How to Master the Three Most Common Types of Interview Questions
Interviewing can be awkward and stressful. The stakes are high when the only outcomes are:
1. You get the offer
2. You go home empty handed
In fact, interview savvy candidates frequently grab offers from multiple companies, while other equally talented professionals leave empty handed.
And it bothers you. Because you know, you’re just as good at your job if not better than the person who has all the offers.
If you have the technical skills, the drive, and the ability to do the job, don’t be the applicant who leaves the interview process empty handed simply because you didn’t play your cards right.
Mastering interview skills may seem like a colossal waste of time. But because the average person changes jobs every four years, you’re likely to hold at least 11-12 jobs during your career.
This means you will go on 45 interviews or more before you retire.
So if you want to accelerate your career path, position yourself for advancement, and yield higher income, it’s time to take interviewing seriously.
The key to putting the interview odds in your favor is to plan, prepare, and make the most of every interview opportunity. This is easier to do when you understand the interview process from the hiring manager’s perspective.
So what’s the most common way to blow an interview for no good reason?
If you’ve sat down with a hiring manager and answered every single question with the same level of detail, you’ve made a major mistake.
Some of signs this might be happening to you:
· Running out of time during interviews.
· Conversations end abruptly.
· You’re frequently interrupted.
· It’s time to ask questions, but you don’t get much time. You feel like you’re intentionally rushed out the door.
· You’re not invited back 80% of the time for second rounds.
· You’re doing most of the talking yet answering only a handful of questions.
Understand Checkbox Questions
Let’s start with the simplest interview questions: checkbox questions.
The checkbox question requires a brief answer and goes like this: the hiring manager asks the question, checks the box, and then moves on. It’s as simple as 1-2-3.
But don’t misread the category, or you’ll spend time with the hiring manager giving long-winded answers to every question. At this pace, you’ll never get to the heart of the interview.
When you recognize checkbox questions, you can cut to the chase with your answers, and let the hiring manager move on with their process.
If you have 30 minutes or less with the hiring manager, you’ll have plenty of checkbox questions. Learn to recognize them so you can respond accordingly.
Don’t get left behind talking about compensation complaints, the old boss, or the billions of miles you fly every year with American Airlines. The perceptive interviewer knocked the checkbox questions out in the first five minutes.
While you’re talking about having three bosses in three months, the other candidate has let the interview progress into more meaningful conversation.
Learn to Recognize Checkbox Interview Questions
Get to the point, your answer should be 5-10 seconds or less.
1. What’s your current base salary and total compensation?
2. Why did you leave ___ company?
3. Do you have experience with ___?
4. How much overnight travel are you comfortable with?
5. Can you work from home/remote?
6. This position reports into the __ office daily, does that work for you?
7. What year did you graduate from college?
8. What was your GPA?
9. Who do you report to?
10. Have you ever been asked to resign?
Situational Interview Questions
Whether you love or hate them, situational interview questions require you to think on your feet. They are used to gauge your priorities, determine your values, and figure out what you might do in hypothetical situations.
You can prepare for these questions in advance if you do a little research an employer’s values. If you understand what’s important to the employer, you can tailor responses accordingly.
What’s the most common pitfall for the situational question category?
Failing to answer the question.
Applicants who repeatedly circle around the choices, ramble, or lose focus can come across as indecisive, uncooperative, and unable to focus on problem resolution.
Example Situational Interview Questions
1. Your phone is ringing on Friday at 5:50 p.m. A client's calling you back about a contract. You’re somewhat annoyed with this prospective client, and you need to get to a dinner reservation at 7:30 p.m. Do you take the call or do you deal with it Monday?
2. I’m a Vice President of Operations and a potential customer. You want to sell me plastic cups. You have me on a scheduled phone call for 10 minutes, what are you’re going to ask me?
3. It’s Friday afternoon, your boss schedules a meeting on Monday at 7:30 a.m. He said his boss is flying in for the meeting, so everyone needs to be there. But you have a dentist appointment Monday morning. If you reschedule the dentist appointment, it’ll mean another week with a toothache. What will you do?
4. Your boss gives you a new compensation plan with new sales targets, you think it stinks. What do you do?
When you're in the hot seat
Keep in mind he employer is gauging how you will prioritize, react, and problem solve.
What’s the best way to answer?
First, remember to stay calm. Ask more questions about the situation if you need to.
But always answer the question.
Interview suicide happens when you start dance around questions instead of answering them. Don’t feel pressured to start talking right away. It’s normal to pause and think before you speak, and can help separate you from the candidates who babble under pressure.
The Behavioral Interview Question
Behavioral interview questions are easy to recognize. They start with versions of, “Tell me about a time when…” This is your signal to get into the granular details, so make sure you’re ready. Save your best work stories for questions that can only be answered with detailed examples.
Behavioral interview questions are your best chance to use stories you’ve prepared in advance. Make sure to have several examples ready.
Interviewers are looking for traits, characteristics, and concrete proof of your success. They want all the details and are listening attentively so this is your green light to entertain them with colorful examples. This is a good time to use the SAR method of answering interview questions.
Behavioral questions are often the easiest to answer because you can apply your success stories to a variety of questions. No one expects you to be perfect, and the last thing you want to do is come across as an expert who has nothing to learn. Be sure to mention obstacles, challenges and failures.
Sample Behavior Interview Questions
1. Tell me about a deal you won that you didn’t think you would? What obstacles did you overcome? What challenges did you face?
2. What have you accomplished that you are most proud of?
3. Tell me about a time when you’ve had to be creative to solve a problem?
4. What are your biggest accomplishments?
5. What do you mean? What is an example of that? What happened? What did you do?
6. What are your goals? Tell me about a goal you achieved.
7. Share with me a time when you were discouraged.
Most interviews with direct hiring managers and peers will involve at least two or three behavioral interview questions. Good interviewers will ask a series of questions around an example you have provided so be prepared to discuss details.
Interviewers are interested in how you solve problems. Did you back up your boss? Or did you privately complain to your associates? Did you support customers and respond or did you ignore client requests?
Your actions will be assessed, evaluated, and used to predict your future behavior and ultimately your success.
Going the Extra Distance Pays Off
The brutal truth is interviews are predictable on some levels and mysterious on others. But learning how to play your part will ensure you interview like a pro. Interviewing well is a skill that can be mastered.