Preparing for a job interview is often overwhelming – you want to make an excellent first impression but you don’t know what questions they may ask or what core competencies they are looking for in the particular role you’re interviewing for.
To ensure that you’re ready to answer some of the most difficult interview questions.
This is Part 1 of our interview question series where we will dive into questions based on Personal Background, People Skills and Communication Skills.
We’ve put together a list of common interview questions and sample answers to provide you with a new perspective on how to answer these.
Some of these questions will appear quite simple on the surface, such as ‘Tell me about yourself.’ However the more open-ended the question, the more concise you have to be in your answer.
Tough interview questions — and how to answer them
Tell me about yourself.
It seems like an easy interview question: It’s open-ended; you can talk about whatever you want from your birth onward. Right?
What the hiring manager is really wanting is a quick, two-minute snapshot of who you are and why you’re the best candidate for this position.
As you answer this question, talk about what you’ve done to prepare yourself to be the very best candidate for the position. Use an example or two to back it up, and ask if they would like more details. Always point back to an example when you have the opportunity.
This question does not mean you should tell the hiring manager everything — just what makes you the best person for the role.
What influenced you to choose this career?
My past experiences have shown me that I enjoy facing and overcoming the challenge of making a sale. Without a doubt, once I have practised my presentation and prepared myself for the objections, I feel confident about approaching people I don’t know and convincing them that they need my product. Lastly, I like sales because my potential for success is limited only by how much of myself I dedicate toward my goal. If any profession is founded on self-determinism, it surely must be sales.
At what point did you choose this career?
I knew that I wanted to pursue information systems technology during my second year of University. It was then that I realised that my hobby — computers — was taking up most of my life. My favourite courses were IT courses and I also realised that I was doing computer-oriented work-study that I was enjoying so much that I would have done it for free.
If I were to ask your manager/professor to describe you, what would they say?
Ah, the impending reference check question. Do not wait for the interview to know the answer. Ask any prior managers or professors in advance. If they’re willing to provide a positive reference, make note of their phone number and best contact time for them and/or a letter of recommendation.
You can then answer the question honestly. For instance:
I believe she would say I am a very energetic person, results-driven and one of the hardest working people she’s ever worked with. Actually, I know she would say that, as those are her very words. May I show you her letter of recommendation?
If you have to live your life over again, what’s one thing you would change?
Focus on a key turning point in your life or a missed opportunity. Be sure to tie it forward to what you’re doing to still seek to make that change.
Although I’m very happy with where I’m at in my life and I believe that you shouldn’t live with regrets, as you wouldn’t have learned from your experiences, the one thing that I wish I had done was choosing to focus earlier on my chosen career. I had a great internship this past year and look forward to more experiences in the field. I simply wish I had figured out my passion for this industry earlier! For example, I learned on my recent internship that…
Stay focused on positive direction in your life and back it up with examples.
Why should I hire you?
The easiest answer to this question is that you’re the best person for the job! Don’t be afraid to say so and to back it up with what makes you the best candidate.
You should hire me because I’m the best person for the job! I realise there are other candidates who also have the ability to do the job, but I hold myself to a high standard when it comes to my work. I am a quick learner; I take initiative; I am committed to producing the best outcomes to drive the business forward. For example…
Are you more energised by working with data or by collaborating with other individuals?
I like the validity of information and also like the energy that comes with working with people. The best thing about working in a group is combining the great minds from different perspectives and coming up with something extremely great, compared with when you’re working alone. At the same time, information can generate vitality in the project that you’re working on. No matter how many heads you’ve got together, without information, you can’t get very far. The perfect situation would be a combination of working with information and people, and I’m confident in my abilities in both areas.
Are you a team player?
Almost everyone says ‘Yes’ to this question. But it’s not a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ question. You need to provide behavioral examples to back up your answer.
As an example:
Yes, I’m very much a team player. I’ve had many opportunities in my work, school and in playing sports to develop my skills as a team player. For example, on a recent project…
Emphasise key traits required of a team player, such as communication, collaboration, encouragement and motivation, to show that you understand the core competencies of what makes a team player.
Talk about the strength of the team above your individual self.
This may be a lead-in question to ask how you handle conflict within a team, just to prepare yourself mentally for follow-up questions.
Provide examples that show that you can adapt to a wide variety of people, situations and environments.
I’ve shown my ability to adapt by successfully working in several very different jobs. For instance, I lived and au paired for a family in France for a year; I was responsible in dealing with Drug Court participants; I catered to elite country-club clientele. I did it all well and had no trouble adapting.
Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way?
Recently, my company asked for bids on a phone system for our newest office building. Two companies came in very close with their bids, and most of my department wanted to go with a vendor that we have used in the past.
After I had looked over the proposals, it was clear that this was the wrong decision. So, I talked individually with each member of our staff and was able to change their minds and get the best product that would save money for our organisation and provide the highest quality phone system.
Describe a time when you had to use your written communication skills to get an important point across.
As a former insurance salesperson, some of my clients would request for me to send the policy options that we had discussed over the phone in an email to them so they could go over the fine print.
To ensure that they would be able to remember the key points in our conversation and be able to navigate the different policies with ease, I organised it from their favourite policy and the runner-ups; indicated the key points of difference of each individual policy; and confirmed the call-back time that we had agreed upon to ensure that once they had the time to make the decision, I would be able to answer any final questions they may have before making the sale.
Whilst the role was primarily over the phone, my ability to present our policies in a meaningful way and confirming the timeframe with the client to ensure the sale; I was consistently one of the top three billers in the company throughout my time there.
Describe the most significant or creative presentation that you had to complete.
The most significant presentation I have ever had to present was at a national research symposium. I was presenting research I had completed on digital analysis of mammograms and had to present it to a panel of more than 100 judges who were at the top of their field. I focused on the research, which could sell itself and just let the information flow. It went over very well and I received many more invitations to present the research, including on national television.
That's Part 1 of our interview series complete, we'll be back with Part 2; Judgement & problem-solving, Conflict resolution and Your motivators. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, if you are interested in a job advertised, reach out to one of our consultants by clicking below.