What's a job seeker to do? Memorize 1000s of answers to 1000s of questions. Or -- and it’s a much better alternative -- understand that there are 6 basic areas in which you’ll be questioned.
The key to answering questions in your interviews is to recognize that all questions asked actually fall into a half dozen general categories.
Same set of questions asked in multiple ways, over and over. That’s why it often feels like you’ve been answering the same question over and over, because — you have!
So, a strategy is to first understand what interviewers are trying to find out in each of these areas. Here's what they want to know:
6 Categories of Interview Questions
Category 1. If you can do the job – Interviewers will ask about your job or work experience.
- They want to know if you have the experience and skills necessary to perform the functions of the job, and to perform at the right level - senior, mid-level, junior, entry.
- A job seeker will be asked "technical" questions about their profession. Sometimes, you'll be asked to provide a presentation on a topic designed to demonstrate that you have the right experience. (Hint: Do so, but don't give away the store.)
Category 2. If you have enough knowledge to do the job - Interviewers will ask about your education and training.
- They want to know if you have the necessary education to understand the task(s) required by the job.
- They want to know that you have a high or detailed enough understanding to be able to communicate information about the task.
Category 3. If you have the strengths required to do the job - Interviewers will ask what strengths you have and how they have facilitated your performance of these job functions in previous jobs.
- They want to know about technical, people interaction/management, communication, leadership, team building, conflict resolution strengths.
- They want to know if you have actual physical strengths - stamina if it is a stressful, demanding job or actual physical strength if the job involves physical activity.
Category 4. If you have weaknesses that will prevent you from doing the job at all, or from doing it well. Interviewers will ask about and probe your technical expertise and experience and your education and training.
- They want to know if you have actual - and enough - experience, no experience, experience in the wrong areas, hands-on experience, managerial experience.
- They want to know if there are "sensitive" areas from your past that will come back to haunt you, and potentially them as your employer. These can include poor attitudes, problematic temperaments, arrests, crimes, frequent litigation, lies, job hopping.
- They want to know if you have poor people skills, no / too little actual "hands-on" management experience, no/too little experience working with customers.
- They want to know if you have too little education to understand the job or grow the job/department/contract/company.
- They want to know how you handle conflict, turmoil, stress, deadlines, unreasonable deadlines and too-short time frames.
Category 5. If you can work with people in the way their organization’s culture deems correct to get the job done - They will ask about how you typically interact with people in and connected to the organization.
- They will ask about how you manage upwards. How do you communicate, support, and interact with superiors in the organization?
- They will ask about how you manage downwards. Is your method of reward and recognition, development of subordinates, and discipline and punishment within the bounds of how the organization does things?
- They will ask about how you interact with and manage relations with those supporting the organization, such as vendors, suppliers, sub-contractors, and public and governmental entities.
- They will ask about how you interact with, communicate with, and manage relations with customers.
Category 6. If you can fit the organization culture – Are you a good fit in their day-by-day work-a-day world?
- They will ask about your values and ask for examples of you "living" these values.
- They will ask about your work style.
- They will ask about how performance was rewarded / penalized in previous organizations you worked with and gauge your reaction in describing it.
Preparation is the Answer
An interview can go on for a couple of hours, multiple times, if a candidate is asked back 2 or 3 or 4 times - sort of a progressive interview. And a candidate can be asked 100's - often feels like 1000s - of questions.
Question: How do you manage to not only make it through the interview but shine?
To prepare for your upcoming interviews, first do some homework. Think of it as preparing a foundation of facts and work examples (accomplishments) from which you will answer the myriad of questions in each of the 6 areas. Identify pertinent facts and examples per area that illustrate your strong performance and abilities in each area. Here's how:
(1) Think through each of the categories above. Decide the story you want to tell about you in each of the 6 areas.
(2) Prepare to talk about each category. Assemble a foundation of facts about your performance, background, experiences, education and training in each of the 6 areas.
(3) Identify examples of you performing in each area, illustrating strengths and accomplishments.
The big Advantage
If winging it is not recommended -- and IT IS NOT -- and preparation is key, then preparing in the manner suggested here will provide a foundation for you from which to best handle interview questions. You won't be thrown by an off-the-wall question and you will be able to be consistent in the information you reveal. YOU will come across as a competent, prepared candidate - even the candidate to beat!
For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tab of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
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