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  1. What is the hardest interview question you have ever been asked?

    November 27, 2012 by Jenna

    I’m sure you can relate to a time when you walked out of an interview feeling mentally and physically exhausted. You ran through the interview over and over again in your head, and what stuck was that one question that just completely threw you off guard.

    I know I have. I remember walking out of an interview feeling like an epic failure, only to then be called a few hours later and I was offered the job!

    The tough interview question I had to deal with related to how society viewed the Gen Y – how we are categorised as having a more relaxed work ethic and whether I a) agreed that this was true and b) whether I considered myself to be a part of this category. I froze and words stumbled out of my mouth with the general theme, although I can’t even recall what I actually said. Fortunately my overall response must have appealed to the interviewer as they offered me the job that afternoon!

    This month we asked you ‘what have been the hardest interview questions you have been asked?’ I consulted our recruitment experts here at Challenge Consulting, and provided below are their suggestions on how to prepare for these types of questions in the future:

    • What are some of your weaknesses? The reality is we all have weaknesses. The purpose of this question is to understand how aware you are of your weaknesses and also understand how proactive you have been in developing your skills to overcome your weakness. E.g. my biggest weakness is my perfectionism. I tend to not to want let tasks go until I know that I feel they are perfect. As my last job required me to juggle conflicting priorities, I had to develop my organisational skills to ensure that I prioritise and meet competing deadlines.
    • Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, 15 years’ time? Most people aren’t psychic so it is hard to say where you will be in 5 years, let alone 15 years! However, the purpose of this question is to better understand how you would like to develop your career. Explain why you have applied for that job and why you want that job. Next, you need to ensure you maintain the balance between being realistic and not too ambitious. Why are you committed to this job, how does it fit into where you want to go? What are the skills that you hope to develop in this job? Are you someone committed to this job or are you going to leave tomorrow when something better comes along?
    • What is a normal day like for you? This is a question that both candidates and employers get asked. It is hard, because most days aren’t “normal”. The purpose behind this question is to best understand how your time is most likely to be spent. What would be the percentage split of responsibilities? Are their seasonal influences on how your tasks will be split? Is your work project-based and therefore your workload will be dependent on the project? You may like to explain how your last week or month looked, to provide an example of how your workload is managed.
    • Give us a specific example of someone you found difficult to work with. What did you do? What was the result? The purpose of this question is looking at how you have adapted your own interpersonal style to meet the needs of the situation. Provide the steps that you took in building this relationship and what you learnt from this in the future. You can of course outline an example of where you were faced with someone that was particularly challenging, and outline the steps that you took to build this relationship. The key thing is explaining how you are proactive in resolving situations. We’ve also covered an article on this previously that you may find of interest.
    • Why shouldn’t we hire you? This is a tricky way of asking – what are your weaknesses? See above.
    • You have 1 minute to tell me why I should hire you – While this question may seem like it’s pressuring you to sum up your response, this question does allow you to outline key points and it is the opportunity to sell yourself in the interview. When the interview is being conducted, one minute can actually be quite a long time to outline your strengths. If you have never taken the opportunity to write down your key strengths, I suggest taking the time to do so, as this is a question that you can prepare yourself for.
    • How would you define ‘common sense’? Sometimes it can throw you off to be asked to define something as you may feel that you need to tell the employer what they want to hear as opposed to using logic and applying the term to something that you would use in a day to day situation. Here is the dictionary definition: Good sense and sound judgment in practical matters.

    We always recommend practising your interview skills. Last week we featured an article that explains the benefits of mock interviews. But despite all the practice sometimes you just cannot prepare the answer ahead of time. When faced with that tricky expert, remember nobody is a better expert on your key strengths and what you can offer the role better than you. Instead of going into panic mode (which is our natural response) give yourself space. Breathe. Listen to the question. Don’t be afraid of short pauses. Reflect on your key strengths and skills and give your answer.

    But remember nobody knows you better than you, so you are the perfect person to answer that tricky question that they are asking.

  2. What is the #1 thing that would make you feel truly welcome on your first day in a new job?

    August 16, 2011 by Jenna

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    One wit I know maintained that “having songs written and sung in my name” was a perfect introduction. Another suggested “a fruit basket”.  

    Lovely, apt even, if one is beginning work with a fruiterer, but perhaps not #1 on most people’s list of first-day expectations. 

    So, what was #1 in our online poll last week? 

    #1 = In-person introductions to your key colleagues, junior and senior – 32.7%

    #2 = Being assigned to a “buddy” for your first week while you learn the ropes – 24.5% 

    #3 = Feeling expected by your new workplace and colleagues when you arrive – 13.1% 

    =#4 = Having a desk, equipment and a computer ready for you – 9.8% / Immediate involvement in “real” work or a team project – 9.8%

    Nothing makes a new person feel more like part of a company than warm, personal welcomes from the people they’ll be working with and, perhaps more importantly, for. 

    “Make sure that the first day’s schedule is full of meeting people and onboarding activities. Schedule a good portion of the morning with the new employee’s boss and mentor. Don’t let the day go to waste and contain nothing but paperwork and HR meetings. The day is for bonding with the boss, the mentor, and coworkers.”* 

    After one week on the job, the employee should begin to feel comfortable with her responsibilities, have met at least one new business contact each day, be familiar with team members (inside her department and outside) and be able to walk into your office with any questions. Arrange an informal session of drinks, cake, or something similar with the other team members at the end of the week so the new hire can assess what she has learned, ask the group questions and hang out in a less formal setting. 

    And what of the notion of being assigned to a “buddy”, which came in at #2 in our online poll? What is a buddy? What do they do? And why can they make such a difference? 

    A buddy is an experienced employee who partners with a new employee to provide guidance and encouragement during a defined period, typically the first two to three months of employment.  A buddy helps reduce new employee uncertainty by being available to answer immediate or routine questions. They relate new employee information to actual situations, and can suggest experiences and provide information to help the new employee become an “insider.” 

    To be a buddy, an employee should know and be committed to their department or work area, understand the company’s culture, have good interpersonal skills, be a respected performer and role model, be a peer of the new employee, and want to help.  A buddy must also be given time to support the new employee. 

    Of course, the flip side of this equation is that it’s not just up to your new company and colleagues to ease you into your new role. You are a professional. You are there to do a job and you are getting paid money for it. So, it’s also up to you to make the best impression you can during your first days in a new job.

    Here are some top tips for all newbies (and, quite frankly, some of them can be applied even if you’ve been in your job for a while!): 

    Your First Days Working at a New Job: 20 Tips to Help You Make a Great Impression**

    1. Have a Positive Attitude: Nothing works better – in all situations – than having and expressing a positive attitude. Let your enthusiasm for being part of the team and the organisation show to everyone you interact with. And always leave non-work problems at home.

    2. Dress Professionally / Blend in With Co-Workers: You should never underestimate the importance of dressing professionally in your new job. And in the beginning, even if your department has casual days, you should dress professionally because you never know when you’ll be called out to meet a top manager or key client. “Dress how you want people to perceive you because it plays a huge role in how you are initially treated,” advises Desiree Devaney, a financial analyst with GE Capital Credit.

    3. Show Your Team Spirit: You are now part of a work team, and teams work together to solve problems and get the job done. Show loyalty to your co-workers and focus more – initially at least – on sharing any recognition you get with the team. Always give credit to the team.

    4. Learn Co-Workers’ Names Quickly: No one expects you to have everyone’s name down pat by the end of the first day or week, but if you are bad with names, now is the time to research some of the neat memory-aid tricks you can try to use. 

    5. Ask Questions/Ask for Help: No one expects you to solve all the organisation’s problems on your first days on the job – nor that you know everything – so, relax a bit, and always ask questions or ask for help when you need it. Remember that it’s better to ask before you’ve completed the task the wrong way and wasted all that time. 

    6. Take Notes / Go to Orientation: Unless you have a photographic memory – and few of us do – consider taking notes on all the various systems and rules of the organisation. And no matter how boring they may sound, attend all orientation sessions. Nothing gets old faster than someone repeatedly asking how something works; such behaviour shows a lack of attention to detail. 

    7. Be a Self-Starter; Take Initiative: In most situations, in your first days on the job, you will be given small doses of work – to let you get your feet wet. As you finish assignments and are ready to handle a bigger workload, take the initiative and ask for more assignments. Whatever you do, don’t just sit there waiting for your next project. 

    8. Discover Everything About Your New Employer: In theory, you should have already done your homework during the interviewing process, but there is always more to learn now that you are on the inside. “Get an employee handbook” exhorts a MBA grad with an information-technology concentration. “Don’t act or think you know more about everything than your peers.” In addition, gather all those reports and company literature and read up and become an expert on your organisation. 

    9. Work Full Days: There’s nothing that can affect your reputation faster than routinely coming into work late or leaving work early. Especially in these first days/weeks on the job, be sure you get to work early and leave no earlier than when the majority of your co-workers leave. 

    10. Establish a Good Attendance Record: Just as with working full days, it’s important to show up to work every day and establish a good attendance record. Yes, there will be emergencies, and yes, you may get sick, but as best you can, try to make it to work every day during those first weeks/months on the job.

    11. Avoid Office Politics and Gossip: As with any social organisation, the workplace is full of rumours and gossip. Your mission is to keep your nose clean of all of it – and be sure not to associate too often with the office gossips or risk having your image associated with them.

    12. Keep Personal Business on Company Time to a Minimum: Studies show that just about everyone conducts some amount of personal business on company time – checking email, making dinner reservations, buying stuff online. Your goal is to keep your personal business to a minimum and stay focused on work. 

    13. Take Advantage of After-Hours Activities: Many organisations have formal or informal after-hour activities, such as sports leagues. Get involved – even if only as a cheerleader – because these types of activities are great ways to bond with your co-workers. Do be on your best behaviour during these outside-work activities, though.

    14. Show Appreciation: Nothing works like kindness and genuine appreciation. So, show your appreciation to everyone who helps you learn the ropes during your first days on the job – from your co-workers to receptionists to the human resources folks. 

    15. Find a Mentor: You don’t need to jump on this task your first day, but as you get introduced to senior staff, begin thinking about developing a mentoring relationship with a member of management above you – and outside your department – in the organisation. Mentoring has numerous benefits, from a simple sounding board to someone who helps direct and advance your career within the organisation. 

    16. Get and Stay Organised / Set Goals: If you’re one of those super-organised people, this tip will be easy for you. The rest of us, however, need to develop a system for keeping track of meetings, appointments, assignments, and projects. Get an organiser or planner and keep on top of all your work. You certainly don’t want to miss an early key deadline or meeting. And as you look ahead, set goals for yourself s- and then strive to achieve them.

    17. Keep Your Boss Informed – of Everything: Your boss is not a mind-reader, so keep him/her informed of how you are doing. Especially in those early days, meet with your boss to further establish a rapport and relationship. 

    18. Meet and Network with Key People in Organisation & Profession: Join an organisation outside of work. Take additional classes to stay ahead in your field. Take advantage of every opportunity to network with key people in your organization and profession – attend staff meetings, professional organisation conferences, trade shows – every opportunity to meet colleagues in your field. Just because you have a new job does not mean you suspend your network; constantly manage and grow your network of contacts because you never know when a problem or opportunity will arise. And networking with key people can also help you in finding one or more mentors. 


    * How to Welcome a New Employee 

    ** Your First Days Working at a New Job: 20 Tips to Help You Make a Great Impression

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