You’re out there applying for jobs. You’ve done your homework so you know you’re resume is in good shape. It highlights your achievements, it’s concise, key-word rich, and follows the correct formatting to make it past Application Tracking Software. It’s just a matter of time before you get called for an interview.
Then suddenly the phone rings. You got the interview! You’ve overcome a big hurdle in the job search process. Out of the hundreds of resumes submitted for each job, YOU were selected to move forward in the process. You pat yourself on the back and let out a sigh of relief…for a brief second. Then you go into panic mode--because now you’re actually thinking about how to have a successful interview.
You’re head starts spinning. How should I prepare? How do I know what they’ll ask me? How should I answer?
The answer is--there is not one right answer. There are plenty of wrong answers to be sure, but there are a variety of right answers as well. The question you should be asking yourself as you prepare is “why”. Why are they asking me this question? If you can figure that out, you’ll be way ahead of the pack.
When recruiters and hiring managers ask questions, here is what they are looking for:
They want to know if you’re a good fit for the company culture and team.
They want to know that you are knowledgeable about the company and how you can help them.
They want to know that you’re self-aware and able to compensate for your weaknesses.
They want to know how you solve problems, prioritize and manage time.
They want to know how you collaborate and get along with others.
They want to know that you’re open to different ideas.
They want to know what makes you different than the other applicants.
They want to know how effectively you communicate.
They want to know how you handle adversity and difficulties.
They want to know why you want to work for them—that they have what you’re looking for in a job.
Q: “What was the best thing about your last job?”
A: “You had a 37 hour workweek in the summer and loved being able to get off early on Fridays.”
Problem: What if the company you’re interviewing with doesn’t offer a 37 hour workweek? You’ve just told them you’re not a good fit. Be sure to answer the question by stating something you liked about your last job that you KNOW they offer.
Q: “Tell me about a time when someone on your team didn’t want to follow the established process.”
A: “I explained to them that it was important to follow the process that had been established as to not create issues.”
Problem: What if the person that didn’t want to follow the process had a really good idea? It’s best to find a situation where you were open to different ideas that had potential. Whether the new idea was adapted or not doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you’re receptive and understand that the world is constantly changing and business must change along with it.
Q: “Tell me about a time when something you were working on didn’t succeed.”
A: “I tried to launch a new process but it didn’t work because the software we had would not support it.”
Problem: No one cares exactly what the project was and you’re not being judged on the fact that it didn’t succeed. What they’re looking for is did you research what you were doing and make smart decisions up front—not just jump into something without thinking. And more importantly, how did you handle the failure—did you own it or blame someone else--and what did you learn so that the same mistake won’t be repeated.
When you’re practicing interview questions (and you should practice!), be sure that your answers address one or more of the points above. Focus not so much on which answer comes to mind most easily or which one you think makes you look like a rock-star. Your goal is to clearly communicate that you think, collaborate, remain open to others, and learn along the way.
Remember that the interview is really not about you. That’s right, it’s not about you. It’s about them—their company, their team, their NEEDS. Be sure your answers reflect that.