Dealing with objections
What did you like or dislike about your last job?
Ideally you would answer ‘there was nothing I disliked’. Hiring someone who easily fits into the existing complement of staff is very important, therefore steer clear of criticising former colleagues, managers etc. Once again, if you pay attention to the company culture when they described the role to you, you can mention factors that wouldn’t bother the new company, or would impress them, such as “my previous employers underestimated the importance of attention to detail”. But taken out of context, the interviewer may see you as a knit-picking pain.
How long have you been looking for another position?
Whether you are employed or not, this question can be potentially fatal. If you are currently unemployed and have been looking for some time, try to minimise the ‘time gap’ by mentioning any other activities in which you have been involved, such as study or charity work. If your work is of a specialist nature and you’ve been fussy, or determined to continue in that field, point this out provided it isn’t at odds with the demands of the new role. A resourceful answer here can certainly score you points, instead of putting you at a disadvantage.
Why were you made redundant?
If you were made redundant then this is a legitimate excuse which most recruiters will understand, seeing as they have most probably been involved with laying off people themselves. Try to give acceptable reasons (such as downsizing, restructuring etc), be brief and move on to the next question.
Why were you fired?
If, however, you were clearly fired and cannot realistically pass it off as a retrenchment, then it’s advisable to be open and honest (honesty is a virtue that always scores points), minimising the reason for your dismissal. Try to portray the incident as ‘one of those unlucky things that happens to the best of us’ and modestly explain how you’ve learnt from the experience and the steps you’ve since taken. The objective is to put the interviewer at ease in the hope that they won’t place too much importance on a reference check. It is however a good idea to reconcile with your former employers (who fired you) and plead with them to at least give you a fair reference should anyone enquire about the incident. Bear in mind that even some of the most successful captains of industry get fired during the course of their career, and football managers have a particularly poor track record!
How long would you stay at this company?
Answering this could be tricky in today’s culture of job ‘hot seating’, or if your CV reveals a tendency for you to move around. You could emphasise your desire to settle down with the right company, and that you feel this is it. Alternatively, throw the question back at them: “Would this company be able to offer me a long term future?”
How do you handle criticism of your work?
This can be a doubly dangerous question. Firstly, try to portray an attitude that all criticism has a benefit, and provides a chance for improvement. Secondly, try and elaborate on this question then give an example of a poor idea that was criticised, rather than substandard work which you had produced.
What are some of the things on which you and your supervisors disagree?
The safest answer is, “none” but be careful that this doesn’t portray you as a ‘yes’ person. If this sounds too short, then mention only insignificant ‘creative’ differences, or better still, turn the question around and elaborate on the ‘wonderfully productive’ relationship you shared with your boss, if it is realistic to do so.
Do you make your opinions known when you disagree with your supervisor?
This is a sticky question. If you have previously successfully dealt with a situation like this where the process and outcome was very satisfactory to both parties, then mention these examples. Aim to show that you’re a mature individual with the confidence and intelligence to approach your supervisor in private to discuss your objections in a constructive, calm manner.
How will you be able to cope with a change in environment?
This sort of question is usually posed if you’ve spent a long time in one particular job. It sounds like a negative but can be turned into a positive especially if you’re looking for a change, or a chance to grow.
Why aren’t you earning more at your this stage of your career?
Another implied negative which can be turned into a positive by emphasising your desire to gain solid experience instead of continually changing jobs for the sake of money. This question gives you scope to ask; “How much do you think I should be earning?” This could possibly lead to an offer.
Why have you changed jobs so frequently?
This is another syndrome which is difficult to conceal or explain. A number of different explanations for each instance won’t do much good either, so it’s better to blame it on ‘youthful capriciousness’, and emphasize that the variety of jobs has been good experience and that you’re now more mature and settled. Questions like this can be turned around to portray a positive, but be careful not to dwell too much on the subject, or over justify yourself.