Preparing for Interviews
- Research the company, review their website, look at recent press coverage, review your networking notes to see what you have learned about the company.
- Prepare questions in advance that you can ask your interviewers.
- Review the job description carefully and think about how you will discuss your qualifications. What have you done that demonstrates your ability to perform this job and do it well?
- Anticipate the questions they are likely to ask and think about your responses. Don’t memorize your answers but know what key points you want to cover.
- Prepare your examples to behavioral questions. Identify the likely skills they will ask about and identify your examples. Think about how you can explain the situation what action you took and don’t forget to emphasize the results you achieved. Know what examples you will want to share.
- Be sure you know how to get there in advance. Take a test run if necessary.
Cardinal Sins when Interviewing
- Arriving late. Always know where you are going, allow plenty of time to get there and to park. Always arrive a few minutes early.
- Wimpy or tentative handshake. Demonstrate your confidence with a professional handshake. Don’t be a bone crusher either.
- Lack of eye contact. If you can’t look at the interviewer while you are answering they suspect you have something to hide and they perceive that you lack confidence.
- Acting like you are not interested or even wishing you were somewhere else. Demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm for the position. Employers often report back that the candidate seemed well qualified but lacked a passion for the opportunity. They want to hire someone who wants to be part of the team.
Types of Interview Questions and Samples:
Tried and True
- Most employers still ask the “tell me about yourself” question to break the ice. It is a great opportunity for students to differentiate themselves and highlight their strengths for the particular position.
- “What are your strengths and weaknesses? “ is still asked frequently. They expect proof statements to support the strengths and the actions taken to improve the weaknesses. They are looking for self-awareness and assessment and expect responses that will help differentiate the student from other candidates.
- “Do you have any questions? They expect that you have questions and they should clearly demonstrate your preparation and research in advance, your strong listening during the interview and your interest and enthusiasm for the position. This is an opportunity to differentiate yourself.
Behavioral Interviews or “tell me about a time…”
- “Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a member of your team at work. How did you address it and what was the result?”
- “Tell me about a time you had multiple top priorities due at the same time. How did you address the problem and what was the result?
- “Tell me about a mistake you made and how you addressed it.”
- They are trying to anticipate future behavior by understanding how you behaved in the past and what you learned. It is important to clarify the situation succinctly, explain what specific action you took and what the result of that action was. You are painting a word picture for them to help them understand how you work. Avoid the tendency to over-explain the situation. Describe it briefly so you can focus on your actions and the final result. Show how you made a difference.
Mini-Case Situations or Unusual Questions
- These questions give employers an opportunity to see how you think. It is less about finding the right answer and more about how you think and process information. Be sure to use round numbers so you can do calculations in your head but watch the zeros and the decimal points! These are actual questions asked by employers in recent interviews.
- “What you would do if you were in this job and the CEO called and asked you why sales were down in the X division last month and then told you she needed an answer in an hour before her executive team meeting?” This isn’t the time to talk about surveying customers or implementing tracking programs for new promotions. What information do you need to put your hands on? How would you use that information? What kinds of questions do you need to ask? You need to talk them through your thought process to show that you are thinking logically about the issue and finding actionable data.
- “We’ve experienced disruption in the manufacturing department for each of the last three months due to timing delays of getting the six specific component parts to the assembly station for a critical part of the manufacturing process. The VP of Manufacturing is very upset and has assured the CEO it won’t happen again next month. He needs your recommendations first thing in the morning.” What information do you need and what possible solutions can you offer? Think through the process out loud so they can see your thought process.
- “What would you do if the major project you were working on had a deadline of next week to the senior VP and the team can’t agree on next steps?”
- “What would you do if you lived on an island that ran out of diapers and any materials commonly used to produce diapers?” I actually had an employer ask this of our students and students enjoyed thinking of creative solutions. It is less about the specific answer and more about how you think creatively about a problem. Students who could not provide any response did not advance in the process. This is actually a question an employer asked in an interview process. They love to see how you think on your feet.
- If you could be an animal, what type would you be and why? Clearly no right or wrong answer but they want to see how you think on your feet.
- “How many cars would be in the parking lot in our ABC store on a Thursday morning between10 and 12?” Think about what you need to know about their business and that location. Think about the categories of cars that would be there. Make assumptions and explain your thought process.
- “How many replacement tires are sold in the US in a given year?” Use round numbers to talk through your assumptions and make an informed guess.
- “What was your favorite thing to play as a child?”
At this point, we are seeing most employers asking a mix of all three types of questions to get as good a sense as possible of how well the candidate will fit in their organization and how well they will be able to perform the specific job.
How to Prepare for the Unexpected
- Be well prepared for your “tried and true” questions and have several stories prepared that you can use to address a variety of behavioral questions. The better prepared you are for these questions the less disruptive the unique questions will be.
- Have key facts in your head in round numbers. US population and world population for example. Know key facts about the company and the industry.
- Practice answering unique questions in advance. Use online lists of questions to test yourself. Practice case questions in advance. The more you practice the better you will perform in the interview.