I’ve received a lot of questions about interviews via email this week. Let’s dive into what some of the most common interview questions are and what I think is the best ways to answer them. This is by no means and end-all-be-all answer sheet. Different companies look for different answers. Take my opinion for what it’s worth, here. While the recruiting industry is by-and-large, the same for almost every company when it comes to finding candidates, what those companies then do with those candidates varies somewhat.
Goldman Sachs would have no problem with you saying you will stay at work until the job is done, while a company who pays by the hour (nurses, etc.) would consider you a money-hungry psycho and frown on you for racking up overtime. Because there are probably ten or so questions that are considering incredibly common, I’ll break this into two segments.
“Tell us about yourself.”
The most common question on the face of the planet. The best bet here is to start in your senior year of college and go from there. Talk about how you majored in X and began to map out your career progression ten years down the road.
Explain to them how you came about getting your first job and then hit on 1-2 success stories at that position. Do this for each and every stop you’ve made on your resume.
Once you’re done hitting your work highlights, delve into a short comment about your family if the company is “one of those” companies. Ten years ago this would have been a red flag, these days, though, culture fit is huge. The biggest influence on an employee’s life is their family. Having a family demonstrates that you, in theory, play well with others. Don’t get crazy here, but hitting on a short tidbit of your personal life can actually help convince them you “belong” with the company.
How you probably met your wife: Swiping right on everything you see on your phone while in the stall at a Chicago bar. You’ve been loading up booze on the corporate card and telling the Hooters waitress to ring up the beer as “wings.” Your future wife is in her apartment binge watching The Walking Dead while drinking her fifth glass of wine that night after a dog-shit day at work.
How you say you met your wife: “Aside from that (what you’ve already covered), I’m married to my wife who I actually met during a business conference while in Chicago. I’ve always made it a point to attend as many growth opportunity conferences as I could and while they’ve been beneficial for my career growth, it also helped me meet my wife! It’s great that we share similar career interests and we are always pushing each other to grow.”
“Why do you want to work here?”
While researching and preparing for the interview, check out the company website. They might have a Mission/Values/Corporate Culture/What It’s Like Working Here tab online. Do some digging.
Next, inflate the company ego while simultaneously talking about yourself. Make it seem like you aren’t as desperate as you probably are.
“I actually love working at Company X, I’ve received some great training and I’ve put up some great numbers while I’ve been here. This isn’t so much Company X pushing me away as it is your company pulling me in. Company Y does so much more than sell tacos. I’ve run across a bunch of your employees (don’t mention at the bar) and they all seem really enthusiastic about working here and had nothing bad to say about company Y at all. In today’s day and age, that’s incredibly difficult to do. Based on how happy all of the employees are here, and the fact that you’re in my industry and offer high growth potential, I’m very interested in working here as I feel that I can hit the ground running based on my skillset and the ability to work with a team.
“Why should we hire you?”
If they have an open position that means they “need” something/someone. Your goal here is to convince them that you fill their need. Don’t be a drug dealer talking to a junkie, but convince them you can bring something to the table that they need/don’t already have. You’re a problem solver. Further, convince them that you have an ability to anticipate needs into the future.
“That’s a great question as I’m sure you’ve seen lots of qualified applicants here recently after your launch of product x. I think I’m a great fit for this company based on ___. I’m already familiar with this industry and through my work thus far I’ve been able to network within the community which has allowed me to be kept abreast of the market and industry trends. I pride myself on being to anticipate problems and friction points before they arise. I know that your company likes to operate ___ way and I’ve been utilizing the same methods and practices, myself, while working at company X. Your company is a leader in our industry and I’ve been adopting a lot of the methods and successes y’all have been having in my own work at Company X. I’ve got a great baseline understanding of how your company thinks and operates and I’d love to be within its’ walls contributing to the team.”
“What is your greatest weakness?”
If you answer with, “I’m a perfectionist,” I’ll probably mentally clock out until the end of the interview. The absolute best answer I ever heard to this came from an Army Captain and his answer sticks with me to this freaking day because it was so good.
“Coming up through the ranks in the Army I wasn’t the best delegator. That wasn’t because I didn’t trust my team, it was because I always wanted to be the one pushing myself the hardest. If there was a task that came down at 5 p.m., I would send my Soldiers home to be with their families. I knew that my wife understood that this was my job and if I came home late that it would be okay. I assumed that other Soldiers didn’t have that same relationship with their family and I wanted to ensure that they were always taken care of.”
“It didn’t matter the task, either. If oil needed to be changed on a vehicle, I was the one there doing it. This led to a couple new realizations when I became a commander of 125 instead of just 30. First, I was going to run myself straight into the ground, which I frequently, frequently did. I also realized that if I was the one always busting their ass on stuff like this, I wasn’t giving my junior leaders the chance to gain these valuable experiences.”
“I feel like I was a great officer because nothing was beneath me, I was always out there with the Soldiers doing anything and everything. If we needed to sweep the motor pool and only had two brooms, I had one of them. By doing that, I was essentially eliminating the opportunity for my junior leaders to get the same face time and build comradery with their Soldiers. I realized as a commander that my platoon leaders were missing these crucible type experiences because I cared too much about their welfare. Sometimes you need to kick them into the wild and let them perform. I obviously kept a very close eye on them, but this was a lesson I probably learned 2-3 months later than I should have. By trying to protect them, I was actually stunting their growth.” .
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