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Preparing for behavioral interviews May 5, 2008

Posted by Coolguy in IT Career.
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So you next interview is confirmed to be ‘behavioral’ . Here is a run down on how you can prepare:

  • Read the job description and prepare a list of behavioral competencies the interviewer may be looking for. A reasonable list of competencies is here.
  • Prepare 6-8, 2-3 min scenario’s from experiences in your life.These experiences should map to one or more behavioral competencies relevant for the job.
  • Experiences can be from past projects, hobbies, charity work etc. Try not to take them all from one aspect of your career/life. E:g Present or last job.
  • Don’t try to make-up scenarios that just didn’t happen. It most probably wont work unless you are a adept story teller.
  • Write down the scenarios and make them interesting. Each scenario should have three parts:
  1. Situation or the task at hand
  2. Action you took
  3. Result
  • Talk to the hiring manger / agent to understand the key competencies for the job. Refine and prioritize your list of competencies based on the conversation.
  • Prioritize the scenario’s for these key competencies and refine them. Don’t ignore the rest of the scenario’s though.
  • Practice them multiple times by narrating them to friends/family.
  • Review possible behavioral questions for the key competencies you identified, to see if your scenarios hold-up to the questions. A sample list of questions is here.
  • Carry a list of scenarios mapping to competencies to the interview.
  • For every question, try to understand the competency the interviewer is looking for.
  • Play out the scenario you prepared and invite questions.

Behavioral competencies in job seekers May 5, 2008

Posted by Coolguy in IT Career.
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  • Communication skills
  • Listening
  • Written
  • Oral
  • Presentation
  • Analytical skills and thinking
  • Analytical skills
  • Evaluating alternatives
  • Judgment
  • Attention to Detail
  • Building relationships
  • Decisiveness
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Insight
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Delivering results
  • Fact Finding-Oral
  • Adaptability/Flexibility
  • Independence
  • Innovation
  • Integrity
  • Leadership
  • Influence others / Persuasiveness
  • Initiative
  • Development of Subordinates
  • Delegation
  • Vision
  • Developing short-long term goals
  • Conflict Management
  • Motivation
  • Negotiation
  • Control
  • Organizational
  • Participative
  • Sensitivity
  • Management
  • Planning and Organizing
  • Practical Learning
  • Process Operation
  • Resilience
  • Risk Taking
  • Sensitivity
  • Strategic Thinking and analysis
  • Teamwork
  • Technical/Professional Knowledge
  • Tenacity
  • Work Standards

Get Your Boss’s Job September 27, 2007

Posted by Coolguy in IT Career, Lifehacks.
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If the next rung on your corporate ladder belongs to your boss, you’re probably not going to get promoted until your boss does, and Wired’s How To Wiki details how to secure this kind of promotion.

In a nutshell, it’s a two-step process:

1) Learn your boss’s job, and

2) Train your replacement.

If you give your boss the opportunity to look good by helping him/her do a better job, your boss is more likely to get a promotion, which frees up your prospective job. If you’ve already been grooming a replacement, who better to slip into your boss’s position than you?

Job Hunting Tips October 31, 2005

Posted by Coolguy in IT Career.
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For your benefit/general amusement, here are things I’ve learned in my last year of IT contracting…

(1) Tell everyone that you know that you’re on the market. Everyone has a brother, friend, mother, etc, and some of them are hiring managers that would consider you for assignments.

(2) Get a portfolio. When you do get an interview, you’ll have to show the hiring manager that you’ve been there and done that, and a resume is not going to cut it. I have a laptop with my work (that previous employers have given permission for me to show) so I can give them a live demo. Even if you are a student fresh out of college, there MUST be some class project that you can show to an employer to demonstrate your skills.

(3) Get your own website, and put your resume on it. I get tons of emails from recruiters who ask for my resume, and many mail systems have anti-virus software that replaces resumes with a text file in the email. Then the recruiter has to ask you for it again, which makes you look bad. Instead, you can say ‘You can download my resume off of my website at …’. Mine is at http://www.jimhorn.biz/resume.doc.

(4) Get your own business cards and brochures. Now that you’re independant, you can create the ‘best looking business card’ of anyone and not be bound by any guidelines. If you have any graphic artist experience, design your own, front and back, and go to vistaprint.com to have them print it for you. This way, you can say you created your own business cards, too.

(5) Some recruiters will only want to talk to you so they can fill their quota of talking to (x) number of prospects a day. Get used to initial meetings with recruiters that do not provide immediate benefits.

(6) Some recruiters (I wont mention any names, like Advecta, TEKSystems) often post for positions they aren’t even close to having, just to draw people out to increase the number of people in their database. See above.

(7) Find out who the hiring manager is. Then talk to them directly. The best leads/offers I’ve had were for positions that were never posted.

(8) Avoid HR people like the plague. They often get 200+ resumes, are under pressure to find someone who meets ALL of their requirements, and must fill someone within a certain salary range. If you’re responding to a newspaper ad, monster.com, dice.com, etc. ad, this is unavoidable, but otherwise try your best to stay away.

(9) If you don’t have work lined up before you ‘cut the cord’ (whether voluntary or involuntary) from your present employer, expect things to be slow at first. A lot of the work I pick up is from employers I’ve worked for before, and contracting companies I’ve worked with before.

(10) If at all possible, stay in touch with your previous boss. This may sound strange, and be about as exciting as eating a horse blanket, but there’s a good chance that they’ll give you a good reference as long as you left on good terms, especially if they feel somewhat guilty about having to let you go in the first place.

(11) If you were part of a bulk layoff, keep in touch with the other people that were laid off with you. They’re in the same boat your are in, and as long as you’re not competing for the same jobs, they will be more than interested in helping you out. If you’ve been referred to LHH, then chances are they’re in the LHH Resume Reserve.

(12) If you’re targeting a company, use the LHH Resume Reserve to look for people that have worked there before. Call them up and use the ‘Hi, you don’t know me, but I’m with LHH and am looking at (insert company name), and saw in the Resume Reserve that you’ve worked there. Can we talk?’ approach. Works (almost) every time, and you’re likely to get some great dirt, er knowledge about the company, department, and hiring manager.

(13) If you have the time, volunteer your services to a non-profit group. Some of the other volunteers will be hiring managers, many others will be good sources of information, and you can put the experience on your resume.

(14) If at all possible, get your health benefits through your spouse, as COBRA costs about a grand a month for a family of four, and you don’t want to switch health insurance every time you switch assignments.

(15) Re-design your resume to emphasize your past experiences, and de-emphasize education and certifications. This really sounds crazy, but a general consensus of contractors states that all employers care about in a contractor is experience.

Also, in a down economy, many HR people will take whatever certification/formal education you have, look up the salary range in their book/online reference/salary survey, realize that the average for someone with your certification is more than they want to pay you, and drop you from consideration. Sounds bass-ackwards, but I’ve heard this scenario play out for many other IT contractors who did not get work and were extremely qualified.

(16) Consider teaching in your skillsets. There are plenty of small schools such as Capella University, Hennepin Technical College, Academy College, National American University, and Benchmark Learning who have specific, sporatic needs for adjunct instructors. They don’t pay well, but it’s great when people ask you if you have experience in an area and you can say ‘Yes, and I even taught it at (school name).’

(17) Help your fellow LHH friends out. Chances are, they’ll help you out too.

(18) Call/email people you’ve done business for blind and ask them about any availability. A lined up a surprising amount of work that way.

(19) If the companies you do get assignments from are relatively small (say, smaller than 100 employees), then make sure payment terms, and consequences of late payment, are in writing in your contract. I had a company that had the impression of payment terms was ‘Net/whenever we feel like paying you’, and I ended up not being paid for $2,700 worth of work when they closed their doors with no ‘We’ve moved’ sign out front, and went under.

Body language for interviews September 13, 2005

Posted by Coolguy in Lifehacks, Personality.
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Research has shown that tone of voice and body language accounts for 65 per cent of what’s communicated, and words account for 35 per cent of the message that’s communicated. Body language can give away a lot of our feelings, regardless of whether we keep our mouths shut or not. And without an awareness of our actions, nervousness, dishonesty, boredom and other negative attributes can become dead give-aways.

Here are some tips to improve your chances of getting that job. Here are some interview questions to get you prepared.

  • Before taking a seat, be mindful of what you’ll be staring at. If you have a choice, avoid staring at a bright window
  • If you don’t apparently have a choice, don’t be afraid to ask. Ensure that you have room to move and reposition yourself if you become stiff or restless
  • To begin with, you need to set yourself up in a confident and comfortable position to help avoid negative body language habits
  • Make sure you are comfortably seated in an upright position ensuring that no particular part of your body is under strain (e.g. your neck).
  • Keep your hands rested in your lap, your head raised showing an expression of interest, and relax your shoulders without slumping into the seat.
  • Fidgeting shows boredom and restlessness
  • Crossing arms indicates an unwillingness to listen
  • Tapping your foot is distracting and a sure sign of boredom
  • Doodling on paper shows you’re not paying attention
  • Touching your face or playing with your hair can be a sign that you’re hiding something
  • Looking away or hesitating before or while speaking indicates that you’re unsure of what you’re saying
  • A fixed, unfocused stare shows your attention is elsewhere
  • Speak clearly in a controlled range of tones, avoiding a monotone
  • Always pause before speaking. This avoids instinctively reacting and saying the wrong things
  • Speak slightly slower than normal, but don’t overdo it
  • Vary your tone and dynamics, but try not to speak too loudly or too softly
  • Don’t mumble or gabble on excitedly
  • Keep your hands away from your mouth as you speak
  • Watch your pitch. High-pitched voices are tough on the ears, and avoid a ‘sing-song’ tone
  • Let your voice show your enthusiasm and keenness

Be aware of the how your gestures portray a positive or negative image.

Positive body language

  • Responsive/eager: Leaning forward, open arms, nodding
  • Listening: Head tilted, constant eye contact, nodding and verbal acknowledgement
  • Attentive: Smiling
  • A smile is the most positive signal you can give. It reaffirms your enthusiasm and good nature, but be careful of over-grinning stupidly.
  • Maintain regular, attentive eye contact but remember to avert your gaze from time to time to avoid staring.
  • Relax! Give off calm signals and don’t rush through the interview. Be mindful of time, but let the interviewer dictate the pace of the interview.
  • Mirror the interviewer’s techniques. If they laugh, laugh with them, if they lean forward to impress a point, respond by leaning forward to show your attention.
  • Do not hurry any movement. If you’re challenged with a difficult question, remind yourself about negative body language habits before answering the question.
  • Try to maintain an alert position. Sit up straight and adjust your position slightly if you get uncomfortable, but don’t fidget.
  • Always try to adopt an open, honest and confident attitude. This is the starting point of managing subconscious body language.

Negative body language

  • Bored: Slumped posture, foot tapping, doodling
  • Rejection: Arms folded, head down, subconscious frowning
  • Aggression: Leaning too far forward, finger pointing, grinding teeth
  • Lying: Touching face, hands over mouth, eyes averted, shifting uncomfortably in your seat, glancing

Introduction to Case Interviews September 12, 2005

Posted by Coolguy in IT Career.
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The case interviewing style is particularly common among management consulting firms, law firms, counseling and social work organizations, police departments, and other organizations that place a premium on understanding your thought process.

The case interview consists of presenting you with a typical set of “facts” that you might encounter in a real-life work situation and observing how you analyze, conclude, and act or recommend actions to be taken.

The facts presented can range from a brief snapshot (“Suppose a client came anxiously into your office, hoping to find a solution to a desperate cash-flow problem caused by an unusually severe seasonal slowdown in his business”) or an elaborate maze of information including charts, graphs, numbers, and correlations—some relevant and some perhaps not.

Your job is to become the professional in the situation, making further inquiries to clarify the facts, developing and presenting a framework for thinking about the issues, and then working within the framework to come to conclusions.

What do we mean by a framework? In the cash-flow situation stated above, the framework might be an exploration of the bigger picture (“What has your sales history been over the past two years?”), then a look at potential causes, the testing of hypotheses, and finally consideration of short- and long-term remediation possibilities

If the case presented requires formulating actions in order to implement a strategy, the framework you use might be a two-by-two matrix, in which you classify possible actions in terms of their relevance to the strategy (high or low) and their difficulty of implementation (high or low). The high-impact, low-difficulty quadrant would be the first area to address.

The interviewer is generally more interested in how you explain your assumptions, your reasons for selecting the framework you use, and how you say you would go about operating within that framework than in whether you arrive at a “correct” answer (Tip: There usually is none).

Your objective should be to show how you think, and that you think in a clear and reasoned manner.

A fair number of case questions cover operations issues. Broadly speaking, “operations” refers to all the things involved in running a business and getting product out the door.

Tips to help you crack the case every time

Listen carefully to the material presented. Take notes if you want to, and be sure to ask questions if you are unsure about details

Take your time. You’re not expected to have a brilliant solution to a complex problem on the tip of your tongue. If you need a minute or two to collect your thoughts and work through your answer, say so

Offer a general statement or framework up front to serve as an outline for your answer. Although the framework can be something as elaborate as a 3C (customer, company, competition) model, it need not be anything more than something like: If you’re asking about declining profits, then I’d want to check into factors affecting cost, and factors affecting revenues. On the cost side…” As you proceed with your answer, draw on the outline of your framework.

Home in on key issues. Many interviewers will be checking to see if you operate by the 80-20 rule, which means you should first address the broader issues that will get you 80 percent of the way to a
good solution.

Orient your answer toward action. Theory is good for the classroom, but it won’t fly in a boardroom. Clients want to know what steps they can take to solve a problem, not pie-in-the-sky philosophy.

Think out loud. The interviewer is looking as much for evidence of a logical thought process as for a brilliant conclusion to the case problem.

Be conscious of resources. A lot of consulting work involves figuring out how you are going to collect the information you need to answer a question—without costing the client a fortune. If it relates to the problem, ask your interviewer about the budget, capital, and other resources that the client can allocate to the solution

Behavioural Interviewing September 8, 2005

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  • Behavioural interviewing is a relatively new mode of job interviewing
  • Employers such as AT&T and Accenture (the former Andersen Consulting) have been using behavioural interviewing for about 15 years now
  • The premise behind behavioural interviewing is that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations
  • Behavioural interviewing, in fact, is said to be 55 percent predictive of future on-the-job behaviour, while traditional interviewing is only 10 percent predictive
  • Traditional interview questions ask you general questions such as “Tell me about yourself.”
  • The process of behavioural interviewing is much more probing and works very differently.
  • In a traditional job-interview, you can usually get away with telling the interviewer what he or she wants to hear, even if you are fudging a bit on the truth
  • Even if you are asked situational questions that start out “How would you handle XYZ situation?” you have minimal accountability. How does the interviewer know, after all, if you would really react in a given situation the way you say you would?
  • In a behavioural interview, however, it’s much more difficult to give responses that are untrue to your character
  • When you start to tell a behavioural story, the behavioural interviewer typically will pick it apart to try to get at the specific behaviour(s).
  • The interviewer will probe further for more depth or detail such as “What were you thinking at that point?” or “Tell me more about your meeting with that person,” or “Lead me through your decision process.”
  • If you’ve told a story that’s anything but totally honest, your response will not hold up through the barrage of probing questions.
  • Employers use the behavioural interview technique to evaluate a candidate’s experiences and behaviours so they can determine the applicant’s potential for success
  • The interviewer identifies job-related experiences, behaviours, knowledge, skills and abilities that the company has decided are desirable in a particular position
  • For example, some of the characteristics that Accenture looks for include:
  • Critical thinking
  • Being a self-starter
  • Willingness to learn
  • Willingness to travel
  • Self-confidence
  • Teamwork
  • Professionalism
  • The employer then structures very pointed questions to elicit detailed responses aimed at determining if the candidate possesses the desired characteristics
  • Questions (often not even framed as a question) typically start out: “Tell about a time…” or “Describe a situation…” Many employers use a rating system to evaluate selected criteria during the interview.
  • As a candidate, you should be equipped to answer the questions thoroughly
  • Obviously, you can prepare better for this type of interview if you know which skills that the employer has predetermined to be necessary for the job you seek.
  • Researching the company and talking to people who work there will enable you to zero in on the kinds of behaviours the company wants
  • In the interview, your response needs to be specific and detailed. Candidates who tell the interviewer about particular situations that relate to each question will be far more effective and successful than those who respond in general terms
  • Ideally, you should briefly describe the situation, what specific action you took to have an effect on the situation, and the positive result or outcome.
  • Frame it in a three-step process, usually called a S-A-R
  1. situation (or task, problem),
  2. action,
  3. Result/outcome.
  • It’s difficult to prepare for a behaviour-based interview because of the huge number and variety of possible behavioural questions you might be asked
  • The best way to prepare is to arm yourself with a small arsenal of example stories that can be adapted to many behavioural questions.
  • Use examples from internships, classes and school projects, activities, team participation, community service, hobbies and work experience — anything really — as examples of your past behaviour.
  • Wherever possible, quantify your results. Numbers always impress employers.
  • Remember that many behavioural questions try to get at how you responded to negative situations; you’ll need to have examples of negative experiences ready, but try to choose negative experiences that you made the best of or — better yet, those that had positive outcomes

Preparing for behavioural interview

  • Here’s a good way to prepare for behaviour-based interviews:
  • Identify six to eight examples from your past experience where you demonstrated top behaviours and skills that employers typically seek. Think in terms of examples that will exploit your top selling points.
  • Half your examples should be totally positive, such as accomplishments or meeting goals.
  • The other half should be situations that started out negatively but either ended positively or you made the best of the outcome.
  • Vary your examples; don’t take them all from just one area of your life.
  • Use fairly recent examples. If you’re a college student, examples from high school may be too long ago. Accenture, in fact, specifies that candidates give examples of behaviours demonstrated within the last year.
  • Try to describe examples in story form and/or PAR/SAR/STAR.

Typical behaviours

  • Here’s a list of typical behaviours that employers might be trying to get at from job-seekers in a behaviour-based interview.
  • Desired Behaviours:
  1. Adaptability
  2. Communication-Oral
  3. Communication-Written
  4. Control
  5. Analysis
  6. Attention to Detail
  7. Decisiveness
  8. Delegation
  9. Development of Subordinates
  10. Energy
  11. Entrepreneurial
  12. Equipment Operation
  13. Insight
  14. Fact Finding-Oral
  15. Financial Analytical
  16. Flexibility
  17. Impact
  18. Independence
  19. Initiative
  20. Innovation
  21. Integrity
  22. Judgment
  23. Leadership/Influence
  24. Listening
  25. Motivation
  26. Negotiation
  27. Organizational
  28. Participative
  29. Sensitivity
  30. Management
  31. Planning and Organizing
  32. Practical Learning
  33. Presentation Skills
  34. Process Operation
  35. Rapport Building
  36. Resilience
  37. Risk Taking
  38. Safety Awareness
  39. Sales Ability/Persuasiveness
  40. Sensitivity
  41. Strategic Analysis
  42. Teamwork
  43. Technical/Professional Knowledge
  44. Technical/Professional Proficiency
  45. Tenacity
  46. Training
  47. Work Standards

Common behavioural-interview questions

  1. Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
  2. Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
  3. Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
  4. Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.
  5. Tell me about a time when you had to use your presentation skills to influence someone’s opinion.
  6. Give me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
  7. Please discuss an important written document you were required to complete.
  8. Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
  9. Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritise your tasks.
  10. Give me an example of a time when you had to make a split second decision.
  11. What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me an example.
  12. Tell me about a time you were able to successfully deal with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).
  13. Tell me about a difficult decision you’ve made in the last year.
  14. Give me an example of a time when something you tried to accomplish and failed.
  15. Give me an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead.
  16. Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or co-worker.
  17. Give me an example of a time when you motivated others.
  18. Tell me about a time when you delegated a project effectively.
  19. Give me an example of a time when you used your fact-finding skills to solve a problem.
  20. Tell me about a time when you missed an obvious solution to a problem.
  21. Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.
  22. Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision.
  23. Please tell me about a time you had to fire a friend.
  24. Describe a time when you set your sights too high (or too low).

FOCUS AND DEDICATION TO THE INDUSTRY

  • Why did you choose your major and career?
  • At what point did you make this decision?
  • Specifically, what attracts you to this industry as a career?

TECHNICAL AND PROFESSIONAL KNOWLEDGE

  • Sometimes it’s easy to get in “over your head”. Describe a situation where you had to request help or assistance on a project or assignment.
  • Give an example of how you applied knowledge from previous coursework to a project in another class

TEAMWORK

  • Describe a situation where others you were working with on a project disagreed with your ideas. What did you do?
  • Describe a situation in which you found that your results were not up to your professor’s or supervisor’s expectations. What happened? What action did you take?
  • Tell of a time when you worked with a colleague who was not completing their share of the work. Who, if anyone, did you tell or talk to about it? Did the manager take any steps to correct your colleague? Did you agree or disagree with the manager’s actions?
  • Describe a situation in which you had to arrive at a compromise or guide others to a compromise.

ANALYSIS:

  • What steps do you follow to study a problem before making a decision?
  • We can sometimes identify a small problem and fix it before it becomes a major problem. Give an example(s) of how you have done this.
  • Describe a situation in which you had to collect information by asking many questions of several people.
  • In a supervisory or group leader role, have you ever had to discipline or counsel an employee or group member? What was the nature of the discipline? What steps did you take? How did that make you feel? How did you prepare yourself?
  • Recall a time from your work experience when your manager or supervisor was unavailable and a problem arose. hat was the nature of the problem? How did you handle that situation? How did that make you feel?
  • Recall a time when you were assigned what you considered to be a complex project. Specifically, what steps did you take to prepare for and finish the project? Were you happy with the outcome? What one step would you have done differently if given the chance?
  • What was the most complex assignment you have had? What was your role?

ADAPTABILITY

  • How was your transition from high school to college? Did you face any particular problems?
  • Tell of some situations in which you have had to adjust quickly to changes over which you had no control. What was the impact of the change on you?

WORK STANDARDS

  • Compare and contrast the times when you did work which was above the standard with times your work was below the standard.
  • Descibe some times when you were not very satisfied or pleased with your performance. What did you do about it?
  • What are your standards of success in school? What have you done to meet these standards?
  • How have you differed from your professors in evaluating your performance? How did you handle the situation?

JOB MOTIVATION

  • Give examples of your experiences at school or in a job that were satisfying. Give examples of your experiences that were dissatisfying.
  • What kind of supervisor do you work best for? Provide examples

INITIATIVE

  • Describe some projects or ideas (not necessarily your own) that were implemented, or carried out successfully primarily because of your efforts.
  • Describe a situation that required a number of things to be done at the same time. How did you handle it? What was the result?
  • Have you found any ways to make school or a job easier or more rewarding?

ABILITY TO LEARN

  • What tricks or techniques have you learned to make school or a job easier, or to make yourself more effective? How did you learn that?

PLANNING AND ORGANIZING

  • How do you determine priorities in scheduling your time? Give examples
  • Describe a time in school when you had many projects or assignments due at the same time. What steps did you take to get them all done?

COMMUNICATION

  • Tell of a time when your active listening skills really paid off for you-maybe a time when other people missed the key idea being expressed.
  • What has been your experience in giving presentations to small or large groups? What has been your most successful experience in speech making?

CUSTOMER SERVICE ORIENTATION

  • Tell of the most difficult customer service experience that you have ever had to handle-perhaps an angry or irate customer. Be specific and tell what you did and what was the outcome.

SENSITIVITY

  • Give an example of when you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with. Why was this person difficult? How did you handle that person?
  • Describe a situation where you found yourself dealing with someone who didn’t like you. How did you handle it?

Questions to Ask at the Job Interview August 4, 2005

Posted by Coolguy in IT Career.
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  • Why is this position available? . Is this a new position or am I replacing someone ?
  • To whom would I report?
  • Whom will I supervise?
  • What projects and assignments will I be working on?
  • Are there opportunities for advancement within the organization?
  • Will I receive any formal training?
  • Why do you enjoy working for this company?
  • When can I expect to hear from you