it’s hard to tell if you should speak about yourself in five years at that company – after all, you don’t want to appear presumptuous, but you also don’t want to seem disloyal.  And what if where you want to be is in the seat of the person who is interviewing you?  Instead of focusing on what specific position you see yourself in, try to think of things you want to have achieved.  In what areas will you grow the most?  What goals do you have for your career?  After you’ve considered these questions, you can then turn your answer around and talk about ways in which you will be able to accomplish all of this at the company you are interviewing for, speaking about how your growth will be mutually beneficial for you and the corporation.

Some questions during the interview can seem like time wasters – and some are.  But interviewers often have underlying points they’re trying to get at, even if it’s just to see how you’ll react to a specific question.  Try to prepare for an interview as thoroughly as you can and keep an open mind when tackling tricky questions like these.

All the best,

The Doostang Team

Doostang News March 14 – How to Make a Good Impression on an Interviewer

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While you can spend countless hours preparing polished answers, learning how to make great eye contact, and putting together a stellar outfit, one part of the interview that you don’t have total control over is the human element.  For better or for worse, much of what determines whether or not you’ll get the job is how you connected with your interviewer.  If that person doesn’t like you on a personal level, you probably won’t land the position, even if you’re extremely qualified.  That said, here are a few things you can do to make a great first impression:

Use Humor Sparingly

There’s no question that a little bit of humor can ease the tension and make the entire interview seem more comfortable.  But if your interviewer shoots you down with a stern look or a reprimand, your attempt at joking around can turn into a total buzz kill.  The best policy is to stick to something lighthearted that won’t offend someone on any level – after all, you probably know nothing about the person sitting across from you, and therefore you have no way of knowing what types of remarks they would consider to be in bad taste.

Wear Deodorant

This one is common sense. It’s important that you don’t sweat or smell in an interview, otherwise the interviewer will probably rush you out the door in order that they can breathe again.  Make sure to wear something that isn’t too stifling and try not to offer up a wet handshake.  And while it’s crucial to ensure that you don’t smell bad, on the flip side, you don’t want to drench yourself in a perfume that the interviewer will choke on.  Use perfumes and bath products sparingly, since, once again, you don’t know if your interviewer is allergic to – or can’t stand – a certain odor.

Don’t Be Too Demanding

It’s important to inform the interviewer of your job needs during the conversation, and this should come up naturally.  However, don’t get too carried away with making demands about your hours, salary, or office environment.  If you start laying down the law about needing a completely silent work area or a desk next to the window, the interviewer may simply move on to the next candidate who is much easier to handle.

Don’t Be Overly Enthusiastic

It’s important to show excitement for the job in an interview, but if you go through the entire conversation with a giant smile plastered on your face, you’ll come across as too intense, insincere, or downright weird.  You’re interviewing for a job, so try to be serious too.

Don’t Go Overboard with Questions

At some point during the interview, you’ll have the chance to ask a few of your own questions.  It’s crucial to have at least one or two of them ready, and these should be intelligent and relevant.  However, keep in mind that if you start barraging the interviewer with queries – especially if you’re simply asking these to prolong face time  – you’ll probably get on the other person’s nerves.  Asking too many questions can hurt you just as much as not asking any.

Knowing how to behave in an interview is a tricky matter – you want to go in and out with a bang, so that you stand out amidst the other candidates; but you don’t want to go so over-the-top that you offend or annoy.  Probably the best thing to keep in mind is that a job interview is about selling yourself to a company in a professional manner, and that the time to express your individuality and let down your guard will come later.

Good luck,

The Doostang Team

Doostang News October 11: How to Answer “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?”

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While many people leave their previous positions simply in search of another opportunity or for logistical reasons, such as moving or needing to cut back on hours, others leave for slightly more complicated reasons, such as an abrasive boss or an unfulfilled promise.  Whatever your reason, there are certain ways to talk about this aspect of your job history so that your experience helps, not hurts you.

Don’t Badmouth Your Employer

This seems obvious, but sometimes people are tempted to put down their previous employer in order to justify a move that seems less logical otherwise.  Some individuals feel that dealing with a bad employer is a character building experience, one that sets them up to succeed more in their next position.  While this may be true, the best candidate in an interviewer’s eyes is someone who can maintain their grace and composure in a less than perfect situation.  When you digress in your interview and start bringing up the bad blood that existed between you and your former boss, you might come across as irrational or vindictive, two qualities that raise red flags for a hiring manager.  Try to speak more diplomatically, focusing on how the company culture may not have been an ideal fit.  You might bring up how you had a different outlook than your boss, but this is still a bit risky – you don’t want to come off as obstreperous.  When you can, try to stick to more neutral points, such as the fact that you achieved all you could at your old job and now you are ready to move on to something new.

Don’t Talk About the Negative Aspects of Your Last Job

Try not to focus on how things weren’t going well at your last job.  Again, you don’t want the hiring manager to associate any negativity with you – it’s important to keep the tone of the interview as positive as possible.  It’s even advisable not to talk about how you weren’t feeling challenged enough, even though this implies that you are ready to tackle tougher projects.  That’s because you don’t want to convey that you won’t stick around when you get bored; there will be times when an employer will need you to complete a project that you may not be excited about.  Overall, try not to come across as someone who won’t be reliable if the job is less than perfect from time to time – you want to seem as flexible as possible.

Don’t Dwell on the Question

The bottom line is that you shouldn’t spend an inordinate amount of time discussing why you left your old job, but rather, should focus on why you want to enter this new one.  The less time you devote to the matter, the less the hiring manager will think about it, and the smaller the odds that your answer will raise any eyebrows.  Simply explain how you are ready to start an exciting, new chapter in your life and that you’re very happy for the opportunity to consider a position like the one they are offering.

When it comes down to it, the main reason hiring managers ask why you left your last position is to figure out if there is anything that they should be wary of in your past.  If you don’t give them any reason to question your integrity or work ethic, but instead focus on how excited you are about the job at hand, this tricky question should have little bearing on your chances of getting the job!

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

Doostang News September 27: Questions You Should be Asking in an Interview

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Oftentimes we get caught up in worrying about the questions that a hiring manager is going to ask us during the interview, and overlook the questions that we should be asking them.  It’s important to lob the ball back into their court a bit, because it shows preparedness, interest in the job, and it helps you decide if the company is as good of a fit for you as you are for them.  Here are some questions to consider:

Questions About the Ideal Fit for the Role

You should try to feel out what sort of person they are looking for to fill the role you are applying to.  It’s helpful to ask questions like, “What was the last person who filled this position like?”, “What does the ideal employee look like?”, “What happened to the last person that had this position?”  It’s certainly okay to get a sense for what your predecessor was like, because those are the shoes you’re trying to fill.  The company will expect you to do just as good of a job with the things that the former employee did well; and that person’s weaknesses are areas you can try to improve upon.

Questions About the Work

It’s great to know what kind of work you will be doing and how you will be doing it, to figure out whether or not this will fit with your working style. Additionally, having a better understanding of the specific work you will be doing will give you a better idea of what you need to do to prepare for the job.  Ask, “What big projects are there that might be coming up?”, “Will I be working more independently or with a team of people?”, “What is your company’s management style?”

Questions About the Company

Since you will be a part of a larger whole once you join the company, it’s imperative to know that whole as best as you can, as early on as you can.  Example questions include, “What is the organization structure at the company?”, “What are the long term goals of the company and where do you see it going in 5 years?”, “What is the future of this industry like?”

Questions Related to Your Individual Experience at a Company

If you can, try to get a feel for office culture and the company’s attitude towards its employees.  This is a key determinant in how happy you will be at a corporation, and is important to know as soon as possible.  Some questions to ask are, “Is the office culture more laid-back or traditional?”, “Does the company provide guidance on cultivating career goals?”, “How often and in what manner will my work be evaluated?”

Remember, the interview isn’t just about a company finding out about who you are – it’s just as much about you finding out who they are.  The relationship between you and your employer should always remain mutually beneficial, and that starts in the interview!

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

Doostang News August 16: Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions – Part 3

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Every minute you spend in an interview is valuable, so make sure your every answer works to your benefit.  Thought you had it all down?  Well here are a few more tough interview questions if you’re still feeling a little unprepared:

Why are you leaving (did you leave) your current (last) position?

When answering this question, there’s no reason to give a long-winded answer.  Simply tell the interviewer that you are looking to advance your career, and that the company you are interviewing with can provide the opportunity you hope for while your current or previous company cannot.  There is no reason to give the interviewer any more information than they ask for.  Don’t give a list of excuses or say something petty.  If you were laid off, don’t be afraid to say so – it’s not all that uncommon.  And if you were fired, try to stay as positive as you can, again without being petty.  Perhaps you can mention that you and your former boss/company had differences that you could not overcome, but that your termination was the best thing for both you and that firm.  More than this, you can always expound upon the lesson that you learned from this experience.

Why haven’t you found a job yet?

This may seem like one of those in-your-face questions, but it’s perfectly legitimate.  If you’ve been out of work for a significant amount of time, again, don’t spend your time giving excuses.  Simply explain that you have been looking for the right opportunity, and that you want to work for a company where you can establish a mutually beneficial relationship.

Has your performance or work ever been criticized?

While you may consider yourself the perfect employee, chances are that you have received some criticism along the way – and that’s perfectly reasonable.  What an employer wants to learn from this question is how you dealt with the criticism.  So explain to him or her that you received constructive criticism from a colleague, and that you gained something valuable from it.  You can talk about how you were able to integrate another person’s suggestions into a project and make it better than it was before.  Employers want individuals who are tough-skinned and open to suggestions, so demonstrate that you are able to swallow your pride and bounce back from critique.

At times an interview can feel like a battle of wits, interviewer and interviewee each trying to outdo the other.  It’s a tricky dance, but if you learn how to use even the most difficult questions as a forum to discuss how valuable you are, you’ll soon be making history at your next position.

Happy job hunting,

The Doostang Team

Doostang News August 9: Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions – Part 2

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It’s time for the second installment of thoughtful answers to those interview questions that leave you reeling.  We devote several blogs to this matter, not because we feel that there’s much room for error in the interview, but because there’s lots of space for you to shine if you approach the toughies the right way.  So read on for our suggestions to some of the more challenging talking points.

What Are Your Long-Term Goals?

This one is tricky because it basically implies, “How long do you see yourself working for us?”  Especially as far as an entry-level job is concerned, most hiring managers know that you’re not going to want to stick around for one job forever.  But how do you ensure that they’ll get a good return on their investment in you?  Explain to the interviewer that you would like to have a career with the company – that you want to be challenged, realize success within the organization, and eventually move up the ladder.  Tell the interviewer that as long as the company is good for you and you are good for them, your long-term plan is to stay on board and grow with the company.

Why Do You Want to Work for Us?

When describing why you want to work for a company, make sure to avoid broad answers.  It’s okay to give answers that are specific to the industry, but remember to go further than that and give specific examples as well.  Make sure you are current on the latest company news, and can talk about what makes this company different and why they are the best fit for you.

Are You Overqualified for this Position?

It’s easy to be overqualified for a position in this job market, but that shouldn’t be something that holds you back.  So when you get this question, don’t give up or get defensive.  Talk about how the company needs solid individuals, and that your hope is to establish a strong presence in the company that allows you to move up and make a difference in your area of expertise.  A growing company needs reliable, proven people, and therefore you would be an excellent fit for any position.

Stay tuned for further questions that tend to stump even the savviest job seeker.  And if you have any questions that you’d like us to cover, send them over and we’ll give them a whirl!

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

Doostang News August 2: Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions – Part 1

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One of the biggest sources of pre-interview jitters is the anticipation you feel over tough interview questions.  And while you’re probably convinced that an entire series of curveballs lies in wait for you, the fact is that you’ll probably only receive one or two.  Nevertheless, it’s always great to be prepared for whatever is in store, so take a look at these zingers we’ve compiled:

Are You Considering Other Positions?

Your first inclination may be to answer “No”, as you want to seem fully committed to the opportunity that the interviewer represents.  But the reality is that you’re probably looking at a multitude of jobs – after all, who wouldn’t be?  You’re trying to situate yourself as best you can, so applying for multiple positions is advantageous – hiring managers know this.  Instead, answer in the affirmative.  It’s honest, realistic, and will position you in a way where you are selecting the company as much as they are selecting you.  Make them fight for you a bit.

Why Should I Hire You?

This one’s basic, but really make sure you think it through before you arrive at the interview.  Instead of giving the stock, “I’m a really hard worker” or “I’ll really make a difference” answers, cite specific examples of hard work or the difference you have made in a company.  No one will swallow such vague answers; the more precise you are, the better.

Have You Ever Had a Conflict with a Boss or a Fellow Employee?

If this question comes up and it turns out you have experienced office conflict, don’t shy away by brushing it off with a quick (deceitful) “No”.  Instead, consider how you might use this experience to your advantage.  Tell the interviewer that you had a disagreement with a certain boss or coworker, but that you were able to work through this difference and come to a compromise that worked well for everyone.  What a hiring manager really wants to know is how you deal with conflict, and so if you skim past this one, they may just pry until they find another way for you to respond to this issue.

Have You Worked With Someone You Didn’t Like?

Here’s a similar question that you might get, though it deals less with conflict.  It’s certainly okay to mention that you didn’t want to be best buds with everyone you ever worked with.  It’s more likely that you’ll come across several people that just rub you the wrong way.  But how you dealt with this situation is of strong interest to a hiring manager.  So talk about how you were able to rise above your dislike of said individual and focus on what made this person a valuable employee.  Describe how, while you may not have spent time with this person outside of the office, you worked together wonderfully at the office.

Tough interview questions can leave you with a pit in your stomach…if you are underprepared!  So take some time to work out how to turn negatives into positives and position yourself in a desirable light, and you can tackle them with confidence.

Go get ‘em,

The Doostang Team

Doostang News April 26: Outmanning the Weakness Question

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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.

Yours truly,

The Doostang Team