By Gayle Hallgren-Rezac and Darcy Rezac
When meeting people who are looking for a job, we will often pose these questions: “If you could work for anyone, who would that be? What’s your dream job?” Why ask these questions? They offer a snapshot of what the person is looking for, and more importantly, it’s an indication of where their real passion lies when it comes to their career. But what’s truly surprising is how many times a job seeker can’t answer these questions. It indicates is that they have not done their research and they do not have a clear and passionate vision of what they want to do next. It makes it very hard to help them.
You really have to be on your game when you are looking for a job because you are going to be asked these questions. In Ori and Rom Brafman’s new book, Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior, the authors offer up a list of the ten questions you are most likely to be asked during a job interview. Some of these questions may be asked in less formal job search situations.
The top ten list of questions include soft and squishy questions such as, “Why should I hire you?” or “How would you describe yourself?” The next batch, which the Brafmans say should only be used for psychic hotline job interviews, include these questions, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” or “What you want to be earning in five years time?” Another job interview question is the all-purpose brainteaser: “What do you really want to do in life?” The last cluster of commonly-asked questions are those that require you to share your past history: “Why did you leave your last two jobs? or “In college what subject did you like best, like least?”
Ori and Rom Brafman say there’s only one question worth asking: “What do you know about our company?” And this is where you have to blow them away! The more information you have, the more you tie in the qualities that you can bring to their firm and your demonstration of energy and passion for their company, the more you will seem like an appealing fit.
What about all those squishy, futuristic, and archeological-dig questions? Unfortunately these questions are standard operating procedure for interviews so be prepared to answer them. For example, what impression do you want to make when the question is, “How would you describe yourself?” What the interviewer wants to know is that you work well with other people, will be 100% engaged 100% of the time, and you are someone who is willing to work very, very hard. (Note: if you don’t believe hard work is essential to success, we encourage you to read Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, The Outliers.)
Other challenging questions are those ‘out there’ questions about where you will be in five years time or what you really want to do in life. When answering these types of questions be specific. Avoid daydream-like answers such as, “What I really want to do in life is make a difference.” Capture the interviewer’s attention with a description, one that Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick, would describe as concrete. Their example: “a V-8 engine is concrete” and “high performance is abstract.” It is also important to remember that the questioner wants to know how this five-year vision relates to work. They don’t want to hear that you want to sail around the world. Save that information for when they ask about your hobbies and you can share with them the fact that you enjoy sailing.
To deal with all these hot seat challenges, take out a pen and paper, or open up Word, and write down your answers to the questions discussed in this article. Start with, “If I could work for anyone, who would that be? Why this company? What is my dream job? Why?” This will clarify your thinking.
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