Most of us have experienced the fear of being asked a question we don’t know the answer to. Often in those instances, we can say, “Let me get back to you,” and respond in a follow-up conversation after we do some research. The job interview is not one of those instances and is not the place you want to be stumped by a question you can’t fully answer. Not to worry, though. There is a simple (though not easy) solution.
Interview Tips: Preparing for Interviews
As a job applicant who has landed an interview, it’s key that your research and preparation be done long before any questions are posed. Proper planning will allow you to be at ease and confident on the day of the interview and know you have put your best self on display. Preparing for interviews and reviewing potential questions for a job interview takes time and effort but will pay off! Consider these interview tips.
Research the Organization
The first step is to research the company, the industry, and the competition. Becoming familiar with the company you will potentially work for should go beyond what you can find on its website. Do a little digging to review their financials, job satisfaction ratings, any press they have received, their growth (or lack of it), publications or blogs they produce, vision and goals, social media presence, and customer satisfaction. If you know someone who works there, ask for some firsthand insight. Also, get up to speed on the industry the company is part of to see what niche they fill and how well they fill it. What’s going on in the industry that you can reference in an interview? How are they viewed by those inside and outside the industry? And don’t forget to look at the company’s competition to see how they stack up against it, along with many key differences.
Review Your Career History
Before you go on a job interview, you’ll want to take some time to review your career history. Take a good look at your resume and identify specific work examples that you can highlight during an interview. Also review how you will talk about them – be honest and genuine without disparaging former bosses, co-workers, or employers; and find a way to show positive growth from any negative situation. After all, your interviewers know that you’re human; they just want to know if you’re a human who learns, grows, and bounces back.
Examples may fall into one of the following categories:
- Teamwork or collaboration on a project
- How you handle conflict
- A weakness or failure and how you grew from it
- Career goals and how you’re achieving them
- A difficult decision you’ve had to make
- Your leadership style
- Your skills and strengths
Conduct a Self-Assessment
You will also want to do some self-reflection to be able to genuinely and honestly answer questions about yourself. If you have never done the soul searching that defines your values and goals, both personal and professional, you may be caught off-guard when a prospective employer asks you deeper questions, or when you realize this job doesn’t fit who you are. Your self-assessment may concentrate on such areas as:
- What you are looking for in a job
- Any non-negotiables or deal-breakers
- Work/life balance
- Career advancement goals
- Where you excel; where you flounder; how to improve
- Educational goals for professional development and advancement
- Job environment (remote vs office) and willingness to relocate
- What you’re passionate about; what challenges you to your best performance
As you reflect, if you discover that your career goals require a return to school for additional education, Ottawa University’s accelerated online degrees can get you ready for the next career opportunity in as little as two years.
Identify Your Selling Points
You’re likely competing with myriad candidates with varying qualifications. That’s why it will be to your advantage to find a niche. The research, career review, and self-reflection above can help you home in on what sets you apart in meeting the needs of this particular organization in this particular role. By examining the job description in light of the research you’ve done about the company and your past accomplishments, you can glean ways your skills can help meet the specific needs of the organization. Use these to sell yourself in an interview to make you stand out from other applicants.
Types of Questions for a Job Interview
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the most common types of questions for a job interview fall into three primary categories: behavioral, competency-based, and situational.
Behavioral questions are designed to explore the job candidate’s traits within the context of their career history and relevant skills. An example might include asking about a time you had to follow a policy you didn’t agree with or how you influenced your team to tackle a problem. These are based on the concept that past behavior is a good indicator of future performance.
Competency-based questions focus on skills related to the position and can help employers learn more about the candidate’s past job performance and general attitude toward work. For example, the interviewer may ask you to recount a time when your unique skillset influenced a company decision or helped solve a problem. Identifying competencies in new hires helps organizations make sure they are well equipped for the job.
Situational questions, on the other hand, are generally hypothetical. The interviewer outlines a potential situation that requires the candidate to draw on experience and accomplishments, along with their unique skills and knowledge to address the challenge. For instance, you may be asked to describe a time when you felt overwhelmed at work. These types of questions demonstrate how the applicant might respond in situations common to that organization.
Top Job Interview Questions
Now that you are familiar with the different types of questions for a job interview, here are our top 5 interview questions we think candidates should be prepared for:
What has been your greatest career success? Your greatest failure?
Be honest on this one, and include the “why,” along with details of what you learned in each situation. Never let a failure define you. Instead, show how you overcame the failure and bounced back. Don’t let success define you, either, but demonstrate how it was a catalyst for growth and future achievements.
What gets you up in the morning? What keeps you up at night?
Showcase your passions here and your desire for excellence and achievement. Let what keeps you up at night be directed towards making things better, solving problems, or becoming a better person, professionally and personally.
What about this job interests you over your current or past jobs?
Without shedding a bad light on previous jobs or employers, describe how this job more closely aligns with your career aims and provides opportunities for you to showcase your unique skillset to collaboratively achieve a corporate goal that you value. Your personal and professional values can easily come into play here.
Describe a situation when ……
Here’s where your career review will come in particularly handy. Be prepared to incorporate your traits, leadership style, and unique skills into examples that highlight your ability to contribute to a company’s success, solve a problem, or overcome a challenge.
How would you describe this company (or job) to a prospective customer or client?
This question could be a test to see how you perceive the company and if you have done your homework. Use your research to creatively draw a word picture of how this company meets a need within the economy or positively contributes to society and how the role you are applying for fits into that.
How are you uniquely qualified for this role? What skill do you have that others may not know about?
Remember the self-assessment and selling points? Here’s your chance to shine. It is smart to align your best qualities with those found in the job description. Also, don’t forget about those soft skills. Employers want to know you have the soft skills required to succeed in the role.
Other Interview Questions
You may also be hit by unorthodox questions designed to explore how you think. For example, employers may test your ingenuity by asking how you would fill a gym with volleyballs, what kind of tree you would be, what you would do if you won the lottery, what the color of money is, what book you’ve read recently, or whether it’s better to be perfect and late - or good and on time. While these may seem random, your answers will say something about you that the employer wants to know. For example, if you think the color of money is only green, then your international business sense may be seen as lacking. So, when preparing for interviews, anticipate a variety of job interview questions.
You’ve Got This!
Getting hired for a new job can be intimidating. But remember - it’s all in the preparation. You’ve got this! And Ottawa University is here to help, whether it’s getting the degree you need to land a new job or advance within your current company. Check out our accelerated online degrees from our campuses in Kansas City, Milwaukee, and Phoenix!
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