Cracking the Code on Interview Questions
Several years ago, I interviewed someone for an Executive Administrative Assistant position. Because the previous Assistant left the company after 20 years due to harassment from a peer, I knew the next person coming through the door would have to be strong enough to stand up to the “Bully” to get her to back down. After qualifying her credentials by reviewing her resume and in the phone interview, I invited her to meet with me face-to-face. During most of the interview, I asked her about conflict management and conflict resolution. She had good presence and gave strong answers so she made it through the rest of the hiring process and began working about a month later.

After being with the company for about three months, I ran into her and asked her how things were going. She said she loved the company, work, and her new boss, but had run into problems with a coworker – the Bully! She explained a few of their encounters to me. I then asked how she handled them. Well, true to her interview responses, she put the woman in her place and everything had been fine since then.

I laughed and reminded her of the interview questions I asked her. I then explained the Bully was the reason why I asked her those questions. She laughed and said, “I wondered why you were asking me so many questions about conflict. Now I know!” We both laughed and moved on.

I share this story with you because you can learn a lot from the types of questions you’re asked during an interview. And, if you aren’t paying attention, you might miss key information that can help you make the best decision for you and your career. Having an interviewer ask you one question about a topic shouldn’t set off your alarm, but if sizeable portions of your interview focus on one particular subject matter – pay attention! Here are a few you should watch out for and why:

1. How soon can you start? It could mean the team is overwhelmed with work and they are desperate to get someone in to help. You might enjoy the challenge of being the “savior” or coming in to a very large volume of work, or you may not. Either way, this is something to consider.

2. Tell me an area you need to develop in. What the interviewer wants to know is do you have self awareness, and for those areas that aren’t strong, what are you doing to bring about improvement. If you can’t come up with a substantive response, this tells the interviewer you don’t pay attention to how you impact others and, therefore, are more prone to making less than optimal impressions and being less effective. Be careful, you don’t want to disclose something that is too damaging – only something that’s not a strength and is correctable.

3. Why do you want to work here? Have you placed their organization high enough on your priority list to do your homework? Have you identified quality reasons why you can be an asset to their organization, and have you thought about it enough to ensure they can be a good fit for you? Employers don’t like unnecessary turnover!

4. What 1-2 accomplishments have given you the greatest satisfaction? Try to avoid personal examples – remember this is business. Employers want to know if you understand the difference between creating impact in your work and job duties, and have you indeed created impact.

5. Where do you see yourself in _ years? Do you know what you want to accomplish in your career, and will you let them know so they can determine if it’s a fit for them? Is this merely a “pit stop” for you or are you truly interested in forging a quality, lasting working relationship with them?

6. How would you describe yourself? This is your opportunity to sell the employer on why they should hire you? Be sure to list things that are relevant to the position for which you are interviewing, and how you will be an asset to their organization.

This list could on and on, but hopefully you’re starting to understand how to decipher the questions you receive in interviews. The bottom line is employers want to know WIIFM – What’s In It For Me. As you begin to crack this code, your answers will become stronger and your job offers will increase.