OK, you’ve made it through HR’s screening interview. Now you have that all-important interview with the hiring manager.
I put people through interview paces all the time. Here are some basics:
Think big picture first.
Here’s what the hiring manager is trying to assess:
- Your fit for the job, including skill sets, experience and accomplishments — individually and as part of a team. Will you be able to do the job?
- Chemistry — will they like working with you? Think of the “out for a beer” test.
- Whether the people who hire you can defend their decision, even if you don’t work out.
So, make this first interview about their needs, not yours. Later you can (and should) find out about whether the organization will fit your needs. You can do this in subsequent interviews, through your contacts, and using Vault and GlassDoor for their Yelp-like reviews of the company.
The very best way to prepare is to get out your resume and plan an example you can use for every skill and every claim you make. That will mean at least 15 stories. No need to write these out, but practice.
And make a note of what examples you plan to use — it will save you time in subsequent interviews.
That said, here are tips about frequently-asked interview questions:
“Tell me about yourself”
Don’t you hate this one? But don’t wing it just because it’s so “easy”. This is your chance to brand yourself as the right person for their job. You shouldprovide :
- A little about several relevant places you’ve worked
- The experience and skills you gained there — the very skills that you know they want, based on your careful reading of the job ad. If your college and degrees aren’t relevant, skip them.
“Why do you want this job?”
Avoid telling them you want to learn about some new skill set on the job. Sorry! They want someone who is ready to produce, and they don’t want to have to worry that you still need to learn a major new skill (although that may be a good reason to take the job.)
Instead, tell them about how much you like doing X, Y, and Z — the main things they want you to do — and that you have experience and success in doing X, Y and Z. And say something complimentary about the company — something that evidences some research.
“Why should we hire you over an internal candidate we are interviewing?”
This is a stress question, reminding you that you have competitors. Talk briefly about your three top strengths — the ones you started branding yourself with in the first question. But also offer up one or two qualifications you have that others probably don’t have — experience with business use of social media, or success in training staff and customers, etc., and link it to how it would make you especially effective in your work with them.
“Tell me about your strengths”
This is the same sort of question, and you again should emphasize your several top skill sets, perhaps with an example of each. Make the examples into (very) short stories!
A formula when preparing these stories (do it in advance) is SAR — what was the Situation, what Action did you take, and what was the Result? (Very often, applicants forget to claim a result, and just trail off after they say what they did.)
“What are your weaknesses?”
Ah, the weakness question, often asked in some form or another. Generally you only need to talk about one, but have a second in reserve in the rare instance they ask for it.
- Make a little list of weaknesses big and small. Then cross off the ones that will make them nervous (e.g. I am a bit of a procrastinator; I get impatient quickly, etc.)
- Choose two — like speaking to large groups, or where you can say that in the past it was an issue, but you recognized it; you worked on it; and you now do it pretty well.
Next, there are a number of behavioral questions, where the hiring manager is trying to elicit what you did in the past as a way of judging how you would behave in his/her organization. Examples:
” Tell me about a time when you had a disagreement with your boss: how did you handle it?”
Be sure to prepare for this one. Pick a time that shows you in a good light, and don’t reveal anything confidential. Use SAR. The story should show that you are able to stay calm, advocate for your point of view, compromise if appropriate, and do it the boss’s way if you can’t persuade him/her. It’s OK if you use an example of where you persuaded the boss your way was the best — but add “Of course, there are plenty of other times when I didn’t”. Then have a second story prepared to illustrate that situation.)
“Tell me about a time when you had a serious conflict with a co-worker on your level — what happened?”
Tell a story with an outcome that didn’t leave blood on the floor, and resulted in an effective working relationship.
“Tell me about a time when you disciplined or had conflict with a subordinate”.
Be sure to choose a past event that makes you look good. As in all these questions, they hope you are going to sound reasonable and effective, so plan these responses in advance. They are hard to think of on the spot. If you never had the experience, say you didn’t have that particular experience, but something similar happened. Would they like you to describe it?
These are but a few samples of what you may be asked. Preparing for these is a great start.
You can go further by looking at the job ad and practicing how you would respond to questions about each of the responsibilities the ad cites. Even if you don’t have experience in a few of the areas, you can practice what you’d say, perhaps indicating prowess in a related skill.
Then (you know this) practice till you are beyond bored.