Category Archives: Interview Preparation

Interview questions – a real-life example

I’ve decided to test the job market and obtain some interviews, so that I can provide my readers with a real-life interview experience. Using my own resume, I had no trouble gaining interviews within a week of applying.

When it comes to interviews, in addition to preparation, nothing beats real-life practice. So never feel despondent when you fail that first, second or third interview. They are all practise interviews for your final dream job.

The following is a recap of interview questions that I was faced with and relevant sample answers. They are the typical interview questions you will be asked during an interview (or variations of these questions). When preparing for your interview, practise with these interview questions.

Tell me about your experience/background?
Having rehearsed my sales pitch, this was an easy answer. This question gives you a chance to sell yourself. Don’t give them a background history lesson, they should already know from reading your resume. Tell them what you’ve achieved in your career history. Highlight your core strengths. Rehearse your own 2 minute sales pitch and be confident in answering questions such as these.

I have 5+ years experience in [insert industry/role here], where in my previous role I managed a team of 10+ people to achieve the successfully delivery of a $1M project that subsequently gave my team recognition by senior managers

What made you want to apply for this role/company?
Refer back to when you first saw the role advertised. What was it that captured your attention? Was it the company? The required skill set matched yours? The problem the company was facing, that you could solve?

I was attracted to the advertised skills set that you listed. I believe I match each of these and so will be capable to hit the ground running in this role.

What are your strengths/weaknesses?
Strengths is quite simple. You already know what you’re good at. Remember to always provide examples to back up your claims. Weaknesses is a tough one. A common suggestion is to provide a weakness that can be turned around into a strength. Use this tactic if it makes you comfortable. Though I don’t recommend it, as it’s not really a weakness if it’s really disguised as a strength, is it? A better approach is to give a weakness and then explain how you are learning to overcome it. Interviewers will appreciate your honesty and you will get bonus points for self-awareness and trying to improve yourself.

I have trouble saying no and am often overloaded with requests, which can affect the quality of my work. I am trying to overcome this problem by learning to be more assertive and setting expectations with my co-workers/managers.

What are your key achievements?
This should be easy as you would have no doubt listed them in your resume. Give the interviewer an example of when you went above and beyond in your role, incorporate how you used your strengths to achieve your desired results.

Being very strong in process improvement, I automated our weekly reporting process, saving our consultants 2 hours per week in billable time.

What do you think makes a successful [insert role title here]?
Incorporate your strengths in this question. So if the role is a sales consultant for example, identify key skills that are crucial to a sales consultant, that conveniently match your core skills and abilities ie. negotiation and persuasion.

A successful sales consultant requires strong persuasion abilities, in order to convince the buyer who may be reluctant during the final stages of the sale. This is one of my greatest strengths, having a 60% conversion rate.

Describe a time when you had to deal with a difficult client/boss/stakeholder?
When answering this question, it requires some sensitivity. Do not highlight how difficult the person was but rather emphasise the situation that caused the friction/issue, and then what you did to resolve the conflict and hence saved your relationship with your co-worker.

The deadline was fast approaching and we had many outstanding tasks to be completed. The client was extremely on edge, and rightly so, concerned that we would not meet the deadline. I kept the communication lines open and monitored the teams responsible for each tasks and regularly updated the customer on the progress. The result was that the project met the deadline and I was able to cultivate and strengthen the relationship with my customer due to the regular communication.

My questions to the interviewer
This is your chance to interview the interviewer. Here are some of the questions I asked:

  • What are some of the clients you work with? – To establish the credibility of this firm and the ongoing availability of work
  • Can you provide some information on projects that I may be working on? – To understand more about the work I may be performing
  • Why are you hiring? – To learn more about their needs for someone like me and also to identify the potential growth of the company.

I asked these questions because I was interested in knowing the answers. Don’t ask questions just for the sake of having questions to ask, as many people will advise. Question time is for you to turn the interview around on the interviewer. Think about questions that will help you determine your fit within this organisation.

5 must-do’s prior to the all important interview

Congratulations! You got through to the interview stage. Here are some helpful hints to prepare you for the all important interview.

1. Get a notepad. Write down interview details, contact names and numbers etc. It is also a good idea to write down a few points about the organisation and some practice questions and answers in your notepad. You can then refer to the notepad during the interview if you get nervous and forget what you’ve prepared. Interviewers will look upon this favourably knowing that you’ve come prepared.

Prepare your materials for the interview. In addition to your notepad, include a pen, 2-3 copies of your resume and a copy of the job description provided by the recruiter (if any) in your interview ‘kit’. This will show your organisation skills by being thoroughly prepared. Having a notepad also allows you to jot down any important information the interviewer is providing during the interview, showing your interest

2. Practice, practice, practice. Practice answering interview questions with a friend, or in front of a mirror, or in your own head. However you do it, this step is crucial. Even if the questions in the interview are completely different, at least you have come prepared. Also, by practicing, you will come up with some key sample situations that you can apply during the interview, which brings me to my next point…

Prepare 3-4 examples of achievements you’ve had in your work/university experience, i.e. that time you went above and beyond for a customer. Practice applying these situations in the ‘STAR’ format. Write down these examples in your notepad (see point #1). Once you have prepared these examples, you’ll find that you can adapt and apply them to almost any question the interviewer may throw at you.

Here are a few sample interview questions:

  • Tell me about yourself?
  • Reasons for leaving your current job?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Why did you select this particular career path?
  • What are your key strengths/weaknesses?
  • Tell me about a particular time when you had to deal with a difficult client?

Note: It is ok to get confirmation from the interviewer after you’ve answered a question, whether it is what they’re after or if your answer was clear.

3. Review your resume again, so you can easily and confidently address any of the interviewers concerns regarding your resume.

4. Prepare your outfit for the interview. Make sure it is appropriate. This seems obvious, but many people can get it wrong. Attention to detail is key here. If you have the best, well cut suit, but your shoes are unpolished, it will stand out. Dress smart, don’t choose too many bright/distracting colours and/or patterns, and make sure you are well groomed.

5. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep. Try not too worry too much about the event. Visualise succeeding the interview with flying colours. Worrying will only lead to fear, self-doubt and anxiety, which will show through in the interview. Portraying a positive and confident image and behaving as though you’ve already got the job (though be careful to not cross the line into arrogance), will in return give the potential employer equal confidence in you.

The difference between you and the other potential candidate is how well you prepare for the interview. Putting in a few hours for your preparations will set you up for your dream job.