Describer a situation
that didn’t suffer because of you but from external conditions beyond your
For example, describe the disappointment you felt with a test campaign,
new product launch, merger, etc., which looked promising at first, but led to
underwhelming results. “I wish we could have known at the start what we later
found out (about the economy turning, the marketplace changing, etc.), but
since we couldn’t, we just had to go for it. And we did learn from it…”
Unless you’re up for a position in academia or as book critic for The
New York Times, you’re not expected to be a literary lion. But it wouldn’t hurt
to have read a handful of the most recent and influential books in your
profession and on management.
Consider it part of the work of your job search to read up
on a few of these leading books. But make sure they are quality books that
reflect favorably upon you, nothing that could even remotely be considered
superficial. Finally, add a recently published bestselling work of fiction by a
world-class author and you’ll pass this question with flying colors.
I believe that when evaluating anything, it’s important to emphasize
the positive. What do I like about this idea?”
“Then, if you have reservations, I certainly want to point
them out, as specifically, objectively and factually as I can.”
“After all, the most important thing I owe my boss is
honesty. If he can’t count on me for that, then everything else I may do or say
could be questionable in his eyes.”
“But I also want to express my thoughts in a constructive
way. So my goal in this case would be to see if my boss and I could make his
idea even stronger and more appealing, so that it effectively overcomes any
initial reservation I or others may have about it.”
“Of course, if he overrules me and says, ‘no, let’s do it
my way,’ then I owe him my full and enthusiastic support to make it work as
best it can.”
First, before you even get to the interview stage, you should try to
minimize your image as job hopper. If there are several entries on your resume
of less than one year, consider eliminating the less important ones. Perhaps
you can specify the time you spent at previous positions in rounded years not
in months and years.
Example: Instead of showing three positions this way:
6/1982 – 3/1983, Position A;
4/1983 – 12/1983, Position B;
1/1984 – 8/1987, Position C;
…it would be better to show simply:
1982 – 1983, Position A;
1984 – 1987 Position C.
In other words, you would drop Position B altogether.
Notice what a difference this makes in reducing your image as a job hopper.
Once in front of the interviewer and this question comes
up, you must try to reassure him. Describe each position as part of an overall
pattern of growth and career destination.
Be careful not to blame other people for your frequent
changes. But you can and should attribute certain changes to conditions beyond
Example: Thanks to an upcoming merger, you wanted to avoid
an ensuing bloodbath, so you made a good, upward career move before your
department came under the axe of the new owners.
If possible, also show that your job changes were more
frequent in your younger days, while you were establishing yourself, rounding
out your skills and looking for the right career path. At this stage in your
career, you’re certainly much more interested in the best long-term
You might also cite the job where you stayed the longest
and describe that this type of situation is what you’re looking for now.
Many executives in a position to hire you are strong believers in
goal-setting. (It’s one of the reason they’ve achieved so much). They like to
hire in kind.
If you’re vague about your career and personal goals, it
could be a big turnoff to may people you will encounter in your job search.
Be ready to discuss your goals for each major area of your
life: career, personal development and learning, family, physical (health),
community service and (if your interviewer is clearly a religious person) you
could briefly and generally allude to your spiritual goals (showing you are a
well-rounded individual with your values in the right order).
Be prepared to describe each goal in terms of specific
milestones you wish to accomplish along the way, time periods you’re allotting
for accomplishment, why the goal is important to you, and the specific steps
you’re taking to bring it about. But do this concisely, as you never want to
talk more than two minutes straight before letting your interviewer back into