Guide to Effective Interviewing-Part II: Handling the Questions

When people think of interview preparation, it’s usually, “what questions will they ask me and what are the best answers?” This article will discuss typical questions and best answers but that’s not where we need to start.

The starting point is to get you so comfortable with your skills and work history that you can finesse an answer to ANY question, even ones that we could ever anticipate. With that in mind, your first task is to over the items that follow and write the best responses you can.

I. List personality traits or skills you have that are related to the job you are interviewing for.

II. List 3-5 accomplishments that would be of interest to the person interviewing you.

III. What is the MOST IMPORTANT thing you want this employer to know about you?

IV. What is the second most important thing?

V. What concern(s) might this employer have about you? What can you say to alleviate their concerns?

Look over what you have written and edit or modify it until you have good material, then commit it to memory. In this case, committing it to memory does not mean verbatim recall of the words but simply your ability to recall, with complete ease, these basic facts since they will be worth sharing during the interview.

The above exercise will help you navigate through some of the toughest interview questions there are, including what we call behavior-based interview questions. Behavior-based questioning is built on the premise that your past performance is an indication of your future performance. As such, an employer will create questions that ask you to recall specifics about what you did. These questions can be extremely difficult if you have not prepared for them in advance. Even if you are not asked a true behavior-based question, I encourage you to respond in the classic behavior-based mode because these responses, when executed correctly, will really impress your interviewer.

Behavior-based questions typically start with the wording, ‘Tell me about a time…’. Here is an example of a behavior-based question and an appropriately worded response:

Question: Tell me about a time when you had to overcome a difficult obstacle at work.

Sample response: Well, early on in my employment as a sales representative for Prentice-Hall, I was not doing well. I had trouble getting appointments with former customers. After several rejections, I was able to convince a prior customer to see me and in that meeting, I learned that my predecessor did not keep his promises and had tarnished our company’s reputation. I then spent several days researching the records of all the accounts I was given to determine where problems had occurred. I called each of these customers to address the problems head-on and let them know this was a new beginning. I guaranteed them that I would oversee their accounts personally to make sure problems did not recur. The result is that I brought back 75% of lapsed accounts.
An answer like this tells the employer that this candidate has been tenacious, proactive, and conscientious in a prior job. Furthermore, the employer is likely to believe that these desirable attributes will be repeated if he hires this person. The ‘bones’ of this story can be used to answer a number of other questions. As an example, consider if the question was, “What do you think your greatest strength is?” This candidate could say, “I think my greatest strength is that I am tenacious. For example, early on in my employment…(continue as above).

Now, what I want you to do is develop your stories and know what those stories say about you and your achievements. Once you have your stories (three or four would be best), you can look for appropriate opportunities within the interview to share them.

Here are some general questions for you to review and prepare for prior to interviews.

1. What type of work are you looking for?
2. What is most important to you in a work situation?
3. What would your colleagues at your present (or past) job say was your best contribution there? What would your boss (or former boss) say?
4. What are your career goals for the future?
5. Please explain the gaps in your work history.
6. Are you better at working independently or on a team?
7. Tell me something that you would like to avoid in your next job?
8. Describe a time when you disagreed with your supervisor? What happened?
9. Out of the several bosses you have had, which one were you most comfortable reporting to and why?
10. Will you be able to provide references from prior employers?
11. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? Who gave it to you?
12. Are there other jobs you have held that are not on this resume?
13. Can you give me some examples of your ability to lead others?
14. How would you describe your relationship with your last few supervisors?
15. For salespeople: Convince me to move to your city.
16. How do you keep informed about what’s going on in this industry? (Or the industry you are coming from?)
17. Tell me about a time when you had to use persuasive skills to influence someone’s opinion.
18. Tell me about a situation in which you had to deal with an annoyed customer or co-worker.
19. Give me an example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
20. Can you tell me about a time when you motivated others?
21. Besides salary, what factors will help you make up your mind about a position you may be offered?
22. What other companies, or kinds of companies, are you pursuing now?
23. Give an example of a situation in which you solved a significant problem at work? Under what circumstances did the problem first get identified? Who was the person that first identified the problem?
24. Are you willing to travel?
25. Tell me bout your compensation at your present job.
26. If you were an animal, which species would you choose to join?
If you are up for some additional punishment, here are even more typical interview questions.

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