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Job Seekers

Interview Technique

Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions

During an interview, employers ask you dozens of searching questions – questions that test your confidence, poise, motivation and desireable personality traits.  Questions that trick you into contradicting yourself.  Questions that probe your quick thinking and job skills.  They are all designed so that the interviewer can make decisions in critical areas such as the following:
  • Can you do the job?
  • Will you complement or disrupt the department?
  • Are you willing to go the extra mile?
  • Are you manageable?
  • Is the money right?
Notice that only one of the critical areas has anything to do with your actual job skills.  Being able to do the job is only one part of getting an offer.  Whether you will fit in and make a contribution and whether you are manageable, are just as important to the interviewer. Those traits the company probes for during the interview are the same that will mark out a person for professional growth once on board.  In this era of high unemployment and high specialisation, companies search more actively for certain traits, some of which cannot be ascertained by a direct question or answer.  Accordingly, the interviewer will seek a pattern in your replies that shows your possession of such traits.
 
The time spent in the interview contains four deadly traps:
  • Your failure to listen to the question.
  • Annoying the interviewer by answering a question that was not asked.
  • Providing superfluous information (you should keep answers brief, thorough, and to the point).
  • Attempting to interview without preparation.
The effect of those blunders is cumulative, and each reduces your chances of receiving a job offer.
The number of offers you win in your search for the ideal job depends on your ability to answer a staggering array of questions in terms that have value and relevance to the employer.
 
The example answers below apply across the job spectrum and each one teaches a small yet valuable lesson in good business practice – something you can use both to get the job and to make a good impression when you are on board.
 
Remember, the answers provided should not be repeated work for word, exactly as they come off the page. You have your own style of speech (not to mention your own kind of business experience) so try to put the answers in your own words.
 
Why do you want to work here?
Reply with the company’s attributes as you see them.  Complete your answer with reference to your belief that the company has the reputation of being able to provide a stable and happy work environment.
 
What kind of experience do you have for this job?
This is a golden opportunity to sell yourself, but before you do, be sure that you know what is most critical to the interviewer.  The interviewer may not just be looking for someone who can contribute quickly to the current projects.  When interviewing, companies invariably give everyone a broad picture of the job but the person they hire will be solution focussed, someone who can contribute to specific projects in the first six months.  Only by asking will you identify the areas of your interviewer’s greatest urgency and therefore interest.
 
If you do not know the projects you will be involved with in the first six months, you must ask.  Level-headedness and analytical ability are respected, and the information you get will naturally help you answer the question more appropriately.
 
Describe how your job relates to the overall goals of your department and company.
This not only probes your understanding of departmental and corporate aims but also highlights your ability to function as a team member to get the work done.  Accordingly, whatever the specifics of your answer, include words to this effect: ‘The quality of my work directly affects the ability of others to do their work properly.  As a team member, one has to be aware of the other players.’
 
What did you like / dislike about your last job?
Most interviews start with a preamble by the interviewer about the company.  Pay attention: this information will help you answer the question.  In fact, any statement the interviewer makes about the job or corporation can be used to your advantage.
 
So in answer, you liked everything about your last job. You might even say your company taught you the importance of certain elements in your professional profile. Criticizing a prior employer is a warning flag that you could be a problem employee.  No one intentionally hires trouble, and that’s what’s behind the question.
 
What is the least relevant job you have held?
No job in your profession has been a waste of time if it increases your knowledge about how businesses work.   Your answer will include:  ‘Every job I’ve held has given me new insights into my profession.  They have all played a role in making the company successful. 
 
What have you learned from jobs you have held?
Tie your answer to your professional profile. The interviewer needs to understand that you seek and can accept constructive advice, and that your decisions are based on the ultimate good of the company, not your personal whim or preference:  ‘More than anything, I have learned that what is good for the company is good for me.  So I listen very carefully to directions and always keep my boss informed of my actions.’
 
How long would you stay with the company?
The interviewer might be thinking of offering you a job. So you must encourage him or her to picture you in the role. Your reply might be: ‘I would really like to settle down with this company. I take direction well and love to learn.  As long as I am growing professionally, there is no reason for me to make a move.
 
How long would it take you to make a contribution to our company?
‘To help me answer, what do you anticipate my responsibilities will be for the first six or seven months?’  Or: ‘What are your greatest areas of need right now?’   With these responses you give yourself time to think while the interviewer is encouraged to picture you working for the company.  When your time comes to answer, start with: ‘Let’s say I started on Monday the seventeenth.  It will take me a few weeks to settle down and learn the ropes but I'd hope to be making a real contribution quickly enough.  Do you have a special project in mind you will want me to get involved with?’  That response could lead directly to a job offer, but if not, you already have the interviewer thinking of you as an employee.
 
What would you like to be doing five years from now?
The safest answer contains a desire to be regarded as a true professional and team player but not without ambition:  ‘I believe that the knowledge, skills and experience I gain in the job may open up opportunities that I might never have considered, so while at this point in time I would plan to make a success of the job on offer, it is reasonable to expect that other exciting opportunities may crop up in the future,’
 
What are your biggest accomplishments?
You might begin your reply with: ‘Although I feel my biggest achievements are still ahead of me, I am proud of my involvement with….. I made my contribution as part of that team and learned a lot in the process. We did it with hard work, concentration, and a keen focus on the company's targets.’
 
Can you work under pressure?
You might be tempted to give a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, but don’t.  It reveals nothing, and you lose the opportunity to sell your professional profile.  You could say:  ‘Yes, I usually find it stimulating.  However, I believe in planning and proper management of my time to avoid panicking around deadlines within my area of responsibility.’
 
Why should I hire you?
Your answer will be short and to the point.  Recap the interviewer’s description of the job specification matching it point by point with your skills.  Finish your answer with: ‘I have the qualifications you need (itemise them), I’m a team player, I take direction and I have the desire to make a thorough success of the role.’
 
What can you do for us that someone else cannot do?
This question will come only after a full explanation of the job has been given.  If not, qualify the question with:  'What are the needs you are trying to address when you fill this position?’   Then recap the interviewer’s job description, followed with: ‘I can bring to this job a determination to see projects through to a proper conclusion.  I listen and take direction well.  I am analytical and don’t jump to conclusions.'  And finally:  'I understand we are in business to make a profit or justify our funding, so I make sure I give value for money’
 

 

Interview hints and tips – a quick guide
 
Keep in mind that every interview is based on three underlying questions.
What makes you the ideal candidate for the job?
What is it about the role that interests you?
Why do you want to work for that company?
 
Tips and preparation
Reread your CV before the interview - make sure you can demonstrate your areas of expertise with live examples
Practise your technique and get feedback from friends 
Be positive, enthusiastic, natural and honest
 
The key to a successful interview lies in preparation
Find out as much as you can about the company before your interview
If you
're new to the industry sector, find out about it by reading newspapers and looking online
Try and anticipate the questions you may be asked and think about how you
'll answer them
Have a few of your own questions ready to ask
Check the format of the interview - will there be any personality or skills testing?
 
At the interview
First impressions are vital - make the most of them
Guide the interviewer towards a discussion of your strengths
Show you
've done your research - mention the facts you've discovered
If you
're asked a difficult question, don't feel you have to answer immediately, take your time and think about your response
Keep your answers concise and be confident