RecruitingDaily welcomes once again guest blogger – Ken Sundheim

What are your long-range goals and objectives?

With this question, you want to be specific and genuine. Don’t tell the interviewer what you think they want to hear. Tell them your goals; don’t be hesitant to. However make it pertinent to the job you are interviewing for. For instance, if you are interviewing with a publishing firm, don’t tell the company you like technology.

Answers to avoid at all costs:

“I want to open my own business.”

Employers don’t want to hear that because saying this means that you may potentially leave the firm after they spent time and money training you.”

“I want to make money.”

Yes. Everybody wants to make money. This is nothing they haven’t heard before and the answer isn’t too impressive.

Some examples of viable answers:

“I want to be challenged. I want to wake up every day and feel as if I am not only making a difference in the company which I am with, but also in the community. I cannot give you an exact title of the position I want because, unlike others, I am more into being a team player than just having aspirations to be in a company which deems me the {CEO}. Either way I want to be in _____________ (the industry in which you are interviewing with.”

Every now and then, you get what I call the what I refer to as, “why interviewer.” Their interview style is quite weak and they like to ask “why” to dig deeper into any question. Don’t ever fall victim to this game. If they continuously ask “why” to your answer, then the answer to your answer, say that you feel that it is as much as you can elaborate on.

What are your short-range goals and objectives?

Make this relevant to the position which you are interviewing for. Therefore, an effective answer to this question would be:

“I want to break into ______ industry. Out of all the different industries which are hiring, this is the most attractive to me because ________________. I also feel that if I work hard and leverage my passion for the industry, I can be capable of achieving great things.”

Have roughly 3 or 4 supporting answers for this. These answers should not be memorized either. It is best to memorize concepts for an interview. If there are a lot of reasons, write them down on a well-formatted piece of paper (not looseleaf), print it out but include a logo of both the company you are working with and your college, hand the second sheet to the interviewer and go off of that.

When you’ve done a lot of work, it does not matter whether you have to refer to a sheet of paper, it looks a lot better than some other answers the person is going to receive.

Why did you choose the career for which you are preparing?

Again, this is a cookie-cutter question. With questions such as these, you have to stand out and take risks. If you answer the question with something like, “It interested me,” that is going to put you in the “average file.” Instead, be creative, but as always, be honest. Answers such as these should separate you:

“I want something I can be successful in, and I know that you can only be successful if you are passionate about what you do. I chose this industry__________”

At this point, you are going to have to have 4 solid supporting reasons. To stick out, you’re going to have to do your research. Use sites like the Wall St. Journal to get a solid perspective of the industry. Use roughly 5 different sites with content similar to the WSJ so you can get a few opinions from a few journalists. So, you don’t get into trouble; sometimes, the person whom you are speaking with will know tons about these subjects, be prepared to say, “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to find that data, could you tell me?” Similar to a lot of business situations, you can get trapped making assumptions.

What are your strengths, weaknesses, and interests?

When in doubt, go the “overambitious” route. This is how you phrase it because your competition is going to say something of the sort.

“I had to learn that not everybody was as quick to answer an email or complete a task and I had to become more patient when working with a group as I like to get things done. Though I’ve become accustomed to all different paces, so it’s becoming less and less of a weakness?”

How do you think a friend or professor who knows you well would describe you?

The professor one is quite easy when you think about it. The only problem people get into is they don’t give a supporting thesis, they just give adjectives. For the most part, interview questions, should not be full of adjectives. Think of it as you are writing a paragraph. You have your opening statement, a few sentences and then one line to close up your final argument.

This would be an example of a suitable answer:

“I think my professors would say that I am passionate and driven to learn. This is primarily due to the fact that I didn’t come to them with questions to get leniency grades on tests. I come to them because I want to learn more about a particular subject. They recognize that and I believe they would just the two adjectives, passionate and driven.”

Regarding the friend route, if you want to take a chance and stand out (which I strongly suggest), some variations such as this would catch their attention:

“I think that my friends would be loyal enough to tell you what you wanted to hear if you asked them. If I asked them, just like any other friend of any other person, they again, would tell me what I wanted to hear. However, if I thought there were many negative adjectives they would use, they would not be my friends.”

Describe a situation in which you had to work with a difficult person (another student, co-worker, customer, supervisor, etc.). How did you handle the situation?

Just like any other question, with this one you have to be honest as well. Your competition is going to give the interviewer what they want to hear.

Sample Answer

“There have been many. To teach us how to work with a team, our professors will put us into groups. Since these groups are typically chosen randomly, I have been partnered with some students who don’t want to do the work. On occasions, I have tried to get them to complete their share of the work and regardless of the approach I took, some students did not care either about the class or getting a good grade. In the end, and I don’t know if this was the right or wrong thing to do, I felt that it was not in anybody’s best interest to tell the professor, so the other group members, including myself, carried the weight. In the end, the professors always knew and I handled it patently and felt that things would fall into place and they usually did.”

What motivates you to put forth your greatest effort? Describe a situation in which you did so.

This one is quite easy. You could many spins to this question which should catch the interviewer’s attention.

“I never want to be average. In 70 years from now, when I am gone, I want people to have something to say about me.”

“I know I can’t be with everything, though I drive myself to be the best. I have found that when I don’t get there, I come close enough.”

A. Describe a situation in which you did so.

Discussing your 30 page paper on the Industrial Revolution is not going to pique anyone’s interest. I do agree that it was very interesting, though you’re only going to get a 5% hit rate if you discuss academics. Use your career search as an example. Here is a good one to use:

“This interview would be a good example of a relevant situation. I won’t ever claim that I know everything, however, I’ve done my homework and I’m doing my best to fight my way into a position which I want. ”

In what ways have your college experiences prepared you for a career?

There are many original and unique ways to answer this question. If you go the academic route, you’re not going to stand out. Think about what you really in college. It is quite possible that most of the learning took place out of the classrooms.

With some, you are taking risks, however, if you look at almost every world leader and corporate executive, they did not get where they are without taking calculated risks. Calculated is the keyword, however.

Though, never give an answer that you are not comfortable with, never spit these out verbatim and, if you don’t have supporting arguments for your answer, they will have the opposite effect.

If true:

“My school is very diverse. Growing up in a predominately __________ town, I was not exposed to all different types of cultures. Sometimes the best things you learn in college are not in the classroom.”

“They taught me about debt and how, after I pay my bills, I will never want to have it again.”

“Public speaking and writing. Right now, I am just starting my career and cannot pinpoint the most important aspect of my education with regards to my profession. Though, I would venture to guess that it may be the aforementioned two.”

Name a hard class you had and that it “taught you that if you work hard enough at anything you can accomplish your goals.”

In what ways do you think you can make a contribution to our organization?

What the interviewer is expecting you to do is list your strengths and weaknesses again. The more original you are the better off you are going to be. Not that I recommend you repeat this, but just like the majority of the questions you will be asked, this one is irrelevant. There is no way you are supposed to know what the organization is going to allow you to do, how the company is structured or anything like that. So, we’ll tell them what they want to hear.

“I think that the correct employer if they leverage both my scholastic and interpersonal skills correctly, can get a lot of positive returns by hiring me. Understanding that this is my first job, my contributions are probably going to be to fill the gap of the person who last had my job and who probably now has responsibilities which do not allow them to perform certain tasks. I know if I work hard, I can accomplish those tasks and, hopefully, in a few years I will have more responsibility and will have to train and mentor somebody else.”

Describe a contribution you have made to a project on which you worked.

This is going to be the easiest of the bunch. Just like every interview, don’t just bring a copy of your resume, bring ten or well put together resources and use them accordingly. People want to hire organized individuals. Therefore, this question is not going to be hard because you’re, from now on, always have a project which you completed with you. If it is a Word document (which only bring a PP or Word Doc.), highlight certain areas. Not only does this make you look even more organized it increases the odds that you will know what questions are about to be asked. If the interviewer wants to go over it, make sure you have a 2nd copy just like all the other resources you have, put yours on the table and follow along.

What qualities should a successful manager possess?

This one is quite simple and, in five years from now, you will look back and see. There are many traits which good managers and there are many traits which bad managers or what people refer to as “middle managers” have. We’ll focus on the former and I would not recommend discussing the ladder.

– Good managers hire people who are smarter than they are. I deal with managers all the time and the ones whom we decide to work with and the ones successful over the years are the ones who are sure enough of themselves to hire better people than they.

– Good managers understand P&L. They know how much they could spend on hiring and how much they cannot.

– Good managers are not “Yes” people to their boss. If they see something wrong, they verbalize it.

– Good managers want to actively make their subordinates reach their full potential.

– Good managers give their subordinates a goal and let them be creative as to the way they are going to achieve it.

– Good managers know what their competition is doing every step of the way. The most successful NFL teams are the ones who can most accurately predict what the other team is going to do.

Was there an occasion when you disagreed with a supervisor’s decision or company policy? Describe how you handled the situation.

Blame this one on your history professor or a professor you always disagreed with. While your competition is discussing a situation when they were a counselor at a summer camp and had a disagreement with his superior because he or she thought the kids should play lacrosse instead of going swimming. Discuss the subject and the disagreement. How did you handle the situation?

Here’s what you say:

“In this case, I just let it go. With disagreements, there are only so many outcomes. I learned that only on rare occasions are you going to change the strong convictions of another. So, instead of having an argument in class, I wrote a polite email telling my professor my thoughts on the subject and it was left at that. Confrontation will usually get you nowhere. I was not going to yell at somebody who could knick my GPA. I have found that it is always best to be diplomatic.”

What two or three accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction? Why?

Be dead honest with this question. Don’t tell the interviewer what you think he or she is going to want to hear. If you think the answer is going to sound funny, before you answer, simply say “This may not be the answer which you hear every day, but I am proud of it….”

Again, these interviewers, especially in this economy, always hear about someone who didn’t like science class or who had to take a test without any warning and got a B+. If you’re honest with your accomplishments, no matter what, they will be original.

Describe your most rewarding college experience?

With this question, stay away from the pack. Discuss something that you learned on a personal level. Before you answer, if you feel a little uneasy taking a risk, say what is listed in the last answer. Though, only use this phrase, at a maximum of 2x. You don’t want to sound like a robot. Give them something original. When a client calls to use our services, I no longer care what they think. I speak honestly, clearly and what I think. If the interviewer does not agree, and you are dead honest about the situation, then working for them is not going to be fun. You’re better off waiting for the next opportunity. So, you have to wait tables for a few weeks. I had to be a doorman throughout college.

Look at it this way. If Brad Pitt had to dress up like a chicken before he made it to wait for the right role, you can take a part time job that isn’t your dream. In the end, you’ll come out way ahead as, if you really love your job, you’ll be successful. If you hate it and end up leaving after a year, your value on the open job market heavily decreases.

What interests you about our product or service?

With this question, the interviewer does not really want to hear every opinion you have. Give them facts. I’m sure your college has a resource where you could look up such things like company revenue, company growth, company age, executive management, competition or anything else that is helpful.

So, if you were to take these numbers and information and make answers out of them, it may look like this:

Company revenue and company growth – if the company is growing (which you only want to work for one that is), say that you want to work for a progressive company because their revenue has increased x amount and you feel that there is an opportunity to make a career there. Come prepared with numbers and all this information on a piece of paper. Simply cut and paste your college logo and their corporate logo and you have a simple presentation that your competition will not.

Company Age – if the company is young, tell them that you want a small company which has a lot of potentials. If the company is older and bigger, tell the interviewer that you feel that at a company like ________, if you work hard, you can make a great career for yourself. Play all aspects into a positive.

Executive management – if you want to reference an article about one of the executives, bring a printed copy of the article with the points highlighted. Just by doing this, you have probably done more research on the executives than the person who is interviewing you. Remember, this person wants to look for their boss too. So, when their boss asks how the interview went, they can present all the material you gave them. This is probably a big experience for the interviewer as well and they want justification as to why they are going to hire you. Give them that justification.

Why did you select your college or university?

If you discuss how good your college’s x, y or z program is and you begin talking your college up, they are going to be bored listening to you. I can promise you one thing about the “real world.” The college degree just becomes something on your resume. I deal with executive-level job seekers all the time. I have seen Harvard MBAs not have a job (2 in the past 5 months) and I have seen people who went to colleges I have never heard of become a key member within an organization. If you want some validation on this comment, go to any college website and you will see individuals who were able to donate millions to the college because they went out and became successful.

If you were to say things like: (and don’t feel as if you have to justify these answers, make them a statement and move on)

“I couldn’t afford x or y college. Simple as that.”

“It was just a toss-up between x or y college and I pretty much took a leap of faith and it really worked out”

“I know you don’t get this answer very much, nor do I like to give it, but in all honesty when I was coming out of college, two of my friends were going to ________ and I felt like being far away, but close to home. When I got to school, I worked hard, I learned a lot and, in the end, I’m glad that this reason made me go to x university.”

“I had a scholarship and how many people get to say that they got a free education worth over $100,000 while playing ___________.”

What led you to choose your major or field of study?

You don’t want to give them a reason similar to the reason why I majored in business which was because I couldn’t think of anything else to major in and, at the time, I didn’t like to read or write an extensive amount. Though, I’m sure a lot of people reading this were in a similar boat. The reason I don’t like this question is that it shows that the interviewer didn’t really think before putting this on his or her question list. The reason why is that many colleges ask for your major before applying which means that you were 17 years old. How were you supposed to know what you wanted to do? How is anyone?

If you were to shoot that question right back at the person who was interviewing you, they would not have an answer. You know why? Because they are an HR representative at a large company and I could guarantee you that the person did not wake up at 10 years of age and say, “Well, Sally you should be an HR representative at a construction related company.”

Though, don’t tell them this little tidbit. Here are some realistic answers why people majored in what they did: the school within the university was easier to get accepted to, they were unsure what they wanted to do, etc., etc. If these are the reasons, by all means, tell them that. Don’t feel ashamed by it. If they want to judge you because you majored in x so you could get a top-notch education at a particular school, let them.

If you want to play music to their ears you can always say:

“I think my major gave me a well-rounded education. Instead of doing pre-med with all science, I got to learn x, y, and z.”

What did lead you to your college of study?

#19 and #18 should cover this question.

What college subjects did you like best? Why?

With this question, it is not the answer which matters. As a matter of fact, with most entry-level questions and, in somewhat life, it is the reasons why you said what you said not exactly the first statement. If you tell them your favorite subject, you will be able to discuss it a lot better and your answer will sound more interesting. If you give them a generic answer, you won’t be as passionate about the subject and, subsequently, your answer will suffer. If you feel that the class has nothing to do with the actual job, lead in with the following:

“I know it may not be related and I did learn a lot in my x classes, though I really liked ____________ It mainly had to deal with my professors. I just thought they were more into teaching then _________.”

What college subjects did you like least? Why?

Try to shy away with the “ones that had tests” or the “one that had an 8 a.m. class” answers. What they want to hear is that:

“I enjoyed certain classes within each subject, so there was not an overall subject which I did not like; there were just some individual classes which I did not love because I didn’t love the professor’s philosophy, the tests I was given were on information which I would never use in life, etc.”

If you could do so, how would you plan your academic studies differently?

This sentence is exactly what the interviewer wants to hear (although, I don’t recommend doing this a lot), but if you must:

“I wish I could have studied more (a position which you are applying to – HR, Marketing, etc.), but…”

– My major wouldn’t allow it

– The professors had a bad reputation in that area and I didn’t want to enroll then have to drop a class as it is both expensive and looks bad on a transcript

– There weren’t enough classes offered

– I would have had to stay a 5th year and I love learning, though, for the obvious reasons, I could not.

– By the time I decided I wanted to study this more, I was already a Junior or Senior and would have had to change my major which would have put me back for a while

Do you think your grades are a good indication of your academic achievement?

If your grades are over a 3.5, your answer should be one word: “Yes.” Out of every 10 people interviewing you, unless you are at a Goldman Sachs or a very, very prestigious company, maybe 1 or 2 did that well.

If your grades are a 3.0 – 3.49, your answer should be, I wish I did better my first two years. “So, to answer your question, my grades are not 100% indicative of what I learned or my academic achievement. Though, that is what I ended up with.” Out of every 10 people interviewing you, 9 or all 10 are going to be in this grade range. If you feel that they are not, you may not be interviewing with the best firm. Yes, there are exceptions, but dozens of people win the lottery every day too.

Personally, I got off lucky. My first two years were at the University of Miami where I got a 3.0 which is not very impressive. However, at Fordham, where I finished, I had a 3.49. Not that it matters anymore because I am my own boss, but it was still a nice way out.

If your grades are below a 3.0, I would recommend taking courses to get that higher. This is not only because of your value on the job market will suffer, but because you need to learn more. If they are below a 3.0 and there is no way you can go back to classes, make sure your credit card bill reads less of “bar charges” and more of “Barnes and Noble” charges. Then, you can say, “Yes.  they are indicative of my academic achievement. I fooled around in college and now I have to make up for it and am reading the following books: (have some good ones) This is what I have learned:”

Then, take each book, write a Microsoft Word page synopsis of what you’re learning, and hand it to the interviewer.

What have you learned from participation in extracurricular activities?

This may be one of the worst questions out there. Unless you were like some of the people here and traveled to France to learn French, you are not going to have an impressive answer. My answer would have been pathetic and 9 – 10 of your interviewers would probably have been the same.

If you want an easy out:

“I had to study a lot so I couldn’t be on any team or really heavily involved with any clubs, and I did want to take the free time to socialize and enjoy college, so my extracurricular activities were really getting to know all types of different people and, indirectly I learned about cultures which I was not exposed to growing up.”

In what kind of work environment are you most comfortable?

You would only be so lucky if you get this question. You should almost thank the interviewer. Verbatim:

“I work well with people who really want to work hard, become better at what they do, want to learn, want the company to be successful, have interesting activities, are friendly to speak with, because I am entry-level, will help me with any questions I have and who already work as a team. As I am comfortable with more team-oriented jobs as opposed to sitting in a cubicle and only working by yourself for the entire day.”

How do you work under pressure?

“With my class schedule, I had to work under pressure. I was one of the unlucky ones who would have 4 tests in one week and, regardless of how much I prepared for them prior, I would still have a lot of work and subsequent pressure. So, I guess the answer would be, above average.”

If you want to get cute, tell him or her that you are “no Jack Bauer however.”

Describe a situation in which you worked as part of a team. What role did you take on? What went well and what didn’t?

Reference past answers (or if online past posts with the same title).

In what part-time, co-op or summer jobs have you been most interested? Why?

Depending on your situation, there are a few ways to answer this. Remember. Gear the answer towards that particular job and industry. It is irrelevant to discuss past job aspects in detail if they had nothing to do with the position.

If you had internships before you will want to say something of the sort:

“I wanted to be in ____________ (same industry as job you are interviewing for), however, was unable to find one, so I found ____________ because, if I worked there, I would learn about the corporate world and what being a team player was all about. That’s why those particular internship positions interested me.”

If you have not had an internship, don’t fret it, phrase the answer such as this:

“I really wanted an internship in ________________ (same industry as the job you are interviewing for), however, I did need to make money and all the internships which I felt I could really learn something did not pay.”

How would you describe the ideal job for you following graduation?

Here are the points you want to touch on:

– Your idea of an ideal job should be in their industry. The first sentence which you come out of your mouth should be:

“Well, I want a job in the ______ industry because….”

Reasons you want a job in the industry: the industry is growing, you want to learn more about the products and are intrigued by the possibility in being in the industry, etc.

There is no flexibility on this; this sentence is a must. You should also make it clear that you are being selective about your job search.

More points to cover:

– You again want to touch on the teamwork aspect and that you like being in a team environment

– You want to be challenged

– You want to consistently learn

– You want to be compensated based on your performance

– You want a job that will recognize people who work hard

– You want a company who wants a team member, not someone who is going to sit in a cubicle

If you want to be cute, just tell the interviewer that you have a truly sincere ambition of winning the lottery; ).

About the Author: Ken Sundheim runs KAS Executive Recruiters a New York executive sales and marketing recruiting firm.

Noel Cocca

CEO/Founder RecruitingDaily and avid skier, coach and avid father of two trying to keep up with my altruistic wife. Producing at the sweet spot talent acquisition to create great content for the living breathing human beings in recruiting and hiring. I try to ease the biggest to smallest problems from start-ups to enterprise. Founder of RecruitingDaily and our merry band of rabble-rousers.