Best Questions To Ask In Your Job Interview

Caroline Howard, Forbes Staff

Anyone who’s ever been on a job interview knows the pause: The moment when the interviewer’s q&as come to a stop, she looks you in the eyes and says: “And do you have any questions for me?”

Preparing for that crossroads in the interview is crucial, say recruiters and hiring managers. It’s the time to turn the table. And you don’t want to be caught off-guard with crickets in your head. You’ll appear indifferent, or worse, clueless. Alternately, if you’re buzzing with questions and give the interviewer what feels like the third-degree, it will immediately signal that you are unfocused or too aggressive.

“This is an opportunity to look like a leader and show that you are engaged in the interview,” says Cynthia Shapiro, a career strategist based in Woodland Hills, Cal., and author of What Does Somebody Have To Do To Get A Job Around Here?

“The best questions are really all about them and not about you,” says Louise Garver, an executive coach for the past 23 years from Broad Brook, Conn., and founder of Career Directions, LLC. “They have one thing at their core: How can I contribute value to the team and the company.”

Here, the five most important questions to ask at a job interview–plus a debatable no-no–so that you’ll make the right impression and get the job offer.

1. How would you describe the ideal candidate?
What this question does is enable the hiring supervisor to imagine you actually in the job as he or she is describing the position, says Shapiro. Technically, it is a form of transference. But practically it’s a way to role-play. “I’m so glad you said you need an Excel wiz. In my last position I…” Grab this as an opportunity to describe yourself doing the very things the interviewer outlined by using past experiences and wins.

Continuing this line of questioning–”What are the top three qualities you’re looking for?”–will reveal key information. Take mental or actual notes (it’s OK to have pen and paper handy–it’ll keep your hands busy) in order to shape your responses accordingly for future interviews or later in the conversation.

2. How do you envision this position supporting you?
At face value, this question has nothing to do with the job candidate herself–and the interviewer will certainly appreciate that. You’ve likely already listed all your past job and educational experiences. Instead of more me-me-me talk, it translates to I’m-all-about-you. “What you’re saying to your potential employer without saying it is, ‘I’ll make your life easier,’” says Shapiro. “That alone will put you at the top of the list.”

3. How does this position fit into the company’s long-term plans?
This query will open the door to discussions about the position and overall business strategy. It is perfectly appropriate at this point to ask about the person who is leaving (left or promoted?) or why the position was created, says Garver. You will also want to ask about the specific challenges and goals of the job, and the company’s vision for it in the next six months, year and five years.
If you feel uncomfortable, you can always couch your queries as permission-based statements, as in, “May I ask…,” says Garver.

4. How would you define “success” for this position?
The question drills down into a win looks like to the hiring supervisor and the company, says Shapiro. (Hint: many companies do not have performance evaluation systems in place, so you may catch your interviewer by surprise.)
This question not only reveals the kind of boss you are applying to–is he or she hands-off or a micro-manger?–but will give you insight into the company’s procedures and culture. “You need to put on your Sherlock Holmes hat during a job interview and be a silent observer,” continues Shapiro. “That is the only way you can determine what kind of a boss your interviewer will be and the kind of company you may be working for.”

5. What can I do for you as follow-up?
You want to know how you can grease the process in your favor. What you are saying, though, is “How can I help you.” And the more you find out about who or what group will be making the decision and their timeline, the more influence you have in terms of making the right contacts and sending follow-up information. “What employers are looking for are people who really want to work in the organization and are enthusiastic about affecting the outcome of the interview,” says Garver.

What’s the salary range?

Of course you want to know. But this matter of keen interest, along with other forms of compensation and benefits such as health insurance, child care, vacation, 401(k) and tuition reimbursement, is of some debate.
“This is my career, this is my life, I’d better bring up money,” says Debra Benton of Benton Management Resources of Ft. Collin, Col., a professional speaker and executive coach with 30 years experience working with such companies as Verizon, Campbell’s Soup and the USDA. “One subject you want bring up is money: ‘Money is not my main motivation in this job but what is the range?’ That shows my character. It takes courage and confidence to ask those questions.”

But many other experts advise a don’t-ask-don’t tell policy prior to a job offer in writing. “Never ask about salary and benefits,” says Garver. “Don’t ask any questions related to your needs.”
Why? You don’t have much negotiating power until they decide they want you on board. “Bring salary up too early and they’ll think that’s all you care about,” says Shapiro. So what should you do if THEY bring up salary before the offer? Simply say it would be something you’d consider. “Once they make the offer, it means they want you. Then negotiate. It shows that you’re serious.”

To Increase Revenue Stop Selling

Mike Myatt, Contributor, Forbes Magazine 5/1/12

Creating or expanding business relationships is not about selling – it’s about establishing trust, rapport, and value creation without selling. Call me crazy, but I don’t want to talk to someone who wants to manage my account, develop my business, or engineer my sale. I want to communicate with someone who desires to fulfill my needs or solve my problems. Any organization that still has “sales” titles on their org charts and business cards is living in another time and place, while attempting to do business in a world that’s already passed them by.

Engage me, communicate with me, add value to my business, solve my problems, create opportunity for me, educate me, inform me, but don’t try and sell me – it won’t work. An attempt to sell me insults my intelligence and wastes my time. Think about it; do you like to be sold? News flash – nobody does. Now ask yourself this question, do you like to be helped? Most reasonable people do. The difference between the two positions while subtle, is very meaningful.

The traditional practice of sales as a business discipline has become at best ineffective, and in many cases flat out obsolete. You see, good business practices are not static. Stale methodologies and disciplines simply die a slow and very painful death, and it is my contention the overwhelming majority of sales processes I see in today’s marketplace are just that – stale.

The problem with many sales organizations is they still operate with the same principles and techniques they were using in the 60′s, 70’s and 80’s. While the technology supporting sales process have clearly evolved, the traditional sales strategies proffered by sales gurus 20 or 30 years ago have not kept pace with market needs. They are not nearly as effective as they once were, and as I’ve alluded to, in most cases they are obsolete.
Trust me when I tell you that your existing and potential clients have heard it all before. They can see the worn-out, old school closes coming a mile away. They can sniff antiquated selling strategies, and will immediately tune out on presentations not deemed relevant. If your sales force is still FAB-selling, spin-selling, soft-selling or using any number of outdated, one size fits all selling methodologies, your sales are suffering whether you realize it or not. If you want to create revenue, increase customer satisfaction, and drive brand equity, stop selling and start adding value.

Lest you think I’ve lost my mind, I want to be clear that I’m not advocating taking your eye off the revenue creation ball. Rather what I’m recommending will help you generate more revenue, with greater velocity by simply doing the right thing in putting your customer’s needs first.

I hear a lot of noise about the tough economy, and revenue being down for many companies. I hear complaint upon complaint that companies just don’t have money to spend, and that nobody is buying. If you’re experiencing this type of reaction from your customer, it’s not because they don’t have money to spend, it’s because you’re selling and not adding value. It’s because you’re talking and not listening. It’s because you don’t get it.

It’s not about you, your company, your products or your services. It’s about meeting customer needs and adding value. When you start paying more attention to your customer needs than your revenue needs, you’ll find you no longer have a revenue problem to complain about.

So, my first suggestion is you change nomenclature. Clients are people not fish. Don’t “lure” or “hook” them – engage them, listen to them and serve them. Eliminate the words “suspects” and “prospects” from your vocabulary and replace them with potential clients. Think about it – do you establish trust by profiling and targeting prospects, or by attempting to understand the needs of a potential client? This is much more than a semantical argument – it’s a philosophical shift in thinking, and a practical shift in acting. Stop selling and start serving.

The truth is most corporations have a hierarchy of sales that comes with a very established and entrenched pecking order. The enterprise sales folks and key accounts reps sit atop the food chain, followed by inside sales reps, and at the bottom of the ladder you’ll find the customer service reps. The hunters are revered and the farmers are tolerated. Regardless of the titles being used, this entire concept of sales is so antiquated it’s laughable. Frankly, most people I know would rather talk to a knowledgeable customer service person over a sales rep any day of the week. The reason for this should be obvious – the perception is a customer service professional is providing information and helping them meet their needs. A sales person is trying to sell them something.

It’s time for companies to realize that consumers have become very savvy and very demanding. Today’s consumer (B2B or B2C) does their homework, is well informed, and buys…they are not sold.

If customer centricity is a buzzword as opposed to the foundation of your corporate culture then your leadership has some work to do. The reality is until I know that you care more about meeting my needs than yours, you’ll remain on the outside looking in. By the way, in order to understand my needs you have to actually know something about me…

Since the large majority of all buying decisions either begin or conclude on the Internet, you better be visible online. In addition to the basics of search engine optimization and traditional search engine marketing, I would strongly suggest getting involved in social networking. Just by having a presence on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube and other social networking platforms, you not only open-up a new communications channel to your existing clients, but you also make yourself readily available to those looking to find what you have to offer.

Teach your sales force to become true professionals focused on helping their customers for all the right reasons vs. closing the big deal for personal benefit. To do otherwise will lead to missing substantial opportunities without even being aware of it.

The most important factor in creating revenue and building brand equity is the client/customer/end-user. If you don’t engineer everything around the client, your client relationships will vanish before your very eyes. Don’t be just another vendor, become a trusted adviser and advocate.

Intelligence Is Overrated: What You Really Need To Succeed

Keld Jensen, Contributor, Forbes Magazine

Albert Einstein’s was estimated at 160, Madonna’s is 140, and John F. Kennedy’s was only 119, but as it turns out, your IQ score pales in comparison with your EQ, MQ, and BQ scores when it comes to predicting your success and professional achievement.
IQ tests are used as an indicator of logical reasoning ability and technical intelligence. A high IQ is often a prerequisite for rising to the top ranks of business today. It is necessary, but it is not adequate to predict executive competence and corporate success. By itself, a high IQ does not guarantee that you will stand out and rise above everyone else.
Research carried out by the Carnegie Institute of Technology shows that 85 percent of your financial success is due to skills in “human engineering,” your personality and ability to communicate, negotiate, and lead. Shockingly, only 15 percent is due to technical knowledge. Additionally, Nobel Prize winning Israeli-American psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, found that people would rather do business with a person they like and trust rather than someone they don’t, even if the likeable person is offering a lower quality product or service at a higher price.
With this in mind, instead of exclusively focusing on your conventional intelligence quotient, you should make an investment in strengthening your EQ (Emotional Intelligence), MQ (Moral Intelligence), and BQ (Body Intelligence). These concepts may be elusive and difficult to measure, but their significance is far greater than IQ.

Emotional Intelligence
EQ is the most well known of the three, and in brief it is about: being aware of your own feelings and those of others, regulating these feelings in yourself and others, using emotions that are appropriate to the situation, self-motivation, and building relationships.
Top Tip for Improvement: First, become aware of your inner dialogue. It helps to keep a journal of what thoughts fill your mind during the day. Stress can be a huge killer of emotional intelligence, so you also need to develop healthy coping techniques that can effectively and quickly reduce stress in a volatile situation.

Moral Intelligence
MQ directly follows EQ as it deals with your integrity, responsibility, sympathy, and forgiveness. The way you treat yourself is the way other people will treat you. Keeping commitments, maintaining your integrity, and being honest are crucial to moral intelligence.
Top Tip for Improvement: Make fewer excuses and take responsibility for your actions. Avoid little white lies. Show sympathy and communicate respect to others. Practice acceptance and show tolerance of other people’s shortcomings. Forgiveness is not just about how we relate to others; it’s also how you relate to and feel about yourself.

Body Intelligence
Lastly, there is your BQ, or body intelligence, which reflects what you know about your body, how you feel about it, and take care of it. Your body is constantly telling you things; are you listening to the signals or ignoring them? Are you eating energy-giving or energy-draining foods on a daily basis? Are you getting enough rest? Do you exercise and take care of your body? It may seem like these matters are unrelated to business performance, but your body intelligence absolutely affects your work because it largely determines your feelings, thoughts, self-confidence, state of mind, and energy level.

Top Tip For Improvement: At least once a day, listen to the messages your body is sending you about your health. Actively monitor these signals instead of going on autopilot. Good nutrition, regular exercise, and adequate rest are all key aspects of having a high BQ. Monitoring your weight, practicing moderation with alcohol, and making sure you have down time can dramatically benefit the functioning of your brain and the way you perform at work.

What You Really Need To Succeed
It doesn’t matter if you did not receive the best academic training from a top university. A person with less education who has fully developed their EQ, MQ, and BQ can be far more successful than a person with an impressive education who falls short in these other categories.
Yes, it is certainly good to be an intelligent, rational thinker and have a high IQ; this is an important asset. But you must realize that it is not enough. Your IQ will help you personally, but EQ, MQ, and BQ will benefit everyone around you as well. If you can master the complexities of these unique and often under-rated forms of intelligence, research tells us you will achieve greater success and be regarded as more professionally competent and capable.

What is Your Business Why?

One of the most difficult concepts to understand when you are at work is: it is not about you. Whether you work for someone else or you own your own business, the quicker you take your ego off the playing field, the sooner you will meet Success.

Ego tells you that you know best. Ego also whispers to you that you are right. Or, that your products and services are the best that are available.

One way to shut the door on Ego is to always turn questions like, “What do you have to offer?” away from I and back onto the other person. Instead of answering, “I can do this…” or “We are experts at…” Answer the question with another question that focuses back on the customer. For example, “What are you looking for today?” or “What is it you need?”

As you read this article and are checking in on your why, first ask yourself where you find your inspiration and motivation. Is it internal or external? When you begin to notice your motivation waning, there are two very important questions to ask yourself to find renewed energy. They are:

1. Why are you in your current line of work?

2. Why do you believe in your business?

Give yourself time and space to linger over these questions, and see what answers bubble to the surface.

Are the answers I statements? Or do the answers explain what gives you purpose in life? Chances are if your answers involve your ego, rather than how you are helping customers or clients find what they need, then this is why it feels like your motivation has dried up.

If you want to make the switch from self-centered living, to one where you are more connected and in-sync with others, then you can change by asking yourself, “Why are you in ____ business?” When you truly believe that your services and products increases other people’s quality of life, then your consumers will notice this change.

When your products and services are making life easier for your buyers, then there is an inexhaustible amount of energy. Why is there no end to the energy? It’s because your value and belief system are tied into something greater than yourself. When you are excited about what there is to offer to others, the emphasis is placed on customer satisfaction not you.

And, the easiest way to re-center is to remind yourself when doing business that it’s not about you. It’s always about the other person. If you can enhance the customer’s experience, answer their needs, and make them feel satisfaction then Success will find you, and perhaps repeat customers as well.

Lyndsay Katauskas, MEd
Mars Venus Coaching
Corporate Media Relations

How to Manage a Micromanager

Deborah L. Jacobs, Forbes Staff 5/07/2012

If you’ve ever worked with a micromanager, you know how unproductive and demoralizing it can be. This control freak is reluctant to delegate, may second-guess everything you do, and can shake your confidence in your own abilities. Simple tasks that you could accomplish quickly if left to your own devices take twice as long. Your efforts may be reduced to dust as the micromanager completely re-does your work.
Sure, you may be tempted to bolt, but at a time of high unemployment, you might not have that option. So better to master the art of managing the micromanager.
Start by understanding what causes someone to act this way. Often it’s a need for control that stems from insecurity: lack of confidence, workplace instability and pressure to produce–both individually and as a team. Deep-seated psychological issues and problems at home can also influence the way people behave at work. Many of us have the propensity to be a micromanger, but some of us rein it in better than others.
With this in mind, here are eight practical steps you can take.

1. Look for patterns.

As annoying as micromanagers are, they’re incredibly predictable. Watch for behavior swings. There will be certain situations, times of the day or week, when they get especially agitated. Knowing their pressure points can help you ease them.

2. Anticipate needs.

Once you know what triggers them, you can stay ahead of those stressors and ease the tensions early on. Flag potential problems before they escalate and offer solutions. Always have a stockpile ready of new initiatives and demonstrate that you are proactive. This helps them curb their responses to the pressure points without slipping into micromanagement mode.

3. Show empathy.

Remember, the micromanager is under pressure to produce. Show that you understand his or her plight and are willing to share the load. This could be as simple as offering to help. Tomorrow might be the day when this colleague has to take a child to school but also has an early meeting. So today ask what you can do to make life easier tomorrow.

4. Be super reliable.

It’s much easier to manage an office where everyone turns up on time and meets work deadlines. This goes back to the fact that a micromanager hates feeling out of control. If some members of the team don’t deliver, the micromanager gets aggravated and makes unfair demands on everyone else. Discuss as a team what you can do to coordinate things in such a way that there’s no need for the micromanager to fret about how everything is running.

5. Be a role model.

Treat the micromanager the way you would like to be treated. Give the micromanager space. Don’t smother or micromanage back. In working with other people, show how your management style is different –and gets equally good results.

6. Speak up—gently.

Often micromanagers are oblivious to the effect they are having on other people. They actually think all their micromanaging is producing a better work product. Show encouragement and support for the micromanager’s strengths. Then, without being confrontational, find a way to let this person know how micromanagement affects you. A little levity could diffuse the tension. Or you might just ask how he or she thinks it feels to be second-guessed and mistrusted all the time.

7. Enlighten others.

It’s not just you who should be shouldering the responsibility of neutralizing someone’s instinct to micromanage. And chances are you’re not the only one suffering either. Explain to others on your team what you’re doing to ease the micro-manager’s anxiety and encourage them to do the same.

8. Run interference.

If a micromanager reports to you and has a detrimental effect on other team members, be a sounding board. Often the micromanager has a skill or quality that’s important to the organization. But it’s up to this manager’s boss to play a leading role in preventing other team members from getting squelched.

In Business, It’s Never About You

Recently, I had an interaction with another business person that left me deflated. I felt deflated, because the other person was acting irrationally based on fear, rather than seeing the opportunity for what it was—mutually beneficial. We could have helped one another out in promoting our businesses. When I network it is to get to know someone so I can link them with others. As I build the relationship based on genuine interactions of getting to know them, the majority of the time I find us wanting to help and recommend each other’s services, because we value and can speak for the other’s services. When you have a working knowledge of gender and emotional intelligence you quickly realize it’s not the exchange of products or services that really matters; it’s the experience and connection that makes buying and selling memorable. This is more of an organic way of doing business, but I have found it to create sustainability, and long-term results.
A lot of times what we do not realize is that even in buying and selling, our emotions are often the deciding factor in whether the experience is a positive or negative one. So here’s the secret—always choose for your interactions to be about the other person, never about you. So in this example, while his behavior was not desirable, I let him close the door on the business relationship. It initially made me feel deflated, because there were great opportunities and possibilities, but I respected his decision. When you are able to label and identify your emotions as they are happening, instead of reacting based on emotions, you can choose logic and the best course of action.
Putting the concept, it’s never about you; it’s always about the other person benefits your business in three ways. It works in networking, with colleagues, and with customers. When you remember that it’s about the other person, and not you, then you can quickly wade through whom to pursue relationships with as you network. When you use this concept with co-workers and employees you keep the lines of communication open and honest. And, when you use this concept with customers, you create an environment where they feel good about themselves, and will want to return or recommend your product or service to others. In each of Dr. John Gray’s, Mars Venus books, the Mars Venus Coaching eWorkshops, and working with Mars Venus Coaches these principles are espoused. It is always about learning how to communicate with others in their language so they can hear and understand you. When you shut the door, you limit yourself on future opportunities. So remember when you are interacting with others, ask yourself how you can help them get what they need, not what’s in it for you. And, in doing so, people will seek out your business. And, when the other person is not of like mind, be genuine when you wish them well. You never know, they may come back!
Lyndsay Katauskas, MEd
Mars Venus Coaching
Corporate Media Relations