Job candidates cannot show up to an interview, develop answers to questions on the fly, and expect to succeed, especially when it comes to the so-called softball questions they should be able to hit out of the ballpark.

Preparation by candidates, which recruiters say is lacking, is a major reason otherwise qualified executives are not advanced in a search.

In our second big idea of Wednesday’s podcast, “The Decline In Candidate Soft Skills, Questions You Should Kill,” we looked at a Fast Company article “How You Can Prepare for These Common Interview Questions” by freelance writer Isabel Thottam. We reviewed six important questions she included in an article for Glassdoor that many candidates simply soldier through as if they are not that important. In reality, the answers to those questions count a great deal.

Here are eight more so-called soft issue questions that Ms. Thottam believes candidates should pay attention to, and for which to prepare killer answers:

  1. Tell me about a conflict you faced at work and how you dealt with it? This is one of the soft skill questions designed to zero in on how you do things. This is an answer, Ms. Thottam says, that you should ace because your answer will reveal how you deal with conflict and how adept you are at thinking on your feet, both important skills, especially for executives. Prepare in advance ( a recurring theme here), succinctly state the issue, provide a brief but complete answer and end on a positive note.
  2. What is your dream job? This is all about how realistic you are at setting goals (short-term and long-term), planning and whether you will fit with the organization over the long term. Be sure your answer focuses squarely on career goals and how this job will advance your quest. By the way, it is not only cheesy but bad form to answer “CEO of this company.” A fellow recruiter once quipped, “That is a winning answer about one time in a 100.”
  3. What do you expect out of your team and coworkers? The underlying reason for this question is all about culture, how you work on a team and whether your style will be a good fit. Ms Thottam recommends, and I concur, that to prepare for this type of question applicants should look at social media profiles of the organization or read reviews at Glassdoor.
  4. What do you expect from your manager? This question also is focusing in on soft skills — your emotional intelligence, and whether you will fit with the team. Be honest. It is important to use some relevant examples from past jobs.
  5. How do you deal with stress? This, too, is a culture-based question, Ms. Thottam writes. No manager wants a drama queen, constant complainer or a serial jerk on their team. Stressful situations typically will expose some of those negative tendencies. Managers are looking for people who can effectively work through difficult periods to accomplish goals. Provide specific examples of how you relieve stress during the workday and emphasize your effectiveness in completing assignments in a timely manner during these times. Site examples but be brief.
  6. What would the first 30 days in this position look like for you? Not to beat the drum too much, but careful preparation of an answer for this question can go a long way in establishing your “favorability” score. Companies, now more than ever, need employees who can get up to speed as soon as possible. While corporate onboarding programs designed to ensure just that are gaining favor as part of an effort to improve employee engagement, they are not widely in use. Ms Thottam writes that candidates should ask during the interview about performance deliverables, how the manager will define success in a year and, when this question comes up, ask for information on what will be needed to get started as well as those things needed to help transition into the new position.
  7. What are your salary requirements? This question has “locked up” more candidates than you can possibly imagine. Ms. Thottam explains that this question is not always asked but it is best to be prepared for it. I am prejudiced on this issue based on my work with senior level executives. At that level we give them the salary range up front so as to avoid wasting anyone’s time. I find it astounding how many internal executive recruiters do not reveal that information, and how many candidates do not ask. That don’t ask, don’t tell approach can lead to some embarrassing moments in a search, and a lot of wasted time. At entry level, in searches for supervisors or managers, I can see how this might not be discussed but certainly at the senior executive level my advice is to state your current base salary and any bonus or incentive pavement plans. Do not exaggerate. When explaining your salary, state the current base, the percentage potential for incentives and your total cash earnings in the last full fiscal year. Do not get cute and factor in non-cash awards in an effort to negotiate a better deal. For lower level employees and managers, there are tools on sites like Glassdoor that can help you determine your compensation worth. Remember, the lower you are in the organization, the less negotiation there will be on compensation.
  8. Do you have any questions? Not having questions is more often than not, a negative for the candidate. Saying they have already been answered is lame so think about multiple questions you want to know about in advance, or make notes of questions that come up during the day.

One more thing, do your homework and be prepared.


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