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The Only 4 Questions You Need to Answer During an Interview

When a company posts a job opening they have one purpose – finding a candidate that solves their problem. It is that simple. There are many reasons for hiring – backfilling a departure, business growth, or expanding into new markets. Hiring teams have the mission to identify what candidates can do for them and hire them. The hiring team will keep looking if they don’t believe you will solve their problem, even if you check all the other boxes. 

1. Do I like you? 

Make no mistake, first impressions are vital to the interview process. Carry yourself with confidence and be polite to everyone you meet. It is easy to get caught up with the stress of the interview process and view it as an interrogation. But this won’t give the interviewers an accurate picture of what you will be like as a coworker. Remember, the interviewers want to hire someone with a personality that is enjoyable to be around. Be friendly and have an actual conversation with the interviewers. While people are getting settled make some small talk about your day or current events. Recent press releases from the company or related industry news are usually great topics. Making small talk about the company shows that you stay informed and are serious about the position.  

2. Are you qualified for the position? 

Your resume needs to provide a good summary of your technical skills, qualifications, and experience because its only purpose is to spark interest and get you a callback. The first three requirements listed in the job description usually contain the critical skills needed so be sure to cover them. Prepare three or four examples that highlight your execution in these areas. 

Interviewers frequently ask easier knock-out questions during a phone screen to verify skills and knowledge. Applicants exaggerate on their resumes so this is an easy and efficient way to separate candidates worth an additional review. Team projects are another area that is examined. It is easy to list a big win on your resume when your main contribution was to warm a chair at a couple of meetings. Don’t overstate your role or contribution, experienced interviewers will uncover the deception and you lose all credibility. You need to be able to speak to the specifics for everything listed on your resume.

Whenever possible, describe your accomplishments using the STAR method focusing on the results achieved. If you need to set the stage by describing your role and responsibilities, keep it to two or three sentences with only the most important details to help the interviewer understand clearly. Expect the onsite interview will dive deeper into your skills and how you use them to drive results. Your resume is a summary, be prepared to explain everything on it in more detail and not just read your resume back to the interviewer.  

3. How will you help me? 

People naturally look after their own self-interest, even during the interview process. However, answering this question covers different aspects depending on the interviewer’s role: 

Hiring Manager

Expect the hiring manager to cover all aspects of the job, more than all the other interviews. After all, your shortcomings will become their problems. Give examples that highlight your self-motivation and ownership. Nobody wants to manage a person that requires constant hand-holding, show that you are a self-starter. Qualities such as self-motivation, punctuality, ownership, responsibility, willingness to change, open-mindedness, cooperation and striving for excellence are difficult to change in an individual. 

Also, come prepared with at least two examples of significant mistakes that were your responsibility. Everyone makes mistakes, so own yours with maturity. Describe what you learned from the experience and how you prevent similar errors from happening. 

Senior Leadership

Members above the hiring manager belong to this group. Senior leadership is looking for leadership and values. During this interview talk about challenging business situations you faced and how you overcame them. Show your business understanding and quantify the problem and results whenever possible. Give examples of how you advanced your professional development and grew your capabilities. The best examples will connect to increased responsibilities that allowed you to play a bigger role in the business.

Senior leaders are also more forward-looking when considering a candidate. Open positions always create pressure within a team because those responsibilities need to be covered. The hiring manager may be feeling the pain and willing to accept compromises to fill the position quickly. Senior leaders want to see growth potential to ensure they have the staff to solve the immediate problem as well as the capability for long term success. 

Peers

These interviewers have roughly the same title as the position and include stakeholders from other teams. Purchasing and Accounting work closely together so the interviews may include members from both teams. Interviewers in this group are looking for competence and teamwork. Because they do not have direct authority over the role, they are looking for someone who fulfills their responsibilities. Give examples where you collaborated with other department members on a project. Describe the impact of missed commitments and how you resolved the problems. 

Team members

Expect that you may be interviewed by a coworker. For more senior positions the interview team may include members you will supervise directly. Expect questions about your leadership style, communication and information sharing, staff development, and conflict resolution. Give examples of how you supported team members in the past. Mutual respect and trust are key concepts here.

4. Will you flourish here? 

This question Every company and position has stressors and they affect people differently. Beyond the technical skills and experience necessary to perform the job, each position requires soft skills to be successful. 

In other words, do you have the soft skills to be successful with the current team members, co-workers, and company culture? Can you handle the stressors present in this position?