10 killer job interview questions and how to answer them

Czerwiec 19th, 2011

Dear Readers,

Are you ready for that all-important job interview? I’m sure that if you’re reading this you must be thinking about applying for a job abroad or in an international corporation. Most interviews are designed not only to check if you’re fit for the job, but also examine your command of spoken English. BEM Blog’s list of top 10 killer interview questions will help you prepare to get the job you’ve dreamed about.

image source: mensite.pl

image source: mensite.pl

1. First, tell me about yourself.

It may seem like an easy open-ended question anyone can answer correctly without much effort.

Actually, you can’t be more wrong. ‚Tell me about yourself’ does not mean ‚tell me everything’. What the hiring panel really wants to hear is a brief account of who you are and why you are the best candidate for this particular job.

Talk about what you’ve done to prepare yourself for the position and use a recent example to back it up. Ideally, you should go on for about 2-3 minutes and then ask if they would like to hear some more details. If they do, keep using examples to prove how your background and experience were useful in real-life business situations.

2. What is your long-term objective?

Be honest. Focus on your most achievable goal and how are you going to reach it. It is vital to have a clear vision of how your career should look like in the next 5 years or so and how to make this vision come true, for example:

Within the next five years, I would like to become the best team leader your company has ever hired. I want to work toward becoming the expert in managing others. I am confident that I’ll be fully prepared to take on any future responsibilities which might be presented  to me in the long run. For example, here is what I’m presently doing to prepare myself for a managing position… (and  go on to describe what you are already doing to reach your goals and objectives).

3. What is the most difficult situation you have had to face and how did you tackle it?

Have an example at hand. Select a difficult work situation (which was not caused by you and which can be quickly explained in a few sentences). When choosing the problem, focus on how YOU worked towards the solution. Focus on the skills required on the position you are applying for that helped you face the situation. Describe the results and tell them how the company benefitted from your actions.

Have in mind that the purpose of this question is to find out what your definition of ‚difficult’ is and to determine whether you can show a logical approach to problem solving. Explain how you defined the problem, what the other options were, why you selected the one you did and what the outcome was. Always end on a positive note.

4. What are your strengths?

Prepare a list of your proficiencies and choose three or four that are the most relevant to the job you are applying for. Concentrate on discussing your main strengths. Avoid popular clichés, such as:

  1. I am a good team player…
  2. I am a good negotiator…
  3. I work very hard…

Focus on your more dynamic skills, such as:

  1. I learn quickly.
  2. I have a strong determination to succeed.
  3. I have a positive attitude.
  4. I can relate to people and achieve a common goal.
  5. I make friends easily.

Remember that you may very likely be asked to give examples of the above, so be prepared.

5. What is your greatest weakness?

Do not say you have none – this will not sound very credible and might, in fact, make your interviewer  believe you are being over-confident. Another rookie mistake is trying to disguise one of your strengths as a weakness, for example:

Well, I’m such a hard worker. Sometimes I really work too hard. I should probably spend more time with my family, because all I do is work… Did I mention I work hard? hmmm… That’s because all I do is work, work, work…

You have two alternatives:

  1. Use a professed weakness such as a lack of experience (not ability) on your part in an area that is not vital for the job.
  2. Describe a personal or professional weakness that you’ve been working on improving. Focus on the steps you have taken to combat it, for example:
    I know the people from my team think I’m too demanding. I sometimes tend to drive them pretty hard but I’ve started reading on the subject some time ago and I’m getting much better at managing them by setting objectives.

6. Why do you want to leave your current employer?

Whatever your reasons for leaving were, do not think about them in negative terms. It is not appropriate to mention financial conditions as your primary reason for leaving. Focus on the working environment and state how you are looking for a new challenge, more responsibility, experience and a change of surroundings.

7. Why have you applied for this particular job?

By asking this question, your future employer is looking for evidence that the job suits you and involves doing things you enjoy. On the other hand, it gives him or her a chance to test your knowledge about the industry as well as the whole organisation. Make sure you have a good understanding of the role and the place you’re going to take in the company. Prove to them that your job goes in line with your character and passion.

8. How has your education prepared you for your career?

This is a broad question and you need to focus on the specific examples in your educational background which have given you the proficiency to do this particular job. If applying for a job in a technical field, be sure to mention any relevant achievements in that particular field and your passion for the subject.

9.What experience do you have in this field?

Never say ‚none’. If you’re applying for a job in a field totally unknown to you, think of any experience you’ve gained in learning new skills. Try to look for similarities between your previous jobs and the prospect one and come up with some examples of how you adjusted to the new situation, for example:

I’ve never worked in cosmetics before, but in my previous job I’ve learned a lot about sales and marketing and I’m confident I’ll be quick to learn the ropes of your industry very quickly.

10. What kind of salary do you need?

A question that can catch anyone off guard. Unless you have done some research and know precisely what your expectations are,try to avoid being the first to put the figure on the table. The best way to do this is by stating that your salary expectancy depends on the amount of responsibilities you’d have to take on. Do not have a specific amount in mind and do not be afraid to ask for more than the average industry wage. It is much better to provide your interviewer with a wide range rather than a specific sum, for example:

I’ve asked around and I know that a marketing manager doing a similar job in Berlin earns about EUR 3700 a month. Given that my job would also require organising three training seminars a month, I’d expect my salary to range between EUR 4000 and EUR 4500.

BZ

What are your experiences with tough job interviews? What was the hardest question you’ve been asked? Feel free to comment below.

VOCABULARY:

  1. open-ended question – otwarte pytanie
  2. panel – grupa, komitet
  3. brief – krótki
  4. achievable – osiągalny
  5. approach – podejście
  6. on a positive note – w pozytywny sposób
  7. proficiency – zdolność
  8. cliché – banał
  9. credible – wiarygodny
  10. rookie mistake – błąd początkującego
  11. to read on the subject – czytać na jakiś temat
  12. to to learn the ropes – poznać się na rzeczy
  13. to catch sb off guard – zaskoczyć kogoś

Germany & Austria open labour borders. What next?

Maj 8th, 2011

Dear BEM Readers,

Last weekend was special not only because of the beatification of Pope John Paul II (you can read about it in the previous post), but also abolishment of work limitations for Eastern European „accession” countries that joined the European Union in 2004, which includes Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia,Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia & Hungary.

What next?

The Germans expect a major influx of workers from the above countries, some estimates say that even 500,000 workers from Poland and the neighbouring countries will start their jobs in Germany & Austria.

Let’s take a look at a possible scenarios (both positive & negative) for Poland.

The bleak scenario

  • Brain drain” – a term used to illustrate a lack of skilled workforce due to emigration. There is no question over the fact that Poland will have even less skilled workers (after the already significant border opening in the UK, Ireland and Scotland in 2004). Since the wages are more competitive in Germany, Poland has not much room for avoiding that situation.

The bright scenario

  • Transfer of capital – since there will be more employed workers (who might have not found work in Poland yet), they will be bringing back major capital, that will then go back to the Polish system (in personal products, housing, cars etc.). They will also have bigger „buying power” to invest in their kids education, buy land and participate in other social/citizen activities they might have been excluded from due to a lower financial status
  • Transfer of experience/skills – while most economists predict & fear that many workers will remain in Germany or Austria, most will be motivated to come back to Poland after collecting a larger amount of capital and might either bring back new skills & experience into the local job market, or even better start their own businesses based on the German market observations

Whether we like that or not, the influx will happen, its just a matter of time of evaluating how large it will be. Some Poles say: „Those who were likely to seek work in Germany or Austria are already there…”

Time will show how this labor market opening will affect Poland and its economy. Hopefully, it will be the bright perspective that takes charge.

If you are interested to learn more about the Poland-Germany labor market opening, you can watch this TV clip and article.

Wish you a good „arbeit” week!

Krzysztof „Chris” Dargiewicz

USEFUL VOCABULARY

1. abolishment – zniesienie; abolicja

2. major  – główny; duży; znaczący

3. influx – napływ

4. estimates – dane szacunkowe

5. bleak – wyblakły; blady

6. brain drain – „drenaż mózgów

7.  not much room – małe pole do manewru/popisu

8.  to avoid – uniknąć

9. buying power – siła nabywcza (konsumencka)

10. observation – obserwacje; spostrzeżenia

11.  to evaluate – ocenić; obliczyć

12.  likely – prawdopodobnie

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