Monthly Archives: August 2014

Answer the question behind the question – 5 intelligent responses to ace that interview!

interviewee“Proper preparation prevents poor performance” — great words to live by and certainly useful when it comes to tackling those dreaded interview questions. Answering questions correctly at the interview table will take planning, practice and some smart intuitive skills. Always take the time to ask: “Is there a question behind this question?”

Identifying the intent behind the interview question will help you to prepare and customize your response to what they are actually seeking. Here is a compilation of approaches to answering five of the most common interview questions to help you practice and perfect your answers.

1. The question:Tell me about yourself.”

The intent: Let me see if you are indeed a value-added hire for my organization.
Your response strategy:
• Start with a feel-good statement about your professional and academic background.
• Highlight your experiences from past to present that reflect a unique/valuable personality characteristic.
• Summarize with a concluding statement that relates to how your skillset is the perfect solution-fit to the job.

2. The question: “Why do you want to work here/Why should we hire you?”

The intent: Show me how much you know about my company, demonstrate compatibility and let’s see how you will be different from others.
Your response strategy:
• Do your research — demonstrate a thorough understanding of what the organization is about.
• Know your values — give specific, personalized reasons why the organization is a good fit for you.
• Differentiate yourself from the competition who will be asked the same question. Be honest, be yourself — show individuality and some personality.
• Convince the employer you are the best candidate by concisely highlighting your relevant skills and personality characteristics as they relate to the job.

3. The question:Tell me about a time when you …”

The intent:  If I can delve into your past, I can gauge your future behaviour.”
Your response strategy:
• Use the STAR approach (Situation – Task – Action – Result). Share a story with a clear example that explains and illustrates your skills in a positive way.
• Situation (describe the market/industry challenge that you faced and had to resolve).
• Task (detail your strategy in creating a response to the situation identified).
• Action (spell out in detail the steps you took, applying the skill).
• Result (share the results of your action, providing as much measurable detail as possible).

4. The question: “What is your greatest weakness?”

The intent: Let me test your mettle and see if you have a mindset of continual improvement.
Your response strategy:
• Show the hiring manager that you objectively examine your own strengths and weaknesses.
• Beyond describing a weakness, show by example the steps that you are taking to improve.
• The best response is to describe a weakness that could also be viewed as a strength. For example: “My eagerness to wear many hats and sometimes go above and beyond the job description.”

5. The question: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

The intent: Let me see if you have you planned for the long term, working with us and importantly, in a senior, leadership role.
Your response strategy:
• Emphasize your commitment to your profession and the organization with confidence and clarity of thinking.
• Be positive about shouldering more responsibility with increased leadership roles in that organization.
• Show that your visualized personal performance goals are in perfect alignment with the organization’s corporate objectives.

In summary, your interview does not have to feel like a ride on the Leviathan at Canada’s Wonderland. The key to success is to treat every question as an excuse to highlight your strengths and constantly project yourself as a significant value-add to the organization. Inspired? Now go for it!