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The job interviewing process has changed a lot in recent years. If you're heading into an interview hoping to land a new job, it's more important than ever to make sure you have solid answers ready for the difficult questions you'll likely be asked. The hiring process is moving quickly, with many employers making job offers faster in an attempt to address talent shortages. At the same time, candidates often are interviewing with more than one company simultaneously. With so many unfilled positions, employers know that if the interviewing and vetting process takes too long, candidates will accept new jobs elsewhere. "Employers realize that they need to be more flexible now [since] the labor market is so tight," said Lizzie Rahm, SHRM-SCP, senior HR manager at Clark Nuber, a public accounting firm in Bellevue, Wash. "As a job candidate, this change allows you more professional options than ever before." Interviewing schedules are being tightened up, so expect to have multiple interviews stacked very tightly with key players, usually over one day, whether in person or virtually. Each interview typically is about 30 minutes, with the entire process often completed in just a week and an offer coming (or not) within days after the last interview. Some employers are making job offers just hours after completing the final interview. Never assume that the interviews will be easy. On the contrary, they've become harder as employers are taking extra precautions, especially when they meet with candidates online only. Questions are different, challenging, and designed to accurately decipher your skills and personality. * Why Candidates Fail "The top reason candidates fail is that they aren't well-prepared and haven't researched the employer thoroughly," said Michael O'Leary, an executive recruiter and managing director of Kingston Dwight Associates in Boston. "You need to consider this. Are you looking for a job? Or do you want a career opportunity where you can enhance your long-term marketability? Too many candidates are coming off as entitled and self-focused and not approaching this as a partnership where both parties win. They don't emphasize their genuine interest in the company, job and why they want to work there." Consider the example of an HR specialist with just a few years of post-college experience. She was contacted by an Amazon recruiter who saw her profile on LinkedIn and scheduled a call to discuss an available job that paid much more than her current position. "I heard that Amazon interviews were tough and very job-specific, with many situational questions. So I researched to get as much information about the company and division as possible, and I asked people in my network for insight," the specialist said. "The best advice I got was spot on. They told me to be ready to discuss Amazon's Leadership Principles. The company embodies them and wants every worker to live by them. I did get several questions where I needed to know and identify certain principles, and if I hadn't studied them, I'd have failed and lost the job. Instead, I was well-prepared and got hired." Another new trend is a willingness among employers to hire employees who don't live anywhere near the company's work locations. In these cases, "candidates must stress how they'll work the company's hours wherever they are," Rahm said. "I inquire about how many hours they work remotely now. If it's not 100 percent remote, I try to determine how they would like to work at home every day. Many hiring managers worry about how this person will stay connected and feel a part of our organization when they are an airplane flight away." * Expect Challenging Questions HR professionals seeking a new position must stay on top of industry trends and news. Read everything you can find from reputable sources about changes and challenges in the field and be ready to explain how these impact the type of job you do. This insight will allow you to impress employers once the interview questions start flowing. In HR, you'll likely be asked many situational questions where your answer requires specific work examples. Craft some in advance to illustrate how you've successfully dealt with difficult situations and used a key skill to solve a problem. If the position is remote, be ready to answer how you stay engaged with the team and people managers. HR professionals must be ready to explain how they'll be available 24/7 to employees who need help or guidance, whether they work in person or remotely. "As a potential employer, we also want to know your career goals and what motivates you to determine if you and the company are aligned so that you can be successful working for us," Rahm said. O'Leary offered a sound approach for job seekers. "Focus on communicating the value that you would bring to the employer, and offer work examples that demonstrate that value," he advised. "In other words, focus on why you can meet the employer's needs and not just on what you want." In addition, be prepared to discuss salary. If you don't know your worth in today's marketplace, do some research through a range of free online resources, and be sure to confirm that the data offered is timely and accurate. Questions You Should Ask Asking questions allows you to decide if you want to work for that company and boss. O'Leary offers a question he likes to hear from candidates: "When you looked at my resume, what captured your interest?" The answer tells you what that hiring manager thinks is important and where your value is for that company. "Be sure you emphasize this during the interview," he said. Rahm added that it's critical to ask probing questions. "Be thorough. You could be falling into a mess," she explained. "You can't succeed if you're putting out fires all day. Get a reading on what the work culture is like now. Some companies have become toxic. Ask how the pandemic impacted the company, HR, employees and workloads. Were there layoffs? Are any planned?" She added, "Listen to your gut, and if it's sending out red flags, walk away." Another key question to ask is, "What are the three things you would want to be completed in the first six months that would make me successful in this role?" Then consider whether these can be completed in the time frame noted. And when speaking with your potential boss, ask, "Can you describe your management style?" Answers to these questions can be very revealing. Clues are there, so don't ignore them. Remember that it's a job seeker's market with many jobs available, so make sure you accept a position at a company where you can thrive.