Version 6 (modified by Vijay Varadan, 4 years ago) (diff)

Finished Chapter 2 notes.

101 Job Interview Questions You'll Never Fear Again

Author: James Reed



Coming Feb 1st week.


3G Mindset


(vantage point)




(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.