35. Do you have the stomach to fire people? Have you had experience firing many people?

TRAPS:

This “innocent” question could be a trap door which sends you down a chute and lands you in a heap of dust outside the front door. Why? Because its real intent is not just to see if you’ve got the stomach to fire, but also to uncover poor judgment in hiring which has caused you to fire so many. Also, if you fire so often, you could be a tyrant.

So don’t rise to the bait by boasting how many you’ve fired, unless you’ve prepared to explain why it was beyond your control, and not the result of your poor hiring procedures or foul temperament.

BEST ANSWER:

Describe the rational and sensible management process you follow in both hiring and firing.

Example: “My whole management approach is to hire the best people I can find, train them thoroughly and well, get them excited and proud to be part of our team, and then work with them to achieve our goals together. If you do all of that right, especially hiring the right people, I’ve found you don’t have to fire very often.

“So with me, firing is a last resort. But when it’s got to be done, it’s got to be done, and the faster and cleaner, the better. A poor employee can wreak terrible damage in undermining the morale of an entire team of good people. When there’s no other way, I’ve found it’s better for all concerned to act decisively in getting rid of offenders who won’t change their ways.”

36. Why have you had so many jobs?

TRAPS:

Your interviewer fears you may leave this position quickly, as you have others. He’s concerned you may be unstable, or a “problem person” who can’t get along with others.

BEST ANSWER:

First, before you even get to the interview stage, you should try to minimize your image as job hopper. If there are several entries on your resume of less than one year, consider eliminating the less important ones. Perhaps you can specify the time you spent at previous positions in rounded years not in months and years.

Example: Instead of showing three positions this way:

6/1982 – 3/1983, Position A;
4/1983 – 12/1983, Position B;
1/1984 – 8/1987, Position C;

…it would be better to show simply:

1982 – 1983, Position A;
1984 – 1987 Position C.

In other words, you would drop Position B altogether. Notice what a difference this makes in reducing your image as a job hopper.

Once in front of the interviewer and this question comes up, you must try to reassure him. Describe each position as part of an overall pattern of growth and career destination.

Be careful not to blame other people for your frequent changes. But you can and should attribute certain changes to conditions beyond your control.

Example: Thanks to an upcoming merger, you wanted to avoid an ensuing bloodbath, so you made a good, upward career move before your department came under the axe of the new owners.

If possible, also show that your job changes were more frequent in your younger days, while you were establishing yourself, rounding out your skills and looking for the right career path. At this stage in your career, you’re certainly much more interested in the best long-term opportunity.

You might also cite the job(s) where you stayed the longest and describe that this type of situation is what you’re looking for now.

37. What do you see as the proper role/mission of…
…a good (job title you’re seeking);
…a good manager;
…an executive in serving the community;
…a leading company in our industry; etc.

TRAPS:

These and other “proper role” questions are designed to test your understanding of your place in the bigger picture of your department, company, community and profession….as well as the proper role each of these entities should play in its bigger picture.

The question is most frequently asked by the most thoughtful individuals and companies…or by those concerned that you’re coming from a place with a radically different corporate culture (such as from a big government bureaucracy to an aggressive small company).

The most frequent mistake executives make in answering is simply not being prepared (seeming as if they’ve never giving any of this a though.)…or in phrasing an answer best suited to their prior organization’s culture instead of the hiring company’s.

BEST ANSWER:

Think of the most essential ingredients of success for each category above – your job title, your role as manager, your firm’s role, etc.

Identify at least three but no more than six qualities you feel are most important to success in each role. Then commit your response to memory.

Here, again, the more information you’ve already drawn out about the greatest wants and needs of the interviewer, and the more homework you’ve done to identify the culture of the firm, the more on-target your answer will be.

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