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On confidential matters…

Your interviewer may press you for this information for two reasons.

First, many companies use interviews to research the competition. It’s a perfect set-up. Here in their own lair, is an insider from the enemy camp who can reveal prized information on the competition’s plans, research, financial condition, etc.

Second, the company may be testing your integrity to see if you can be cajoled or bullied into revealing confidential data.

What to do? The answer here is easy. Never reveal anything truly confidential about a present or former employer. By all means, explain your reticence diplomatically. For example, “I certainly want to be as open as I can about that. But I also wish to respect the rights of those who have trusted me with their most sensitive information, just as you would hope to be able to trust any of your key people when talking with a competitor…”

And certainly you can allude to your finest achievements in specific ways that don’t reveal the combination to the company safe.

But be guided by the golden rule. If you were the owner of your present company, would you feel it ethically wrong for the information to be given to your competitors? If so, steadfastly refuse to reveal it.

Remember that this question pits your desire to be cooperative against your integrity. Faced with any such choice, always choose integrity. It is a far more valuable commodity than whatever information the company may pry from you. Moreover, once you surrender the information, your stock goes down. They will surely lose respect for you.

One President we know always presses candidates unmercifully for confidential information. If he doesn’t get it, he grows visibly annoyed, relentlessly inquisitive, It’s all an act. He couldn’t care less about the information. This is his way of testing the candidate’s moral fiber. Only those who hold fast are hired.



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Why do you want to work at our company?

This question is your opportunity to hit the ball out of the park, thanks to the in-depth research you should do before any interview.

Best sources for researching your target company: annual reports, the corporate newsletter, contacts you know at the company or its suppliers, advertisements, articles about the company in the trade press.


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What do you see as the proper role/mission of…

…a good (job title you’re seeking);
…a good manager;
…an executive in serving the community;
…a leading company in our industry; etc.

Think of the most essential ingredients of success for each category above – your job title, your role as manager, your firm’s role, etc.
Identify at least three but no more than six qualities you feel are most important to success in each role. Then commit your response to memory.
Here, again, the more information you’ve already drawn out about the greatest wants and needs of the interviewer, and the more homework you’ve done to identify the culture of the firm, the more on-target your answer will be.



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Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Reassure your interviewer that you’re looking to make a long-term commitment…that this position entails exactly what you’re looking to do and what you do extremely well. As for your future, you believe that if you perform each job at hand with excellence, future opportunities will take care of themselves.


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What would you do if a fellow executive on your own corporate level wasn’t pulling his/her weight…and this was hurting your department?

Try to gauge the political style of the firm and be guided accordingly. In general, fall back on universal principles of effective human relations – which in the end, embody the way you would like to be treated in a similar circumstance.


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