Not all interviews, questions or responses are alike, but most questions are predictable. The interviewer is most interested in what you have done, how you did it and what were the results. The closer you come with your answers to fulfilling the needs of the hiring manager, the closer you are to becoming a finalist candidate.
Some questions are looking for how you think and respond to the question, and not the answer itself. These can be the most difficult questions. Here are some from my past clients:
WHAT ARE YOU “NOT?” – Sounds strange, but it’s the reverse of the question, “Describe yourself”. The easiest way to answer this question is to think about who you ARE and give the opposite answer. If you are modest and understated, you’re NOT a braggard or showoff; a team-player, not a loner; an achiever, not a slacker; a participant, not a spectator. The interviewer is trying to ascertain how you handle the stress and difficulty of a curveball question.
HOW DO I KNOW YOUR NOT A SHORT-TERMER? Both a real issue and a curveball question. If your history of jobs is 5 years or more, you can say, “Look at my record. I have always committed to the job to be done”. If you have a history of short-term moves, take the approach of saying, “I’ve been looking for the right job, organization and work team in order to commit to a longer-term career. I believe this position is the right one for me.”. However, you have to believe it yourself.
WHAT KIND OF SUPERVISOR DO YOU NEED? This question needs an honest answer. Don’t try to outguess what you believe the hiring manager is looking for in a candidate. If you know what you need to become an outstanding performer, and your supervisor can’t provide them, the job won’t get done and your career may stall. This is one question that you need to prepare with complete candor: Level of support? Freedom of action? Team engagement? Decision making? Expanded responsibilities? Need for direction?
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH NEGATIVE CO-WORKERS? This is a question about conflict. There will always be issues around the work to be done. Sometimes it becomes office politics, but more often it may be interpersonal. Always suggest that employees try to work out problems by themselves. If that doesn’t work, try an objective third-party peer that you both can work with and respect. If the solution doesn’t affect results, just let time take care of it. If the solution does affect performance, you may need to sit down with the supervisor.
Interviewing is like most skills. The more you do the better you become, especially if you prepare and practice before the interview. After the interview, critique your answers.
For tough questions, pivot toward familiar or more comfortable areas: Your expertise or your pursuit of results. That’s what the hiring manager is most interested in.
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