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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What's your job IQ (Interview Question)?

Happy April, folks! Spring is coming on fast and strong, and all kinds of things are waking up and greening up and growing up. They need planting or cutting or trimming or weeding or feeding. My husband Benny is on the mend from open heart surgery in January and is starting up with his furniture refinishing sideline business again. After a slow winter, three good job opportunities have come up within the last two weeks, so I have my applications in and am keeping my fingers crossed. My hopefully temporary factory job has been fun lately. I have a brand new pair of eye glasses, thanks to the company I'm working for. After 5 years, I can see again - yes! We've been spending a lot of time out on the lot at the factory inspecting new cars - and since the new car lot is so big, they buy us lunch. You can't hardly beat a deal where they pay you and feed you to get exercise and a sun tan! :)

Anyway, thinking back to all the job interviews I've gone to in the last few years, I thought it might be fun to start a series on some of the interview questions I've encountered. I got out on the web and searched for other sites that might deal with this topic. I've found tons of expert advise, but not much where people share their own experiences and offer their own thoughts. So I thought I would deal with one question a week, as time allows, and say how I would answer it, and hopefully, other readers will chime in with their own thoughts and experiences.

Let's just have fun with it! :)

As I come across useful sites, I will post links. Here's another job blogger that offers some really great insights into job-hunting from her own personal experience! And she's a photographer to boot! :)

So here's my first question. In several positions I have interviewed for, I've been asked,

"What's your idea (or definition) of customer service?"

That question seems to come up a lot, even in companies and in positions where you don't necessarily deal directly with the outside customer. At the University we had a lot of professional development seminars on Total Quality Management and identifying the internal customer, who could be your boss, your colleagues, or other departments in the company. So I guess a place to start may be to ask the interviewer to comment on whom they think the customers are, with regards to this position. In addition to demonstrating general human consideration and courtesy and responsiveness and professionalism, I think I need to know who my customer is, and what may they be "buying" from me, before I can give concretely helpful answers to the interviewers on how I would approach giving the best possible customer service. The other thing I would ask myself is why the interviewer is asking me this question - what information is he/she trying to discover. For instance, do I seem service-oriented? Am I flexible (interruptable) and responsive (quick to get back to people)? Am I easy to get a hold of? Am I a good listener and adequately analytical so that I understand and deliver what the customer wants? Am I attentive? Am I courteous and diplomatic? Do my products work correctly and are they reliable and do I give good customer support for them? How do I deal with realistic and unrealistic customer expecations?

As a programmer/analyst with a background in education as well (and with a bent toward constructist and cognitivist learning theories), I believe the involvement of the customer is essential. And even though we may have limited access to the customer's time, the success or failure of a particular design project may hinge on how well the customer feels that he is able to put things together in his own head. Modern systems design and analysis techniques with their emphasis on systematic and methodological approaches would do well to consider the customer cognition component as well. Part of customer service is scaffolding that process, as I did with an agency in town who were trying to match their business requirements to an off-the-shelf piece of software they had previously acquired.

One unusual twist to this question that I had in an interview was,

"Tell me about a time you absolutely over-joyed a customer."

In my line of work I have had opportunity to make people happy - I told about the time when I developed a "kick ass" service and salvage program to do exactly what my customer wanted in their favorite low budget software package which at the time was Filemaker Pro, or when I developed the Order System and cut a labor intensive task that took a week down to three days every two weeks - and the users loved it because it was soooo easy ... and there are other stories as well. But sometimes you have to stop and really think because while the customer may be very pleased, he may not be a gushing personality, or you may not hear the positive feedback first hand.

Well, that's all for now. One advantage to blogging about interview questions is that I can just tell my interviewers to read my blog. Ha! (Just kidding). But sometimes it would be nice to have more time to consider one's answers, wouldn't it?

Stay tuned for more job IQs (interview questions). ;) And in the meantime, happy spring and happy job-hunting! And here's some May Flowers for you. :)



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