First and foremost, it is worth highlighting that top executive recruiters agree that there are only ever 3 true job interview questions. These are;
1. Can you do the job?
2. Will you love the job?
3. Can we tolerate working with you?
Although each question may be asked using different words, every question, however it is phrased, is just a variation on one of these topics: Strengths, Motivation, and Fit.
Performing at Interview:
- At the outset, it is important to develop a friendly yet professional rapport with everyone you meet in the organisation. This can be achieved through a firm handshake, sustained eye contact, a warm smile, good posture and introducing yourself in a relaxed and confident manner.
- A few basics about superficial presentation are also worth emphasising. A well-groomed, professional appearance is essential. Anything else will detract from the best possible impression you can make.
- While the interviewers will primarily determine the format, it is important that you highlight, during the course of the interview, your specific skills, attributes and achievements that are relevant to the role and the organisation. In addition, bear in mind that an interview is a brief period of time in which to make an impression. You want yours to be a positive one. Present the highs and not the lows.
- If more than one person is interviewing you, be sure to address all of the people in the room when you are answering questions. Even if one person is doing most of the talking, or if interviewers are alternating questions, it is polite and professional to maintain eye contact with each person.
- Communicating information about yourself is your responsibility. It is not up to the interviewer to drag it out of you. Find opportunities in the interview to raise points that will highlight attributes you have which are relevant to the position.
Handling the Interview Questioning:
Let’s look at some of the most common interview questions and see how you would tackle them;-
- Tell me about yourself. Limit this answer to work-related items, unless instructed otherwise. Talk about things you have done and jobs you have held that relate to the position for which you are interviewing. Start with the item farthest back and work up to the present.
- Why did you leave your last job? Stay positive regardless of the circumstances. Never refer to a major problem with
- management and never speak ill of supervisors, co-workers or the organization. If you do, you will be the only person on whom it reflects badly. Keep smiling and talk about leaving for a positive reason such as an opportunity, a chance to do something special or other forward-looking reasons.
- What do co-workers say about you? Be prepared with a quote or two from co-workers. Either a specific statement or a
paraphrase will work. Example: Jill Clark, a co-worker at Smith Company, always said I was the hardest workers she had ever known. It is as powerful as Jill having said it at the interview herself.
- What is your greatest strength? Numerous answers are good, just stay positive. Your chosen strength should be work/professionally related. A few good examples:Your ability to prioritize, Your problem-solving skills, Your ability to work under pressure, Your ability to focus on projects, Your professional expertise, Your leadership skills, Your positive attitude. Just make sure to back-up any claims with a tangible example of successfully displaying your chosen strength.
- What is your greatest weakness? Being able to recognise your weaknesses is a strength in itself – It displays self-awareness, and employers seek this. An employer would rather you be aware of your limitations, and know when to seek out assistance when required. Giving an example of a weakness you previously recognized in yourself and how you went about overcoming it is a could option in answering this question.
- Do you have any questions for me? I recommend having at least 3 questions ready for this portion of the interview. It is eve a good idea to have more. As, often, the interviewer will inadvertently answer a couple during the course of the meeting. Not having any questions implies a lack of interest / enthusiasm on your part.
The Dreaded Competency Based Question:
CBQs are becoming more and more popular, as they allow an interviewer to glean valuable, tangible information on candidates. They also allow the interviewer to easily compare and contrast candidates.
What are they?
Competency based interview questions require interviewees to give specific examples of times in which they demonstrated particular skills or attitudes.
Why are they used?
Such questions allow the employer to quickly evaluate an interviewee’s mindset, and to gauge how the interviewee handles certain situations.
How do I answer?
The famous STAR approach –
Situation/Task – explains the circumstances / task to be completed.
Action – describes what you did.
Result – describes the outcome of your action.
Always use “I” and not “We” when answering a CBQ – The interviewer is interested in what YOU did, how YOU reacted, what YOU achieved.
The Follow Up – Thank You Note
It is absolutely ok to send a brief thank you note following the interview. In fact, I highly recommend it.
Thank you notes are a dying social nicety, and come all too few and far between. Taking the time to send one should really set you aside from the competition – it shows your appreciation of the interviewers time and that the meeting was important to you.
There is no need to send a physical card in the post – A brief email is more than sufficient. These notes also provide a good opportunity for you to include anything you feel to be pertinent, but forgot to mention in the interview. But, remember, keep it brief.
PS – Suffer from pre-interview nerves? Check out my Blog on 7 Tips for Keeping Calm at Interview!