A simple internet search for common job-interview questions may return hundreds of questions — and sample answers for them. A good number of them are truly common, but what often really matters in a job interview is less than a handful of questions. These are the core questions that give the interviewer a good insight into your personal skills and your career management.
Before detailing the four key questions in any job interview, it is good to remember than most job interview don’t just test technical skills — but the main purpose often is to test other social and communication skills as well as to read into the personality of the candidate and trying to find out how far he or she fits within the respective team. A major concern also for any hiring manager is how the person is managing his/her career. This can be seen from the candidate’s loyalty and commitment to previous jobs, ability to set personal and general goals and definition of success and failure, as well.
Here are four basic questions through which a hiring manager can see through your ability to manage your career:
The question is mostly framed as, “Why should we hire you?” First of all, you must understand the purpose of the question. A hiring manager typically will want to know how you see the job opportunity and why you think you’re a good fit. You also will be expected to detail what you can bring to the job – that is above and beyond the job basic requirements. To make sure you score this one, be prepared to detail the points in your experience that are most relevant to the job, how these points can give you an edge over rivals and how you’re planning to employ your background and skills into taking the job duties forward. This presentation can’t be done unless you’ve acquired sufficient information about the job ahead of the interview time, of course. However, to be on the safe side, cushion your answer with some implied flexibility.
Hiring managers often try to see through your character and your set of values. A question about your greatest achievement may be an attempt to find out your definition of success. Be prepared with an answer that demonstrates a past success but also point to aspirations – that are realistic and verifiable. Remember this is a big-picture question so look at your career and spot a point where your work and effort came to actual fruition.
A hiring manager may be eager to get some insight into what you might be hiding. A question on what you regret in your career may be a trap. Remember, this is not a counselling session at a psychiatrist office. In fact, you can always go around the question by saying something along the lines of “I have no professional regrets, but I can say I would have acted differently in …” By doing so, you are able, first, to downplay what you are about to say, and second to show that you do reflect on your past and try to learn from your positive and negative experiences. Make sure that whatever situation you decide to mention, it is not something that can through your professionalism or integrity into question – unless you did have a problem in the past that concealing it can be taken the wrong way. Only in this case, take this opportunity to explain it in a new positive light.
This is another conversation that can easily go wrong. Once again, being overly open to detail previous troubles and problems with past employers can backfire – particularly if you were fired or laid off. The best strategy is to tell the truth, but frame it in a reasonable argument that can help you present your way of forward thinking. For example, if you’ve left – or planning to leave – voluntarily to get a job with a better pay or a better title, you may explain how you feel that you’ve hit a ceiling, and you’re seeking a wider scope of work, responsibility, etc. If your departure was not voluntarily, explain the objective circumstances that led to you being fired or laid off – without emotions or bitterness. Remember, the way you tell the story – and the impression you make – can preempt any potential damage in the future.
Rania Oteify, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is currently a journalist based in Seattle.