OK, you’ve made it past the initial resume screening and now have an interview. It could be in person or on the phone. (More and more interviews are on the phone now, and I’ve heard of Skype interviews also – better dress up for that one!)

The point of an interview is to explore two main things:

1) Do you really know what you’re doing, or “is that stuff on the resume real?” There’s a lot of BS in some resumes and interviewers will ask pointed questions to determine if you actually have the skills and experience you claim to have.

Questions about this could be:

  • Tell me about this accomplishment. How did you do it?
  • Why did you decide to go into this field?
  • How did you make the transition from this job to the next?
  • What is your greatest strength?
  • How do you manage people?
  • Tell me about a project you managed/a plan you developed and implemented/a team you worked on/a goal you achieved.

Be prepared with stories about what you’ve done in the past, to illustrate a key message you want to deliver about the reasons you are successful, the skills you have and want to use again, the way you work with others, and the value you will bring to your next employer.

2) Will you be the “right fit” for our culture and can you really help us reach our company goals? Interviewers want to know how you think, how you approach and solve problems, and your attitudes toward colleagues and customers – internal and external.

Questions about this will focus on your behavior and attitudes, and attempt to discover your values and work ethic. Sample questions could be:

  • Here’s a scenario or problem we face at this organization…Tell me how you would go about dealing with it.
  • Tell me about your greatest challenge at work and how you addressed it successfully.
  • How would you deal with someone on your team who isn’t pulling their weight?
  • What failures have you had and how did you deal with them?
  • Tell me what you would do in your first 90 days here and why.
  • What do you like to do in your off-time and why?

For the questions that concern how you would work at the company, take your time answering the questions. It’s OK to give it some thought. You can prepare somewhat by reading as much as you can about the company to understand the business and the challenges it might face. Also, thoroughly go over each part of the job description to understand exactly what is in the job and what you might be called on to do. Identify what you’ve done in past jobs that is similar to what is required in the new job, so you can refer to that experience VERY briefly (e.g. “When I was at XYZ, I had a similar situation. Based on that, here’s how I would approach this scenario:…”).

To prepare for questions related to past jobs,
come up with stories in these categories. Construct the stories to illustrate the key points you want to make about your abilities, talents, skills, attitudes, and work style.

If you are asked the question about hobbies, it shows that the interviewer is aware that how you spend your off-time is indicative of your core personality and underlying talents. We tend to pursue things as hobbies based on what feels good and fun, what comes naturally. That usually means we’ll contribute a LOT of value when we do similar things at work.

A great example of this is Captain Sullenberger who successfully landed the engine-less airplane in the Hudson River. His hobby is flying glider planes. You couldn’t ask for a better person to land a “glider jetliner.”

More examples: People who play team sports as a hobby – softball, basketball, crew – will work well in a team and probably do very well in client-facing jobs because they are social by nature. Someone who runs marathons can usually be counted on to stick with jobs until they are completed no matter the obstacles. A cook will be pretty creative and seek ideas and inspiration from others, and have the ability to synthesize information into something new. I think you get the idea.

Be prepared to draw a correlation between what you do off-time and how it can translate into why you would be an excellent part of the new company.