As we all know, interviewing is a performance skill that takes
preparation, planning, feedback, and practice. It is also common
knowledge that most of the questions one is posed in interviews
can be anticipated. (The blogroll has a nice listing of common
interview quesitons.) Knowing that many of the questions can be
anticipated suggests that preparation for interviews should not only
include thoroughly knowing your resume, but also
anticipating questions you are likely to be asked,
developing 1 - 2 minute responses to the questions, and
practicing responses in several types of settings.
Many of the questions posed in interviews have questions behind
the questions. This is, in fact, the basis for behavioral-based questions
which try to predict important behaviors of a candidate by asking
questions relating to specific behaviors one has shown in the past.
Similarly, the “weakness question” is one by which a company wishes
to rule out candidates who might have shortcomings that bring liabilities
in their anticipated role.
As in most interview responses, there is no single best response. My
suggestion to interviewees is to be honest, don’t exaggerate, and reveal
what they believe is a weakness (understanding that if the weakness is
something the employer wants to be a strength, you are likely to be “voted
off the island”). Follow the weakness with what you are doing about
correcting the weakness.
Two common themes I personally use are time management and
working in teams. I personally am challenged each day with too
many things to do and not enough time so I lay out a plan in
advance what I wish to accomplish and revisit the plan
at frequent intervals to ensure that I am meeting my important and
There are many areas that I recognize others as being effective.
I like to work with others who have strengths that I can
learn from as a team, where I can provide my unique skills.
Please let me know how you approach the weakness question
Some of the comments that follow will list other perspective on
responding to this question.
Do hiring managers really check with references? No question that
they do. The amount of checking varies quite a bit from company to
company and with industries.
Some firms do a detailed check into a person’s background,
including credit history, internet search, and personal reference letter
requests and conversations.
With very, very few exceptions, job seekers need to have good
references to place on their application or to mention with contact
information to hiring firms.
In some cases the hiring managers will contact references before
the actual interview. It is so easy these days to search someone’s
record on the internet, especially after permission has been granted.
It is quite common.
Letters of recommendation provide information from an employer
(current or former) or associate. They provide a valuable record of
experience and testify to your strengths, talents and abilities. Letters
of recommendation from employers may contain only title, length of
employment and salary. It would be nicer to have indications of :
Yet, these only come with diligent effort with people with whom you
have forged productive relationships.
D. Mattioli addressed a particular issue of finding references when
you cannot ask your boss.
The short ‘case studies’ in his article scratch the surface at back-up
strategies that may be useful in cases where
one is currently working
there was an unbalanced relationship between you and your boss, or
is no longer available..
- work considerately and diligently with people so that when you
need a reference, it is not hard to ask for one.
- let people know and understand what you have done in the
words you use
- reopen lines of communication with a previous boss, update
them on your situation and ask for a reference.
- make sure the reference is able to provide a reference– has
the time (grant-writing, traveling, or other responsibilities might
interfere) knows what you seek
- as a last resort, ask the human relations department to verify
- Because of law suits, many firms counsel direct supervisors
from offering recommendations for direct reports.
- if you sense any hesitance in offering a reference for you,
consider not using the person.
Be interested in your comments. Send in your suggestions.
Just surfed by a nice Q&A concerning working with recruiters by one
of my regular columnists, Perri Capell.
If you are considering working with recruiters, Perri lists several “watch-outs”
of which one should be aware.
An interesting link given in the article is:
An interesting problem occurs for many people who have spent many years
working with one firm. Why would this be? Some resume reviewers
might view the individual as overly loyal or focused on security. Others
might view the person described in the resume as less able to adjust to
a new culture or work situation. Still others might offer that the individual
might be set in their ways and not be skilled in fast moving technology
This poses a strategy one might take if you are faced with a similar
situation of making either a career switch or a within industry change
after working with one firm for an extended stay.
In my experience, various energy applied research programs were the
topics of my first ten years. My career switch went into a challenged,
high tech manufacturing firm. Reflections of my interviews and resume
is that the various areas of work matched up with the skills sought in the
open position I applied for. Sure, the styles were different but they found
my coming from an applied research background might work well with the
research group with which I was destined to be working.
Others may have similar stories. Please consider sharing them.
Dana Mattioli has written an article about writing resumes when one has
had a long stay at one firm. http://www.careerjournal.com/jobhunting/resumes/20061212-mattioli.html?cjpos=home_whatsnew_major
Ms. Mattioli points out objectives that one might display facing such
a situation in writing a resume to capture an interview. They include:
-show flexibility and adaptability
-show growth in key skills, either in job history [or scale of projects or
depth and complexity]
-be specific about descriptive information [consider listing a separate
-provide the information in a readable format.
Whether the change is your decision or otherwise, the public relations
documents you provide need to show a match to skills that meets the
opening’s needs. Make sure you have enough information about it
before you pull together the pieces of the resume to make a case for
So many firms these days are hiring on a temporary basis before committing
a long term hire for various reasons. Knowing this, consider offering
information showing you might be receptive to such a role, at least
for the short term.
Just received a pleasant email from a friend who has received an offer from
a prestigious firm and accepted it. It is such good news to hear!
As a touch of ‘putting the ribbon with a bow around the career consulting
package’ I thought I would tell her about the workshop “First Year on the
job” that may be of help to her. When I went on the ACS Career Management
website, I was delighted to find the power points for all the San Francisco
workshops available for viewing.
The public relations documents allowing a person to be invited
for a job interview start off with a curriculum vita, for academic,
some governmental and institutional postions, and the resume.
Much has been written about strategies for resume writing. When
I surfed by Louise Krsmark’s article, I knew I should alert people,
from the savvy, experienced exec, to the cracker-jack recent grad
to “Seven Executive Resume Strategies” (Isn’t it interesting that many
articles start of with the number of things they will mention– 7 here!)
In her first three paragraphs, Louise talks about things that might not all
fit into a resume. That doesn’t take anything away from the strategies
she cites. What it calls for are two, perhaps three, additional elements.
The additional elements are a comprehensive self assessment and detailed
understanding of the company, position, role and responsibilities one
seeks to match. One may then wish to generate corollary
documents to the resume covering items such as research
summary, industry perspective, project summary, patent review,
management philosophy and so on to deliver specific support
to the resume. That said, Ms. Kursmark’s article hits the mark
on resume specifics
Kursmark talks about business communications strategies– resume
length, what resume readers expect for various positions, and the
thinking behind the concepts. Although she calls the section below
the heading, “the summary,” I view it as what a recruiter once told me,
a QUALIFICATIONS statement.
She also covers five strategies that resonate with good resumes in her
next five strategies–
- use reverse chronological format (it is what most reviewers look for.)
- specificity, conciseness, and clarity
- speak to accomplishments, rather than responsibilities or job descriptions
Her last strategy relates to format for readability. The issue is
overdoing the enhancements. So, have others review the resume
and offer honest feedback.
This resume article is a ‘keeper’ in my book, take a look!
Some useful thoughts and tactics are cited in Joann S. Lubin’s article
“When a would-be employer takes forever to make an offer.”
A person with whom I am working faces a dilemma where at least one
company has indicated there is interest to bring her in for an on-site
interview. This seems to be a logical extension for her after the interview.
The first assessment the interviewee needs to make is to determine is this
the right company and position for me? Ms. Lubin clearly states “this drawn
-out interview process… [whether delaying a decision or bring you in for
follow-up interviews]… leaves you in limbo and… is unsettling and intrusive.”
- “broadens your exposure to the people and the business…”
- gives you time to fill out your decision analysis on the company
- reveals the decision process the company uses before you are there.
Things you can do:
- “schedule follow-ups, if necessary, on weekends or evenings…”
- prepare for the next interviews with further research, new ideas, solutions and approaches
- have high energy and positive attitude for each interaction.
- “the delay may be a sign of [reorganization or] disorganization…”
- “you walk the fine line between peskiness and persistence. Daily calls
or uninvited appearances [can] knock you out…”
What are your thoughts and tactics on delayed decision-making?
Discovered an interesting website after reading a nice
article by Katherine Spenser Lee, “Why you should
turn down that job offer.” Computerworld/Careers
The website is a ‘Job Assessor’ worksheet on Biospace,
I know when I viewed it, it did a couple of nice things after I added
criteria that were important to me, like corporate goals and mission,
support of employees to accomplish community and personal
goals, and confidence and trust in corporate leadership. This
worksheet helps you do a ‘Turbotax-like’ comparison of job
Katherine Lee’s article points out the importance of three
actiivities that job seekers need to do after an offer is received.
It is part of the discipline involved in your job search plan.
a. do detailed homework on the company and the position,
b. make sure you ask several important questions and obtain clear
c. use your formal and informal network and even social networks
to explore the culture of a company.
Lee points out that you should feel that the position and its responsibilities
will be a good match allowing you to get satisfaction out of the position.
Have in mind that each position you take should allow you to
make progress in your career and that it is adequately compensated. (a.)
She also talks about understanding why the position is open, what the
turnover rate is, what positions become open for successful people in
the position, and ‘between the lines,’ what are the chief problems in the
Knowing that the corporate culture is right for you is an important criterion
for you being happy in the role. It is more than style differences in the
formality of clothing, hours of work and sociability of the people you
meet. Are people smiling and friendly? Do they intentionally work in
teams to accomplish important tasks? You will be ’spending 40 hours
or more a week with them, so it is important to know.’
The article adds several other considerations– commute, travel requirements,
Do you have factors that are important to you that would encourage you
to turn down a job offer? How do you find out about them? Please share….
Thanks for the reply… I am getting settled into my new job at D.
Let me tell you about my job in brief. I work as a Sr researcher in material
science group. This group is not aligned to any of the businesses of D.
Rather it provides technical expertise to various businesses.
[Technical leaders in our group are assigned to a project that falls into
his expertise and work with technical people in actual business [groups]
and decide scope of the work, interacting with other leaders.
What I wanted to know is what typically happens in early stages of
one’s career. What kind of things I should discuss with my supervisor
and what I should not? For example, every leader was asked to provide
their goals for next year which include safety, documentation and
project related goals. This eventually decides the performance
appraisal at the end of the next year. Since this is my first job in
my career, I am not familiar with this procedure and what typically
people write in goals. Also, the scope of the project assigned to me
is not defined at all until this point and it will be done so in next
2-3 months. I will have to outline my goals by next week. If that is
so, shall I disucss these things with my supervisor before I start
writing down the goals for next year? Your suggestions will be very
Thanks and regards