Ah, the joy of job interviews. The whole process seems to be a pretty inefficient way of hiring good employees, but it doesn’t look like it is going away any time soon.
Sad as it is, job interviews often reveal how skilled a person is at interviewing, rather than how good a fit they will be for the job. Rather than getting frustrated at the process, our best course of action is probably to go with the flow and learn how to play the game. So, what can we do about it? Be as prepared as possible!
Early in my career I would go to job interview, knowing that they were going to ask some tough anecdotal questions. I would just hope that I could whip out a great answer without a 90 second awkward pause as I tried to think of a time when I had a situation at work that I used problem-solving skills to solve.
After doing this interview after interview, a couple things started to dawn on me.
- Most of the interviewers often asked similar questions
- If I prepared beforehand I would have much more of an advantage than if I tried to navigate the archives of my brain while under the pressure of the interviewer.
So, next time I had an interview I decided to spend a few hours the night before thinking about stories of accomplishment, conflict resolution, and other answers to interview questions that might be asked. Three of the most common ones that I saw over and over in my job interviews were…
- How I helped solve a problem at work
- A time when I made a mistake and how I fixed it
- How I dealt with an unpleasant worker, etc.
So armed with my examples from my past, I would go into the interview and almost every time I would be able to work those examples in as an answer to their questions. The questions were often slightly different, but most of the time I could find a way to use that story as an answer to it – without the pressure or awkwardness of trying to think about it on the spot.
Having these answers prepared made a world of difference when I was sitting at the conference table. Instead of having to spend 30 seconds trying to think of a time when I helped the company improve it’s bottom line, I already had the answer rolling off my tongue. My job interviews never were more comfortable as when I was properly prepared!
- Tell me about yourself
- Why did you leave your last job?
- What qualities do you look for in a boss?
- Are you willing to work overtime? Nights? Weekends?
- Would you be willing to relocate if required?
- Why do you think you would do well at this job.
- What would your previous supervisor say your strongest point is?
- What motivates you?
- What are your salary expectations?
- What are your goals for the next five years / ten years? How do you plan to achieve those goals?
- What kind of person would you refuse to work with?
- Tell me about your ability to work under pressure.
- Tell me about a time that you participated in a team, what was your role?
- Do you prefer to work independently or on a team?
- What challenges are you looking for in a position?
- Why are you the best person for the job?
- What kind of contribution will you make to our company?
- What interests you most about this job?
- What have you learned from mistakes on the job?
- What kind of work do you enjoy the most?
- How do you deal with conflict?
- What are your special skills or abilities?
- Why should we hire you?
- Tell me about a time when you helped resolve a dispute between others.
- What is your greatest strength/weakness?
So, I suggest spending a couple hours the day before your interview answering these questions. Even better would be to have a spouse or friend ask them. Think of relevant examples from your work life that give the interviewer the answers they are looking for.
While you are preparing for your interview, become very familiar with the job description and job requirements and when applicable and true, work those points into your answers as well. If the interviewer is looking for someone who is proficient with Excel, then if you can make mention of how you used Excel in conversation – this will just help solidify that you are the person they are looking for!
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