Preparing questions, points for interview shows interest

The market is red hot for job changers, especially those in sought after specialties. People are on the move and these are the questions they are asking:

Dear Joan:
Is it considered rude or ill prepared to bring a list of questions you want to ask to the interview? I have so many questions that I would like to ask and I know that I will probably be a little bit nervous and I just want to make sure that I don’t miss any.

An interview is not a final exam. No one expects you to memorize all of your questions before hand, or even your answers, for that matter. In fact, when candidates show up without paper and pen, it makes them look as if they aren’t taking the interview very seriously.

I recommend preparing several categories of questions. First, focus on the job itself. For example, "What results are expected?" "What is a typical day like?" or, "What problems or issues would you like to see solved?" The next categories are the manager and workgroup questions. For instance, "What are your pet peeves?" "What is your preferred style of communication?" and "Could you describe the current work group and how they work together?" Finally, ask questions about the company, benefits and salary, "How would you describe the culture of the company?" "What is the total monetary and non-monetary compensation package for this position?" Sometimes these questions will be asked over the course of several interviews, starting with a focus on the job itself.

Prepare some bullet points of stories and experiences you want to mention. In the heat of the interview, you will be glad you have a "cheat sheet" to refer to. Before the interview is finished, it’s perfectly acceptable to check your list to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. Any good interviewer will be impressed that you care enough to be that thorough.

Dear Joan:
I have been working for the same company in customer service for six years. I feel I have outgrown my position, and I’m ready for a career change.

1.      How can I use good references from my current job if they do not know I am looking? What is the proper etiquette?

2.      If I were to get right in to another company right away, how would I approach the vacation time in the interview? Ideally, I would like to find a job where I would not have to start right away. I have an opportunity to travel to Europe.

3.      How much time before starting would be reasonable to bring up in an interview? I do not feel comfortable quitting my job before lining up another.

Regarding references, try to find references from former jobs that are still fresh enough to be relevant. Employers prefer current managers above all other references, but they are happy to talk with former managers as well. They recognize that you don’t want to tip your hand where you work. They will respect your wishes if you say, "My current boss doesn’t know I am looking, so I’d appreciate it if you would keep this confidential."

If you want to take a trip to Europe between jobs, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for that in the negotiation process. If the trip isn’t going to last more than a week or two, it shouldn’t pose much of a problem. Of course, some managers will be desperate to fill an empty position and will want you to start right away, but if you’re the right candidate, they will wait. However, if you must give several weeks notice, then take several weeks for a vacation, it may disqualify you in certain circumstances, if another candidate can jump in right away.

You’re wise not to quit your job first. Most people who take new jobs start several weeks later. But everything is negotiable.

Dear Joan:
I am in a situation where I have recently moved to a city and started a new job with a great company where I know I will gain a tremendous amount of experience. Just recently, my husband has been offered a wonderful job, which will require us to move very shortly. I don’t know how to break the news so suddenly, when I just accepted a position. I don’t want to upset or anger anyone where I’m working. Please advise me on the best and proper way to handle the situation regarding my resignation.

Waiting won’t make it any better. In fact, it will make it worse. The longer you stall, the more difficult you will make it for everyone involved. You may upset and disappoint the people who have just hired you, but it will be worse if they begin to give you projects, invest in training you, or otherwise involve you in things you won’t be able to fulfill. If you tell them now, at least they may be able to go back to the stack of resumes from your job opening and find someone else who could take the job.

A suggested approach is to get a timeline from your husband on the estimated date that you will be leaving, and then approach your manager directly and with utmost disappointment and humble apology. Be very clear about the fact that you had no idea that this was going to happen. Offer to take on any short-term project, so that you can be as productive as possible in the time you have left. Or if that isn’t feasible, offer to work as long as you can.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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