5 Questions That Job Interviews Are All About
On average, job interviews last for 40 minutes. This means there is only a short window of opportunity for a candidate to make a good impression on an interviewer. However, it also means that there is equal if not greater pressure on the interviewer in this small amount of time, to ask the right questions in order to gather all the information they need in order to assess whether the person sat in front of them is a viable hire.
In order to meet this challenge, interviewing techniques have developed at a rapid pace. Eye contact and brain teasers have given way to competence or behavioural based questioning. No matter how complex some interviewing methods may sound, it’s important to remember that most interviewers have no interest in trying to trick you or catch you out. Quite the opposite in fact. Most interviews simply come down to your interviewer trying to find the answers to the following 5 questions.
Q #1 : Can You Do The Job?
One of the most obvious questions, but one with at least a few a layers of complexity. At a basic level, for most positions, there are certain technical skills that are needed in order for the role to be carried out competently. For a secretary it might be typing speed, for an accountant, perhaps it’s the knowledge of a certain type of accounting software. Interviewers are immediately looking for evidence that you possess the skills they know are needed Day 1 in order for you to hit the ground running and add value to the company. Beyond superficial evidence of these skills, good interviewers will ask you about your current role and responsibilities in the hope that your answers will reference these skills. Even better, can you show that you have used these skills to a positive effect – hitting a target, building a product, or achieving other tangible successes.
A: Yes I Can!
The sooner you provide the necessary level of comfort to your interviewer about this question the better. Your response really starts with your CV. This is where you should be highlighting the key skills that you know the company will be looking for in their ideal candidate. Job descriptions are fine as a starting point, but don’t rely on them fully. Use your own industry knowledge and experience to really zero in on which skills and competencies are needed for the role. Equally important is highlighting your successes and achievements that demonstrate a proven track record in utilizing these key skills to produce results.
Q #2: Do You Have A Good Attitude?
A well-known business adage advises us to, “Hire for attitude and train for skill.” Although every company might not subscribe to this philosophy, the truth is that even if you tick all the boxes when it comes to technical skills, you are unlikely to have a successful interview process without displaying the right attitude. In fact, even if an interviewer is not 100% convinced that you perfectly match their technical requirements, you have a chance to win them over with a “can-do” attitude. Sure, companies are often hiring to solve an immediate business challenge, but by displaying a willingness to learn new skills and adapt to changing circumstances, you may convince them that you are someone with more to offer the company in the long run.
A: Yes I Do!
Everything about you can contribute to the conclusions an interviewer makes about your attitude. The tone of your responses to interview questions is especially important, particularly if an interviewer asks you a difficult question or focuses on a weak part of your CV. The key here is to always remain open and calm in the interview. Acknowledging that you don’t know something or that you can improve certain things is not a weakness. If anything, it demonstrates a level of self-awareness and honesty that will leave the interviewer impressed. Nobody is perfect. Interviewers know this. What matters to them, is that an individual is prepared to put in the effort in order to produce the best possible outcomes for themselves and the company. A positive attitude is a key indicator of this.
Q #3: Are You A Good Cultural Fit?
The term “fit” is often criticised as being a too vague and often meaningless benchmark by which to judge a candidate. However, it is an inescapable truth that an interviewer is not only trying to visualise whether they can see you doing the job, but whether you belong at the company. Often this comes down to whether your skill set and personality complement the talents of your potential team members.
A: I Hope So!
Of all the questions, this is the one I would actually advise you NOT to prepare for. The best way to show your personality is to be yourself. Ultimately, a good interviewer should know the personalities of your potential co-workers better than you, and if they decide that you wouldn’t work well with them, then the chances are that you have made a lucky escape from an unhappy work environment.
Q #4: Do You Know The Company?
Best selling author, Simon Sinek, says that, “Unless you give motivated people something to believe in, something bigger than their job to work towards, they will motivate themselves to find a new job and you’ll be stuck with whoever’s left.” In an interview, this translates to the interviewer wanting to see that you have made an effort to understand what the company is about, their mission and what they are trying to achieve. In many cases, if they think you are someone who just wants a job for the pay cheque and nothing more, then the natural conclusion is that all it takes for you to move in the future is a slightly fatter pay cheque. Not ideal.
A: Like The Back Of My Hand!
It’s time for some homework. There are no shortcuts to gaining a better understanding of a company other than to do your own research. With most information available on the internet, there is really no excuse for not being knowledgeable about the company’s mission statement, products and services or latest developments. It would also be worthwhile to try and find some background on your interviewers. If you are not told beforehand then it is always worth asking the names of the people who will be interviewing you so you can find out more about their background. You don’t need to have encyclopaedic knowledge, but try to find some background information about the company that you genuinely find interesting. In a practical sense, you will feel far more fulfilled in your work, if you believe in the company you are working for.
Q #5: Do You Care About This Job Interview?
Put another way, what the interviewer really wants to know is, do you really want the job. There are many reasons why someone could potentially be interviewing for a job that they aren’t actually interested in. Some candidates are simply exploring their options, others are perfecting their interview skills. The most unscrupulous may even be looking for a job offer to wave under their existing bosses nose in the hope of a lucrative counter-offer! Any sniff of insincerity on your behalf will almost certainly blow your chances of success.
A: Of Course I Do!
There are many small details that show you are serious about the opportunity. Getting to your interview late for example, is one of the worst things you can do. At best this shows a lack of organisation and time management. At worst, it shows a lack of respect for the interviewer’s time. Both will likely lead to swift rejection of your candidacy.
The best time for you to show how serious you are about a job opportunity is actually at the end of the interview when you will often be asked if you have any further questions. A couple of well thought out questions at this point, shows the interviewer that you have put some real thought into how this opportunity might advance your career. The more personal the question is to you, the better.
Make sure to also enquire about next steps and the likely timeline of the decision making process or next interview round. This is not being pushy, it shows you care. If in doubt, you can leave these questions for when you follow up with your interviewer afterwards via email, expressing thanks for their time and emphasising that you remain interested in working for the company.