During an interview, you as a candidate want to respond to questions that:
- Show that you have real solutions to issues they are experiencing, or
- Define a result that you have achieved in a similar situation
If successful, you will move up the list of candidates. Those candidates who answer questions with a generic, non-specific answer will move down the list. The difference between the two, is that one provides examples of a potential solution to an issue while the other provides a pontificating philosophy, but no concrete answer.
Finding solutions and producing results represent critical aspects within any organization. The interviewer wants clear-cut examples that the candidate can do the job. That can be very difficult during a 30-minute interview. It requires you to have a focused approach.
The experienced interviewer may ask a question like, “Give me a specific example of a situation in which you solved a major issue in your field of expertise. What was the issue and what did you do?” Some candidates will say something nebulous about having great problem-solving skills and technical knowledge, but fail to give concrete facts. Those are the candidates that lose credibility. Other questions?
- ‘Give me a specific example of an action you took that turned out to be a mistake. What happened and what did you learn from the mistake?”
- Some will claim they cannot recall making a mistake. That is the worst possible answer. Those people are either lying or they are afraid to make decisions
- Some will discuss a mistake, then slowly begin to shift the blame to someone else. This answer is the 2nd worse answer
- Some will describe a specific error, accept full responsibility, plus what they did so it didn’t reoccur. That’s the answer you are seeking. It demonstrates someone who’s not afraid to identify and correct an error.
- “Give me a specific example of your greatest accomplishment to date”. Candidate answers will be varied, but it gives the interviewer insights into your style, priorities, character and thoughtfulness. Did you take all the credit or was it a team effort? Was your achievement meaningful? How was it accomplished?
So how do you best prepare for interview questions? I suggest three steps:
- Your resume is the only document they have, so something on it drew their interest. Take each line of your resume and with the position description identify what questions are likely to be asked?” Prepare your answers before the interview.
- Outside of the resume, there are about 50 most asked questions, from “strengths and weaknesses” to “why are you a better candidate than others?”. Use your imagination to figure out the questions and prepare your best answers beforehand.
- Prepare, practice and improve your answers to questions you know will be asked. Each job may have a slightly different answer, but prepare, prepare, prepare.
My thanks to R. Johnson for some of the ideas within this article.
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