19. How do you feel about reporting to a younger person (minority, woman, etc)?

TRAPS:

It’s a shame that some interviewers feel the need to ask this question, but many understand the reality that prejudices still exist among some job candidates, and it’s better to try to flush them out beforehand.

The trap here is that in today’s politically sensitized environment, even a well-intentioned answer can result in planting your foot neatly in your mouth. Avoid anything which smacks of a patronizing or an insensitive attitude, such as “I think they make terrific bosses” or “Hey, some of my best friends are…”

Of course, since almost anyone with an IQ above room temperature will at least try to steadfastly affirm the right answer here, your interviewer will be judging your sincerity most of all. “Do you really feel that way?” is what he or she will be wondering.

So you must make your answer believable and not just automatic. If the firm is wise enough to have promoted peopled on the basis of ability alone, they’re likely quite proud of it, and prefer to hire others who will wholeheartedly share their strong sense of fair play.

BEST ANSWER:

You greatly admire a company that hires and promotes on merit alone and you couldn’t agree more with that philosophy. The age (gender, race, etc.) of the person you report to would certainly make no difference to you.

Whoever has that position has obviously earned it and knows their job well. Both the person and the position are fully deserving of respect. You believe that all people in a company, from the receptionist to the Chairman, work best when their abilities, efforts and feelings are respected and rewarded fairly, and that includes you. That’s the best type of work environment you can hope to find.

20. On confidential matters…

TRAPS:

When an interviewer presses you to reveal confidential information about a present or former employer, you may feel it’s a no-win situation. If you cooperate, you could be judged untrustworthy. If you don’t, you may irritate the interviewer and seem obstinate, uncooperative or overly suspicious.

BEST ANSWER:

Your interviewer may press you for this information for two reasons.

First, many companies use interviews to research the competition. It’s a perfect set-up. Here in their own lair, is an insider from the enemy camp who can reveal prized information on the competition’s plans, research, financial condition, etc.

Second, the company may be testing your integrity to see if you can be cajoled or bullied into revealing confidential data.

What to do? The answer here is easy. Never reveal anything truly confidential about a present or former employer. By all means, explain your reticence diplomatically. For example, “I certainly want to be as open as I can about that. But I also wish to respect the rights of those who have trusted me with their most sensitive information, just as you would hope to be able to trust any of your key people when talking with a competitor…”

And certainly you can allude to your finest achievements in specific ways that don’t reveal the combination to the company safe.

But be guided by the golden rule. If you were the owner of your present company, would you feel it ethically wrong for the information to be given to your competitors? If so, steadfastly refuse to reveal it.

Remember that this question pits your desire to be cooperative against your integrity. Faced with any such choice, always choose integrity. It is a far more valuable commodity than whatever information the company may pry from you. Moreover, once you surrender the information, your stock goes down. They will surely lose respect for you.

One President we know always presses candidates unmercifully for confidential information. If he doesn’t get it, he grows visibly annoyed, relentlessly inquisitive, It’s all an act. He couldn’t care less about the information. This is his way of testing the candidate’s moral fiber. Only those who hold fast are hired.

21. Would you lie for the company?

TRAPS:

This another question that pits two values against one another, in this case loyalty against integrity.

BEST ANSWER:

Try to avoid choosing between two values, giving a positive statement which covers all bases instead.

Example: “I would never do anything to hurt the company..”

If aggressively pressed to choose between two competing values, always choose personal integrity. It is the most prized of all values.

22. Looking back, what would you do differently in your life?

TRAPS:

This question is usually asked to uncover any life-influencing mistakes, regrets, disappointments or problems that may continue to affect your personality and performance.

You do not want to give the interviewer anything negative to remember you by, such as some great personal or career disappointment, even long ago, that you wish could have been avoided.

Nor do you wish to give any answer which may hint that your whole heart and soul will not be in your work.

BEST ANSWER:

Indicate that you are a happy, fulfilled, optimistic person and that, in general, you wouldn’t change a thing.

Example: “It’s been a good life, rich in learning and experience, and the best it yet to come. Every experience in life is a lesson it its own way. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

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