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are your weaknesses?
did you leave your last job?
do you deal with criticism?
do you see yourself in ten years?
How do you deal with authority?
do you think of your previous manager?
is the riskiest thing you have ever done?
You think the interview is going well.
You knew the meeting location ahead of time, and you arrived
ten minutes early. You are dressed sharp and your teeth
are clean. You came prepared in every way-you have three
copies of your resume, a few business cards, two pens and
a note pad. You turned off your cell-phone. You managed
to find out before the interview that your interviewer held
the position for which you are now applying and that you
were in choir at the same college. You know the company's
mission statement and have a sense of their structure. Your
interviewer nodded and smiled when you spoke about your
previous accomplishments and your management style. You
seem to have connected with the company culture.
Your reflection, research, and practice have served you
so well that you wonder whether you should become a professional
interviewee rather than a Financial Planner. Then the interviewer
lifts her head from her notes and, pen in hand, asks: what
are your weaknesses?
You have two options: you can squirm and stammer through
a response you develop on the fly, or you can look your
interviewer in the eye and provide a thoughtful response
that still helps you present yourself strongly. When asked
difficult questions, you feel instinctively that they are
probing and that you are under great scrutiny. As you prepare
responses before the interview, consider what information
the questions seek: are there ways in which you would be
a liability to the company? If the company invests in you,
what kinds of things would it need to overcome? Are you
the kind of person who can deal with things when they get
rough, or are you pure gloss?
In answering sensitive questions, make sure that your answers
are honest, but reassuring. Use tact and choose your words
carefully so that you show respect for other people in your
responses. You should usually use understatement in your
reply to sensitive questions. When people hear something
bad, they tend to focus on it in a way that is out of proportion
to its significance in everyday life. If you say that you
are not always organized, the interviewer could imagine
your desk with papers strewn everywhere and deadlines missed.
But in reality your conception of disorganization might
look a lot like the interviewer's conception of organization.
In addition, most of the interviewer's questions could be
answered honestly in a variety of ways. You want to choose
the version of the truth that is most appealing and sensitive--the
version that helps support your main message. Examples:
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- What are
Overemphasized: I am not a good manager.
Avoidant: I always get my work done on time. When other
people drop the ball, sometimes I get frustrated with
Effective: I prioritize continual growth and improvement.
An area on which I would like to focus is managing others
who have different expectations from me. What needs to
be done in order to complete responsibilities is intuitive
for me, so I am learning how to give better direction
to others who are not self-motivated.
- Why did you
leave your last job?
Vague and negative: Law always interested me, and I was
looking for a new challenge. I thought it would be a good
time to go to law school. Besides, I had gotten frustrated
with the lack of support I felt at work.
Dangerous: In the end, my manager and I could not get
along. He was driving me crazy and I needed to leave.
Effective: As I succeeded in financial analysis, I became
increasingly interested in broader issues of managing
money. I wanted to understand how legal regulations and
individuals' goals affect decisions about how to manage
money. When I gained entrance to my top choice in law
school, I seized the opportunity to infuse my financial
training with legal knowledge.
- How do
you deal with criticism?
Disrespectful: When I remember the source, I usually realize
that the other person is in no position to criticize me.
Unbelievable: Criticism does not bother me at all.
Effective: Criticism is vital to my continued growth,
and I welcome constructive criticism that helps a team
operate better together or produce better results. It
is important to me to understand where my critic is coming
from so that I know how to apply the feedback.
- Where do you
see yourself in ten years?
Dismissive: Living in a boat off the coast of Bermuda.
Exploitative: I hope to have gained enough skills here
to start my own company.
Scattered: In ten years, I imagine that I will want a
change of scene. One of my long-term interests has been
ecological protection, and I can see myself working as
a spokesman for a lobbyist organization. First, though,
I need to make some money and I want to contribute to
Effective: In ten years, I endeavor to have refined my
strategic and client relations skills. I intend to be
a leading expert in estate planning. After having proven
myself as a senior manager, I hope to help shape the strategic
direction of estate planning services. I could do this
in any number of official roles. The important thing is
that I will continue contributing my abilities in a challenging
and rewarding environment.
- How do
you deal with authority?
Concerning: I think it is important to question authority
from time to time.
Frightening: In my last job,
there was a time when my boss made a financial decision
that I knew would be abysmal. I went directly to his superior
to explain the problem. His superior agreed that I was
right, and my boss had to alter his plan.
Effective: Respect is very important to me. As an employee,
I try to respect my boss not only by following her guidance,
but also by seeking her guidance. When a trusting relationship
is formed, I have often found that my bosses have appreciated
concerns or options that I raised to them. They know that
I support them, and I know that they respect me.
- What do
you think of your previous manager?
Evasive: She did her job fine. She was a pretty nice person.
Disrespectful: She knew her stuff, but she did not give
my colleagues or me any real guidance. It is like we were
fending for ourselves. She rarely stood up for us either.
I do not really think she should be a manager.
Effective: My previous manager had excellent technical
skills and was very agreeable as a colleague. I would
have liked more support from her at times, but her hands-off
style meant that I had to become resourceful in problem
solving and negotiating with colleagues.
- What is
the riskiest thing you have ever done?
Too much information: My wife and I conceived our first
child in front of the police department.
Dangerous judgment: I play chicken with trains.
Effective: The greatest calculated risk that I have taken
was to launch my own internet company. My idea was solid,
but I knew the market was volatile. Even though the venture
ended, my investment of time and money paid off in terms
of the skills, perspectives, and contacts that I made
through the process. I feel like I matured-rather than
aged-ten years during that time.