Interview preparation is the key to a successful encounter with a recruiter. Below is a list of interview questions and suggested answers to prepare in anticipation of your next interview. Recall that ultimately, the goal in any interview is to get the interviewers to like you. Your skills and experience earned you the interview, and the answers you communicate determine whether they absolutely must hire you or whether you’re someone they can pass on. What message will you leave your interviewer with? Proper interview preparation will leave the recruiter with a positive impression.
Describe your strengths & weaknesses – this is one of the most common questions in the history of interviewing, and an easy question to ace with a bit of preparation ahead of time. Be sure to include this in your inventory preparation plan. The interviewer isn’t looking to hear that you’re proficient in Microsoft Office but wants to learn more about you as a person. Think of qualities of high-achievers that you admire and identify how you compare to certain traits. I recommend addressing soft skills and abilities that are not already listed on your resume. Here are a few ideas, but usually only answer with your strongest example of a single strength and the same for a single weakness (and how you’re working to improve on that weakness).
- emotional intelligence
- public speaking and presentations
- working independently
- managing stress
- balancing competing priorities
- creative problem solving
Who are some individuals we can call for a reference? …or a related question “Who was your last manager, and what would they say if we asked about you?” – This is a networking question and the strongest reason why you should never burn bridges EVER. It's not a question you want to answer on the fly, but will adequate interview preparation you will be ready to answer this question with confidence. Somewhere along your career journey you’ve turned truly impressed someone and gave him or her reason to advocate for you. Notify the individual ahead of the interview that you plan to list them as a reference, and maybe remind them specific projects or accomplishments that you achieved together to refresh their memory and to help them speak positively on your behalf. Also, the interviewers will likely actually call whoever you list, so this isn’t a time to exercise that poker bluff you’ve been practicing. There is no substitute for thorough interview preparation.
Tell us about a time you had to influence someone and how you did it or A time you had to work with a difficult teammate and how you overcame the challenge – This can be a delicate question to answer and how you respond can be a strong reflection of your character and of your emotional intelligence. Don’t only give your side of the story and what you were feeling, but also give insight into the other party’s perspective and why you believe they felt the way they did. Describe how you handled a conflict or a disagreement and how the situation was better as a result. Be sure to only give a response for a professional situation. The interviewer isn’t interested in disagreements with your spouse, best friend, or a cop that pulled you over last summer.
Describe a time you faced a challenge and how you overcame it – same as above. Set the scene, summarize potential solution alternatives, the solution that was chosen, and the results that ensued.
Why should we choose you for this job- this is the best question that an interviewer can ask you. If they don’t ask you this question and they give you time at the end to share more about yourself or to ask questions, take advantage and answer this question well by describing the unique experiences and skill sets that you have to offer. Spin your experiences in ways that are relevant to the job to make you the candidate they must hire.
Describe a time you overcame conflicting team bandwidth and business needs – Seriously, this happens in every job. When I worked in a restaurant, servers would call in sick and we’d be understaffed. When I worked in the corporate world, we were constantly asked to produce higher output with equal or fewer people on our team. Timelines pull in for customer demands or promises made by leadership several layers above you. Describe the challenge, discuss how you approached it, inputs you gathered (either to better understand the problem or advice you sought from others), multiple solutions you and other teammates considered, why you chose your solution, and the outcomes that ensued.
Please give an example of problem solving/ creative solution – quick anecdote. Briefly set the scene and describe the challenge, discuss how you approached the problem, resources you leveraged, multiple solutions you (and others?) considered, why you chose your solution, and the outcomes that ensued. Bonus points for sharing what you learned and whether you would make the same choice again.
Why are you interested in our company/ department/ team/ products – boom, they’re basically asking for evidence that you’ve done your research on the company ahead of time and for a tie-in to why your skills and interests align with their organization. “I’ve always known that my interests are in ______, and with my proven skills at ______ this opportunity is an excellent combination of both. My excitement for _____ [name something they’re working on] will feed my passion and also give me energy that I can bring to the team for combined success. Include some time in your interview preparation plan for company research.
What are you most proud of? – this is another question that you should hope for. It’s open-ended and a great chance for you to brag on yourself. Discuss a challenge you overcame, a great outcome you achieved, or a tangible impact you’ve made for a customer or for the business. Remember that interviews are a great opportunity for you to flex your storytelling muscles. Very briefly set the scene, describe what you accomplished, and really sell the interviewer on why you’re so proud of the achievement. I want to see that twinkle in your eye!