wiki:Career/101JobInterviewQuestions

Version 10 (modified by Vijay Varadan, 4 years ago) (diff)

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101 Job Interview Questions You'll Never Fear Again

Author: James Reed

101-job-interview-questions-youll-never-fear-again.jpg

Review

Coming Feb 1st week.

Notes

3G Mindset

Global

(vantage point)

Good

(bedrock)

Grit

(fuel cell)

  • adaptability
  • flexibility
  • relationship building
  • collaborative focus
  • openness
  • innovativeness
  • honesty
  • trustworthiness
  • loyalty
  • sincerity
  • fairness
  • kindness
  • commitment
  • accountability
  • determination
  • drive
  • energy

Types of Interviewers

  1. Unicorn Hunter: "The perfect candidate does not exist."
    Tactic - Get them to specify competencies required and show how you meet them
  2. Late-running Runaway Train: Disorganized, nervous, ill-prepared.
    Tactic - Be effusive & expansive. Talk lots.
  3. Method Man / Woman: Asks all candidates same questions (competency).
    Tactics - Point our your relevant ones - twice.
  4. Napolean: Show-off, talks, asks few questions.
    Tactic - Offer praise where possible, else silence.
  5. Suitor: Hires attractive people.
    Tactic - Move on.
  6. B Player: Likes to hire C players.
    Tactic - Highlight your strengths & achievements. You probably won't get hired.
  7. Dues-payer: Defines success in terms of their career path; their path only. Doesn't like career-switchers.
    Tactic - Show how your skills are another manifestation of theirs.
  8. RHINO (Really Here in Name Only): Not engaged during interview.
    Tactic - Be gracious, put on the best show you can.
  9. Entrepreneur: Founder & sole owner of the company.
    Tactic - Play up work ethic, loyalty & flexibility.
  10. Poker Player: A warm & genuine exterior conceals steely interior.
    Tactic - Focus on showing what you can do for them.
  11. Goldilocks (Note: I didn't understand this one.): Neither too cold, nor too hot.
    Tactic - Pat yourself on the back for bringing out the best in people.

Classic Interview Questions

1. Tell Me About Yourself

Who do you think you are? And will you know what to leave in & what to leave out?

Tactic: Break it down, rehearse, breeze it.

  • Show a logical progression or underlying theme.
  • Indicate that you know exactly what you're going to say & it won't take long.
  • No more than 10% personal stuff.
  • What you've been up to lately, how that feeds into your skills & experience, and in turn, how skills & experience feed into this position.
  • Close clearly - indicate that you're done. Don't leave it hanging.
  • Can bounce around chronologically, but show logical progression.
  • Can use current job title to start off with the answer.
  • Avoid talking explicitly about strengths & weaknesses - this should flow from results you've achieved. Stick to achievements & passions (I'm not so sure about the passions bit).

2. Why are You Applying?

What can you do that we need you to do? Do you even know what we need you to do?

Tactic: Reflect the job spec in every line of your answer. Talk about their needs before you mention your own.

  • I'm applying because my skills, experience and motivation are the best fit for the job.
  • Imply long term satisfaction.
  • A person's values tend to be stable & enduring - so, point out that your personal values align with the firm's values.

3. What are Your Greatest Strengths?

Do you really know yourself? Do you know what our problem is here?

Tactic: Answer with the job description uppermost in mind. Go easy on the adjectives & heavy on the hard data.

  • Map the key requirements of the job against your best achievements to date.
  • Mandatory: solve the employer's problems.
    Necessary but insufficient: be perceived as smart & professional.
  • Showcase aspects that show progression & development over time.
  • What was the impact of your strength in context? Who acknowledged it and how?

4. What are Your Greatest Weaknesses?

Am I right in thinking X about you? Are you going to give me the same old evasive & lame answers that everybody else did, or are you going to level with me?

Tactic: Interviewer is probably seeking affirmation of predicted weaknesses, not info about new ones.

  • Don't give cliched answers; don't trivialize your weaknesses.
  • Stick to weaknesses that are apparent, don't introduce a new monster-under-the-bed that the interviewer hasn't spotted.
  • Be clear that you know your weaknesses & that they don't perturb you.
  • Show evidence that you're working on your weaknesses.
  • If possible, directly reference your key performance indicators (KPIs) - make it a less important KPI.

5. What will Your Skills & Ideas Bring to this Company?

What will be buying from you?

Tactic: Appear generous, no one wants a miser.

  • Be open & enthusiastic about your ideas, even if they're not a perfect match - your errors will be attributed to your outsider status, insufficient info / context.
  • Present ideas in terms of work executed personally.

6. What's Your Preferred Management Style?

Are you and I going to get along?

Tactic: Aim to be the boss & subordinate you always wanted for yourself.

  • Show that you can work under your own steam, but also that you know there's a hierarchy.
  • Bosses want to provide course correction, not spell out details.
  • Show you can take both good & bad news gracefully.
  • Show that you can give out bad news with respect & humility.
  • Show you can give off good energy to enthuse troops.
  • May help to talk about key experiences as a subordinate or manager w.r.t. conflicts, success, goal setting & staff performance.

7. Where do You See Yourself in Five Years' Time?

Are you after this job or just any job? How soon will you need a new challenge? Do you have a realistic sense of what we can offer you?

Tactic: If you don't know, calmly say so, as if not knowing were the most natural thing in the world - because it is.

  • If you have a well-mapped-out career plan, use it.
  • Acknowledge that you're there to talk about the job at hand, not the next job it leads to - express hope that you'll be successful at the company.
  • Be honest about drive & ambition, but temper it and demonstrate that you're realistic.
  • You can make it about the journey, rather than the destination.

8. How would You Approach This Job?

How well do you know us? What's your take on what we need? What's your preferred style of working?

Tactic: Talk about diplomacy before talking about your plans.

  • Don't make sweeping statements - you don't know how the company works.
  • Talk about your work style & achievements at previous jobs, draw lines to job on offer.
  • Show your ability to adapt to the new environment.
  • Remember "The First Ninety Days" book - first few weeks to learn systems, culture & colleagues, then create departmental plan. This shows you can plan, but don't have rigid ideas.

9. What have You Achieved Elsewhere?

What's the very best that we can expect from you? Is that what we need?

Tactic: Keep it recent, work-related & well-rehearsed. Be confident - it's expected.

  • Think of this as story time and a chance to toot your horn.
  • Graceful self-promotion is the key - it's the difference between career stagnation & progression.

10. What did You Like and Dislike About Your Last Job?

What do you want from them that the last lot couldn't give you? Can we give it to you?

Tactic: Start with a long list of what makes you happy, then let them knwo that you don't expect perfection in any job.

  • First, talk about a few things you didn't enjoy, but demonstrate grit & strong work ethic, one that can power through difficulties.
  • Prepare for this question in advance. Tip: Does you current job offer the following? (Note: not all of these may apply.)
    • meet interesting people
    • opportunities for progress
    • work independently
    • atmosphere of trust, honesty & integrity
    • overseas travel
    • varied tasks
    • constant learning
    • requires or rewards creativity
    • likable co-workers
    • face-to-face contact
    • caring for others
    • customer interaction
    • clearly defined role
    • close to management
    • developing people
    • positive impact on the community
    • supportive culture
    • playing with cool technology

11. Tell me About a Time You Worked in a Team

No one achieves anything on their own - and you know that, right?

Tactic: Find a recent real-world example where you've played successfully with others.

  • Be concrete, specific, recent & focused on your actions. End with a positive outcome.
  • Assign credit where due.
  • Illustrate key traits of a team player: communication, adaptability, empathy, appreciative of others, humor(?).

12. What do Your Co-workers Say About You?

Do you sound calm or wary about this question? Are you self-aware or just self-conscious?

Tactic: Testimonials, not adjectives.

  • Use real examples, not generic adjectives like hardworking and reliable.
  • Answer tailored for the boss:
    • You can do the job.
    • You're not a burden to manage.
    • You're hungry for what the firm is offering.
  • Answer tailored to colleagues:
    • You're fun(?), positive & fair.
    • You're a good cultural fit.

13. How do You Deal with Stress and Failure?

When the pressure increases, will you turn into a monster, a useless blob of jelly or someone who sets a good example?

Tactic: Don't pretend you live in a stress-free bubble. Instead, give concrete examples of the steps you take to handle pressure.

  • You need to convince the interviewer that you won't crumble under pressure.
  • What specific practices did you use to cope with stress? e.g.
    • exercise
    • analyzing the source of the stress
    • prioritizing tasks
    • delegating
    • re-conceptualizing pressure as motivating
    • deep breathing
    • taking short breaks
    • laughter / letting loose after work
  • Show that you're not stranger to stress & have figured out a constructive way to handle stress.

14. How Much Money do You Want?

Can we afford you? Are you value for money?

Tactic: Avoid until as late as possible in the interview process.

  • See dedicated salary negotiation section below.

15. Show Me Your Creativity

No hidden agenda here - are you creative?

Tactic: Show that a blank sheet of paper doesn't scare you - the future is full of blank sheets.

  • See dedicated creativity section below.

Career Goal Questions

16. Please Describe the Job You've Applied For

We know you know, else you wouldn't be here - but how well can you sum it up?

Tactic: Have the confidence to give them the briefest of answers.

  • The question tests your ability to summarize information correctly.
  • Pick the essence of the job, usually something to do with making a profit or keeping stakeholders happy, then add in 1-2 everyday tasks.
  • Add KPIs for yourself, the team or product.
  • 1-2 key challenges to be overcome in the industry.

17. How did You Hear About the Position?

How plugged in to the company are you?

Tactic: If possible, take this opportunity to highlight your personal connection to, or passion for, the company.

  • Likely testing whether you sought out this particular firm or type of employer and fell strongly about what they do or if you just stumbled upon the job opening.
  • If you heard about the job from a contact / friend, mention that without sounding like an obnoxious name-dropper.
  • If via a job board / agency, add details about why this opportunity got you excited and fits your skill / experience.

18. Why do you want to work at this company?

Have you been following us for a long time, or have you just read about us?

Tactic: Show that you are familiar with the company's regular outputs, not just its "About Us" page.

  • It's about showing that you want to commit to that company, and it's not just a job.
  • Do research and tailor your answer accordingly.
  • If the interviewer is your boss, and then focus on your personal contribution.

19. What motivates you?

Will this job, specifically, motivate you to do great work? Are you in it for just a paycheck?

Tactic: Put all that preparation you did to good use.

  • Show how this job has intrinsic motivation for you and that you'll enjoy it in some way.
  • Avoid excessive flattery, trivial motivations (e.g. Shorter commute) and the appearance of random chance.
  • When talking about career oxidation, emphasize a rational progression from job to job - a coherent career story.
  • A thoughtful answer lays out how your personal motivations and the specific characteristics of the job line up.

20. Would you stay with your current employer if they offered you a pay raise?

Doyou what the job or not? Am I being played off against your current boss?

Tactic: There would be no dilemma; you want progress much more than you want money.

21. Would you be OK with the commute to this job?

Nobody likes a long commute; you know other candidates live closer than you, right?

Tactic: If you're not prepared to move, say so. And if you genuinely don't mind the commute say that too - and don't wait to be asked.

22. How does this job fit in with your career plan?

How much do you really want to solve your immediate problem? What about after that?

Tactic: Interview for the job, not the employer.

  • The message you want to get across is, "I plan to do this job well enough that you'll tell me where you want me next."
  • The question tests your commitment to the employer's immediate problem.
  • Focus on the job at hand, not the next step in your career.

23. Give me the names of three companies you would like to work for.

We want you here - buy will you love it here? Do you understand the competitive terrain?

Tactic: Use your research to draw distinctions between the usual suspects in your industry vs. the new kids on the block.

  • Talk about the (1) the hiring firm (2) the hiring firm's closest rival & (3) the upstart newcomer.
  • E.g. I would work for a new vertical group (Expedia, Healthvault) at Microsoft, Hotwire (if they were in Bellevue), or the east coast startup that sells custom shirts.
  • Talking about an upstart challenger who could turn the industry on its head will show that you're aware of what's going on in their industry.

24. Where else have you applied? Who else are you interviewing with?

Is a competitor about to snap you up?

Tactic: Sound as though you're in demand.

  • Be brief, leave them wanting more information.
  • Mention close competitors or well-regarded firms if you can.
  • Talk bout similarities of the roles you've applied for - this shows that you're conducting a small, targeted search.

25. Why have you changed jobs so frequently?

Will you leave this job mere months after we hire you?

Tactic: Explain each move in terms employers can sympathize with.

  • Acceptable explanations:
    • Short-term contract / project-oriented work.
    • Relocation
    • Career advancement
    • Change of employer type
    • Structural changes at the company

26. What is your dream job?

Can we help you on your way, or is this the wrong job for you? Do you really want to work here at all?

Tactic: Play down the dream, play up the things your dreams are made of.

  • Respond in good humor and move on quickly.
  • Refer to the role by its specification, not its title.

27. What is your ideal work environment?

Are your preferences compatible with how we do business here?

Tactic: Say that what you want is what they're offering.

  • Goal is to determine the fit between how you like to work and how things get done at this company.
  • Questions like this are really about the company's needs - they just appear to be about your preferences.
  • Choose aspects of your ideal atmosphere that match up with the company.
  • Skip preferences that this company cannot meet.

28. Why do you want to leave your current job?

Do you know what this job is? And, to be a little paranoid, do you have some murky problem that I can't see now? Are you about to get fired? Help me out here.

Tactic: It's not about you. Link your answer to what the company needs.

  • Even if there is a negative reason for leaving, give a sincere and positive answer.
  • Play this from the front foot, not the back foot.
  • Show that you're running towards something, not away.
  • There are 2 skeleton answers:
    • In my current job I do X. You do X here too, but this is a better place to do X. Here's how I would do X for you.
    • My employer does X, but you do Y, and Y is what I want. You is also what I'm good at & enjoy. Here's how my resume relates to Y.
  • Your terrible boss was never going to solve your interviewer's problems, so why bring him into the room?

29. Talk me through (the gaps in) your resume / career history.

Did you stay at home watching TV for six months? Were you in jail? Is there something wrong with your mindset?

Tactic: The best defense is offense use your time productively when you're out of work. If you have a gap, be prepared to explain it.

  • Managers would rather hire someone with no relevant experience that someone who has been out of work for longer than six months.
  • Acceptable reasons for gaps:
    • taking time out to raise children
    • caring for an ill family member.
    • a medical issue or accident.
    • education or further training.
    • traveling.

Character Questions

Questions often come in the form of a moral dilemma. More often than not, your chosen course of action to resolve the dilemma is less important than showing that you knew what you were doing and why.

Tactic: Show that you make conscious & clear decisions according to a set of values, & that you can live with the consequences.

30. How was your journey here?

Read to begin the interview? 5... 4... 3... 2...

Tactic: A big smile and a short answer that's long on gratitude.

  • This warm-up question is your chance to show a positive attitude.

31. Where does your boss think you are now?

How easily tempted are you to lie?

Tactic: Simple - don't lie.

  • Take a vacation day or interview outside office hours.

32. What are your core values?

Do your values like up with ours?

Tactic Make sure you know the company's values as well as your own.

  • 50% answer --> Highlight overlaps in your principles and the company's.
  • 100% answer --> Provide anecdotal evidence to illustrate overlaps.

33. What are you hobbies and interests?

Do you pass the airport test?

Tactic: Share a genuine passion, but don't make it sound like it's more important than your work.

  • Only offer a subject you can converse about in some detail and with enthusiasm: your interviewer may be a fellow enthusiast and ask follow-up questions.
  • Convey that you are a rounded, engaging person with interests outside the office; careful that it doesn't sound like they will impinge on your job commitment.

34. Tell me about your first job.

How's your work ethic?

Tactic: Whatever you thought of your first job, not's the time to recount any positive lessons it taught you.

  • Question is about your attitude - ensure you don't come across as a snob who avoided / refused menial work early in your career.
  • Show you have good work ethic & an ability to multitask.

35. Who do you admire and why?

What are your fundamental values?

Tactic: The why is more important than the who - make sure you show that you value something that the company values too.

  • What qualities do you value in other people and yourself - why matters more than who.
  • Avoid politicians - you might reveal an affiliation that the interviewer does not share.
  • A widely admired person as an answer won't stand out, neither will someone who's obscure.
  • Avoid close friends / family.

36. If you could bring anyone to this company from where you currently work, who would it be?

Who do you need around you in order to function well? What does this company need to function well? What are our competitors doing that maybe we aren't?

Tactic: Choose someone who would help you do the job, not someone who would help you get through a boring day.

  • Answer should shed light on your key motivations & expectations from people around you.
  • Person should add to both the company & you.
  • You may also be asked a follow up - Who wouldn't you bring?

37. Tell me about a time you dealt with a difficult person.

You know that everyone's difficult sometimes, right?

Tactic: Show that you can work with anyone, even if nobody's perfect - including you.

  • Emphasize that some people are employed because they're good at what they do, not because they're easy-going.
  • Prep for this question before interview, else risk talking about your nemesis - this will likely not end well.
  • Risky to talk about colleagues or customers.
  • Pick someone whose job it is to give you grief, e.g. someone from a rival firm, an agent for a client, a certified inspector, a journalist, a pressure group or someone from local government.
  • Answer should cover:
    • Could you have changed the situation?
    • Did you do anything to make it worse?
    • Did you listen to the other person?
    • Could you have reasonably been expected to put up with it - if not, how did you stand your ground?
    • Did you keep your cool?
    • Do you see the world as adversarial or consensual?
  • Good note to strike is that it takes two people to have a personality clash.

38. When were you last angry - and why?

Are you a hothead? Can you handle stress?

Tactic: Provide an example when you constructively worked through a stressful or annoying situation.

  • Anger is destructive, not constructive - so, don't provide an anecdote.
  • Massage the question to replace "angry" with "stressed" or "frustrated" - choose an annoying situation where you were able to keep your cool & handle it constructively.
  • Do not cite your boss as a source of stress.

39. Tell me about something funny that has happened to you at work.

Can I stand to be cooped up in the same office with you 40-odd hours a week?

Tactic: Make a joke at your own expense.

  • Skip barbed humor, mockery or political incorrectness.
  • Pick an innocuous victimless story.

40. What is it about this job that you would least look forward to?

Are you going to like this job? Are you drawn to it for the right reasons? Do you have the guts for it? Is this job consistent with your career goals - if not, what's the real reason you're applying?

Tactic: Acknowledge an unfortunate (but key) aspect of the job & say how you've dealt with it before.

  • Show you're tougher than the rest.
  • No dodging. Don't pick an infrequent task & hide behind the infrequency.
  • Pick a part of the job that no one would enjoy - show how you can handle it with reference to experience.
  • Don't pick a task you've never done before - that would be knocking it before trying it.

41. Tell me something about yourself that isn't on your resume.

Are you going to give me a mature response? Are you a well-rounded person outside of work? And oh, I'm tired - will you take over for a bit?

Tactic: If it advances the action, say whatever you want to say. Avoid trivia & flippancy.

  • Pick something interesting & impressive that wasn't worth putting on your resume.
  • Show you have outside interests that are sociable & achievement-oriented, ones that involve teamwork or personal initiative.
  • Professional:
    • First job: how it set you on your current career path.
    • Project / professional episode that was harder than appears on your resume, but which you succeeded at.
  • Personal:
    • Voluntary work.
    • Specific, interesting instances of your hobby.
    • Groups you belong to & contribute regularly to.

42. What do you most dislike about yourself?

If I rattle your cage, what will you reveal about yourself?

Tactic: Don't mistake the interview room for your psychologist's office. Reframe and answer in a professional manner.

  • Negative version of "What are your greatest weaknesses?" - weaknesses can be remedies, character flaws are harder to fix.
  • Interviewer probably trying to see how you react to your feathers being ruffled.
  • Reframe the question as one about areas in need of improvement.

43. How would you react if i told you that you are not the strongest candidate we have interviewed so far?

Show me you can fight in your corner.

Tactic: Ask the interviewer why you might not measure up & try to reassure them about any concerns.

  • Keep your cool, ask for more info.
  • If they have genuine reservations, use the interviewer's answer to tailor your response & assuage their concerns.
  • If it's a hypothetical, it means that they want see your response to direct challenges - so, show that you take a constructive approach to criticism & conflict.

44. Is it acceptable to lie in business?

What are your core values?

Tactic: Show that you leave lying to people who are content to win that way.

  • Play it 1000% straight, say that lying is always unacceptable for moral & practical reasons.
  • Don't suggest a set of qualifying circumstances. Don't squirm, bargain or wheedle.
  • Don't try to tease out any nuances - you'll regret even trying.

45. If you could go back & change 1 thing about your career to date, what would it be?

Is there something back about you that I cannot see, and if there is, can I get you to admit it? Do you carry psychological baggage that you don't need? How readily do you forgive yourself & others?

Tactic: Give the interviewer a little bit of grit, but never use the work "regret" in your answer. Focus on something positive & say you wished you'd done more of it. Then stop talking.

  • Mindset - people make mistakes & most of us have a few regrets.
  • Emphasize what you're running towards, not what you're running from.
  • Keep it honest & positive - but short.

46. What do people assume about you that would would be wrong?

How well do you know yourself?

Tactic: Demonstrate self-awareness at the same time as you put the interviewer's fears to bed.

  • This questions probes both your personality & emotional intelligence.
  • Starting from a position of honesty, be strategic about your reply.

47. Can you tell me about a time when you stood up for the right thing to do?

We're not going to end up on the front page of the newspapers for an ethics scandal, are we?

Tactic: Assure the interviewer that you're honest & trustworthy.

  • Narrate a situation where you proved honest & trustworthy.
  • You want to be seen as upright & dependable, but not someone who can't resolve issues within a team.
  • Don't violate someone's confidentiality.

48. Have you ever stolen a pen from work?

Will you pretend you've never put a foot wrong, or will you do the right thing?

Tactic: They're more worried about your integrity then their inventory.

  • Don't get drawn into an unnecessary debate on details; kill the conversation with a realistic answer & move on.
  • e.g. On occasion, but I typically return it when I remember. I don't have a room full of supplies from the office, if that's what you mean. :-)

49. Did you enjoy school / college?

You have too little experience in the world of work for us to learn about you, so hopefully your academic experience will give us some insight into your character.

Tactic: Just as if they were asking about work, be honest but showcase the skills & character traits most relevant to the job.

  • Are your personal style & skills a fit for this role?

50. Do you know anyone at this company?

What will they say about you? Will they try to set me up or give it to me straight?

Tactic: If you have connections, be 100% honest about them - but you should also show why you deserve to be hired on merit.

  • Come clean about whom you know, but play down their importance - it's possible that your acquaintance is not well respected in the organization.
  • You don't want to appear to be overly coached.

51. How do you maintain a good work / life balance?

If we hire you, will you be here when we need you? Or are you rapidly going to become a stressed-out, burned-out mess?

Tactic: They really don't care about how you keep work apart from your home life; they want to know how you keep your home life & stress away from your work.

  • Reassure the interviewer that you have systems in place to deal with stress & scheduling conflicts, & that the pressures of home will not at all impinge on your ability to do the job.

52. Are your grades a good indicator of success in this business?

Did you make the correct academic choices? Were your results good enough & do you take responsibility for them?

Tactic: If you don't have excellent results to brag about, explain your academic performance without blaming others or sounding defensive.

53. Would you rather be liked or feared?

What's your leadership style? Also, do you have the poise to wriggle out of a trick question?

Tactic: Opt for the unsaid option - "respected".

  • Acknowledge the original framing of the question, then opt for the unsaid one.

54. What are your thoughts on the interview process so far?

How are your diplomacy skills?

Tactic: Walk the line between flattery & criticism.

  • Question tries to figure out if you can offer constructive feedback, yet maintain pleasant relations with colleagues.
  • Avoid pointless flattery, show respect & ensure that the interviewer continues to like you.

55. Why should I choose you over other candidates?

You probably have the skills to do this job, but what sort of person are you? What intangibles will you bring to the company?

Tactic: Skip the competencies here & instead focus on what sets you apart as a person.

  • Forget the comparison framing - you don't know anything about the other candidates.
  • Expand on your finest personal characteristics.
  • Talk about your interesting facets that aren't captured in the resume.
  • Highlight intangibles that you haven't been able to work into the conversation till this point.
  • Discuss any unusual skills / special abilities that other candidates won't have.

56. Is it OK to spend time at work on non-work stuff, like Facebook or YouTube??

Are you coming here to work or play?

Tactic: Their house, their rules. If you don't like it, don't take their money.

  • You want to be seen to accept the importance of the issue to the employer. Any time spent on non-work stuff is likely viewed as misconduct.
  • Nothing to be gained by the perception that you consider both sides of the issue.

57. What are 3 positive things your boss / colleagues would say about you?

What's your track record, really? Are you self-aware? Are you going to sound like all the rest?

Tactic: Show, don't tell.

  • Important that you deliver the answer in a natural & relaxed tone. Peer feedback is how people that interview well, but can't do the job well are ferreted out - so, your tone of voice needs to back up your words.
  • Goal is to pay yourself compliments, without sounding boastful or fake - leave out the self-criticism.
  • Talk about what your boss / colleagues would say about what you've done, rather than who you are.
  • Quantifiable achievement will always beat self-serving rhetoric.

58. What has been the biggest setback in your career?

Are you resilient? Are you honest?

Tactic: Be frank about your failure, but positive about what you learned.

  • This is a chance to demonstrate 2 extremely valuable characteristics - frankness & resilience.
  • Present the setback as evidence of your humility & the lessons you learned which made you stronger.
  • Show that you have the ability to persevere & to snatch something positive from a negative situation.

59. Your boss overslept & is not late for a client meeting . He calls & asks you to tell the client that he's stuck in traffic - in other words to lie for him. What do you do?

How do you make difficult decisions? Who's more important - a client or a boss? Do you value the team or the rules? What are your standards?

Tactic: Very gently undermine the question. Say that you've presented with an impossible situation & no one should expect a perfect answer.

  • Take the sting out of the question by highlighting its impossible nature.
  • Suggest that your answer will inevitably be slightly unsatisfactory, & that real life usually offers more wiggle room.

Competency Questions

Use the STAR technique. Give context to the *S*ituation, the *T*ask, your *A*ctions and the *R*esult.

60. What was the last big decision you had to make?

How do you think through problems? Is your approach appropriate for this role?

Tactic: Give the interviewer a window into your decision-making process, stressing the particular type of reasoning that is most important for the job at hand.

  • Show how do you reason & weigh alternatives.
  • Highlight job relevant skills and your ability to apply them in a human context. Use the job spec to determine relevant skills.
  • May entail stressing your empathy and strong sense of people’s quirks, your analytical chops, your stomach for tough calls, your ability to think about the bigger picture, your coolness under time pressure, or your intuitive grasp of questions of design, branding or aesthetics.

61. Tell me about a time you've worked to / missed a deadline.

How do you prioritize tasks, organize your work & handle time pressure?

Tactic: Apply the STAR technique, but be human.

  • Situation / Task (or Context): Provide background, any constraints & be crystal clear about your goal. This is essentially "setting the scene".
  • Actions: Concrete actions taken to resolve the situation. Be the driver, don't hog credit, don't be a victim or require rescue.
  • Results: A quantifiable happy ending.
  • Under abilities of interest: organizational ability, skill at prioritizing & coolness under pressure.
  • A *bit* of adversity or failure humanizes you.

62. Tell me about a big change you've had to deal with.

When the change happened, did you shrink from it or did you lean into it? Do you still have the energy for change? What mark would you give your adaptability, out of ten?

Tactic: Show that you think of change as a permanent & necessary fixture, not as an occasional obstacle.

  • Be specific - times, places, names & outcomes; no big-picture sermon.
  • Top line is to show that you think of change as an opportunity to grow, not an ordeal to endure.
  • Acknowledge specific, positive results of the change & work backward in time to the bad old days.
  • Show that you:
    • are open to new experiences.
    • soldier on through the bad atmosphere that change creates.
    • can get into the minds of those who oppose change - many are just scared, not lazy.
  • Show that change never stopped you from focusing on the ultimate purpose of your job & that little things don't matter to you.
  • For max impact, give an example of when you volunteered for change.

63. Tell me about a time you've had to persuade someone to do do something.

People are tricky creatures. Do you know how to handle them?

Tactic: Focus on how you persuaded people, not just that you managed to convince them.

  • Gauges people skills. Interviewer is looking for:
    • empathy
    • charm or rapport building
    • confidence & possibly assertiveness
    • flexibility
    • ability to handle conflict / difficult conversations.
    • humility, ability to put to ego aside
    • ability to understand & motivate others
  • Use STAR to demonstrate the above skills.

64. Give me an example of something you've tried in your job that hasn't worked. How did you learn from it?

Are you too afraid of failure to be innovative?

Tactic: Don't mistake this question for one about setbacks or failure. It's about your willingness to experiment.