By John Sattler, CPC
Have you ever stumbled, or observed someone stumble, through the answer to a question during a job interview? Some questions are actually designed to observe how you respond to the unexpected and how well you think on your feet. It is a common, effective interviewing tool, and some hesitation and fumbling in the responses is fairly common. Most interview questions, however, are expected. You can predict with 80-100% accuracy what questions you will be asked during a job interview. You know what to expect, and, as a professional, it is a reasonable assumption on the part of others that you will be prepared. What I have found, however – in my experience as a recruiter, resume writer, and career coach – is all too often candidates are unprepared for the expected questions, let alone the unexpected. This post focuses on the former.
Being unprepared for an interview guarantees failure. Long silences are deal killers. Grunts, stumbles, and phrases like, “um, uh, hmm, well uh, (something inaudible), I’m not really sure, I don’t know how to put it, etc.,” are telltale signs you are unprepared or worse, do not care. Nevertheless, let us be easy on ourselves and assume you do care.
Many of the skills we depend on for our livelihoods must be utilized and/or practiced every day or they immediately begin to atrophy. Since interviewing is something you do not do every day, it is a skill you must practice / rehearse every day while you are in job-search mode. Jascha Heifetz, perhaps the greatest solo violinist ever, said, “If I don’t practice for a day, I notice; for 2 days, my wife notices; for 3, my audience notices.”
“You have to own your story”, says Kim Cole, Executive Recruiter and co-founder of The Sales Zone, “Your story must be easily understood by the person sitting across the table.” And when you are interviewed, much of your story is told through your answers to common, key questions. Kim also advises to be sure the information on your resume, LinkedIn Profile, and what you share in your interviews is congruent. Employment dates, gaps, job titles, date of degree(s), etc., must match.
Ok, so how do you prepare? 1.) Write down 10 highly anticipated common interview questions and 2 situational and behavioral questions. 2.) Script out your response to each. 3.) Rehearse. 4.) Rehearse. 5.) Rehearse. Do not try to memorize. You are aiming for clarity and confidence, not exact wording. You will find if you put this to paper and rehearse it a few times, you may say something a bit different each time but it will be clearer, more natural, more confident, and much less tense.Being unprepared for an interview guarantees failure. Click To Tweet
Here are 10 of the most common “expected” questions (I see my inbox filling already) and a situational and behavioral question. Actually, #1 is a behavioral question and probably the most utilized interview question ever. Please do not get caught up in attempting to anticipate the unexpected. Right now, your goal is to be able to respond to key, anticipated questions with clarity and confidence.
1. Tell me about yourself. (Focus on your career and how it relates with the job).
2. Why have you left your past positions? (Script out each transition).
3. Why are you seeking a new position?
4. Why are you interviewing with our company?
5. What can you do for our company? / What is your true value proposition?
6. Why should we hire you?
7. What are your greatest strengths? Weaknesses?
8. What are your goals?
9. What are you passionate about?
10. What are your compensation expectations?
11. Situational questions, such as, “What would you do if one of your team members is not producing as expected?”
12. Behavioral questions, such as, “Give an example of a goal you set and achieved.”
Note: If you are interviewing for a leadership position, you can anticipate heavy use of situational questions.
Icing on the cake: This exercise will note only dramatically increase your odds of making it to the next round and/or landing the job, there are other significant benefits:
>>Clarifies your thinking. You might be amazed at what this can do for your confidence (You may even have a revelation during the process!).
>>Frees your mind to be creative and more effectively answer unexpected questions.
>>Makes you a memorable candidate by showing respect for the interviewer, the process, and yourself. One never knows what the result of a great interview can be. If you do not land that particular job, you may be called for one in the future, or one of your interviewers may switch companies or start their own and be in touch with you then.
By scripting out and rehearsing answers to expected interview questions, I guarantee you will feel a significant surge in your confidence in your ability to interview successfully. Happy interviewing!