Ask Great Questions

The key is to ask great questions- not to ask questions that you should know the answers to already (“What does the position entail?) or questions that make it all about you (“What is your vacation policy?”) Here are some great questions you can use or make your own on your next job interview. Obviously they’re generic and should be tailored based on circumstances:

1) Who would make the ideal candidate for this position?

2) What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days?

3) What are the common attributes of your top performers?

4) How will the work I’ll be doing contribute to the organization’s mission?

5) What are a few things that really drive results for the company?

6) What were the best things about the last person who held this position?

7) What are three ways I can contribute to the company beyond the job description?

8) How can I best contribute to the department’s goals?

9) How do you see me best contributing to the corporate culture and morale?

10) What do you see as the biggest challenges of working here and how can I overcome those challenges?

11) What is your vision for where the company or department will be in one year? In 3-5 years?

12) How can I best help you and the team succeed?   Of course, the more research you do in advance, the more you can ask specific questions about the company’s recent news, blog posts, product launches, plans, etc.

But here’s the bottom line:

Ask questions that demonstrate genuine interest in the organization and how you can fit in to their success. Job interviewing is a two-way-street! By asking questions, you can get a much better sense of the organization you’re interviewing at, and the extent to which you’d even want to work there. An interview is just like a date. A date is a two way street– where both parties are seeing if it’s a right fit. The dater who talks and talks, even if they’re a good match, seems disinterested in the other person. It’s the same with interviewing. Show that you are invested and interested in the person, by asking questions.

Questions You Should NEVER Ask?

Hiring managers and HR professionals will often close out a job interview by asking an applicant if he or she has any questions. This is a great opportunity to find out more about the job and the company’s expectations, but you can’t forget that the interviewer hasn’t stopped judging you. Here are 5 questions that can make a bad impression on your interviewer, scuttling your chances for getting the job:

1. “When will I be promoted? This is one of the most common questions that applicants come up with, and it should be avoided. It’s inappropriate because it puts the cart before the horse. Instead of asking when the promotion will occur, ask what you would need to do to get a promotion.

2. “What’s the salary for this position?” Asking about salary and benefits in the first interview is always turn off.  The first interview is more about selling yourself to the interviewer, and that questions about salary and benefits should really wait until a later interview.

3. “When can I expect a raise?” Talking about compensation can be difficult, but asking about raises is not the way to go about it. So many companies have frozen salaries and raises that it makes more sense to ask about the process to follow or what can be done to work up to higher compensation level. Talking about “expecting” a raise, shows a person is out of touch with reality.

4. “What sort of flextime options do you have?” This kind of question can make it sound like you’re interested in getting out of the office as much as possible. “When employers hear this question, they may wonder whether you are even interested in the job. Many companies have numerous options for scheduling, but asking about it in the first interview is not appropriate.

5. Any question that shows you haven’t been listening. Employers have interviewed applicants for positions that were 50 miles from the person’s home. They told the applicants that the company was flexible about many things, but it did not offer telecommuting. At the end of the interview,  candidates have been known to ask if they would be able to work from home. They were obviously not listening. So some ‘bad questions’ can be more situational to the interview itself.

Telephone Interview Tips

1) Get the Environment right: Try to avoid conducting the interview in a busy, noisy environment or indeed in your car. A private office where you will not be disturbed is perfect. Too many telephone interviews are interrupted by questions from colleagues, or the barista behind the counter at Starbucks! Ensure you allow enough time for the interview and do not assume it will be a ‘quick ten minutes.’  Use a landline for receiving the call. Poor mobile phone reception is the single biggest reason why many telephone interviews fail to take place. While they are technological wonders, our mobile phones are surprisingly unreliable at the worst possible time when it comes to their most fundamental function; making and receiving calls.

2) Prepare. This is a fantastic opportunity to have your notes and CV in front of you during the interview. Make sure you summarize your notes focussing on key points to avoid scripted answers.

3) Sit in front of the mirror. This may seem a little odd but quite simply it will give you an indication of how you are coming across. Do you look animated? Is your head up? Perhaps most importantly are you smiling? If not then try to focus on doing so, this may translate in you feeling more confident and therefore sounding more positive!  Alternatively you could try standing up and walking around. If you are more comfortable walking and talking then ensure you are in the right environment to do this. Many people feel they are more animated when upright and this allows for a greater level of focus.

4) DO NOT actively listen when asked questions. A common mistake to make, however actively listening in a telephone interview can disrupt flow as you will find the interviewer may stop talking. This can lead to a disjointed and awkward conversation.

5) Ask the interviewer to rephrase or repeat back the question. If you are slightly uncertain about the question either ask the interviewer to rephrase or indeed paraphrase this back. You should try to avoid doing this repeatedly but it is better to get your answer right first time.

6) Use regular pauses. Leave healthy pauses after every two or three sentences to allow the interviewer to either drill further down or confirm they have heard enough. 7) Vary your pace, pitch and tone. It is very difficult to convey energy and empathy over the phone so it is important that you vary your speech. The monotone interview is the bane of all interviewers!

8) Practice a CV run through. The structure of telephone interviews will often vary but a standard format will be CV based. If you are asked to run through your career history you should qualify how long this should last. Do they want a 30 second elevator pitch or a detailed 30 minute conversation? Either way, plan ahead!

9) Build rapport early on but avoid too many jokes! As with all interviews first impressions count. Good interviewers will try to break the ice early on. Reciprocate and avoid coming across as ‘cold.’

10) Ask Questions. Like most interviews you will get a chance to ask questions. If an interviewer has a solid day of telephone interviews you will probably stand out more if you ask an insightful question about the business/role and more importantly about them.

Thank You Notes

Once you finish your interviews you MUST send thank you notes to each person you met with. The general rule is no later than 24 hours – if not sooner. Our recommendation on thank you notes is that they should be sent via e-mail, around one paragraph long and not be verbose. We do not recommend sending a thank you note via regular mail. This may take too long, and really, it’s just not done anymore. We recommend that you keep your name as fresh as possible to the manager, and e-mail is quick, efficient and completely acceptable in today’s marketplace. It also shows your immediate responsiveness to the position. Remember, managers don’t have a lot of time. A nice thank you note will be remembered by the manager as a good follow through skill on your part. In our opinion, sending the same thank you note to different managers (as long as you remember to change the name of the manager) is just fine. The idea of the thank you note is to show good follow through skills, another quick reminder of who you are, and that you took the few minutes out of your busy day to thank the manager – that is always a nice touch. Below are a few examples of thank you notes. We recommend that you take these ideas and create one in your computer, so that when you return from an interview, you just have to spend a few minutes to send the e-mail, and you will not procrastinate on it. The e-mail should be in the body of the e-mail, and not as an attachment. Below please find an example of a thank you interview note:

Dear FIRST NAME – I would like to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with me this morning. It was a pleasure speaking with you and I thoroughly enjoyed our discussion regarding COMPANY and learning more about the JOB TITLE opportunity. As we discussed, I believe my past work experiences in (OUTLINE YOUR SKILLS) would facilitate a seamless transition and allow me to make an immediate and positive impact. There is no doubt in my mind that COMPANY is where I want to be as I take the next step in my career. I hope to have the opportunity to make a valuable contribution to the continued success of the firm Thank you again for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future. John Doe 555.111.2345


Resignation & Counter Offers

While resigning from your current position can be emotional and sometimes stressful, there are several things you can do to make the process go smoothly and quickly.

Put it in writing. Handing your boss a resignation letter is the most effective way to handle an uncomfortable situation. It is formal and will become a part of your permanent record. It is for your own protection. It will help you keep the focus on the positive aspects of your career move rather than any negative aspects of your old situation. It relieves the pressure of having to speak first

The sooner you leave the company, the better. Give fair notice, but ask to be relieved as soon as possible. You are in a lame duck position. The company will get by without you, and you owe your energies and loyalty to yourself and to your new opportunity!

Do not talk about counter-offers; it is the single worst thing you can do during the resignation process. On the next page you will find some excerpts from a Wall Street Journal article on counteroffers. We have been through this hundreds of times and everything they describe in the article is true.

Talk to your recruiter. Keep us updated. We can help keep this process as smooth and painless as possible.


Sample Resignation Letter 


Former Manager’s Name Title Company

Dear (Former Manager’s Name):

It is with mixed emotions, yet with firm conviction, that I write this letter of resignation.

My association during the past (#) years with this excellent firm and its many fine people has been a wonderful part of my professional and personal life. Please understand that I have made my decision after considerable deliberation. An outstanding opportunity presented itself that will significantly enhance my career and assist me in achieving my goals. 
I am therefore resigning from (Company Name) effective (date). This will allow sufficient time to complete current commitments prior to commencing with my new employer on (date).

In the interim, I will work with you and the staff to provide a smooth transfer of my current duties. 
I hope that you will understand and accept my decision. I will support you in making this change as easy as possible for the staff and department.


(Your Name)


Reasons for NOT Accepting a Counter-offer

Excerpts from a Wall Street Journal article:

  • What kind of company are you working for if you have to threaten to resign before they pay you what you are worth?
  • Where is the money for the counter-offer coming from? Is it your next raise early? All companies have strict wage and salary guidelines that must be followed. Are they going to make your increase retroactive in order to compensate for underpaying you over the last several years?
  • Your company may immediately start looking for a new person at a cheaper price. In many cases, you could be training your replacement.
  • You now have made your employer aware that you are unhappy. From this day on, your loyalty will always be in question.
  • When promotion time comes around, your employer will remember who was loyal and who was not.
  • When times get rough, your employer will begin the cutback with you.
  • The same circumstances that now cause you to consider a change will repeat themselves in the future even if you accept a counter-offer. Things about your position and company rarely change.
  • Statistics show that if you accept a counter-offer, the probability of voluntarily leaving in six months, or being let go within one year, is extremely high — 85% of people who accept a counter-offer are gone in six months, and 90% of people who accept are gone in twelve months.
  • Accepting a counter-offer is an insult to your intelligence and a blow to your personal pride knowing that you were bought.
  • Once the word gets out, the relationship that you now enjoy with your co-workers will never be the same. You will lose the personal satisfaction of peer group acceptance.