Higher Ground Associates


Jumpstart Your Job Search™ Newsletter


Vol. 1, No. 1



Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Jumpstart Your Job Search™ Newsletter.  Enjoy! 

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In This Issue

The "Simple" Interview Question That Most Candidates Fumble

Job Search Q&A

Featured Resource

Jumpstart Your Job Search Teleseminar Preview


The "Simple" Interview Question
That Most Candidates Fumble

by Catherine Palma


What interview question trips you up the most? 


When I ask a client that question in an interview coaching session the answers I hear most often are:  

  • Tell me about your greatest weakness? 
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • Can you tell me what salary you expect?


But there is another question that can be one of the most important that the interviewer will ask.  And yet most candidates treat this question like a "throwaway".  So what is the million dollar question?  It's . . .


"Do you have any questions for me?"


It's a simple question, really, and easy to overlook.  But if you handle it correctly, your answer can make the difference between an offer and a rejection letter.  Before I talk about the best ways to answer this question, first let's look at two of the worst answers.


1.      "No, not really, but thank you for your time."  


This is by far the most common response to this question.   While it may not hurt your chances, it certainly won't leave a positive last impression.  At best, this response makes you look bored and disinterested.  


2.  "Can you tell me about the salary and benefits package?"

  ". . .and while you're at it, how about those company perks, flex time and extra vacation time.  And, oh yeah, do you pay relocation expenses?"

OK, so maybe you wouldn't really say all that, but asking about compensation too soon may leave the impression that you're only interested in the job for the money.  (Even if that is your primary motivation, you won't endear yourself to the potential employer by being so obvious.)


Detailed conversations about compensation are best left to a later stage in the interview process -- most likely when the company has indicated an interest in making you an offer.  Of course if the interviewer broaches the subject, then questions are appropriate (within reason).


So how do you handle the "question" question? 


Here are some of my favorite responses.


1.  Ask about things that are important to you.  For example:   

  • "Can you tell me about the team dynamic?"
  • "What types of people tend to be most successful in this type of position at XYZ Company?"
  • "What is the typical career path for someone in this position within your organization?"  

NOTE: A skilled interviewee can often find ways to work these types of questions into the body of the interview rather than saving them to the end.   

2.  "In my first six months (or year) on the job, what is the most important thing you would like me to accomplish?"   

First of all, notice the wording.  There is a subtle message that you are already picturing yourself in the position.  And that just may help the interviewer picture you in the role as well.

Secondly, this response indicates curiosity about and sensitivity to the company's and the hiring manager's most urgent needs.  If you can respond with an example of how you have accomplished something similar in the past and/or outline a prospective plan of action, you've aced this question.


3.  “Based on our conversation so far, what is your biggest concern about my suitability for this role?”  

Yes, this is a tough one -- no one wants to invite criticism.  But if you can muster the courage to "face the music" and then craft a compelling response, you just might pull an otherwise lost cause out of the fire.  (FYI -- some interviewers will avoid answering this question and I wouldn't advise pushing for a response.  Many, however, will be quite candid.)

So here's how it's done:  Thank the interviewer for being honest, acknowledge his or her concerns, then provide a tactful rebuttal.   Whenever possible include examples of ways in which you've overcome similar obstacles in the past. 

To pull this off successfully you need to have an honest assessment of your strengths and past accomplishments, as well as your potential weaknesses, as they relate to the position qualifications.  It will also help if you've developed some skill at reading interviewer body language.  If you've paid attention to those things in advance, you'll probably already have a good idea of the potential objections.

One final note:  Be sensitive to the fact that the interviewer may be running short on time by the time he or she asks this question.  If that seems to be the case, keep your responses succinct or offer to continue the conversation either in person or over the phone at a later time.





Would you like some assistance brushing up on your interview skills?


Higher Ground Associates has several services to meet your needs.  Please visit www.highergroundassoc.com/career.htm or contact me at cathy@highergroundassoc.com for more information.



Job Search Q&A 

Q:  How do 50+ job seekers effectively differentiate themselves from younger job seekers?  (C.L., Pennsylvania)


A:  While it's wise recognize that age bias does exist, there are employers who seek out more seasoned employees. In the course of your networking, try to identify companies that already have a reputation for valuing their more experienced workers. You'll have a much better chance at success if you don't have to struggle to change an existing mindset.

When networking or approaching a potential employer, it's crucial to emphasize the benefits your experience will bring.  You might try prefacing your comments with something like, "Based on my 20 years of experience . . .", or, "My extensive experience has taught me . . ." In an interview you can point out a situation where you had to step in and correct a problem created by someone with less experience. (This can be a little tricky to pull off -- you don't want to sound overly critical -- but if handled with a bit of finesse this can be a very effective technique.) Emphasizing your skills as a mentor can also be very effective.

It can be a little trickier when sending a resume without the opportunity for a conversation, but you could use some of the same tactics in your cover letter. Some people de-emphasize or omit their early career and/or dates of education from their resumes, but most savvy recruiters and hiring managers see through that.

The most important thing is that you truly believe that your experience is a selling point. If you're not convinced of it, it will be difficult to convince anyone else.


Featured Resource


The Directory of Executive & Professional Recruiters


This handy directory contains a listing of over 13,000 recruiters in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.  The listings are cross referenced by geography, industry and functional specialty.

 This directory is available in the reference section of many public libraries, or you can purchase a copy online.  Purchasing a copy also grants you access to a searchable online version.

Your feedback is valued and appreciated.  Do you have a comment, suggestion for a topic you would like to see covered in a future article, or a question for our Job Search Q&A?  Please email me at cathy@highergroundassoc.com.


If you know others who are in career transition, please use the "Forward email" link below my signature to send them a copy of this newsletter.


Best wishes in your transition,


Catherine Palma
Higher Ground Associates

Jumpstart Your Job Search™ Teleseminar Series  Free Preview Call

To enter to win a full scholarship to the complete six week series, register for the free preview and enter a job search question on the registration form. 

The preview call
will be held

 Wed., June 16, 2010
7:30 pm EST 

 (This call will be recorded)


Are you frustrated, stalled or overwhelmed in your job search?  (Or do you know someone who is?)  If so, please join us for this special introduction to the Jumpstart Your Job Search™ Teleseminar Series. 


In this preview call you will learn: 

  • The crucial first step that many job seekers skip
  • How to use the best job search weapon in your arsenal (Hint: You already have it and it didn't cost you a dime) 
  • What a recruiter is really looking for in your resume during those crucial first 10-15 seconds  
  • Two attitude changes that can transform your interview experiences
  • The most powerful tool I know for combatting job search anxiety
  • And more. . .  


Attendees will also receive:

  • Answers to some of their job search questions (submitted on the registration form)
  • Special discounts and bonuses
  • Free recording of the preview call 


Register now


Click here for more information 



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© 2010, Higher Ground Associates and Catherine Palma.  All rights reserved.

The information provided in this newsletter is designed to be intellectually and conversationally stimulating, and for personal entertainment purposes only. You are responsible for what you do with this information and nothing in this newsletter is to be considered legal or personal advice.



















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