If you look for advice on how to prepare for a job interview, you are likely to find a lot of lists. Lists that provide you with the most common questions you'll hear in a job interview, and lists of the best answers. What you won't find is an explanation of what the job interviewer is really looking for when they ask those common questions.
Believe it or not, most job interview questions fall within three basic categories. With that in mind, it’s a better use of your time to prepare to address these basic categories of questions. While they may not be the only questions you will be asked, if you focus on developing a career story for the three question categories discussed below, you'll be ready to answer just about anything.
1. Your Work History
- Tell me about yourself.
- Tell me about your work history.
- What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
- What's the biggest mistake you made in your career and what did you learn from it?
- Why do you have an employment gap?
- Why did you leave your previous job?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
- What other companies are you interviewing with?
- What are your salary requirements?
- What is your dream job?
- What motivates you?
- How do you define success?
The Story: What you did to prepare for this job and what you’ll do once you’re hired.
When a recruiter asks you about work experience, they are not interested in your biography. They want to know what you've accomplished as a professional and how your past experiences have prepared you for the job you are interviewing for. So show recruiters your past developments, successes, and failures. You want to offer an engaging account of your career development, the more honest the better. Describe how you've prepared to help that company fulfill its goals.
I spent time interning at McGuirk Marketing Consultants, there I worked under Bill Davies developing social media strategy. Our initial Facebook initiative brought in over 100K in revenue. I used my experience at McGuirk Consultants to land a position with Madison Games, a app developer, who I developed and launched their entire social media presence. My efforts at Madison not only increased downloads of apps via social media promotions, but also built up an extensive social community. I plan to bring these experiences to your firm, ultimately to develop a social media presence that brings awareness to your products, refer new customers to your product, and build a loyal base of followers.
Notice what exactly the candidate promised to do for the company. They demonstrated how tasks had been preformed in the past.This is a key way to show the recruiter you are not just blowing hot air; you've done this before.
2. Your Skills
- What experience do have doing X (a specific skill mentioned in job post)?
- What is your biggest weakness?
- What is your biggest strength?
- Tell me about a problem you had in a previous job and how you solved it.
- What issues do you see facing this position?
- When can you work? Can you work 40+hours a week?
- What hobbies, interests do you have?
- What was the last book you read?
- What is your favorite website?
The Story: What skills do have and how you have developed them.
A recruiter will ask you a number of questions related to your skills. Here there may be a temptation to talk about yourself. This is wrong approach. Instead, discuss your skills as they relate to the job you are applying to. Questions related to your work history and skills are meant to give the recruiter an idea of how you respond to adversity, how well you know your limits, and if you're an honest person.
You will also probably run into some personal questions related to your skills. Use these questions to show how you fit with a company and how you identify yourself. If questions about your hobbies provide you a way to discuss further development of your skills that are applicable to the job, you should use this time to highlight that.
Again, crafting a story about your skills will help you prepare for skill related questions.
I developed my writing abilities in college through my liberal arts degree. I further honed this skill with time spent freelancing and interning with various media outlets. During that same time I also spent time working close to social media. This included volunteering as a social media community manager for a local non-profit. From that time I have taken new job opportunities that have allowed to develop my skills related to social media and writing. Realizing I lacked a breadth of multimedia skills I also took it upon to myself to learn the Adobe Creative Suite, Final Cut Pro, Pro Tools, and digital photography.
These skills have enabled me to deliver a number of different types of content across social media channels for my previous employers. I’ve produced video content when an outside vendor couldn’t in time and created all image-based content when the market budget didn’t allow much for expenses.
When I’m not working I manage a forum and am a regular contributing blogger with a number of websites.
Notice that the candidate brought everything back to the position they're interviewing for. Even the question about personal time was used to show dedication to a specific skill set and career. Employers employers look for passion, and your skill story can demonstrate how dedicated you are to your craft.
3. Our Company and Your Possible Fit Here
- Why are you interested in a job at our company?
- How did you find out about our company?
- What can you tell me about our company?
- Why should we hire you?
- How will you contribute to our company and staff?
- If you started today, what would be the first thing that you did?
- What do you look for in a boss?
- What kind of work environment do you function best in?
- What is the biggest challenge facing our company, do you think?
The Story: What will you do for our company in this position.
The last grouping of questions relates to the company itself. These questions represent the recruiter's best attempt to determine how strong a fit your are for the company. To prepare for these questions establish a strong knowledge of the company, the position, job responsibilities and functions, the company’s industry and direction.
Developing a story works here as well. First, learn everything you can about the specific offerings of the company. From there establish how the position you are interviewing for fits into that offering. Then think about how you can use that position to improve the company’s offerings. The more specific you can be about the relationship between the company’s business, your position, and how you could leverage that position to benefit the company, the more you'll seem the right person for the job.
With my previous work experience I have had the opportunity to develop skills that will help me execute a social media strategy that will bring your organization a new revenue source and greatly increase the size of your fan base in the mobile gaming community.
To this end I am looking for a position that will not only enable me to build out the social media component of your already successful mobile gaming business. I feel that your company’s environment that fosters creativity and acknowledges success is the perfect environment to execute this.
Here you see everything should be brought back to a discussion about the specifics of the company and the position itself. This story should encompass how you will make this position a success and contribute to the company’s overall goals.
So you see the job interview can be broken into three main questions 1) What have you done? 2) What skills do you have? and 3) How will you contribute to our company? Prepare stories for all three, and you’ll be ready for the interview.