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Interviewing isn’t just about “putting your best foot forward,” as the old saying goes. It’s presenting yourself as THE candidate who can help your prospective employer achieve their business goals. It means understanding what the employer wants—and doesn’t want—in a new hire. You’re setting yourself apart from every other candidate applying for the job. And that means understanding the kinds of interview questions you’ll need to answer—and knowing how to answer them so that you’re the standout candidate.
You should always be prepared for a generic question such as, “What do you know about our company, our competitors, our products, this division, and this position?” If you haven’t done your homework, failing to answer this question will almost certainly shorten the interview and disqualify you in the interviewer’s eyes. That said, at the end of this post, we’ll examine the part of the interview where you turn the tables and you’re the one asking the questions.
There are three primary categories of interview questions that form today’s interviews. What you probably won’t get a lot of are the “Tell me about yourself” kinds of questions that persisted in the past. What you will get are behavioral questions, situational questions, and what I call “wildcard” or “blue sky” questions.
Behavioral interview questions have been used extensively for the past 30 years or so because it’s been shown that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. So, behavioral interview questions ask about what situations you faced and what you did about them.
Behavioral interviewing consists of a simple, 3-step formula for asking questions, sometimes known as the SAR or STAR method. The interviewer will ask you about:
Another variant you might see is the acronym SHARE:
Here’s a quick example of a behavioral interview question:
“Tell me about a project you undertook that required an approach that was very different from how you usually do things. Describe the project (Situation/Task), what you did (Action), and the outcome (Results). And then tell me what you learned and how you applied it later.”
A key question: “What would you do on your first day on the job if no one was there to give you direction?” This kind of question is known as Situational Interviewing, and it’s the flip side of Behavioral Interviewing. Your task in this phase of interviewing is to research the company you’re interviewing and get as much information about “pain points” as possible so that you have a general idea about the kinds of situations you might face if you’re hired. See the link below for those kinds of questions.
Probes: Additional or Follow-up Questions
Most interviews will include “probes” or follow-up questions after your first answer. Probes apply to both behavioral and situational questions. As you think about your original answer, be thinking about additional details you might emphasize if you’re asked a follow-up question.
Wildcard questions are, well, out there. They’re the sort of “blue sky” questions that can stump you if you’re not prepared. Instead, think about your answers to some of the wildcard questions below:
“Do you have any questions for me?” Interviewing-the-Interviewer Questions
Always have several questions that you want to ask the interviewer. It shows you’re curious and that you’ve done some critical thinking about the company and the position you’re interviewing for.
Here’s a general list of questions you might ask the interviewer:
Interviews are an opportunity for you to shine. With a bit of preparation and thought, you’ll be prepared for just about any question that comes your way. If you want to practice, answer some questions on video or by having a friend serve as the interviewer. Watch the video. What did you see and hear? What would you do differently? Seeing yourself on video will speak volumes about how you’ll come across in a live interview. And, understanding the three types of interview questions can position you as the right person for the job.
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