Whether you haven’t interviewed for a job in a decade or if you interviewed just last week, you may not know the “whys” of interview questions and the selection process most organizations use to hire the best talent.
I’d like to share a little known fact (I don’t believe in keeping secrets) based on my 25 years in Talent Management for top Fortune 200 companies. There are truly only three questions to a typical interview though they may take the form of many and be asked in different ways.
Now I turn your attention to five common questions that are asked and are critical to you being seen as a viable contender for the position to which you applied. At this point, your resume has been screened by computer “eyes” as well as a human recruiter. You may have been through a telephone interview, simulation test, behavioral assessment and panel interview. Now you sit across from the person who you hope will be your next manager and you have this one (and only) opportunity to answer these questions in such a way that you are seen as the only candidate worthy of the position.
These questions are often asked so take the time now, before your interview, to prepare your response and you will shine.
Why are you interested in the job?
Don’t mention the great advertised pay and bonus. Don’t ask how soon you can be reviewed for promotion. And don’t imply that you are eyeballing this position as a stepping stone to his or her position. Common sense, right? Too easy for sure. But many candidates fail to take the time to combine two things: their unique value + the organization’s goals. What can you do to benefit the company? You don’t have to be applying for a top management position to bring critical value. I recently coached a legal administrator who described herself as a traffic control specialist in a large law firm. She had done that before and she learned, through online research and networking, that the prospective employer had just acquired a huge corporate client and had reorganized. They needed someone with a keen sense of order to manage the administrative functions of the firm so the lawyers and partners could handle the needs and demands of the new client as well as to adjust to their new structure. When she described her success in previous situations, they were anxious to make her an offer she couldn’t refuse.
What are your top three career achievements?
This is your time to shine with your response. Think of the results of your efforts in your current job and in past. What did you do, and did well, that impacted the customer, the department, the company’s goals? When you think of your success and what makes you successful, these examples should be top of mind. Explain the situation, what you did and the result in such a way that anyone can understand. This is especially true if you are interviewing for a job in another industry or sector. Avoid technical language unless the person interviewing you would understand it. Know your audience. Especially important: if you faced obstacles or challenges, speak to those in your story. Be prepared with at least three success stories, then, to illustrate your success and how you could repeat it in the new organization.
What are your strengths and weaknesses? This is often the most dreaded question so be prepared ahead of time. The question is asked to determine your self-awareness and values in terms of what you think is important to the position. Another reason: it tests your truthfulness since your references might be asked the same question so be truthful and don’t embellish. Employers admire humility as well as truthfulness.
If hired, what would you do your first month in order to get off to a successful start? If applying for a management role, it is common for the top contenders to be asked to submit a 30-60-90 day plan in which they describe, in detail, how they would assess their challenges and begin to add value. This process is sometimes included for other positions to determine your independence and collaboration. How would you get acclimated and up to speed on the job? With whom would you meet? How would you determine your priorities? Depending upon the job, you can share what your plan would be should you be offered the job. Your response will be an indicator of your knowledge of the organization and position as well.
How would your current or past manager describe you? This was one of my favorite questions to ask candidates because, as with Question 3, it indicated the person’s level of self-awareness, humility and truthfulness. It told me what they deemed most important and candidates knew that there was a good chance that I would be asking their manager the same question. How should you answer this question? Simply recall what was written or verbalized to you regarding your performance? Most performance evaluations include feedback regarding what you are doing well as well as what you need to improve. Your response should be concise and balanced.
Armed with responses to these questions and the knowledge of the selection process will boost your confidence and help you convey relevant information that showcases your value. For more information on interviewing success, check my website or consider interview coaching.