How to answer the questions employers are likely to ask.
No interview is exactly the same, but you can expect some questions to be asked no matter where you go. Why not be prepared and show your potential future employer that you mean business? Russel S. Reynolds Jr. and Carol E. Curtis, authors of Heads: Business Lessons from an Executive Search Pioneer, share some tips to ensure you’ve got all the right answers.
Why don’t you tell me about yourself?
This question, often the interview opener, has a crucial objective: to see how you handle yourself in unstructured situations. The recruiter wants to see how articulate you are, how conﬁdent you are, and generally what type of impression you would make on the people with whom you come into contact on the job. There are many ways to respond to this question correctly and just one wrong way: by asking, “What do you want to know?” The right response is twofold: focus on what interests the interviewer, and highlight your most important accomplishments.
How long have you been with your current (or former) employer?
This is a hot-button question if your résumé reﬂects considerable job-hopping. Excellent performers tend to stay in their jobs at least three to ﬁve years. If your résumé reﬂects jobs with companies that were acquired, moved, closed, or downsized, it is still viewed as a job-hopper’s history. Volunteer and go to events where hiring authorities may be found. Your networking efforts have never been so important.
Tell me about a situation where you did not get along with a superior.
The wrong answer to this hot-button question is, “I’ve been very fortunate and have never worked for someone I didn’t get along with.” It can send out a signal that the candidate is not seasoned enough or hasn’t been in situations that require him or her to develop a tough skin or deal with confrontation. It’s natural for people to have differing opinions. When this has occurred in the past, you could explain that you presented your reasons and openly listened to other opinions as well.
Describe a situation where you were part of a failed project.
If you can’t discuss a failure or mistake, the recruiter might conclude that you don’t possess the depth of experience necessary to do the job. The recruiter is trying better to understand your level of responsibility, your decision-making process, and your ability to recover from a mistake, as well as what you learned from the experience and if you can take responsibility for your mistakes. Respond that you’d like to think that you have learned something valuable from every mistake you have made. Then have a brief story ready with a specific illustration.
What are your strengths?
Describe two or three skills you have that are relevant to the job. Avoid clichés or generalities; offer speciﬁc evidence. Describe new ways these skills could be put to use in the position you are being considered for.
How do you explain your job success?
Be candid without sounding arrogant. Mention observations other people have made about your work strengths or talents.
What do you do when you are not working?
Discuss hobbies or pursuits that interest you, such as sports, clubs, cultural activities, and favorite things to read. Avoid dwelling on any political or religious activities that may create conﬂict with those of the interviewer.
Why did you leave your position?
Be honest and straightforward, but do not dwell on any conﬂict that may have occurred. Highlight positive developments that resulted from your departure, whether it was that you accepted a more challenging position or learned an important lesson that helped you to be happier in your next job.
Why do you want to work in the industry?
Think of a story to tell about how you ﬁrst became interested in this type of work. Point out any similarities between the job you’re interviewing for and your current job.
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