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| Have a great week in your search!
It’s time for my twice-a-year update of the best questions for you to ask in an interview.
I’ve put this list together because so often we can forget what an interview’s all about. It sure feels like it’s about you, but it’s really not.
An interview is actually about how you can help your future boss and future employer succeed. It’s about finding out what their requirements and hopes are and matching up your background and experience with what they need.
Overlooking these basic facts about the interview is easy. There’s so much else going on in your work, your life, and in your job search, that you can forget to look at the interview from the interviewer’s point of view. And that’s a shame, because you need the interviewer to walk away from the interview thoroughly impressed.
When I ran these questions previously, commenter “spiderji” wrote in and said:
And reader LBRZ shared:
And that’s exactly the point, Readers. By asking these questions, which focus on the needs, traits, and preferences of your future boss and future employer, you’re demonstrating that you are somebody who is genuinely interested in their well-being. And the more interest we show in others, the more commitment they show to aiding our cause.
With that in mind, here’s the twice-a-year update to my collection of “best interview questions” below. My aim here is to arm you with easy-to-ask, revealing-to-answer questions for you to take with you to an interview:
1. What’s the biggest change your group has gone through in the last year? Does your group feel like the tough times are over and things are getting better, or are things still pretty tough? What’s the plan to handle to either scenario?
2. If I get the job, how do I earn a “gold star” on my performance review? What are the key accomplishments you’d like to see in this role over the next year?
3. What’s your (or my future boss’) leadership style?
4. About which competitor are you most worried?
5. How does sales / operations / technology / marketing / finance work around here? (I.e., groups other than the one you’re interviewing for.)
6. What type of people are successful here? What type of people are not?
7. What’s one thing that’s key to this company’s success that somebody from outside the company wouldn’t know about?
8. How did you get your start in this industry? Why do you stay?
9. What are your group’s best and worst working relationships with other groups in the company? What are the pain points you have to deal with day-to-day?
10. What keeps you up at night? What’s your biggest worry these days?
11. What’s the timeline for making a decision on this position? When should I get back in touch with you?
12. It’s been tough economic times, and every position is precious when it comes to the budget. Why did you decide to hire somebody for this position instead of the many other roles / jobs you could have hired for? What about this position made you prioritize it over others?
13. What is your reward system? Is it a star system / team-oriented / equity-based / bonus-based / “attaboy!”-based? Why is that your reward system? What do you guys hope to get out of it, and what actually happens when you put it into practice? What are the positives and the negatives of your reward system? If you could change any one thing, what would it be?
14. What information is shared with the employees (revenues, costs, operating metrics)? Is this an “open book” shop, or do you play it closer to the vest? How is information shared? How do I get access to the information I need to be successful in this job?
15. If we are going to have a very successful year in 2016, what will that look like? What will we have done over the next 12 months to make it successful? How does this position help achieve those goals? (This question helps show your ability to look beyond today’s duties to the future more than a year away.)
16. How does the company / my future boss do performance reviews? How do I make the most of the performance review process to ensure that I’m doing the best I can for the company?
17. What is the rhythm to the work around here? Is there a time of year that it’s “all hands on deck” and we’re pulling all-nighters, or is it pretty consistent throughout the year? How about during the week / month? Is it pretty evenly spread throughout the week / month, or are there crunch days?
18. What type of industry / functional / skills-based experience and background are you looking for in the person who will fill this position? What would the “perfect” candidate look like? How do you assess my experience in comparison? What gaps do you see?
19. What is your (or my future boss’) hiring philosophy? Is it “hire the attitude / teach the skills” or are you primarily looking to add people with domain expertise first and foremost?
20. In my career, I’ve primarily enjoyed working with big / small / growing / independent / private / public / family-run companies. If that’s the case, how successful will I be at your firm?
21. Who are the heroes at your company? What characteristics do the people who are most celebrated have in common with each other? Conversely, what are the characteristics that are common to the promising people you hired, but who then flamed out and failed or left? As I’m considering whether or not I’d be successful here, how should I think about the experiences of the heroes and of the flame-outs?
I hope you find these questions useful in your interviews, Readers!
A final note. Previously, another commenter, “Lenore”, asked:
To which I replied:
OK, Readers, have a great week in the job search!
Whenever a recruiter posts a job with us, we want to connect our members as quickly as possible. So we look through our whole directory of members, including you, to find those best fit for the job.
And then we send that job, real-time, via an e-mail hiring alert, to a select group of professionals like you.
Well, on average, about 125 of you, which results in 3 to 4 applications for each job.
We’ll send the job to fewer or more professionals depending on what the computer tells us, but the goal is to get about 3 to 4 of you who might not have seen the job, and might potentially be the right fit, to apply. That’s our target based on our conversations with recruiters about what makes the most sense for them.
So when you see something like this in your Inbox (or in “Activity” on our website or app)…
…you’ll know that it’s a job hot off the presses, and that, if you decide to apply, the magic of modern computer science can let you feel comfortable that you’re one of just a handful of professionals who feel equally excited about it.
The match, by the way, is based on the information you’ve given us, so the great thing is, the more info you give us, the better we can target you with jobs. Update your profile here to let us understand you better.
Again, these alerts are sent out in real-time when a recruiter posts a job. The early bird gets the worm, so you should take advantage of this personalized heads-up about a new job opportunity.
Have an easy week on the job search, Readers!
I’ve shared a stage with Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP, in the past, and to that old showbiz saying about never sharing a stage with children or animals if you want to get noticed, let me add Bill. There’s probably a picture of him on Wikipedia under ‘charismatic’, and he’s just a wonderful guy to hear speak… from the audience… not if you’re up next.
So when I heard he was writing a book with my good friend Joanne Gordon, whose previous hits have included writing with the CEO of Starbucks and sharing the stories of 100 successful women in business, I was pretty excited.
Well, the book is coming out tomorrow and I managed to persuade Joanne & Bill & their publishers Simon & Schuster to share, exclusively with TheLadders audience, these three excerpts.
Want It More
Context: Bill grew up in working class Amityville, Long Island and went to Dowling College, which he paid for with profits from a small corner deli he owned and operated. He dreamed of working in Manhattan, wearing a suit and tie. At 21, a sales job at Xerox was his dream. This is his final interview the day he went to Xerox to compete with dozens of other recent college grads, most of whom had degrees and pedigrees far more impressive than his, and wearing suits much more polished than his $99 one.
Context: In his early years as a salesman at Xerox, Bill is passed up for a job he wants, and does not take it lightly.
Follow your Heart
Context: Bill has been with Xerox about 15 years and is feeling antsy to leave, but is not sure where to go. The career lesson I personally love here is not to let your desire to leave a job dictate when and where you land. Wait for the right opportunity.
What inspires in Bill’s story isn’t the success, of course, but the setbacks. Maybe you can see yourself in the eager college-grad, or the ambition-burning junior employee, or the wary and experienced senior exec.
And what I love about the story here is how it puts you in Bill’s shoes and you feel the frustration and the elation and the anxiety of success-to-be. You’re on board for the journey and come out the other side feeling like maybe today is the day you’ll dream just a little bit harder.
Have a great week in the search, Readers, and I hope you’ll enjoy Bill (and Joanne’s) book as much as I did!
I always recommend you get your resume professionally written, but for those of you who have a “do-it-yourself” mentality, I’ve put together this simple 8-minute guide. It’ll take you 8 minutes to read, probably an hour or two to do, and provide months of benefit in reducing your resume anxiety.
My recommendations below are for a professional with 10 to 25 years experience. For those with fewer than 10 years, you’re likely better off with a 1-page resume, for those with more than 25 years and at very senior levels, three may sometimes be appropriate. But seriously, if that’s you, you’re shouldn’t be relying on your own typing skills to market your self.
As with any “do-it-yourself” project, the key to success is to not get in over your head. So the instructions below are a simplified version of my best advice, tailored to be achievable by you on your own. Again, I must recommend that it’s much better for you to get a professional to do this for you, but if you’re set on “do it yourself”, here goes!….
First, the goal of your resume is to get you an interview for the job. You may believe your resume has other purposes:
Trust me, none of those are the goals of your resume. Actually, don’t trust me. Read our research on how long recruiters spend on your resume. The answer is 6 seconds for the first pass.
So the goal of your resume is to get you the interview.
You get the interview by persuading 3 layers of reviewers that time spent with you will be worth more than time spent with another candidate. I’ll describe below who these 3 layers are — screeners, recruiters, and hiring managers.
You’ll persuade those reviewers by providing quantifiably proven results that you can do the job very well.
Resume length and structure
Your resume will be 2 pages total.
It will be composed of a professional summary and a chronological detail of your professional success. I won’t address your contact information at the head of the resume, or your educational background at the bottom of the resume in this newsletter (but of course, they should definitely be there!)
Your professional summary is a separated list of two or three lines that summarizes your professional ambitions, background, and talents. You’ll include 12 -15 phrases of two or three words each in this section. On your resume, you should begin this section with the three or four job titles you want most, and then intersperse the skills and successes…
Job titles: list 3 to 5 job titles of jobs you would actually accept as your next job. It does not matter that you have never actually had this job title in the past, but it is important that it is a plausible next step in your professional career. A job search that includes both small and large companies will have a broader range of job titles than one specifically focusing on, say, the Fortune 500.
Examples: VP, Marketing • Director, Marketing • Brand Marketing Leader • CMO
Professional skills: list 4 to 6 skills that you possess that are important to your success in the jobs outlined above. They should be skills you currently possess and should be “level appropriate”. I.e., don’t list skills that are obvious or would be assumed for your level. If you’re applying for C-suite jobs, listing “time management” or “presentation skills” would be far too junior to mention in your summary.
Examples: Agile Development • Software Architecture • Engineer Recruiting • Technology Innovation
Descriptions of your past success: list 3 to 6 phrases that describe your demonstrated past success. Any type of achievements or attributes for which you have received recognition are appropriate.
Examples: President’s Club • Top-producing Saleswoman • Exceeds Quota • Consultative Selling Expert
Chronological detail of your professional success
In this section you will provide a chronological detail of your professional success, starting with your most recent job first. Notice the word choices here, please. We are detailing your success. We are not listing your past job titles or duties. We are not describing your staff composition or budget size or administrative systems used.
Again, your resume is a marketing document and needs to persuade your reviewers that time spent with you will be worthwhile, so we are going to detail your success.
You’ll have about 30 ~ 40 bullet points across all your current and past positions, and each of these will be a marketing bullet point that will make one persuasive argument on your behalf.
After you list company name, employment dates, and your title for each role, the bullet points will be distributed as follows:
It’s important to note that this distribution is across each job or title, not company. So if you’ve been at the same shop for 20 years, you should be splitting up your 30 bullet points across the different job levels and titles you’ve had.
The basic structure of a marketing bullet point is a success verb and a number.
Every bullet point in your success resume must include a number expressed in dollars, percentages, or a simple, “plain old”, straight-up number.
Importantly, every bullet point in your resume must include a success verb. These are verbs that show success – something got better. So verbs such as increased, decreased, improved, reduced, etc., are what we are looking for. Explicitly forbidden are static verbs — “managed”, “my responsibilities included”, “I was hired to…”, etc. Verbs that merely describe a fact of the matter rather than show you in a heroic light.
Now with more time, we might get into a host of other success verbs, but we’ve only got 8 minutes, so I am greatly limiting the scope below. You are going to copy and paste these exact 8 bullets into the section describing your first job and your second job. You are going to pick 4 from this list for each of your next three jobs.
This seems boring, but it really doesn’t matter. Unless you are applying to be a thesaurus writer, nobody cares how clever your success verbs are. The millions of hours lost each year to professionals like you looking up synonyms for “improved” is a complete waste of time — none of the three layers of reviewers are grading you for verbal facility.
So with that, here are your 8 bullet points for your 8-minute resume:
You will copy and paste these bullet points into your resume and then fill in the blanks.
“x” can be profits, costs, clients, vendors, products, practice areas, strategies, risk, volatility, etc. And, of course, it’s important to have a number, dollar, or percentage increase / decrease mentioned in each bullet point. You’ll be surprised at how many you can write using this template, and how this process jogs your memory for all the great stuff you’ve done…
But, you might say, I brought amazing non-quantified value to the organization! I introduced Agile Development, led a huge bond offering, brought innovative logistics strategies to bear, or reorganized our selling methodology.
Yes. I agree those are impressive and important achievements.
But they are only impressive and important to the extent they are quantifiable. New methodologies, exhibiting leadership, or bringing innovation to a company are interesting to your bosses’ bosses only to the extent they improve, quantifiably, the outcome of the company — more users, more revenue, faster turnaround, higher client satisfaction.
In the interests of getting you out of here in 8 minutes, however, I’ll make a concession. You get 3 “mulligans” — three bullet points in your resume where you don’t have to produce a quantifiable result. That’ll be our compromise, OK?
Overall, the above outline is remarkably simple because the job search process, despite all the anxiety and confusion, is remarkably simple. You want to do work similar to the work you’ve done before but at a new place and a new level. To do so, you need to explain to new people what can give them confidence that you will be able to contribute to the new team. The easiest way to do that is to share numerical data that show you have contributed in the past and can, therefore, contribute in the future.
Your resume is a marketing document that needs to get past three people to get you your interview:
A junior resume screener who is comparing your resume to a list of skills, titles, or companies that he or she is given by the recruiter. Overly clever resumes or cutesy positioning can really kill you with this person, because they don’t understand the nod and the wink that comes with writing “Chief Bottle Washer” when you really mean “Co-Founder”. For these reviewers, the choice of phrases in the professional summary is especially important.
A recruiter, whether internal or external, who, on average, will give your resume 6 seconds first screening. And then, perhaps, spend 2 – 3 minutes with it to make sure you’re worth presenting to the client or hiring manager. By giving them easy-to-digest numbers they can share with the client or hiring manager, you make it much easier to present you, rather than some other candidate, for the interview.
The hiring manager who will be interested in finding out “what can this person do for me and my team in the next year or two.” This person will review your resume in more detail. She will be looking for indications that you have previously solved the types of problems this job will have to deal with.
Your goal is to quantifiably prove that you can. Numbers are the most persuasive friends you have in this situation. Every bullet point spent on describing historical circumstances, promotions, or scope of responsibilities is wasted and lost on a hiring manager.
Eight minutes to a better resume
By following the above, you’ll be in a much, much better place than with other methods of do-it-yourself resumes. Of course, there’s a lot of nuance that 8 minutes can’t get you, but the above is ⅔ of the way there.
And with that, have a great week in the job search, Readers!
In the decade I’ve been writing this newsletter, the single best tip I’ve given, that has come back to me over, and over, and over again, is this:
When it gets to that part of the interview with your future boss where they ask, "well, do you have any questions for me?", say yes, and ask:
"How do I help you get a gold star on your review next year?"
This bit of advice has helped more people in more interviews than any other bit of advice I’ve shared in the last decade that I’ve been writing to you.
Well, the interview process lends itself to self-absorption. We spend so much of the time talking about ourselves that we sound like one of those people who talks only about themselves.
Or, conversely, we become "job analysis engineers" and ask all sorts of questions about the job and reporting structure and how it fits in with the company’s five-year plan and so on. I love getting questions from candidates in interviews, but I do have to admit I feel that they’re not quite getting the point of a "face-to-face" interview when they pull out six pages of typed, single-spaced questions and promptly bury their nose in their papers without making eye contact.
We get so obsessed with the details of the job that we forget about the work.
Working together and being a good addition to the team mean being concerned with how you are making the team successful. And that means being concerned with how much you are helping to make your boss successful.
Asking this question shows that you have empathy. It shows that you have an interest in your boss’ career and future success. It shows that you are not just a self-absorbed "what’s-in-it-for-me" kind of person. And it shows that you know you are there to "give" as much as you are there to "get".
Dozens of subscribers have told me how the interviewer’s face lights up when asked this question. I have heard time and time and time again from our six million subscribers how effective it’s been in interviews.
(And, remember, you want the vibe to be a cool & relaxed Vince Vaughn, not an obsequious Steve Buscemi.)
The gold star question is an easy tip to implement in your job search: it’s easy to do, easy to understand, and it’s easy to measure.
And that makes it my best bit of career advice in over a decade of doling it out.
So thank you, Dear Readers, for paying attention, trying it out, and letting me know how it goes…
Would you like to see the name, title, compensation, work history and educational background of each person applying to the same jobs you’re applying to here at TheLadders?
Well, I can’t show you name, and sometimes I need to truncate the title in order to preserve anonymity, but our popular feature "Scout" shows you the compensation, skills, title, work and educational background as well as overall years of experience for each applicant to the jobs posted directly here on TheLadders.
For obvious reasons, we can’t show you personally identifiable information like current employer.
But for understanding how realistic your prospects are in 2014, and how stiff the competition is, there’s no better insight on the web. (Or mobile.)
For example, here’s a closeup of the two parts of an applicant for a Director of Strategic Planning job:
This person’s current title is Vice President of Marketing, their compensation is around $160K, and they have over 15 years experience.
The other half of the graphic shows you the salaries, years of experience, and education level of all the applicants to the job, and where "you" place. (When you log-in to your account the "you" arrows will accurately reflect the information you’ve given us, so you can compare easily.)
Here’s an applicant for a VP Technology job, with a degree from Cal and over 15 years experience:
Or a candidate for a Regional Vice President, Sales job:
Or a Director, Human Resources position:
This information is helpful to you, because it allows you to understand the type of experience and background that others are bringing to their applications for the job, and the landscape of available options as the employer or recruiter may see it.
From this, you’re better able to determine when you’d be a top prospect for a position, or, alternatively, when you’re kidding yourself about your suitability for a job. When every other applicant is much more experienced or a higher pay-grade than you, it’s best for you to save your clicks for another day.
And that lets you spend your time more wisely.
Make sure you get all the advantages you need to get to the finish line in the job search by using “Scout” this fall!
It’s my birthday today, but the gifts are for you! Today we have more jobs, more recruiters, and more hiring activity on TheLadders than ever before.
So take a look this partial list of top employers on TheLadders and select your own best present to yourself… a job you can truly love for years to come:
When you land it, let me know @cenedella and I’ll make sure to wish you an early Happy Birthday!
Thousands of your fellow subscribers have found their new jobs this summer on TheLadders!
So while we don’t have the space to share them all, here are a hundred of the top positions landed by your fellow subscribers through TheLadders.com this summer:
Why are all these hires occurring on TheLadders? Well, over the past 2 years, we’ve doubled the number of recruiters using TheLadders to recruit for their next hire.
And the reason for that is because TheLadders professionals are interested in a new job, and behave respectfully. While the typical job posting on LinkedIn or Monster gets hundreds (thousands!) of unqualified applications, the typical job at TheLadders gets just 21 applicants that are targeted, relevant, and interesting to the HR person or recruiter.
And that leads to more interested recruiters and more hires!
Cartoonist Hugh MacLeod nailed it with this cartoon: