November 13, 2018
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Common Interview Questions What Employers Should Listen

1. Let’s start by you telling me something about yourself. (Anything) Dealing with ambiguity. Uses open-ended question to make a strong, specific, short statement: VS lost/confused.
2. Please give me a 3 minute overview of your background, education through today.(Don’t allow more time.) Details you can use later. What’s important to them. Ability to follow directions; not ramble. Quality of delivery. Initial energy, eye contact, etc. Checks to ensure that’s enough.
3. Why did you choose this school and major? Having and “working” a plan vs. falling into it. Competency issues; What they are good at.
4. What did you really learn at (your school)? Undergrad: Learned to think, be logical: study, learn, Broader view of the world.
Grad: Focused; deeper into my field.
5. In your school studies, what specific knowledge applies to this job? Relevance of study to the job. Person’s ability to make the connection. Depth and breadth.
NOW LET’S TALK ABOUT JOB EXPERIENCE… (Choose questions relevant to the person)
6. How did you end up at (your first job)? Standards, Choice, Other options. Logic
7. What did you learn in your first job? Self insight. Career insight. Organizational savvy.
8. I will describe 2 or 3 accountabilities of this job. Can you give me examples that demonstrate your ability to do these things? Self assessment—Relevance of experience. Objective about where accountabilities fit and do not fit (clear about learning curve/will grow). Evidence of been there, done it; or seen it could probably do it. A key part of interview summary!
9. What was your “charter” when you assumed your role? What have you put in place? Measurable results vs. activities/tasks. Client focus. Clarity of business impact. Concise
10. Of what results are you most proud? Role, level, tenure fit with expected impact. Individual/Team
11. Describe the organizational structure and how you fit in the structure? (boss, up, down) Clarity about role. Set up future questions regarding decision making, relationships, influence.
12. What was your reasons for your transitions between each of your jobs? (or pick one). Logical career progression. Recruited away. Proven performer. VS series of poorly planned choices or not performing or mutual decision, not right fit (fired).
13. What parallels do you see between your company and industry and ours? Trite VS insightful Asks clarifying questions. Makes logical connections. Thinks on the fly.
14. What are trends that effect your business? Detail business understanding. Breadth.
15. Who are your competitors? How do you rank vs. them? What are you doing about it? Measurement and competitively focused. Industry knowledge. Strategic thought and action planning.
16. What edges do your competitors have? Knows the competition well. Derives plans based on that
17. Think of a successful product or service where your competitor beat you to market. Why weren’t you first? Role of innovation. Level of risk. Ownership. Creativity. Level of experimentation. Knowledge of the market and of competitors.
18. What companies do you most admire? Breadth. Values. Clarity. Logic.
19. Have you ever moved from line to staff or field to corporate? What did you learn from it? Learning from job assignments. Organizational Agility. Cross functional understanding. Flexibility.
20. What have you done differently from your peers in the organization and why? What makes your work unique? Renegade vs. Change Agent. Standing Alone. Team orientation. Ability to sell views. Business rationale.
21. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 high, how would you rate your Intellectual Smarts?
Your Street Smarts?
What leads you to these ratings?
9 or 10 on both; No reservations. Knows what both terms mean and gives good color commentary to support the rating.
22. Describe your PC and software abilities. Extensive. Meets job needs. Willing/Able to learn more.
23. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 high, how well do you know your industry? Why “#”? 9 or 10 and willing to learn. Can describe overlap from current experience. Has been studying up on the industry.
NOW LET’S TALK ABOUT THE WORK ENVIRONMENT AND WHAT MOTIVATES YOU… Look for fit with job, department company.
1. Why are you considering this employer and this particular position? Realistic level given where in selection process. Too interested (desperate?); not enough (motivated?).
2. Characterize the work environment in which you are the most productive. Characteristics that fit your unique situation, e.g. individual vs. team; interfunctional; projects; type of work, etc.
3. Describe the work environment where you are now. What do you like/dislike about it? Have they thought about it? Running from something? Grass is greener? Fit with our environment.
4. Describe your relationship with your current boss and one-up manager. Relationship with both; work both for correct roles. One-up for vision, strategy; boss for resources, day to day.
5. Think about the best boss relationship you ever had. What made it so good? Fit with hiring manager and work team; appropriate challenge up and level of independence.
6. Tell me about a time when you identified a business opportunity and ran with it. Individual, self driving initiative. Bias for action. Proactive. Gets results. Has personal impact.
7. This job requires relocation. What are your thought on that? Any concerns? Thought through impact on them, family, etc. Identifies relevant issues. No insurmountable issues.
8. What do you like about (current city)? Enthusiasm vs. concern relative to relocation.
9. How do you structure your time to get your work completed? Tactical vs. Strategic (day, week, month, year focus?; Tactical vs. Strategic (day, week, month, year focus?;
10. In your function or role, how do you measure success? Measures and how they value them. Effort vs. results. Technical/Functional, Quality, customer measurement.
11. What specific kinds of things do you want to do or learn over the next 24 months. Specific plan, goals, objectives. Professional development. Fit with our on-job opportunities.
with our on-job opportunities. your hands; when you have nothing else to do? Depends on job; something “constructive.” Can get at: Action oriented; drive; active. Work/Life balance.
13. What do you expect to be the biggest change you’d have to if you join us? Self insight. Sees the issues. Wrestles with it a bit (not a pat answer). Asks for your insight on the same question.
14. What do you consider to be the most negative aspects of this position for you? Recognition of issues and willingness to deal with it. Realizing where the significant adjustments will be.
15. Can you give me an example where you quickly drove to closure on something important? Is this your usual style? Action Style. Decisiveness. Aware that different situations require different timing. Insight into how they handle risk and uncertainty.
16. Can you give me one good example of: small team, large group, and individual work? Flexible. Place for all. Choose wisely based on situations to deliver best results. Balance. Can do all ways. No one best.
17. What barriers to productivity have you seen and how have you overcome them? Quick study. Finds ways to get things done. Energized, not frustrated or scapegoating.
18. Can you think of a dumb (org./school) policy? Have you done anything about it? Candor. Values. Willing to get involved and lead. Aware of political issues but not acting politically. Managerial courage
19. Tell me about a time when you had to overcome resistance to get something done. Positive, can-do attitude. Perseverance. Political Savvy. Read the situation; not surprised. Thinks ahead, anticipates.
20. In your professional area, what have you done to get better at predicting the future? Strong future oriented, creative perspective. Identifies themes and opportunities. Avid reader, stays current. Applies it.
21. Describe the best & worst teams you ever worked on. Characterize how they differed Group process awareness. Recognizes leadership and followship issues. Has led effective teams.
22. How do you define and identify talent? Clear, Energetic, Specific, Has model, process. Hired some!
23. Observe: How prepared were they? Employer’s details and insight about the issues. Analytical ability and interest in us. Ability to generalize and recognize our issues. Done their homework on us.
1. Would you say you make personal sacrifices for the good of the business? Like what? Commitment. No real big decision. Had to do it. Wanted to. Did the right thing. Has multiple examples. Real sacrifice.
2. Have you ever had to rally work hard to understand someone who was different than you? Gets the question. Has a specific example. Adaptable. Aware. Sensitive to differences. Works for inclusion. Appreciates and values diversity.
3. Can you give me an example of when you stepped in to motivate a person or group. Taking charge. Recognizing the need to help motivate people when they are down.
4. Have you ever taken a huge risk on the job? Courage. Takes a position. Perseveres. Values.
5. Do you prefer slow and cautious or quick and decisive? Trusts instincts. Situations vary. After all, prefer quick and decisive; can’t stand waiting around.
6. Tell me about a time you had a big disagreement with your boss. Ethics and values. Standards. Standing Alone. Managerial Courage. Change Resistance.
7. Can you think of time when your someone came to you midway through a project and changed significant things? Your reaction? Naturally, a little frustrating, but: To be expected. Life’s like that. That’s what we’re here for. Dealing with Ambiguity. Regrouped. Some chaos is OK.
8. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 high, how Courageous are you? 9 or 10; no reservations.
9. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 high, rate your Drive for Results. 9 or 10; no reservations.
10. What outside professional societies do you belong to? Held any leadership positions? Continuing professional development. Leadership. Peer recognition; asked to speak, present a paper, etc.
11. Is your off-work personality or style different than at work? (If yes) How so? Basically the same. Able to switch styles as appropriate. More intense at work.
12. What does “Valuing Diversity” mean to you? Any examples of it in your life? People. Ideas. Styles. Approaches. Beyond gender/race. Has personal example; heart-felt.
13. What is your definition of integrity? Ever had it tested? Depth of thought, experience, and belief. Standing Alone. Maturity of perspective. Not a hollow excuse for resigning.
14. What values to you hold most dearly? Has values. Knows them. Deeply held; not canned. Maturity.
Has values. Knows them. Deeply held; not canned. Maturity decision based on values or ethics? What? Articulation of personal values. Acts in line with them, even in tough times.
16. Have you ever gotten in trouble for acting too quickly? Were you right? Willing to take the heat and plow forward to get something done. Not too impulsive; not leaping before thinking!
17. Think of a time you were challenged in public. How did you react? Listen to understand. Stands up for position. Doesn’t take it Personally. Concentrates on the situation or problem.
18. Think of a time when you had to take an unpopular stand. Describe the situation. Takes charge. Doesn’t need to be liked. Balance of Command and Team orientation.
19. Have you ever started something from scratch? Tell me about it. Yes. Specific. Success. Pride. Learned from it. Is good at it. Enjoys it.
20. How do you “unwind”? Alone-internally focused. Active/others-extremely focused.
21. Have you ever had a mentor? What were the qualities of the person? Has had. Someone admired/special. Has qualities they aspire to: Successful, Caring, Listening, Coaching.
22. Have you ever been a mentor? What types of people and what did you do? Has been. High potential, talented people. Showed caring Listening, Coaching; focused on their development.
Observe: “Suck up” vs. Natural Style. Genuineness. Believability. Credibility. Relationship builder.
Do they ask about our standards of Performance and professional expectations? High performers want to know what high performance is. More than a casual reference. Taking ownership.
Observe: Do they make the interview an Observe: Do they make the interview an enjoyable experience? Relationship building. Ability to connect, energize.
1. How are you different today than you were two years ago? Self reflective. Insightful. Candid. Deep. Complex. May wrestle with it, but answers the question.
2. What is the biggest mistake you have ever made? What did you learn from it? Self insight. Note if answer comes too fast (canned; not reflective), or too slow (doesn’t get it or won’t tell you).
3. Do you admit to mistakes? Open. Willing to reflect honestly on failures.
4. Who has made a big impact in your life? Aware of impact and describes change to self.
5. Do you believe in the saying “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”? Why/Why not? No. Is a “tinkerer” Always possible to get better. Avoid complacency. Break it and force change. Challenge others.
6. Is there anything you dislike about yourself? At peace with self. Uses humor. Has an example. Not heavy.
7. Have you ever made an education or career decision simply because you wanted to learn something different? Tell me about it. Has an example. Real and deeply felt. Experience changed them. Learned something new. Developed skills. Dealt with fear.
8. Have you formally asked others for feedback on your performance? Example? Has a real example. Constantly asking “how am I doing” and aware of impact. Responds to feedback. Non-defensive.
9. For what do you get criticized? Non-defensive. Specific. Insightful. Candid.
10. What do you read? Business OK; but listen for broader Perspective point of view.
11. To what mags/journals do you subscribe? Business acumen. Professionally current. Broad perspective.
12. How much change in your organization going through? How are people reacting? Role in change. Level of frustration with change. Generally Role in change. Level of frustration with change. Generally positive or negative? Knows change never stops.
13. Tell me about the craziest idea your current employer ever tried to pull off. Change resistance. Passive victim vs. active champion. Level of frustration.
14. Do you have a mission in life? What? Internalized mission. Self insight. Deeply held; not canned.
15. Do you plan everything through very thoroughly or manage things more on the fly? Organized person; but when necessary, can act quickly without Organized person; but when necessary, can act quickly without a lot of planning. Willing to learn on the fly.
16. What kind of experiments or “skunkworks” go on in your department? Willingness to experiment, have “skunkworks”. Open to ideas.
17. Have you ever developed a new product or service? What process did you use? Understands how to involve others in the creative process. Many experiences. Idea Champion.
18. What do you least like about our selection process so far? Critique it for me. Thoughtful. Insightful. Candid. Picks big issues we can learn from; not trite.
19. Have you ever been disappointed by someone you thought well of and trusted? Clear, level headed assessment. With feelings. With learnings. Clear, level headed assessment. With feelings. With learnings.
20. How do you handle the unforeseen? Give me a specific example. Flexibility. Managing on the fly. Stays on commitments. No problem, can handle anything with no attitude about it. Has a “Plan B.”
21. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 high, rate your Listening and People Sensitivity skills. 9 or 10; no reservations. No elements of egotistical, abrasive, intimidating, bullying style throughout the interview.
For any question, complete the PROBE with “What did you learn” and “How have you applied those learnings in other situations”. Learning Agility. Seeking meaning. Aware of environment Self learner. Curious
Also, note whether the thinking is Also, note whether the thinking is business perspective. Sees how all parts of the business fit and work together. Not tied to one functional viewpoint. Has learned the financial aspect and ties it in.
How insightful vs. canned are the questions asked by the person. Intellect. Creativity. Perspective Sophistication.
Note the listening skills of the person. Listens, Paraphrases. Engaged. Natural.
Follow-up from any question: Why do you Think I asked that question? Insight, understanding; analytical ability. Candid. Complexity presented clearly.
Describe a situation and give the person 20 minutes to prepare a flipchart presentation. Organizing, planning presentation preparation. Knowledge of the subject area. Ability to present convincingly and defend a point of view when challenged.
Present a realistic hypothetical situation that requires analytical, problem solving and decision making. Ask: What would you do? Analytical, problem solving and decision making ability. Knowledge of that type situation. Awareness of complexity and when to involve others, get more information. etc.
In the next 30 minutes, please summarize in writing your interview performance during the day today; including your strong points and anything you wish you had done differently. Written communications ability. Organizing. Planning. Written communications ability. Organizing. Planning. Insight. Self-awareness. Common Interview Questions What Employers Should Listen
Here is a pen ( or anything…). Sell it to me. Here is a pen ( or anything…). Sell it to me. compelling reason; asking for the sale; closing the sale.
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