Practice Questions

Behavioral Interviews

Sample Questions to Ask Employer

Article re: crafting interview stories

Article re: phone interviews

 

Typical Face-to Face Interview Questions

 

 

As you prepare for your interview, go through the following list and think of how you might answer some of these questions.  However, don’t recite “rehearsed” answers at the interview!

Tell me about yourself.

What are your strengths?  Weaknesses?

What do you think you can offer this company/position?

How do you think your previous employment relates to this position?

What did you like most about your last job?  Least?

Why did you leave your last job?

What kind of supervision do you prefer?

Why do you want to work for this company?

Why do you think you would be successful in this job?

How would you describe yourself? 

Can you explain the gaps in your work history?

Are you willing to travel?

What are your long term goals?

How do you keep current in your career area?

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

What will your references say about you?

Would your last employer rehire you?  Why or why not?

Why do you want this job?

Give an example of a problem in your life and how you handled/resolved it.

Let’s say your supervisor harshly criticizes your work.  Describe how you handle that criticism.

What are your salary expectations?

Explain how you handle stress.

What two or three things are the most important things you need in a job?

Your resume suggests you may be over-qualified for this position.  What are your thoughts?

What is your management style?

What important trends do you see in this industry and how have you kept up with them?

What do you want to be doing in 5 years?

When are you available to start working?

What questions do you have for me?

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Behavioral Interviews

There are several interviewing techniques used to learn about a candidate’s background and experience.  Most interviewers tend to use the traditional methods of asking for factual information.  For example, “Tell me about your customer service experience” is a traditional question designed to obtain factual information.

Behavioral interviewing is another method which is becoming more common.  “The (behavioral) interview is based on a line of questioning that elicits information about your actual behavior in a variety of real-life or hypothetical circumstances.  More emphasis rests on your accomplishments and abilities than on the basics of your job duties or opinions.”  “…Behavior based questions require you to give evidence of your skills, experience and personal qualities, not just talk in generalities.”*

The behavioral interview approach to the question above might be, “A good customer of your company is threatening to take her business elsewhere because she was treated rudely by someone in the shipping department.  What would you do to keep her business?"  Here, you have to describe more than general customer services skills.  You need to relate how you would use those skills in this situation.  It’s best to relate a similar actual experience you’ve had and how you handled it.  There’s no way to “rehearse” your answers, so focus on the positive outcomes.

* From The Unofficial Guide to Acing the Interview, by Michelle Tullier.

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Sample Questions to Ask

What characteristics do you think someone needs to succeed in this position?

What is your timeline for making a hiring decision?

How many candidates are you interviewing for this position?

May I call you back if I have further questions?

In your opinion, what areas would I need to work on in order to succeed in this job?

What future growth/promotion opportunities are there in this position?

How often and in what manner are performance appraisals conducted?

I was excited to learn about (new company initiative.)  Can you tell me about some other current goals of this organization within the next year?

What is the reason this position is open?

What does the company do to support professional development of the employees?

Who are your major competitors?

Is there any further information I can provide you before the interview is over?


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10 Tips for Crafting S.M.A.R.T.  

Interviewing Stories

By Susan Britton Whitcomb

With small businesses following Fortune 500 companies in the hot trend toward behavioral interviewing, it’s critical that job seekers be prepared to deliver fact-filled stories when responding to the query, "Tell me about a time when you…”  Many interviewers prefer that job seekers deliver interview responses, or stories, using the CAR or STAR method (acronyms for Challenge, Action, Result or Situation/Task, Action, and Result).

For our purposes, we’ll use the SMART format, which stands for Situation with Metrics, Actions, Results, and Tie-in. The last item, Tie-in, is key. It neatly links the response back to the employer’s competency question, allows the individual to inquire further into the employer’s needs, and helps focus the conversation on how the candidate can DO the job instead of simply AUDITION for the job.

These 10 tips can serve as a guide for writing SMART stories.

1. Use the "it’s about them, not me" perspective when describing your stories. This means that, ultimately, your SMART stories must be related to “them”—the employer and their needs. Think in terms of what will motivate the employer to buy, the return-on-investment you offer, and your benefits vs. features.

2. Write SMART stories about your work at each of your past employers. The heaviest concentration of stories should be about your current or most recent experiences. Pen a SMART story for each recent accomplishment on your resume.

3. Assign themes to your SMART stories that underscore competencies for the target position. For instance, competencies for a customer service rep might include customer-focused orientation, interpersonal judgment, communication skills, teamwork, problem solving, listening skills/empathy, and initiative.

4. Write SMART stories for non-work experiences if you are just entering the work force. It is fair game to draw on volunteer work, school experiences, and general life incidents. (If you sense you need additional experience, identify and quickly act on how you can best prepare yourself through reading, attending a course, job-shadowing, volunteering, or taking a relevant part-time job.)

5. Regardless of what point your career life is at, everyone should recollect influential or life-altering events throughout youth and adulthood. Write SMART stories about these times.

6. Numbers speak louder than words! Load the stories with numbers, dollar amounts, productivity measurements, comparisons, and the like. (Be cautious about conveying proprietary or confidential company information.) Be specific and offer proof. Instead of saying, "I learned the program quickly," make it crystal clear with language like, "I studied the manual at night and, in three days, I knew all the basic functions; in two weeks I had mastered several of the advanced features; and by the end of the month, I had experienced operators coming to me to ask how to embed tables into another program."

7. Include emotions and feelings. Yes, feelings. When describing the situation, don’t be afraid to include details such as these: "the tension among the team was so serious that people were resigning"; "the morale was at an all-time low"; or "the customer was irate about receiving a mis-shipment that occurred because of our transportation vendor." When writing about emotions or feelings, be mindful NOT to whine or disparage anyone, even if through a veiled reference.

8. Avoid personal opinions. You can, however, include the opinion of a supervisor or another objective party. Instead of saying, "I believe my positive outlook really helped keep the customer happy," rely on someone else’s opinion: "My supervisor commented in a memo how my outlook helped us save a key account that was in jeopardy of being lost. I have a copy of that memo if you’d like to see it."

9. Pace the stories so that each is approximately 2-3 minutes in length. Set up the story briefly with facts, place the greatest weight on the action portion of the story, wrap it up with numbers-driven results, and tie it back to the interviewer’s needs. Occasionally, vary the delivery by dropping in a result at the front end of the story.

10. Make the stories relevant. You have a myriad of experiences in your background. Sift through them and select the stories that best substantiate your competencies, knowledge, skills, and motivation to excel in the target job.

Excerpts from Interview Magic and Job Search Magic (JIST) by Susan Britton Whitcomb.


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Powerful Phone Interviews

By Dale R. Kurow, M.S.

With increasing frequency, companies are relying on phone interviews to narrow the pool of likely candidates. Phone interviewing has proven so cost effective that it has become the norm. Recruiters now pack an entire arsenal of tools, honed over years of experience, designed to quickly eliminate marginal candidates.

Consider this: a phone interviewer’s primary goal is to eliminate the candidate before wasting additional company resources.  Sound unfair? Welcome to the world of phone interviewing.  So how do you help clients make it past the HR gatekeepers and to the next round—the face-to-face interview?

Research the Company  

Second only to lacking the requisite skills, the main reason candidates don’t get to the next step—the face-to-face interview—is failure to properly research the company.  Undertaking in-depth research is just as vital for a phone interview as for an in-person interview! It is a key ingredient in getting a ticket to the next round.  Your clients should have answers to the following questions at their fingertips:

What are the company’s products and/or services?

What is the size of the company, number of employees, rank within the industry?

Who are the company’s primary customers and competitors?

Where are the company’s offices, plants and facilities located?

What are the company’s goals, philosophy and mission statement?

Who are the key players (Chairman, CEO, President, etc.)?

What is the financial health of the company?

How was the company’s performance in the last year?

What media exposure and/or major articles have appeared about the company within the last 3-6 months?

Research Resources 

Research the company’s web site first. Get the company’s annual report if it’s a publicly owned firm. If time is limited, visit these web sites to view annual reports for free:

Annual Report Gallery - http://www.reportgallery.com

The Public Register’s Annual Report Service - http://www.prars.com

Next visit these two web sites. They provide company profiles and an insider’s view of what it’s like to work at the company:

Vault.com - http://www.vault.com

Wetfeet.com - http://www.wetfeet.com

Additional sites to do on-line research:

Brint - http://www.brint.com

Hoovers Online - http://www.hoovers.com

Some information is fee based, but plenty is available for free.

Use Hands-Free Headset

One of the few advantages that a phone interview offers over the in-person interview is the ability to consult notes during the interview. In fact, advise jobseekers to use a hands-free headset so that they can look up notes on their computers if necessary. They should be sure to take copious notes that demonstrate their familiarity with the company and their enthusiasm for landing the job.

Telephone Speaking Voice 

Candidates will be judged by their telephone speaking voice BEFORE the actual phone interview. How? By the message(s) they leave to set up the appointment.  We live in a world of answering machines and voice mail. Candidates will probably have to make two or three calls before getting a live person on the phone. In fact, chances are, they won’t get past the automated voice mail system. Beware!

People will form opinions based on these brief phone messages alone!

Here are tips to help your candidates improve telephone speaking manners:

Do not speak quickly. Don’t make employers replay a message two or three times just to understand what was said!  Slow down, especially for those who have an accent.

Repeat your name and spell it, if necessary. Pronounce your name slowly. You don’t want the recipient to have to struggle to figure out who’s calling and why.

Repeat your name and phone number at the beginning AND end of the message. This way, the recipient won’t have to replay the entire message from the beginning.

Give your phone number slowly. This is one of my pet peeves. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to replay messages because the caller sped up when leaving a garbled telephone number. Recall the times when you have tried—and failed—to decipher a phone number and message left on your own answering machine. In a job search, your endeavors will end right there.

Tell the recruiter when he/she can reach you. Leave a preferred date and time to return your call. Also leave the preferred telephone number. This gives the recruiter a better chance of connecting with you.

Do not leave long messages. Give the recruiter the information he/she needs and leave the rest for a live conversation.

Have a smile in your voice. Being professional means sounding calm, collected and positive even if you’ve just had the worst “bad hair day.” Your voice needs to be warm, polite and upbeat.

What Questions Do You Have? 

When jobseekers are asked this question, don’t let them wing it! The subject and focus of their questions are key indicators of their professionalism and preparedness—and their enthusiasm for the job. Further, the way they respond to this question will be the final impression they leave with the interviewer. Need I say more?

Here are examples of key questions jobseekers can ask the interviewer:

What is the company doing to stay competitive?

Where do you see the most opportunity for growth this year?

How are you staffing the growth?

What is the most important contribution I could make within the first 30-90 days of my employment?

Who does this position report to? Who will I report to?

How does this position fit into the organizational structure?

A Final Note 

When candidates are speaking to a recruiter, bear in mind that the recruiter’s primary objective in a phone interview is to determine their viability for a position, and the potential ease or difficulty of marketing them to the client/company. Don’t let your candidates make the recruiter work hard! Coach them to make it easy for the recruiter to sell them to the client/company by doing an outstanding job of preparing themselves!

Dale Kurow, M.S., (dale@dalekurow.com) is an author and a career and executive coach in NYC. Dale works with clients across the U.S. and internationally, helping them to survive office politics, become better managers, and figure out their next career move. Visit Dale’s web site at  http://www.dalekurow.com/phone_ebook for information about her latest E-book, Phone Interview Skills Sharpened Right Here!


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