The Top Ten NEW OddBall Interview Questions You Need to Know

In this new age of interviewing, savvy career searchers know to expect a “Huh?” question just as much as the standard “Tell me about yourself” inquiry. Google made its mark on interviewing forever several years ago with such quandaries as, “How many ping-pong balls do you need to fill a Boeing 747 plane?”

I’ll let you ponder that one for a few minutes.

I’ve been telling clients to expect these questions and training them on how to answer such queries. Tip 1: remember that it’s not about a precise number or response so much as talking out loud about how you would go about getting the answer. Tip 2: in addition to thinking out loud, ask questions of your interviewer to better formulate your response as opposed to panicking or appearing flustered by the question. Also, email me if you are interested in answers to this plane/ping-pong ball question.

As a tip of the hat to recently retired David Letterman, we bring to you a Top Ten List of NEW Oddball Interview Questions and are also providing tips on how to approach answering them.

1) Batman Vs Spiderman: Who Would Win? This is a “stop you in your tracks” question that came from Stanford University; how does one even approach answering a query such as this? What if comic book heroes – and their movie franchises – are not topics you even know much about? Here’s my thought, and I believe you can apply the logic to many similar questions.

  • Potential Response 1: If you are familiar with the characters and can reason an answer, go for it (I am quite familiar with both characters and do believe that Spiderman’s capabilities truly outweigh those of Batman and here’s why…).
  • Potential Response 2: If you are not familiar with the characters, answer the question without really doing so at all (Although comic book heroes are not my forté, I believe that both characters are good guys and fight the bad guys. As such, I believe they would not ever find themselves in a fight as they are both on the same side!).

2) In what ways are you lucky? This is an interesting alternative to the “Tell me about yourself” question; Airbnb asks it and given their penchant for upbeat employees, it makes sense. What this question is really asking is, “How do you see yourself?” and is therefore a behavioral interview question. The key here is to be thoughtful without being too revealing (please avoid such responses as, “I’m really lucky to even be here after escaping from prison last week…”). We also suggest keeping your answer somewhat career-focused.

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The Power of Interns Part I

When ReFresh Your Step quietly launched an intern program last spring, our goal was simple: provide college students with a chance to get some real world marketing, business development, and project management experience (and, of course, a professionally written resume á la one of our writers). We specifically wanted college students in majors that would coincide with our needs, as that would benefit all involved; additionally, we traditionally look for students who are truly interested in working independently but are aggressive, creative, and productive.

It also occurred to us that applying to work at a career advisory firm (with minimal experience in the sector) could be, shall we say, daunting?

So, they write resumes…and know exactly what to look for…could I hire them to write my resume and then apply for the role?

Um, how do you interview with a professional interview advisor?

Is being on LinkedIn a requirement? What if they are on Facebook and can see my pictures? What if they JUDGE me by my pictures? Where are those security settings?

To answer those questions in order:

1) We are absolutely extra-critical of applicants’ resumes but are aware that college students are not the MOST up-to-date of today’s resumes standards (and investing in a new resume with us before applying for the position is actually pretty brilliant).

2) Just practice; I may know how to interview really well but don’t (often) bite; and

3) LinkedIn is not a requirement ahead of time but is by the time you’re done with the role. Also, I’ve been on Facebook a lot longer than you have, my friends post worse things than you do, and I was in college too (for the record, Mark Zuckerberg and I are contemporaries. We also both like to wear hoodie sweatshirts to work). I do advise putting your security settings on high anyway; ask me how to do that if you need to help.

Of course, if you happened to mention that you are a big fan of AJ Jacobs’ work, I’d probably just hand you the job, as this would indicate you appreciate excellent writing, humor, and the occasional bit of crazy. We’ll get along just fine.

I am a huge fan of AJ’s work and am thrilled he has started writing columns for LinkedIn; recently, he wrote about how he hires interns and it just made me think about our own process. This internship is not about getting me coffee or walking my dog; rather, as career advisors, we are KEENLY aware of how incredibly important it is to provide not just resume-building opportunities but to actually educate and groom our interns on gearing up for a job search as well as how to best prepare for the real world.

Our last intern did amazing work in terms of advancing key projects, writing excellent blog posts, and helping with major marketing initiatives. This semester, our intern is already churning out some excellent blog posts (9 Steps to a Successful Career Launch Part I and Part II, as well as her own perspective on AJ’s article); additionally, she will be essential to our business development maintenance and long-term growth, especially as I transition into a new role shortly (more on that later).

We look to our interns for real-world work and are happy to provide them transferable, high-level opportunities. We also like to give them an insider’s education on how this whole “job search” thing works; our hope is that this role with a career advising firm can truly pave the way for a fulfilling career.

If you are interested in a future internship position, please email Emily Kapit, MS, CPRW, ACRW to see the job description. Until then, it’s YOUR Career: ReFresh. Revive. Renew.

Yahoo!’s Big Gamble: The Workplace Flexibility Conundrum

With more and more companies offering workplace flexibility, it came as a shock that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer issued a memo late last month explaining that the company would require all of its employees to come into the office instead of working from home. This decision has received plenty of heat, with some calling the policy change “short-sighted”, “going backwards” and an “epic fail”. After all, 24% of Americans reported working from home at least a few hours per week and 63% of employers reported they allowed employees to work remotely.

Even though allowing workers to telecommute may save the company money in a sluggish economy, some firms are noticing definite drawbacks to having an emptier office. Studies have indicated that employees who work from home are more productive but less innovative – apparently, employees interacting with one another can lead to more new ideas and faster decision making. For a struggling company like Yahoo, having employees in the same place could mean the difference between growth and stagnation.

Job applicants shouldn’t always assume their future workplace will embrace workplace flexibility. It may be an attractive option to work from your couch all day, but it may not be the best decision for your career. Often, employees who primarily work from home miss out on crucial decisions and also may be passed over for promotions or special opportunities partly because they are much less visible in the office environment.

Recent college graduates and young professionals may be searching for jobs with greater opportunities to work from home, but Mayer may have started a trend with more companies focusing on keeping people in the workplace. Workplace flexibility must be kept in balance with other job aspects – how important is it to you to work at home compared to the possibility of job security or career growth? Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is important, but no job will be perfect and in this economy, sacrificing working from home just might be necessary.

 

– Emma Ambler, Marketing & Communications Intern

Interviews: Prep It Now, Nail It Later (A Lesson From Yo-Yo Ma)

Many of life’s stressful moments require days, weeks or even months of practice. Whether you’re a professional athlete, a world-class musician or applying for a job, preparation is often the key to success. Although many think the final moments leading up to the big interview or football game require squeezing in the last few minutes of intense practice, this article from The Talent Code site offers a new way of thinking about the big moment.

The author uses cellist Yo-Yo Ma and former 49ers quarterback Joe Montana to illustrate the benefits of relaxing before a big concert or game. Yo-Yo Ma uses the time before his performances to mellow out, while Montana was once so relaxed during a Super Bowl that he noticed John Candy in the stands – even though the 49ers were down by three points with three minutes left!

The point of practicing for big events in life is to concentrate, make mistakes, and fix those mistakes. Then you practice over and over again until you get it right. Practice pays off in the performance, and by being as relaxed as possible, you’ll be able to stay calm and let all of that preparation shine through. As the acting coach Constantin Stanislavakin said, “The rehearsals are the work, the performance is the relaxation.”

While this approach may seem counterintuitive in today’s society, it makes sense. By relaxing before high-pressure situations, we can get in the right mindset to do our best. This of course applies to interviews and stressful hiring processes for jobs as well as concerts or sporting events. Being an excellent interviewee is a skill, and just like Montana couldn’t have been a star QB without spending hours honing his abilities, being a proficient interviewee doesn’t happen overnight.

The best way to prepare for a job opportunity is practice, practice, practice – and what better way to get ready than by using ReFresh Your Steps’ Interviewing Skills services? With our help, you’ll be prepared to shine in an interview without the panicked moments beforehand.

 

– Emma Ambler, Marketing & Communications Intern

10 Job Questions You’d Better Ask Your Boss – Or Interviewer!

­­­In today’s stressful job market, many key components of hiring’s former life have fallen to the wayside. Being able to pick and choose among job offers is a thing of the past for most people, so it’s not surprising that the main focus of a job search is what’s available and not which job is the best fit. This Forbes article discusses some questions you could rework into a job interview to help determine if a position is right for you.

Although it seems strange for the interviewee to become the interviewer, never forget that you also deserve to get the information you need to determine whether this job is a good fit – because the interviewer is doing the same thing! While the questions in the article are written in the context of a boss-employee relationship, it’s easy to change some of the questions to fit into an interview situation.

Some possible job questions that can be used in an interview are, “How long have you been with Company XYZ?”  This can alert the interviewee to clues about how the company makes hiring decisions – are outside hires often selected to fill positions or is there a larger emphasis on promoting from within?

Another question that can reveal a good amount of information about a position is “What are your thoughts about professional development courses?” The answer to this will A) alert an interviewee as to whether the company is open to helping employees further their careers and B) let the interviewee see if the interviewer has similar views on the subject. If not, maybe it’s not the best fit.

Also consider asking about the interviewer’s career to date: “How did you select this particular field and what has been your career path thus far?” A response to this question can honestly reveal a great deal about the hiring manager–including whether or not he/she is truly passionate about the field and what type of manager he/she would be if you were to join the team. It can also open up the conversation to different topics that are more memorable than standard interview fare. For example, if in the response, the hiring manager reveals a more personal detail and you can in some way identify with that point, run with it! You will have formed an important bond with the interviewer and few people will be able to accomplish the same feat.

When considering any career move, it’s important to think about how a job will fit in with your personal and professional goals. If you need a refresher on your interview skills or want to learn how to get more out of meeting with a potential employer, ReFresh Your Step is here to help! With our Interviewing Strategies and Strategic Career Consulting services, you’ll be able to walk into any interview with confidence.

–Emma Ambler, Marketing & Communications Intern

Executive Recruiting Shifts In-House–Wall Street Journal article

The Wall Street Journal published an article earlier about a growing trend among major companies: rather than depending on major search firms to discover top talent for vacancies, they are instead bringing their recruiting efforts back in under the company roof (so to speak).

Why this new trend? For one, it is a significant money-saver. “At Time Warner, where Maggie Rubey Lynch leads internal recruiting operations world-wide, the company says it has saved more than $100 million in search-firm fees since her 30-person team launched in January 2003.” [emphasis added]

If major companies are bringing their recruiting efforts in-house, what does that mean for you? A lot! For one thing, it is that much more important to ensure that your professional documents are in top shape–in-house recruiters are more likely to push internal candidates so the competition is even stiffer.

ReFresh Your Step Career Development & Advisory Services can collaborate with you on the documents, making in-house connections and more!

http://on.wsj.com/SSboXx