In the third installment of our Interview Series, we focus on Interview Questions and how you can prepare for them.
Watch Our Interview Questions Video:
Interview Questions: Ask & Respond
It is impossible for you to prepare 100% for all interview questions you might get. That being said, it pays to know as much as you can about the company and the position you are interviewing for. Tap into your network to build insight into the role if possible. Use Glassdoor.com to see if anyone has posted a review with the same job title you are applying for. Moreover, you should spend some time reflecting about yourself, your strengths, weaknesses, and goals.
Don’t attempt to memorize answers, because it will sound and feel artificial to the interviewer. Instead, practice the some interview questions at home, and make sure you look your interview partner in the eye while you answer the question in an organized manner without rambling on. Try to be structured in your answers and use words like first, second, third or on the one hand… on the other… This shows the interviewer that you are organized and that you can quickly explain complex situations succinctly.
Also, you want to put yourself briefly in the interviewer’s shoes and understand what they are trying to achieve. They aren’t interested in hiring you to help you achieve your career goals – they want to hire someone who will help them reach their targets in the organization. In short, an interview is about you, but it’s much more about how you can assist them in. Use this as a frame of reference when answering interview questions, and do your best to craft answers that make it clear how you will help the interviewer and the company rather than just focusing on yourself.
1. Practice Basic Interview Questions
Sometimes the opening questions can be the toughest. The good thing is you are in control and with some preparation and structure you can really shine and hit if off the right way. All of the following questions can be prepared in advance, and hence I urge you to practice them by writing down your answers in bullet points. Once you have done that, you can take it a step further and practice them one on one without notes just like you would in an interview.
- Tell me about yourself.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Why do you want this particular job?
- Why are you a good fit for this role?
- Where would do you see yourself in five years from now?
- Why should we hire you?
- What do you want to work for XYZ?
- What did you not like about your last job?
- Why do you want to leave your current job? -or – Why did you quit?
- How long have you worked as….?
- What can you tell me about OUR COMPANY?
- Tell me about your experience in FIELD XYZ?
- How do you think your skill set meets our requirements?
- What new skills did you acquire in the last 12 months?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- If I were to hire you today, what would make you an asset to our company?
- What are your hobbies?
- What is important for you to be happy in your job?
- What does the perfect boss look like to you?
All of these questions are laden with opportunities to reveal more to the interviewer than they are allowed to ask themselves, so keep it brief and mostly about your professional life. There is no need to share your age, marital status, if you have children, or time-consuming hobbies – they all might be held against you.
Keep it about your education and career and throw in a small personal detail at the end. For example, “I graduated from State University with a degree in Business Administration, and in the past I’ve worked in sales and marketing roles for large consumer packaged goods companies in the area, focusing on new product launches. In my spare time, I enjoy pick-up basketball with friends.”
Of course, if your hobbies align with any of the company’s core values you should highlight that. For example, if you are a Greenpeace activist and you apply for a job at an organic granola producer, then this shows them that your core values are aligned with their own, which automatically increases the chances of them liking you and generally people hire people they like.
2. Prepare Performance Questions
This kind of typical interview question is based on your behavior and performance. Rather than trying to practice hundreds of different questions, it is more important to understand what your results were, and how you contributed to the bottom line. Just like in the resume, you have to be able to hit home the following 3 points in your answers:
- How did you make your employer more money?
- How did you save your employer money?
- How did you increase customer satisfaction?
Positioning your answers in that way shows an interviewer that you truly understand what business is about and that you have a proven track record of achieving success. Always highlight the output you produced, not the input it took. For example, do not talk about how long and hard you worked on something, but rather what outcomes you achieved.
In some cases, those three key points may not apply directly, and the interviewer may simply be interested in how you drove results that can’t be quantified in dollars or customer satisfaction.
3. Challenge / Conflict / Dislike Questions
Every job comes with problems and if you work long enough with somebody a conflict will be inevitable. Therefore, your interviewer wants to know how you deal with difficult situations. Will you bring the team down by spreading a bad mood or will you pave to way to a solution that makes everybody happy? That’s what they are trying to figure out.
Therefore, you should prepare an example of how you mastered a difficult situation in each of the following instances :
- a customer
- a coworker
- a boss
- when you made a mistake
4. Truth & Big Picture Questions
Sometimes, interviewers will ask seemingly pointless questions that are completely unrelated to the job or the interview. Generally, the goal of those kind of questions is to find out if you say the truth or if you can see the big picture.
If you were at a business lunch and you ordered a rare steak and they brought it to you well done, what would you do?
Nobody cares about the steak, but if you have a business lunch, it’s about business and the lunch just sets the frame. The wrong answer would be:” I send it back, and demand an apology from the manager” because this is about business, not the steak and by making a scene you may screw up the business deal. Therefore, the better answer would be: “I eat it and focus on the conversation.”
If you are driving, downtown and the speed limit is 30 mph but everybody drives 35mph. What do you do?
In real life, chances are very high that you would adapt to traffic and drive 35 mph, so these questions could be used to figure out if you answer questions truthfully. Because if you lie here, you probably lie about other questions too. However, if you interview for a position as a controller or accountant, saying you adapt and you drive 35 mph could backfire because it is important that you are accurate and reliable at all times. You see, there is no absolute right or wrong answer, and you just have to understand that if the question doesn’t seem relevant, it is about something bigger than just the answer.
Obviously, you cannot learn fixed answers to all of these questions be endless, which is why you want to learn principles . To practice here are a few more questions:
- How would you way a plane if you did not have a scale?
- Tell me 10 ways to use this pencil other than writing.
- Sell me this pen
- Why are tennis balls fuzzy?
- If you could be a superhero, who would you be and why?
If you prepare all your answers and make a good impression, you will most likely discuss your salary. Entire books have been written about this topic, but you should definitely think about the salary, and why you are worth it. Again if you can argue how you will make money, save money or make customers happier you have a very strong bargaining position and can demand a higher salary than others.
Here are some common salary questions:
- If I gave you the salary you ask for and I let you write your job description for the coming year, what would it say?
- What’s your salary history?
- What salary are you seeking?
Career Development Questions
More often than not, interviewers want people who can see themselvers grow with the company because high turnover is expensive for businesses. As such, they may want to see what your aspirations are for your career in general and this job in particular. Typical questions include:
- What is your career goal?
- How do you want to improve yourself in the next year?
- What goals would you have if you got this job?
- If I asked your last manager about you, what kind of training would he or she suggest for you?
5. Ask Smart Questions Yourself
An interviewer will be suspicious of someone who has NO questions at the end of an interview. Prepare 2-3 good questions about the company, or the position in advance, and jot down questions as they come to mind during the interview. For example ask about:
- What skills would a successful person in this role need?
- What current projects would the candidate need to start working on right away?
- What training is offered at the beginning of the role?
- What are the next steps in the interview process?
Conclusion – Do Your Homework
Just as mentioned in previous guides. It all boils down to being prepared. You can’t change your strengths and weaknesses for an interview but you can prepare, structure your thoughts and be the best you can possibly can be.
If you haven’t done so already, check out our other two guides and stay tuned for our next installment on Interview Tips for the day of.