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CHP Episode 13 Transcript: Top Interview Questions & How You Should Answer Them

The Career Hacking Podcast

In today’s episode we’ll answer a question from Adam in Portland who writes: 

Hello WehnerEd,

I’ve an interview coming up for a job I am very excited for. While I’m confident in my technical abilities, I’m uneasy just thinking about the difficult behavioral questions that will likely be asked. I’ve already read a few articles online to prepare and most of them suggest the same dull responses to these typical questions. If I need to truly distinguish myself from the rest to get this competitive job, what would you suggest I do (other than reading these articles and forming my own responses) to stand out from the crowd?

Thanks for reaching out, Adam! 

 

Before starting WehnerEd, I was a corporate recruiter for several years and have personally witnessed my fair share of excellent and disappointing responses. Some of the best practices that help candidates stand out from the competition are described in episode 6 and include

  1. Projecting confidence
  2. Being relatable
  3. Clearly show that you did your homework ahead of time.   Know their business, and be able to answer the questions in ways that are meaningful to them instead of applying to any ‘ol business will certain help your chances.

Additionally, as I’ve mentioned before in episode 4 How to Ace Your Interview, “You proved you were qualified for the job before you were invited to Interview … so did everyone else the company is interviewing so now it’s up to you to prove why you deserve the position” over your competition.

Beyond the points covered in these two episodes, the content you answer to even the most common cookie cutter questions will ensure you’re the candidate that gets chosen for the job.

Let’s break down a few common interview questions and what exactly you can do… to earn this job that really has you worked up. The examples I’m about to share are hot off the presses in a new WehnerEd Power-Up that will soon go live on WehnerEd.com. Check our products page for updates starting in mid-February.

First off:

  1. Tell me about yourself

This question is a recruiter’s go-to icebreaker to initiate the interview. Your answer sets the stage for the rest of the interview. What you answer here will likely drive how the interviewer leads into questions about your professional experience.

To appropriately answer this question, give a high-level executive summary of your professional experience. Explain why you applied and how you’re qualified for the job. Keep your answer brief, logical, and easy to follow. The rest of the interview will be your chance to dive into the specifics and build on the foundation you lay here in your first answer.

Again, you want to convince the interviewer that you’re personable so they will like you. Avoid talking about your hobbies and interests, except as appropriate for the job, (you could share about a passion such as “helping others,” but should hold off mentioning your passion for Stranger Things or Game of Thrones) but be engaging and friendly. This sets the stage for the rest of the conversation. An interview should be a conversation, not an interrogation. Be comfortable. Be confident.

Example Strong Answer: Thank you again, for giving me this opportunity to interview with you today. I’m excited to have a chance to work for your marketing agency as it’s clearly well known in the industry and will allow me to grow my experience while contributing for you at a high level. I’ve spent the last two and a half years working for a major print ad agency designing content for many clients while also working as a freelancer in my free time. The freelancing gigs have helped me build experience in the digital space so that I may remain relevant in today’s technology. What attracts me most to marketing is the brand messages that I help communicate directly to customers. Many of the companies I supported over the years have products and services that benefit others, and I’ve found that I personally operate at my best when I’m helping them make a difference. While I am happy with the work I’m doing in my current position, I am looking to continue advancing my skills and take on additional responsibility. I have performed well at my current employer, but see that my career growth will be limited if I stay in the same organization. I have a strong record of beating the status quo and look forward to taking on new and bigger challenges in your company.

Other Ideas for How to Answer This Question:

  • Highlight key accomplishments relevant to the job you’re interviewing for and quantify impacts you’ve had
  • Talk about why you’re excited about this job and why (professionally) you’re interested in it
  • Talk about what you’re looking to achieve, but also how you’ll help them achieve their mission
  • Highlight a unique strength or two that you’ll bring to their team
  • Highlight traits like your work ethic or high personal standards that insist you always go above and beyond
  • Share a unique experience that you’ve had. A friend of mine flew on Air Force One with President Obama for a former employer. It says a lot about her professionally if her employer respected her enough to send her on that assignment. I encourage her to leverage this fact even if it’s not directly relevant to her job interview. If nothing else, it’s a great conversation piece. It gets them to like you as a person, and admire you as a professional. Both of which are A+
  1. Tell me about a time when you learned something on your own

While many companies provide training for their employees, an attribute of those that deliver at the highest level is that they are lifelong learners. These role models are always improving their abilities or learning new skills. They are naturally curious to try new tactics and are critical of themselves in order to motivate continuous self-improvement.

As you likely figured out by now, by asking this question, a recruiter is looking to uncover whether you’re an employee that will only deliver at the same level in the future as you do today today, or if you’re the type of person who will continue to develop themselves and multiply what they have to offer. All employees expect their salaries to increase over time, but from the perspective of the business, the value that you contribute should increase as well to justify your increasing compensation.

Similar to the question about your greatest weakness, to best answer this question, share something professional about yourself that you sought to improve, or a specific area that you felt you needed to learn more about. Talk about how you took the initiative to improve your abilities, and what positive outcomes you’ve noticed since taking action.

Example Strong Answer: While watching our CFO present quarterly earnings results during an all-employee town hall meeting last year, I realized that I didn’t understand much of the technical jargon she was using. I re-watched the presentation and leveraged Investopedia.com and Wikipedia to decipher the cryptic words and key takeaways. While my job didn’t work with the financials directly, having a better understanding of our business’ headwinds and tailwinds brought context to the goals and objectives that trickle down to me and my team from leadership. I also now have a better understanding of what drives decisions in our business and developed a larger context to the work that I focus on day-to-day. It has added a new level of purpose to my job. I feel more in control now that I understand our business from a broader perspective.

Other Ideas for How to Answer This Question:

  • Leadership always talked about how important the customer is to our business. Not knowing much about our customers or what’s most important to them, I sat down with a few sales reps that interact with customers directly to learn more. Since then, I’ve been able to make more-informed design decisions that have led to happier customers and increased sales numbers.
  • Last year I realized I couldn’t keep up with technical conversations that other groups on my team were having. I took it upon myself to research their software on my own and then approached teammates to learn more about how they specifically use it for their work.
  • I’ve notice several processes that have bottlenecked my team as long as I’ve been around. Curious about how we could improve it, I researched software solutions that could improve efficiency and give us one less reason to rage quit. Most options were too expensive to implement, but it did inspire the team to make a few internal tweaks to make the process more tolerable.
  • Share about a book or books you’ve read to improve your game. Talk about specific things you’ve applied to your life and the results you’ve noticed.
  1. Can you explain why you changed career paths?

The recruiter isn’t trying to uncover any secrets, but instead is looking to understand your logic and ensure that the job you’re interviewing for is a good fit. Better to find out now than after you’ve been in the job for a few months and decide to bolt.

Without getting too personal or bad-mouthing your former employer/employment, be honest and share what your motivation was for shifting gears. Share which new goals you’re hoping to achieve, or how you’re seeking more fulfillment. If your salary ceiling was too low or you felt cornered in your career path, these answers are okay to share.

Start off with a quick 1-sentence overview of your decision, and then jump into the journey of how you got to here (in the interview). Share what you’ve learned and how you prepared for a new role. Touch on the support you’ve received or how your confidence is higher. Impress them with the hard work that you put in, and how you look forward to continuing to grow with their company. As it was mentioned before, employers are looking for lifelong learners that will continue to deliver at a high level.

Example Strong Answer: Honestly, I wasn’t fulfilled in the work that I had been doing for the last ten years in investment banking. I enjoyed the fast-paced environment, daily challenges, and competitive salary, but at the end of the day, my job was just to move money around for rich people so they (and my company) would make even more money. I would rarely hear stories of wonderful causes that my clients would support with their deep pockets, but I imagine most of them just spend large sums on extravagant lifestyles. I can’t blame them necessarily, but I came to realize that investment banking wasn’t how I wanted to spend my time. In the last 6 months, I have been using my nights and weekends to learn data science. It’s a fascinating extension of the stock analyses I’m very familiar with, and I see a large potential for how I can apply both skills to maximize revenues for your non-profit. I’m lucky to have the financial background that I do, but I’ve learned a new trade so I may shift gears to a new position that benefits all people and not just the mega-rich.

Other Ideas for How to Answer This Question:

  • Changing priorities in life
  • Grown and changed from where you thought you wanted to be
  • Change of location- to get closer to someone or something
  • You weren’t fulfilled in your last job
  • You discovered new skills or interests
  • You believe you’re capable of achieving more than your last role allowed
  • You didn’t feel like you fit in with the company culture at your former employer

Again, tell the story of how this new role that you’re interviewing for will leave you more fulfilled and will allow you to achieve more of your long-term goals.

A random interview tip that just came to mind is that you should never turn down a chance to interview if you aren’t completely confident in your interviewing abilities. If you receive an offer to interview but you aren’t very excited about the role, take advantage to practice your shtick. Even if it falls through, you’re that much closer to knock it out of the park when an offer you’re truly pumped about finds you. Even if you’re happy in your current job today, give another company a chance to extend an offer that you can’t refuse.

Before you enter any interview, form a game plan for how you will share your message and tell the story of your experiences. Identify what types of emotional responses you are seeking to provoke, and work with a friend or WehnerEd coach to ensure you’re hitting the right targets.

Hitting a home run in an interview is not a daunting task with a little preparation, and every subsequent one will be a breeze.

Set a game plan, and go out and achieve it. You got this!

Today we covered 3 of the 20 most common interview questions and answers are all thoroughly outlined in our latest Power-Up PDF at WehnerEd.com/powerups.

  1. Tell me about yourself
  2. Tell me about a time when you learned something on your own
  3. Can you explain why you changed career paths?

For those that don’t have the budget for 1-on-1 personalized coaching, and can’t afford the time to read dozens of books written by the highest achievers, these quick-action guides will quickly and affordably give you the tools and knowledge you need to change careers, rock your next interview, or level-up your game in your current position.

Our selection of guides grows weekly and can help you be your best while feeling happy and fulfilled. Check them out today at WehnerEd.com/powerups

2018-03-21T10:07:35+00:00

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