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5 tricky questions your boss will ask (and how to answer them)

Landing a job doesn't mean your days of navigating difficult questions are over. You should be prepared to handle sticky queries if and when your boss lobs them your way.

You may face one or more of these awkward questions at some point in your career. Here are ways you can respond to them professionally so you don't damage the relationship with your boss.

1. "Are you looking for a new job?"
If you're putting yourself back on the job market, tell the truth. Chances are that your boss has a good reason for asking, so a denial will only make you look bad. But don't overshare. This question isn't an invitation to air all your complaints about the position or the company. When responding, keep the focus on you and your career. And keep the answer short and to the point:

  • "I'm interested in exploring positions in a different industry."
  • "I'm thinking about relocating to another city."
  • "A former colleague contacted me about an exciting opportunity, and I feel I should look into it."
  • "I'm looking for a position with more flexibility."
  • "I don't feel I'm making much progress here."

If your boss presses for details, be polite and reiterate the reason you just gave. Then, emphasize that you're committed to doing your job to the best of your ability.

2. "Have you heard the latest about Jamie?"
Co-workers who spread rumors are difficult enough to deal with, but having a boss who engages in office gossip is a potential nightmare. The trick is declining to participate without sounding like a scold or Goody Two-shoes. Your best option is to give a noncommittal response such as, "I really haven't heard," and then either change the topic or leave the conversation. Maintain an attitude of polite disinterest. Once your boss realizes you're not a gossiper, he will drop the subject.

3. "How would you rate my performance as a manager?"
This question is particularly tricky because you might not know your boss's motivation. Has upper management requested that she seek feedback from employees, or is she genuinely interested in constructive criticism? Maybe she's just fishing for compliments. If the latter, an honest critique could hurt the relationship with your boss.

To stay on safe ground, lead with positive feedback. If she presses for ways on how she could improve, there's no need to make a laundry list. Choose one aspect of her managerial style that could use some work, and make it actionable. For example, you could tell her, "The next time there's a new project, I'd like a little more guidance so I don't go in the wrong direction."

4. "How would you rate your performance during Q3?"
Balance is the key when it comes to this sticky question. Start by outlining what you did well, and reference tangible results such as exceeding goals or meeting tight deadlines. Then discuss a few ways you might do better next time. To show you're serious about self-improvement, ask your boss for his assessment — and any tips for Q4.

5. "Can you take on this project (that no one else will do)?"
You may feel that you have to say yes to every request in order to maintain a good relationship with your boss. While it's occasionally necessary to "take one for the team," you need to be honest about how Project X will affect your present workload and whether it's within the scope of your job description.

If you're genuinely reluctant to lead this project, tell your manager that you simply don't have the bandwidth to do it justice and get all of your regular assignments done on time. But also think about what may happen if you agree: If leading Project X will win you points with the boss and prove your leadership skills, it might be worth the extra work to say yes — this time.

Sticky questions can catch you off guard. And depending on how you answer them, you could risk jeopardizing an otherwise healthy relationship with your boss. Tact, honesty and careful wording are strategies that will serve you well in smoothing over potentially awkward situations.

Robert Half is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 400 staffing and consulting locations worldwide. For more information about our professional services, visit roberthalf.com. For additional career advice, read our blog at blog.roberthalf.com or follow us on social media at roberthalf.com/follow-us.


How to turn your Twitter into a valuable industry resource

If you already have a Twitter account, no doubt you already know the great value of this social media platform. But did you know that you can turn your twitter into a valuable resource for your industry? It’s true; you can, and there are plenty of reasons why you should want to do this. Creating an industry resource with your Twitter builds your reputation and helps you gain influence. Here are the steps to follow to make this happen.

1. Make a list of influencers 

Carefully construct Twitter lists of the people you’d like to emulate. These can be leaders in your industry or field, people unanimously respected in the industry, or new up-and-comers who are rapidly gaining popularity in your field. Also, you can look at other influencer’s lists, such as Robert Scoble, to find ideas of people who should be on yours. You can even subscribe to public lists of other people on Twitter.

2. Start curating 

Great industry leaders such as Maxwell Systems collect or ‘curate’ resources that will be useful for their followers. Maxwell has become well-known in the construction technology sector for being so good at finding great resources to share with their followers. So how do you find this great stuff to share? You can start by sharing the best snippets of content from the blogs that you’re already reading. In addition, you can frequently find good material from your Twitter lists.

It’s also a good idea to keep a close eye on news headlines. Watch for any breaking stories with relevance to your field or industry, and share them on your Twitter. Subscribe to newsletters that you find informative and like pages on Facebook that post interesting content. Be a student of your industry or field and make a conscious effort to always be learning.

Read books and magazine or journal articles written by experts in the field, and listen to podcasts by experts. Attend webinars and conferences, and always have a pen and paper ready to take notes. You never know when you’ll come across some inspiration for great content.

While you’re curating this content, there are two important things to consider. First, always give credit where credit’s due. If you’re using content created by someone else, be sure to acknowledge them for it. Also, try not to just pass along this information. If you’re really serious about using your Twitter to become a valuable industry resource, you should make your own contributions to the wealth of material that’s already out there.

This means that you should expound upon the material that you’re curating. Why is it so good? What makes it valuable? What are some important points that the original creator might have failed to mention? Think about and explain these things to your audience.

Another important tip to keep in mind: you should be using a tool to schedule your tweets. Buffer and HootSuite are two good ones worth checking out.

3. Build a following 

Once you’ve found great influencers and have started to accrue some great content, the next step is to build your own following. One of the brilliant minds behind Tweet Smarter, Dave Larson, says that the answer to building a following on Twitter is finding a ‘Super Advocate.’ And you find this, Larson explains, by becoming a ‘super advocate’ for someone else.

This means that you do everything you can to support that person, from retweeting their tweets to commenting on their tweets and giving shout outs that praise them on your own Twitter. Why is this strategy so effective? It all goes back to the golden rule: do unto others as you would like them to do unto you. Endorsing someone else on Twitter makes it much more likely that you will be endorsed on Twitter. Remember, what goes around comes around. It pays to be nice.

Becoming an industry resource on Twitter is an essential part of establishing yourself as a leader in your industry. With the right influencers, a curation of great content and a good following, there’s no limit to what you can do!

Adrienne Erin is a freelance writer and social media marketer who loves picking apart social campaigns to see how they tick. To see more of her work, follow @adrienneerin on Twitter or visit her blog.