During an interview you can rise or dive depending on how you answer these deceptively simple questions.
These 5 questions require some preparation in order to respond well enough to separate you from the rest of the candidates.
1. Tell me about yourself?
(Translation: Why are you a good fit?)
This question invariably trips up most of the people I ask. Typically, people launch in a blow by blow description of their career offering no new information that what was written in their resume. Alternatively, they go off on a tangent giving information that has nothing to do with the job. In both cases they do themselves a disservice and are downgraded.
What is being sought is a shortened version of your background and experiences and how these have qualified you for the opportunity.
2. What do you know about us?
(Translation: Are you taking this seriously?)
This has always been my primary gauge to measure how serious the person is about the job. It also is a proxy into the approach the person takes at work. I suggest you do some research. Look at the organisation’s website. Look at their news articles, major announcements, board members, office bearers, media reports - good and bad, and get a feeling to the company culture and how it is performing. This will also help you ask questions related to the role and how it fits into the organisation.
3. Tell me time when….
(Translation: Prove it, give me an example)
This behaviour based question is a key selection criterion for many organisations. Candidates can stumble if unsure of how to answer or even provide a textbook answer which is an instant fail.
Your answers should always be about your personal experiences. Don’t be afraid to use life experiences, as an example, if it is relevant. The best method to answer these questions is to use the STAR Method (Situation, Tasks, Actions, Results). If things did not turn out so well, add what you learned and how you would do things differently.
4. Why are you looking for a new job?
(Translation: Are there any red flags?)
It is my experience that people are running from something or moving towards something. Ideally, you want to be moving towards something. This can be a little awkward if you have been fired or you quit because of bad attitude, bad performance or bad relationships. This can happen to anyone, but you will need to rise above this. You will never get anywhere bad mouthing the former company, bosses and colleagues even if justifiable.
The best approach is to talk about what you are looking for in terms of career, work environment and a culture where you can deliver your best. The past is the past and you can discuss what you have learned from your experiences and about yourself. You can frame this in positive ways that will suit the new opportunity and to what the company aspires - if you have done your homework.
A good answer will discuss growth and new challenges combined with your experiences that support the opportunity you are seeking and why you are a good match.
5. Do you have any questions for me?
(Translation: How interested are you in this opportunity?)
Whenever a person says no, I immediately mark this person down. If you are serious you will have at least one considered question.
A good method is to prepare a list of questions before the interview. During the interview make a note of questions that you have, based on the discussion. Remember you are also interviewing the company and you need to know if you will be comfortable working there and the job will meet your expectations.
A good question, to consider, is to ask the interviewer to describe the attributes of the ideal candidate. Another I find insightful is for the interviewer to describe the key tasks to be performed and what is considered superior performance in the role. If you have multiple interviewers and each one offers quite different answers you may need to be concerned.
All in all, listen carefully and answer the question asked. If you don’t understand ask the person to clarify. Never rush in and answer without being sure you are responding to the real question. Link your experiences, attributes and learnings to the role. Always ask questions that will allow you to get an insight into what it will be like to work there.