Interviewing isn’t easy. The employer is the customer and you’re the business-of-one trying to prove you’re the best service provider for their job. Studies show it costs a company as much as 130-140 percent of your salary to hire you. That includes things like benefits, taxes, training, etc. The stress of choosing the right candidate worries hiring managers. The result is a series of intense interview questions designed to let them “kick the tires and look under hood” before they invest.
Behavioral questions = Let them inside your head.
Hiring managers often use behavioral questions in an interview in an attempt to have you reveal your true professional self. These are open-ended questions designed to make you give longer answers. Your answers will demonstrate your personality, aptitude, and experience level. These three things matter greatly to employers who choose a candidate based on his or her ability to fit in with the company’s culture. Here are seven intense interview questions you should always be ready to answer.
1. What’s wrong with your past/current employer? This question seeks to understand what’s driving you to leave your previous job. Happy employees don’t go on interviews for new jobs. The hiring manager is trying to see if you have unrealistic expectations of employers.
2. Tell me about the worst manager you ever had? Again, seeking to understand your expectations, the hiring manager wants to know what kind of management style you don’t work well with–especially if it’s a style the hiring company currently uses.
3. What’s the worst job you ever had? A hiring manager needs to know what type of work disengages you. He or she also wants to understand what (if any) attempts you made to fix the problem. When unhappy, are you proactive and try to fix your situation, or do you sit around and get disgruntled?
4. Why are you better than anyone else for this job? A test to see if you can balance confidence with humility, this question is designed to see if you have a grasp on reality and can articulate how you are different from the competition without resorting to “throw them under the bus” tactics.
5. Why were you fired? For those that have been involuntarily terminated, you need to be able to objectively share what happened and be accountable for your actions. If you resort to blaming and explaining your way out of any wrongdoing, you’ll be dismissed as in denial.
6. What are your weaknesses? Nobody’s perfect. If you can’t discuss your areas in need of improvement, then you aren’t self-aware enough to grow on the job. In fact, if you can’t explain how you are already trying to minimize these weaknesses, then you are showing a lack of understanding about the need to always be improving as a professional.
7. Tell me about a time when you had to work with a difficult person? This question gets to the core of what you’re like to work with. The hiring manager needs to know what type of co-worker you struggle to collaborate with and whether you know how to find a way to work together successfully with that type. You will be paid to do a job, and that means getting along with all types of people, even ones who don’t work like you do.
Tip: Hiring managers hear what they see.
One of the biggest reasons a hiring manager asks intense interview questions is not to evaluate your answers, but to evaluate your non-verbal communication skills, i.e., your body language, facial expressions, hand gestures, eye contact, etc. Hiring managers can tell when someone is acting nervous or untruthful. That’s why everyone should work on their interview answers as much as they can before they go to the interview. It will help you relax and communicate with more confidence.
A final thought.
The questions above are designed to help the hiring manager understand how you have interpreted past professional experiences and whether or not you’ve used what you’ve learned to become a stronger professional. What you say and how you say it tells a hiring manager a lot about your anxieties and frustrations as they relate to work. If you aren’t careful, you will provide an answer that can get you disqualified. The best way to avoid making a mistake is to invest time in preparing for interviews. Employers don’t want to hire high-maintenance employees. Show any sign that you might be difficult to work with and they’ll pass on hiring you.
I like to think of LinkedIn as your online résumé and one of the first places that someone goes before meeting you in person.
Because of the power that LinkedIn possesses, it’s vital that you stand out there by having a top-notch page that showcases your talents, expertise, and personality. You can actually accomplish this feat by implementing the following seven tweaks.
1. Optimize your profile
This should be a no-brainer, yet it’s an area that remains commonly overlooked. The best place to start is by completely filling out every section of your profile, having an updated and professional-looking photograph, and a unique headline that briefly describes why you’re so awesome.
Besides those basic tips, complete your summary so that it highlights your experiences, qualifications, and anything that sets you apart from everyone else. Don’t forget to keep this information up to date.
Finally, keep your profile name clean. Just because you have the option to add your email or phone number doesn’t mean that you should include them. And, while you’re here, go snag your vanity URL so that you’ll be easier to find–it’s also handy when you print out new business cards.
If you need to edit or update your profile, check out LinkedIn’s help to guide you through the process.
2. Add media
LinkedIn gives you the ability to add a number of graphs and other visual media onto your profile. Since we all love visual content, this is a small task that could give your LinkedIn page a major boost.
I briefly mentioned your profile image. If you’re a business owner, you could simply use your logo. Just switch it up every now and then, such as adding some holiday flare to be festive. If using a headshot, keep it as professional as possible. Dress appropriately, be aware of your surroundings, use the right angle, and rely on natural light.
You can also add banner images that contain links and call-to-action buttons. There’s also integration with YouTube, so you can share a video that demonstrates your talents or introduces you to your fellow LinkedIn users.
3. Use anchor texts and keywords
Instead of using the generic, default links that LinkedIn provides, customize the anchor text. For example, instead of “blog,” make it more appealing and SEO-friendly by using “Jim’s Content Marketing Blog.”
Besides the keywords used in your anchor text, you can also sprinkle in relevant keywords throughout your entire profile. This will help your page get noticed on search engines and even in LinkedIn’s internal search feature.
When compiling a list of keywords, start searching LinkedIn for any words that describe what you do or your industry. If you are a digital marketing strategist, then search that term and examine the profiles that appear. What keywords are constantly appearing?
You can also use Google’s Keyword Tool to collect suggestions on the keywords that your profile should be using.
Word to the wise: Don’t overdo it with keywords. Repeating the same keyword over and over isn’t going to give you an edge. Consider using secondary keywords to avoid keyword stuffing.
4. Become an author
With LinkedIn Pulse, anyone on LinkedIn can publish content. That doesn’t mean that you should share a poorly written article that regurgitates that same boring content that users have read a million times before. It should be an outside-of-the-box and thought-provoking article that demonstrates your knowledge and authority on a subject or industry. Other ideas would be anything concerning industry trends or sharing your research with the LinkedIn community.
Once you have a killer article published, the traction it receives can give your profile, and your brand, a significant boost.
Even if you don’t have anything worthy to share, you can still engage and interact with LinkedIn users by commenting or sharing their content. This is a great way to find clients that I personally have used.
5. Edit your public settings
This is another no-brainer, but again, it can easily get overlooked. Since you want people to discover you, make sure to head into Account Setting and find the Privacy & Settings option. Once there, click Manage, and then Edit Your Public Profile so that anyone can see your public profile. This will give visitors the chance to view any awards you have received or recent articles you’ve written.
6. Gather recommendations
LinkedIn describes recommendations as “a comment written by a LinkedIn member to recognize or commend a colleague, business partner, or student. Visitors to your profile often view the recommendations you’ve received to see what others have to say about your work.” While these are useful in selling yourself to a potential employer or client, having 10 to 15 recommendations can improve your profile’s search ranking.
When asking for a recommendation, you should create a bulleted list that contains information such as your skills, strengths, and services you provide. You can even put your recommendations into a PDF and place it in your Summary.
7. Join and participate in groups, strategically
Joining a LinkedIn Group is one of the best ways to expand your network. But they can also improve the SEO of your profile, since the groups you’re a part of will appear in your profile as well.
You’re allowed to join 50 groups, which should be a blend of your competitors’ groups, as well your industry’s, and your prospects’ industries’; geo-located groups; and a large amount of groups for CIOs, CTOs, entrepreneurs, etc.
LinkedIn Groups are also a great way to build brand authority and grow your business, especially once the group takes off.
Once you find quality groups, don’t hesitate to shamelessly plug your content, but also don’t forget to engage in discussions and reciprocate the favor by sharing others’ content as well.
In a survey of U.S. executives, 44 percent said Americans lack soft skills, which are poorly taught by traditional education. Other learning methods work better, luckily.
One of my life’s great lucky breaks was that business school also taught about soft skills, and that most business challenges were only superficially about money.
The challenges involving people, teams, motivation, and communication are deeper, harder, and more important than spreadsheets and technology.
But teaching about skills isn’t enough. Traditional business education’s lectures and case studies didn’t teach us to lead–to give experience practicing soft skills.
What concerns 44 percent of top U.S. executives.
In a 2013 survey of top US executives by Adecco Staffing, 44 percent of respondents listed the lack of soft skills among applicants as their top concern, twice the level of the second highest category, technical skills.
Employers rank this shortcoming higher than technical inability. Not that the U.S. monopolizes it:
Across the Atlantic, a study by the Development Economics Research Group last year estimated that by 2025 the shortage of soft skills in the United Kingdom alone could cost as much as $22 billion (£13.9 billion) a year in foregone economic output.
If America’s business culture doesn’t impart soft skills and top business schools don’t teach how to practice them, what can we expect of our aspiring leaders?
The report noted:
While candidates may look good “on paper,” they don’t know how to effectively work within a team or in an office.
It suggests considering the whole package when hiring.
What about you?
Considering the whole package is nice advice for HR, but if you want to lead–to own projects, build teams, get promoted–your key issue is not how to evaluate resumes.
Your issue is how do I develop these skills?
No great leader or entrepreneur became great through reading books and listening to lectures–traditional education’s core.
Big breaks and long-term success both come from knowing how to work with and lead people.
We know how to teach soft skills.
Soft skills come from experience, not abstract learning.
This student feedback from an undergraduate course I taught in entrepreneurship at NYU illustrates the difference and value:
As a senior, this was the first course that challenged me, asking me to think outside my comfort zones. Yet, it is also where I developed a strong network of supporters through group projects.
The feedback was anonymous, but since most of my students come from NYU-Stern, it suggests that a student could go seven semesters in a top-five business program before being personally challenged.
Yet the student also points out that the challenge leads to teamwork, mutual support, and getting things done. What you want. What 44 percent of top U.S. executives want.
If you’re looking to learn soft skills–to get hired, to own project, to lead–look to learn to practice them, not just to learn about them.
If you’re in a position to influence U.S. education, I recommend considering implementing active, experiential learning into your curriculum. Our future leaders demand it.
It’s a simple question, and you’ve probably answered it hundreds of times. “What do you do?” If you’re like most people, you probably get the answer dead wrong.
Your standard reply is probably a factual description of your current job.
The right answer is: what you WANT to do.
The best way to pick up this habit is to take a trip to Los Angeles. Ask your cab driver what he does. “I’m a screenwriter,” he could say, “Working on a thriller about two school children who stumble onto a plot to blow up the Hoover Dam.”
When you go out to dinner, ask the same question of your waitress. The odds are 50/50 she’ll say, “I’m an actress.”
24-year-old interns are “directors”. 44-year-old ad agency execs are “producers”. Everyone talks about their aspirations, not what paid the rent this month.
Now some may argue that Los Angeles is La La Land, and there is nothing to be learned from people who are dreaming big and perhaps spinning their wheels. But I disagree.
You are probably much closer to your goals than an aspiring Hollywood actor. The main thing standing in your way is your willingness to say what you want.
Since you are probably reading this on LinkedIn, here’s a quick and easy way to test my theory. Click over to your profile and check out your Summary. Which of the following does it describe?
a. What you’ve done
b. What you want to do
One of the main purposes of LinkedIn is to help you discover career opportunities, so you might guess that this is the one place where people say what they want to do.
You would be wrong.
Most people say what they have done.
I’m not telling you to lie. I’m telling you to be bold enough to tell people what you want. Your resume says what you’ve done. That’s in the past.
When I was in the training business, an executive asked one of my colleagues whether we had a two-day training program customized for his industry. “Yes, we do,” said my colleague, who then spent the weekend creating such a program. He combined initiative, imagination and effort… and won a new client.
The happiest and most successful people nearly always have a sense of what they want to do next, or of how they wish to grow. They are able to say where they are headed, instead of where they have been the past few years. If you met Elon Musk, I bet he wouldn’t talk much about Paypal; he would probably tell you about how he plans to make space flight routine.
Whenever humanly possible, say what you want, not what you do.
Bruce Kasanoff is a ghostwriter for entrepreneurs. Learn more at Kasanoff.com. You might also like his $4.95 Kindle books…
With the number of serious presidential candidates thinning out and the election drawing closer, it’s getting a bit easier to see where the main contenders stand on Social Security.
The nation’s retirement-income program hasn’t emerged as a dominant election issue, but some of the candidates have articulated what they expect of the program, how they might change benefits or taxes or utilize other measures to shore up the program’s long-term solvency. Here’s how leading candidates view Social Security, based mainly on positions articulated on each contender’s website at the start of March:
Hillary Clinton: Mostly more of the same
Clinton largely wants to maintain the current system. There’s a pledge to preserve Social Security for future generations by “asking” the wealthiest to contribute more. Her website doesn’t provide many details on how much more in taxes would be paid by wealthier Americans. Clinton also would like to expand benefits for widows and for people who took time off from jobs to care for kids or sick family members, which presumably would help women in particular.
Her position on Social Security is mostly a defensive one: Oppose cuts in cost-of-living adjustments. Oppose efforts to raise the retirement age (which ranges from 66 to 67 for most people currently employed) and oppose benefit cuts or broad tax increases. Clinton also stands against efforts to privatize the system or “attempts to gamble seniors’ retirement security on the stock market.”
Bernie Sanders: Significant expansion
Sanders describes Social Security as the most successful federal government program ever, and he would extend its reach. Sanders wants to increase benefits by an average of $65 a month, augment cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, and increase the minimum benefits for low-income seniors. To pay for all this, and to keep the program solvent another 50 years, Sanders would raise the amount of earnings subject to payroll taxes that support Social Security. Currently, the tax stops above $118,500 a year in personal income, but he would tax income above $250,000. His website doesn’t spell out what tax rate, if any, would apply on income between $118,500 and $250,000.
Sanders opposes efforts to privatize the program or allow workers to choose investments. He notes that Social Security’s current (but dwindling) surplus is invested in U.S. Treasury bonds, which he calls the “safest interest-bearing securities in the world.” It doesn’t say that those bonds are backed by future tax revenue and federal borrowings rather than by stocks, real estate or other assets. Sanders wants to keep the private sector out of Social Security. “Corporations destroyed the retirement dreams of millions over the past 30 years by eliminating defined-benefit pensions plans,” the website says. “Millions of Americans lost their life savings after Wall Street’s recklessness crashed the economy in 2008.”
Donald Trump: Few specifics yet
Donald Trump has vaulted to the top of the Republican leader board without talking much about Social Security, which might not be a coincidence. Social Security reform is a thorny, divisive issue. Candidates can’t take a strong position without alienating a lot of voters.
Trump’s website focuses on five key positions and briefly discusses about a dozen other issues, but Social Security isn’t among them. One of his five key positions involves cutting income taxes and simplifying the tax code. Trump also vows to create a lot more jobs if elected president. An expanding economy would generate more payroll-tax revenue to support Social Security, but that’s not the same as tackling the issue head-on. Some media reports indicate Trump wants to preserve the program without reducing benefits or raising the retirement age, but we won’t know specifics until he discusses Social Security in detail.
Other Republicans: Mixed bag
The GOP candidates trailing Trump offer various viewpoints. Ted Cruz’s website doesn’t spend much time on Social Security, though he does offer some bold tax proposals ranging from abolishing the IRS to simplifying the income-tax code with a flat tax.
Marco Rubio has one of the more clearly defined Social Security platforms. He vows to make no changes affecting people in or near retirement but wants to increase the retirement age gradually to reflect longer life expectancy. Rubio also would slow the growth rate of benefits for wealthier seniors and abolish the retirement earnings test, which he said discourages seniors from working without addressing Social Security’s solvency. (This test withholds some benefits for younger seniors below normal retirement age who continue to work and earn too much money, though they recoup the withheld benefits later.)
Rubio also would open up the federal Thrift Savings Plans to non-government workers. This program resembles a 401(k) program that, notably, features an assortment of stock and bond mutual funds — not just government bonds of the type held by Social Security.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-444-8616.
Yeah, you’re in charge. Yeah, it’s your way or the highway.
And, yeah, your employees might hate you.
As a boss, you have a lot of power. But you need to be smart about how you use it. Here are seven things you need to avoid:
1. You make employees evaluate themselves.
I know. “I’ve done self-evaluations before,” you’re thinking, “and I found it to be a very helpful period of self-reflection.”
2. You make employees evaluate their peers.
I’ve done peer evaluations. They suck.
Peer means “work together.” Who wants to criticize people they have to work with afterward? Plus, you can claim evaluations are confidential all you want, but people figure out who said what about whom.
You should know every employee’s performance inside and out. If you don’t, don’t use his or her peers as a crutch. Dig in, pay attention, and truly know the people you claim to lead.
3. You pressure employees to make charitable donations.
The United Way was the charity of choice at a previous employer. Donations were tracked, because the stated company goal was 100 percent participation.
4. You make employees go without food at meal times.
Say you go to a wedding that starts at 5 p.m. If there’s a reception, you
5. You make (however “voluntarily”) employees attend social events.
Any time your employees are with people they work with, it’s like they’re at work. And those situations aren’t Vegas; whatever happens there comes back to work.
Embarrassing behavior aside, some people just don’t want to socialize outside of work. And that’s their choice–unless you do something that can make them feel like they should attend.
Then it no longer feels like they have a choice and what you intended as a positive get-together becomes anything but.
expect a meal to be served instead of just hors d’oeuvres, right?
So don’t invite employees out for after-work drinks at 6:30 p.m. That’s a company dinner, not company drinks.
6. You make employees reveal personal information for “team building.”
I once took part in a “transformational leadership” offsite. First, we were told to make small boxes out of cardboard. (Why do offsites always seem to involve arts and crafts? And why are so many offsites such a waste of time?)
Then we were told to cut pictures out of magazines that represented the “outer” us, the part we show to the world.
Then we were told to write down things no one knew about us on slips of paper, put them inside our boxes (get it?), and reveal our slips to the group when it was our turn.
I was OK with putting pictures on the outside of my poorly constructed box, even though my lack of scissor skills was embarrassing. I didn’t want to create “reveal” strips, though, and said so.
“Why not?” the facilitator asked.
“Because it’s private,” I said.
7. You ask employees to do things you don’t do.
Sure, maybe there are things you would do, but would is irrelevant. Actions–especially where leadership is concerned–are everything.
Great leaders lead by example. They help out on the crappiest jobs. They stay later. They come in earlier.
Not every time, but definitely some of the time.
Employees will never care as much as you do–to expect otherwise is unrealistic–but they will care a lot more when they know you can be counted on to do whatever needs to get done, regardless of role or position or perceived status.
All those bad habits older people complain about? They’re actually kind of brilliant.
It’s time to stop whining about Millennials.
My company has grown a lot since 2014, and we’ve hired a lot more people. As we’ve done so, the average age has gone down. I’m a Gen-Xer; so are the CEO, COO, and a few other key people. But I think a majority of us now are Millennials.
Like everyone else, Millennials have their strengths and weaknesses. But after working in a Millennial-dominated company, I’ve developed a lot of respect for them. I’ve also learned that many of the things older people criticize this generation for are actually pretty smart.
Here are 10 admittedly broad generalizations about how Millennials work that I actually think the rest of us should emulate.
1. “They’re out for themselves.”
2. “They’re obsessed with technology.”
3. “They don’t know how to stick to their role.”
4. “They don’t pay their dues.”
5. “They think they’re experts.”
6. “They dress like they’re hanging out.”
7. “They think they define their roles.”
8. “They’re too sensitive.”
9. “They’re so presumptive.”
10. “They’re not loyal.”
The annual performance review has been a ubiquitous and generally loathed fixture of the corporate world for decades. But haters can rejoice: It’s finally starting to topple. The best part? Even the company that popularized the toughest form of formal annual review is moving away from them.
For decades, General Electric practiced (and proselytized) a rigid system, championed by then-CEO Jack Welch, of ranking employees. Formally known as the “vitality curve” but frequently called “rank and yank,” the system hinged on the annual performance review, and boiled the employees’ performance down to a number on which they were judged and ranked against peers. A bottom percentage (10% in GE’s case) of underperformers were then fired.
The company got rid of formal, forced ranking around 10 years ago. But now, GE’s in the middle of a far bigger shift. It’s abandoning formal annual reviews and its legacy performance management system for its 300,000-strong workforce over the next couple of years, instead opting for a less regimented system of more frequent feedback via an app. For some employees, in smaller experimental groups, there won’t be any numerical rankings whatsoever.
With the decision, GE joins other high-profile companies—like Microsoft, Accenture, and Adobe—that have started dumping or have already gotten rid of formal annual reviews. GE may not have invented stack ranking, but it’s the company most identified with it. And given the longstanding and pervasive influence GE has had over the business world, its move could represent the beginning of the end for a practice that has been at the heart of how corporations have managed people for many decades.
Hallowed but shifting ground at GE’s Crotonville management training campus (General Electric)