Interviews can be a daunting scenario for many; when there are many of us that have been in the workforce for several years and have either progressed within their own company wanting to try something new, or for those who want a complete career change. There are several trends today that have created a unique situation for individuals that are job searching. For example, research indicates that for every entry-level position, around 144 people apply. And for every professional-level position, around 80 people apply. On top of that, more organizations are warming up to options for remote work, which significantly increases the candidate pool. These days, people must bring their A-game with their resume as well as interview! So, for those of us who may be rusty on interviewing skills, or just not as polished as others on responding to the questions, it helps to have a general understanding of what may be thrown your way once you walk into that room. Below are several common interview questions that could potentially surface during an interview.

Tell me about your current and/or previous roles.

This one will creep into every interview in some form or fashion very early in the discussion. They have your resume. They’ve read through it, which is why they called you. So why are they asking this? This is an opportunity for you to highlight what experience you have that relates to their position. Before you step foot into the interview, you should consider the following for interview questions:

  • Many studies elude to the fact that most hiring managers will make their mind up within a minute or two of first meeting you if they think you’re a good fit or not. Outside of introductions, this will typically be one of the first questions asked. If it isn’t, then remember this for whatever the first question is! This first impression is probably more important than the one you made on your first crush in school…unless you are still together!
  • You are the star of this show…everyone else there already has a job with the organization! This is an opportunity to expand on what is bulleted out on that short 1-2 pages of paper summarizing your entire career. Leverage that opportunity and demonstrate how well your experience aligns to what they are looking for.
  • Take your time and ensure you understand the job posting you applied for. It isn’t necessary or even realistic at times to match every single requirement listed in a job posting, but it should be close. You should be prepared to connect a current or previous skill to the main ones listed in the posting.

Why are you looking to leave your current job?

This isn’t a trick question, and don’t answer it as such…unless you’re just trying to escape a bad manager or simply make more money. In that case, reconsider your response to this! For most people, this is going to be for reasons such as lack of professional growth opportunities, fear of position security, not aligning with the company’s vision/direction, or something similar. Be objective in the response, and ensure it doesn’t leave you sounding like an unreliable employee. In the response, it is best to tie the reason you’re looking to leave the current company into why moving to the new company will remedy that. Maybe they offer more stability, room for growth, or have a vison you can really get behind.

Don't let your body language hinder your potential hire!
Don’t let your body language hinder your potential hire!

Why did you choose (company name) to apply for this position?

This is an opportunity to see what kind of research you have done; which helps lend to what kind of work effort you may produce. Did you apply because you think the salary was way above where you were currently at? Or perhaps a friend told you how easy their job is, that they can’t believe they’re getting paid for it? Hopefully not…and if so, don’t mention it! If you are like most people, it was a solid company reputation, growth, interest in the industry, or alignment with the company’s direction. In your response, show them that you’ve done your homework. Break out a few stats such as their revenue from last year, or quote their mission statement. Unless it’s a small mom and pop operation, most organizations have a treasure trove of information located on their website. Check out their “About Us” section, their financials (sometimes under “Investors”) and their executive team. While you aren’t writing a term paper on their company, you will certainly impress when you show them you know information beyond that job posting. If you are willing to do that before even working there, imagine what you may do if you join the team.

What would you consider your greatest weakness?

This isn’t a trick question, either. They aren’t looking for the perfect employee, because the perfect employee doesn’t exist. However, there is an art to responding to this. Some people can get cornered into a bad response if not careful. Did you lose that important client without reconciling? Did you not address an issue with employees that resulted in one or more leaving or filing complaints? Whatever the case, be deliberate in your response here. There is one goal in asking this question – how you address the weakness and grow from it. In your response, you should describe what the weakness is/was, how you identified it and what you’ve done to strengthen it. If you fail to answer the latter, you could be setting yourself up for an old “Dear John” application denial.

What would you consider your greatest strength?

This is an opportunity to demonstrate what they can expect you to bring in the door with you the first day of work. Of all your strengths, make the decision on what you call out count! This should be something that aligns with one of the major responsibilities of the job. Is it sales? Then perhaps it is being able to effectively convey the purpose of a product or service. Is it a service job? Then perhaps it is your ability to provide an exceptional customer experience. Whatever it may be, it should hit at the core of what the company is about.

What motivates you? What gets you out of bed in the morning?

This provides you an opportunity to explain what you are passionate about. This question also requires some thought pre-interview, as you will want to tie whatever that passion is into the company’s focus or objectives. And as a side note – if you are truly passionate about it, it should reflect in how you convey it (hint-hint)! Just like an expert in a certain topic, you shouldn’t sound unsure about what you’re speaking about. This should come naturally.

Was the interview too early for you?
You are not prepared! – Ilidan Stormrage

Where do you see yourself in x years?

Whatever the response here, it’s not where you are currently at! Hiring managers want to hire someone that has the drive to succeed. If you’re not wanting to progress in your career, or at least look at making lateral moves within a company, you’re likely to be an employee who becomes stagnant. The best managers want to hire someone that will be gunning for their job. Contrary to being a threat, that’s someone who is likely to give 110% to make the manager look good.

The dreaded scenario-based questions: ”Tell me about a time….”

These questions tend to be the Achilles heel of many individuals. However, they don’t have to be. In fact, they should be the time where you get to show them why they should stop their search and just hire you! The purpose of these questions is straight forward. It’s typically common scenarios to a position that may be presented during the course of being in that position. These typically address a certain dimension, such as organization, and getting an idea of how you handle it. Before getting to an interview, you should have already dug deep into your work memory to pull some great examples out for these. It is a bad idea…repeat, bad idea to go into an interview without doing your legwork here. Consider the position and its responsibilities, and think about a few potential dimensions that may surface. For example, a manager will have questions geared toward leading teams.

Check out the table below for some example scenarios for common dimensions:

Dimension Potential Scenario
Communication Skills Adjusting communication styles
De-escalating situations
Customer Experience Exceeding a customer’s expectations
Resolving an escalated issue for a customer
Probing to determine the root cause of an issue
Organization Time management skills
Managing multiple priorities / prioritizing tasks
Meeting or adjusting deadlines on projects
Leadership Building relationships with others
Taking initiative on something
Coaching others
Mentoring others
Agility Changing direction on something mid-stream
Dealing with the unexpected
Critical Thinking Handling a problem with no immediate solution
Developing unique solutions for an issue
Creating win-win scenarios for those involved
Job Specific Training – providing a teach back
Project management – explaining methodologies used
Supervising – coaching employees to improve
Customer facing – handling an irate customer

If I spoke to your manager, how would they describe you?

This question is aimed at finding out how you believe others perceive you. If you have solid working relationships, and knowing how you perceive yourself, you can probably rattle this off quickly. If you don’t have much of a work history or are in a position where you don’t frequently interact with your manager, then put some thought into this. This may tie closely into your strengths, and should accurately depict a blend of your personality as well as work traits. Some people may use a “work hard, play hard” example, others may use scenarios involving loyalty, focus or dedication. If you’re really good, you may be able to pick up on what kind of individual they are looking for before this question surfaces. Don’t fabricate something that isn’t true about yourself, but highlight the part of your characteristics that will hit what they are looking for.

What questions do you have?

This will typically be asked when closing out the interview. Often, it is not just a filler question but an opportunity to open dialogue about what you may want to know about the company. You should have some thought-provoking questions prepared for the interviewer(s). Here are a few to consider:

    • How would you describe the culture here?
    • How do you see this position supporting the company’s mission?
    • What is a typical or potential career path for this role?

You can also throw in other basic questions into the mix, but make sure you include some that require some effort for the interviewer to answer without challenging them.

A few hours of preparation up front will not only eliminate part of the stress of interviewing, but will also put you into a better position as a candidate in the large pond of applicants. Differentiate yourself from the rest, and make sure you know what’s coming your way!

  • Cameron Atkinson

    In answer to the question “Why should I hire you?”, I must stress the importance of not giving a generic answer to that question. As a recruiter, I see so many people who say, “I am a game changer” or “I am better than the other candidates” and then they don’t explain. First of all, you do not know if you are better than the other candidates. You don’t know who applied and you don’t know what their qualifications are. To make that statement is to assert something that you have no way of knowing and it is an immediate red flag for me. Second, I would rather hear details on why you are a game changer rather than you simply state that you are a hard worker or that you are a game changer. What did you do at your previous position that was a game changer? What specifically qualifies you as a hard worker? I hear this one so many times: “I will work harder than anyone else”. Well, the guy before you said that and how do I know that you aren’t just saying that? Lawyers have a saying that it is better to show a jury something than tell them something. It is better to show a recruiter something through specific answers rather than tell them something.

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