How to Prepare for Job Interview Questions
Job interviews are an essential and mostly unavoidable part of a job selection process. It allows the employer and the candidate to know each other in person. There is plenty of research to prove that a face-to-face meeting provides more context to the recruiter and the candidate. How to prepare for these job interview questions? What are the types of questions that the recruiters ask? Is there a pattern? Is it possible to prepare for them in advance?
Getting the job involves a number of steps and interviews are generally the last step. Once you succeed in the interview there would be negotiations on the salary, benefits, etc. Tackling the interview well is the most crucial one. Answering the questions correctly is one of the surest way of impressing the Human Resource Manager. There are other aspects of the job interviews which must also be managed. In this we will focus only on how to prepare for the job interview questions. Read here for the other aspects of the job interviews.
The part of the interview often involves discussions with the candidate asking the best questions. Interviews can be for an average of 15 minutes to a few hours. It depends on the position applied and the complexities of the work. Irrespective of the time taken, these sessions are often stressful for the job seeker. It is tedious for the hiring manager to ask probing questions to get the right fit.
Why a job interview?
You have sent across the copies of your resume. You have attached the testimonials and your educational qualifications. In all probability, you have also attempted the personality assessments. Then why a job interview?
An interview is not small talk between the candidate and the recruiter. It is not just how you shake hands or how you create a good impression. Job interviews are the final bridge that connects the candidate's resume and the job. At the end of an interview, the hiring manager evaluates the job seeker in person and assesses the personality. Specific questions are asked based on your resume. Many of them are likely to be open-ended questions. Hence a thorough study of your resume will help you to prepare well for your next interview.
It is pretty common to have more than one interview for a position. Usually, the second interview will be only for shortlisted candidates to assess the candidates' suitability for the job. In some cases, there would be third and fourth interviews. The good news is that when you get a call for the next interview, your chances of getting your dream job increase.
You don't get a job because of a brilliantly written resume. The purpose of a resume is to reach you to the job interview stage. A candidate rarely receives a job offer based on just the resume. A resume is just a summary of your achievements, your skills and qualifications. Often it contains your resume objective – the first part of your resume listing your essential skills and qualifications for the job. Resume objectives are general 2-3 sentences long.
A resume template consists of sections focusing on qualifications, employment, experience and other personal details. The rest of it typically gives our details of your education, the grades obtained, the schools and the University you attended. The different jobs you held and the employers' names with the dates and employment periods come in the employment section. There would be sections for the non-employment related activities like voluntary works, social service, etc.
The resume generally should not be more than 2-3 pages. A resume cover letter is a standard with most applications. A resume is also known as a CV or curriculum vitae, which is generally a longer form. Biodata is the other name for resume, especially in India.
There are different types of resume examples – chronological, functional and online resumes.
In this type of resume writing, the job seeker lists the past work experience and education in the reverse chronology (latest on the top). Usually, most professionals use this type of resume when seeking job advancement in the same field. A chronological resume helps the hiring manager to understand the progress of the career of the candidate. In this type of applications, the career growth trajectory is well defined.
This type of resume templates focus is on the skills of the person. The emphasis is on the person's professional capabilities, experience, and expertise concerning the job. It lists the various skills and expertise the person has picked in their career, often in different fields. Hence, this resume builder format is ideal for candidates who have changed their jobs frequently and built up expertise in other areas.
We are all familiar with the online job search. Similarly, online resumes are also a popular way of recruitment. Many leading companies adopt online resume submission. It is practically impossible for the recruitment department to filter the thousands of applications received for every job offer. The chance of losing out to recruit the best candidate is a real possibility. Online resumes assist employers in shortlisting suitable candidates with the skills required.
Job applicants are encouraged to apply on online portals with structured formats. Using keywords to distinguish their talents is essential in an online resume. Several free resume builders help in writing a good resume. Applicant Tracking Systems effectively filters for the keywords and separate the candidates' applications who are a good fit.
Da Vinci's CV
A quick search of the internet will provide you with many results for the oldest resume available—the Italian genius Leonardo da Vinci's job application to the Ludovico Sforza, the then de facto ruler of Milan. One might wonder as to why would a talented man like da Vinci has to prepare a CV. Well, it establishes that everyone needs to sell himself to their potential employers even if you are the great Leonardo da Vinci!
Despite his stature in Italy as a prominent intellectual, a quick study at the CV of da Vinci teaches us the perfect way of writing the CV. Check for the translation of the CV here https://lettersofnote.com/2012/03/28/the-skills-of-leonardo-da-vinci/
You will notice that every point he made in his job application, he listed out his skills to benefit Milan's ruler. He never mentioned anything about his benefit or the learning he will get out of the job. His emphasis was on his talents which will benefit Milan in various ways in case of a war. By ensuring that he highlights his skills which will add value to his potential employer,
Our resumes, too, should reflect on the benefits the organisation would have if they hire us. A good way of writing the resume will be to emphasise the service to the potential employer and the value addition we will bring to the job
Some Tips for writing a good resume
Whether it's a chronological resume or a functional one, it is a good idea to make it well-structured and adequately formatted. After all, it is the bridging link between your job interview and the job. Some of these might appear like little things, but they are critical to making a good impression of you.
The resume or the CV should be well formatted with the paragraph alignment justified. Use standard fonts throughout the document. Avoid too decorative and complicated templates which are challenging to format or to print. Give enough white spaces for a better reading experience. The headings should be slightly larger than the body. The recommended font size is 10-12. Do not use multiple fonts in the application.
Try to use active voice throughout the document. Check for grammatical and typographical errors. The spell-check program on your computer will usually pick up the spelling and grammatical errors. But there are some errors which the spell check will not be able to identify. Particular attention should be paid to homophones – words that sound similar but spelt differently. If you have taken a computer course, ensure that you don't type coarse, which is a rough particle or surface. Similarly, if you are volunteering in your social service group, make sure that you don't write "I am excepted (instead of accepted) to volunteer in our local community group".
List your strengths and skills:
List out the areas of your expertise prominently in the application, making it easy for the hiring manager to understand your profile better. List your employment history chronologically and give the employer's full name and brief details of the Company, if possible, with its web address. Include your part-time job and voluntary positions.
List out the significant achievements you had in the job in your employment history. If you have won any awards and recognitions, list them out with full details. Explain how and why you got them. Merely stating "Was the Best Employee of the Year" is not helpful.
A well-written resume of a maximum of three pages stands a good chance of catching the recruitment manager's attention. Once your resume is shortlisted, the next step is to get an invitation for an interview. Once you get the invitation, take a deep breath and start on your interview preparation.
Types of Job Interviews:
Broadly the job interviews can be classified into two categories – physical and Online or Virtual. Physical sessions are where the job candidates and the human resource executives meet face to face and discuss. Virtual discussions are generally held either on the phone or online.
Physical interviews are one of the preferred methods of the recruitment process. In a physical interview, the potential employer and the job seeker discuss various aspects of the job in person. The hiring manager gets an opportunity to verify the resume with the candidate. The candidate's eye contact, body language, and communication skills are all put to the test and creates a first impression. The Company has a better understanding of the candidate's personality and ability to communicate.
In this type of interview, the recruiter assesses the behaviour of the candidate. The specific way a person reacts in a situation is studied. The behavioural interview questions assist in understanding the psychological makeup of the person in a similar situation. They generally relate to work specific environment. The questions are probing and straight to the point. "Tell me a situation where you got very angry at someone" or "Give us an instance where you had to take an unpopular decision".
How to answer behavioural interview questions
Generally, the traditional interview questions are direct and are easy to answer. The questions are generic and predictable. "What are your strengths?" or "Describe yourself in two minutes" are some of the examples of traditional interview questions. However, the behavioural interview questions are different. It judges our reactions to a situation. It is difficult to predict such questions. Besides, there are no correct or wrong answers to such questions. Thorough scrutiny of your resume will give you some idea of what kind of questions to expect during the interview and practice the possible answer.
Using STAR method to answer behavioural interview:
The STAR method is a popular way of answering the questions posed during a behavioural interview. Moreover, it helps the candidate to structure their answers properly and give a logical explanation. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result.
Situation: This calls for a description of the circumstances or the context. It could be a challenge you faced at work or in a particular project. Explain the framework of the problem with specific details. Depending on the question asked, you can create the situation you were in when the incident happened. It would give the context and the basis for the rest of the answers.
Task: Identify the major tasks that were part of the situation. The responsibility of these tasks may be with you or other team members. But it is preferable to focus on the tasks that you were directly responsible for.
Action: After identifying the situation and the tasks, list out the steps for a successful outcome. The activities could be individual or group. However, focus on your actions and explain the specific tools and processes you used.
Result: Discuss the results you achieved by understanding the situation, identifying the tasks and implementing the actions. Elaborate on the savings in cost, time and processes.
STAR method provides the candidate with an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the candidate's skills and talents in a structured manner. It provides a forum to prove to the hiring manager the skills and abilities to solve a real-life problem.
Case Study Interviews
In a case study interview, the candidates have to solve hypothetical case studies. The process involves presenting business cases that require analytical skills to resolve. The information available may not be complete, and the potential employer will be examining the candidate's abilities to come up with innovative solutions to resolve the case problem.
Specific jobs require competencies that are integral to the job. For instance, a data entry operator has to be proficient on a computer keyboard. Similarly, a web designer needs to understand the software that runs the web pages. Competency interviews are standard for all such jobs.
Online or Virtual Interviews
Online or virtual interviews are held online or on the telephone. Being a remote interview, the candidate and the hiring manager can be anywhere in the world. There are no geographical limitations with this type of interviews.
Online interviews have gained popularity over time, and the recent COVID-19 instance has boosted the online type of hiring. The virtual interviews are mainly of three types:
Face to face or one on one interviews
One way video interviews
Face to face or one on one interviews:
These are the most popular form of online discussions. Ever since the pandemic hit the world, this type of virtual interviews has become the norm in the job recruitment world. Generally, in this type of interviews, we get the convenience of seeing each other (the candidate and the hiring manager) along with the flexibility of being remote. This medium allows the recruiter to ask the standard interview questions and assess the candidate's communication skills.
One way video interviews:
In this, the candidate has the flexibility to record their answers to the common questions and send them to the potential employers. It allows for a stress-free environment for the candidate to review the questions and prepare the answers. They can emphasise their skills and strengths and describe why they are suitable candidates for the job.
Video conferencing apps now replace this mode of the job recruitment process. In a phone interview, the human resource manager engages the candidates with the job offer. It could be the manager alone or a few others on a conference call. With the cell phone's popularity, it has become effortless to connect with the candidates for interview questions.
Here are the most popular ten questions and how to answer them
1. Tell us about yourself:
If you have come to the interview stage, the recruiter already has copies of your resume to guide him about your education, experience and other details. So what are we supposed to describe ourselves? Do not waste time by repeating what is in the CV.
This is an excellent opportunity to nail the interview and guide the questions to the areas of your comfort. Talk about your experiences and learning incidents you had in your last job or at the University. Describe the life lessons you experienced and give specific examples with approximate dates. Mention the people and teachers who were your guides and mentors. The more information you can provide at this stage will help you to steer the interview questions to topics where you have comfort.
2. Why do you think you are the right fit for this job?
This question is an important one to test the analytical skills and one of the most common job interview questions. Based on your education and the experience you gained in your previous roles, articulate how you will add value to the job. Based on the job description, it's a good idea to list each job description attribute and match it with your skills and education. This is an excellent opportunity to make the first impression that you are analytical and diligent.
3. Why do you want this job?
The obvious answer would be to say, "For the money"! But the effective way of answering is by explaining the learnings you will get and the value addition you can provide to the Company's culture. The emphasis should be on the benefit that the Company will have by hiring you and the experience you will gain. List out the similar roles you had with previous employers to convince them that you are the right fit for the job.
4. What has been your best professional achievement?
This is one of the tough interview questions which offers a great way to praise yourself about your past accomplishments. Ensure that you discuss the significant aspects of your work history, resulting in increased productivity to the team and the Company. The right answer is to restrict the achievement to a maximum of three, which resulted in a significant impression on the work process's efficiency. Do not dilute your best achievements by discussing too many of them.
5. Why did you leave your previous job?
Most employers look for consistency in the career path. A person changing a job every other year is a clear red flag for them. It shows that such candidates are permanent job search aspirants forever looking for following next job interview.
Because of this, you should have a clear explanation as to why you quit the previous job. Talk positively about your experience with your previous employer and the learning you had on the job. Any negativity about the job should be expressed carefully.
6. What are your goals for the next five years?
This question is aimed at assessing your strategic skills – both in your personal life and in the current job. It requires a thoughtful answer. The answer should reflect the aspirations you have in your personal life and the steps you have planned to achieve them.
Answers like "I want to be the CEO of this Company" or "I want to get at least four promotions" do not reflect the strategic thinking. They merely reflect your desire or dream. The possible right answer would be to demonstrate how you will take advantage of the Company's 'culture to learn new things and grow within the ranks.
7. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
This one of the tough interview questions that the qualified candidates will be asked. Listing out strengths is relatively easy but discussing the weaknesses in a straightforward way is difficult. A lot of tact must be used in answering this question. In describing the strengths, one of the best answers will be to talk about the skills proven in past work experience.
You can discuss the strong IT skills you have, strong marketing expertise, relationship building, etc. When it comes to weaknesses, it is always good to list a few items as possible. "One of my weaknesses is that I am obsessed with quality" or "I am very impatient when delays happen". A negative quality should be shown as a positive attitude.
8. What are your hobbies and interests?
There is a life beyond the job. And employers are keen to know how you spend your time outside the working hours. It gives them a complete guide of your personality, your traits and help them to decide if you are the ideal candidate for the position. While it is not advisable to lie about your hobbies and interests, you should ensure that you have some interests which improve your professionalism.
9. What is your salary expectations?
One of the most common interviews mistakes qualified candidates make while answering this question. Companies ask this question to gauge the expectations of the candidate and to ensure that he/she is the right person in the salary band they have in mind. It is often the opening gambit for the negotiation of the compensation for the job posting.
Pitching the salary at very high could make you unaffordable for the position. At the same time, a low wage could mean that you have negotiated it well. It is a difficult situation, and the best answer would be to ensure that you factor in a moderate hike from your current job and let the Company offer the compensation as per the job market.
This question could be considered illegal job interview questions in some countries since salary is deemed confidential and personal. Candidates have the right to refuse to disclose the details of their compensation. The recruiters have no right even to ask the previous employers about the salaries of the candidate.
10. Do you have any questions for us?
This is one of the top interview questions which most recruiters ask and is generally the last question before the end of the interview. The candidate gets the opportunity to ask the recruiter questions. Whatever questions you decide to ask, they must reflect the understanding you have about the Company. Your thought process as a professional should be evident in framing the right questions. The important thing is to use this opportunity to impress the recruiter that you are the right fit. Do not waste the chance asking questions for which information is available on social media or by doing a web search. Read here for a more detailed explanation of this question.
It is not likely that you will get your dream job the first time you attend an interview. There is a lot of preparation that needs to go in before the day of the interview. Getting the help of a career coach to guide you on sample interview questions will always help you prepare well for the interview. It will help you to practice answering the sample questions with possible answers.
Expert advice in coaching and guiding you for the interview will help you answer the questions effectively. The magic of managing an interview is to cleverly steer the questions to areas where you have the expertise and comfort. Answering situation interview questions will give you the practice to give a good answer. It will help you to put an elevator pitch to your question.
Interviews will never be out of fashion. It will always remain as the favourite tool for the HR Executive. The key to nailing an interview lies in preparation and practice.