by Tom Melander
Imagine this. The interview went well and the hiring manager assures you that you’re on the short list as you both walk to the door. Then, as you’re shaking hands good-bye, the hiring manager says, “Oh, one last thing. What’s the worst job you ever had?” This happened to a client of mine last month and his response got his name crossed off the short list.
How would you advise my client to be better prepared next time?
I asked Julie Friedman, a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) at Employers Association why employers ask these types of questions during interviews. Here’s what she told me. Interviews have one purpose: to narrow down the job candidates until there is just one left standing. It’s a process of elimination. By the time you get to an interview, the employer has a pretty good idea that you can do the job, but so can ten other candidates. Stress questions (as they are sometimes called) tell an interviewer how well you’ll handle the day-to-day pressures of the job and what it might be like to work with you.
Stress questions have many variations: the worst boss, most annoying coworker, your biggest mistake, unreasonable deadline… any question that asks for negative information about you, your past employer, jobs or coworkers are designed to do one thing: kick you off the island.
But there is a flip side. These questions are also the perfect set-up for the prepared candidate to shine. Here’s how.
Listen carefully to the question. Rather than hearing it as an invitation to complain, find a way to relate the question to one of your STAR stories. Here’s an example. The interviewer says “tell me about a time you had an unreasonable deadline.” First reframe the request to set a positive (or at least neutral) tone. You could say “when I was first asked to do project x it didn’t seem reasonable but I knew it had to be done.” Then go on to explain the Situation, your Task, the Action you took, and the positive Result. Voila! You’re a STAR.
You don’t have any STAR stories? Here are a couple of good resources to get you started.
Watch for an upcoming article in ISPEAK for more tips on creating and telling your own STAR stories.
Tom Melander is a Career & Workforce Development Consultant. He serves on the Career Counselor Content Advisory of ISEEK, and is the Workforce Development Editor of the Minnesota IT Commons website. Tom is a University of Minnesota graduate, and is in his third career after 8 years in sales and 12 years in performing arts (during the latter he developed his own ninja-like ability to find or create meaningful work). Tom’s mission is to advance, engage and integrate the best qualities and highest potentials of the people around him.