How to Master Tough Interview Questions Like a Pro

May 31st, 2012

Congratulations! You’ve been asked to interview for the job of your dreams.

Are you excited…or nervous? More importantly, are you prepared?

Interviewing can be really stressful, or quite enjoyable, depending on the preparation you do. Over my many years of hiring, the best interviews I’ve had are always the ones that turn into more of a conversation than a question and answer session. And that happens when the candidate is ready for the interview.

So what do you need to know?

First, you absolutely must do a little homework (and the more senior the position, the more preparation is required). Visit the company website. Get to know their products and services. Understand the company mission. Learn a little about their industry. And most importantly, think about the value you can bring to the organization.

Next, do a little planning to prepare for the following common interview questions you’re likely to be asked.

Common Question 1: Tell me about yourself.

You don’t need to tell your life story. The interviewer wants to hear a few highlights about your background, and the reasons you’d be a good match for the job opening. Don’t be afraid to brag a little. Share specific examples of your successes from prior jobs, talk about relevant classes you’ve taken, and convey your passion for the job.

Common Question 2: Tell me about your greatest success.

With a question like this, be genuine. The interviewer is looking for real examples of your skills, experience and personality traits. Never make up a story. If you don’t have a lot of work experience, talk about school. Was there a group project where you really shined? Tell a story that illustrates your accomplishments and work ethic.

Common Question 3: What is your greatest weakness?

This is the one that seems to get everyone stumped. A lot of people will tell you to take a strength you have and make it into a weakness. An example of this could be, “I just care too much sometimes and I always take my work home with me,” but a good interviewer can spot false modesty. Instead, talk about a weakness you actually have, but when you respond, show you are working to overcome the weakness. For example, maybe you’re a little disorganized, but you started using a planner, and file folders to separate your work, so now you have a better handle on it.

Common Question 4: Give me an example of when you really went above and beyond for a client. 
Or the corollary, give me an example of a time you had a big conflict with a client and how you dealt with it.

This is a tricky question because the interviewer is looking for you to demonstrate behavioral traits from your past. They want to see how you really handle yourself when clients are demanding or conflicts arise. Like the previous questions, the best approach is to be sincere. Have at least a couple of real stories ready to tell. Explain the situation that occurred, how you dealt with the problem, and the results of your efforts. Also, be sure to explain how you followed-up after the event took place to ensure the client was happy.

Common Question 5: What qualities should a successful manager have?

I love this question. It really forces candidates to express how they like to be managed, and it helps me evaluate whether or not the candidate is a good fit for the culture of our organization. To prepare for this question, think of an example of a favorite former boss or professor. What qualities made that person a great leader? When responding, don’t just state what you think works, but tell the interviewer about your examples and why their leadership style worked. For example, you might discuss a supervisor who was great at setting clear expectations, someone who set a great example for the rest of the team, or a person who was very approachable and acted as an effective mentor.

Would you like more help getting ready for your interviews?

As one of the top employment agencies in Southern California, we can help.  Call Helpmates today to schedule an interview to land your next great job.

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