Job interview questions are tough interview questions. And they don't always come from prospective employers. One of the top interview questions that we receive from clients preparing for an interview is, 'What interview tips and techniques—not just general guide lines, but specific job interview advice—can you give me?'
The answer is simple: do everything in your power to make the interviewer's task as trouble-free as is humanly possible. If they walk away feeling like they've just gone twelve rounds with Stone Cold Steve Austin, carrying the full weight of the conversation, and receiving nothing in response but an occasional inarticulate gurgle from your side of the table, it's safe to assume that you've lost the position. Engage with them appropriately, permit your personality and enthusiasm to shine through, and they're far more likely to give you what you want: work.
Answering Interview Questions—Typical Interview Questions and Their Solutions
Unfortunately, it's impossible to predict the specific questions that the interviewer will throw at you. Each one is unique, with varying levels of experience in the process, their own distinct style, and interests ranging from the arcane ('As an engineer, what can you tell me about supercharger centrifugal kits?') to the downright bizarre ('If you were an animal, what animal would you be?'). Whilst this degree of uncertainty undoubtedly places you at a disadvantage, there are a few things you can do to level up the playing field. The first of these is to thoroughly prepare for the battery of standard questions that inevitably come up in all interview situations, beginning with:
TYPICAL INTERVIEW QUESTION #1: THE TRAP
'Which area do you require most improvement in? Speaking honestly, where are you weakest as an employee?'
This line of questioning is commonly referred to as 'The Trap'. While the real answer to the question might be, 'I find that my attention wanders, especially on Monday mornings', or, 'I'm actually a recovering alcoholic,' make a point of keeping this information to yourself, and instead respond by describing a characteristic which, although less-than-ideal, is still relatively innocuous. Faced with the Trap, here is an example of an unincriminating reply:
'I'm one of those people who likes to be involved in everything. I want to know how things are done—because I feel the more I learn, the better I can serve the organisation. So I suppose that makes me especially inquisitive.'
Not a busybody? Then perhaps you're just gregarious—in which case you might choose to play the martyr card:
'The biggest problem I have is saying no. I'm naturally a people person, and I enjoy a challenge, but sometimes that combination can get me into trouble when I take on more tasks than are feasible for me to complete alone.'
if you find yourself completely stuck for something to fill up the stony silence with, you can always rely on:
'I have to confess that I'm something of a perfectionist when it comes to my work. I tend to become extremely focused on the project at hand, becoming so committed to the current task that I lose sight of the overall plan.'
TYPICAL INTERVIEW QUESTION #2: THE GRUDGE
'What did you think of the firm you were with before? Are you still with them? Why do you want to work here? '
Arguably one of the most insidious interview strategies every constructed, 'The Grudge' is a series of questions designed to expose your feelings toward your previous employer, on the understanding that troublemakers will be unable to resist the prospect of indulging themselves in an unstoppable stream of abuse against their former boss/tormentor. Use of the Grudge technique also allows the interviewer to assess whether or not your interest in their organisation is sincere, or is fuelled instead by an incident at the office party that left you without a job. The only answers you should offer to these indelicate questions are positive ones, as illustrated in this dialogue:
'I learned a lot from my previous employer. It was an experience that I feel prepared me for a role at your firm.'
'Did it? How so?'
'Well, I developed a wide array of people management skills that transfer well to the position you are offering.'
'But this vacancy is very similar to your old position, so why do you want to leave?'
'Actually, I've already left, and so am free to start work immediately for you.'
'You mean you're unemployed at the moment?'
'I would think of it more as being available for contract.'
'I wasn't aware of that. Did you leave of your own accord?'
'My employer and I reached a mutual agreement, and parted on good terms.'
'Is that an elaborate way of saying you were let go?'
'Yes—along with many of my colleagues. But as I say, I think of it as a learning experience more than anything.'
Don't worry—the chances of you having to face this kind of machine gun interrogation are slim, but in the event that your interviewer is suffering from a migraine, indigestion, or a costly divorce at the time of your meeting, at least you can be certain that their use of the Grudge technique will not be the factor that loses you the opening.
List of Job Interview Questions, Plus Good Interview Questions of Your Own
Now that you've sidestepped the Trap, and thwarted the Grudge, having studied both their composition and the best methods of negating them, it's time to move on to a more general (and far less threatening) list of interview questions, including that perennial brain-bender, 'Where do you see yourself ten years from now?'. This will form the basis for our next interview feature, along with some suggestions for good interview questions of your own.
Job Interview Tips 2—Dress to Impress
Job Interview Tips 4—Top 20 Interview Questions