Getting stumped by an interview question is not uncommon. It happens. The goal of this article is not to prevent this from happening (although we believe we can help quite a bit with that), but rather provide two important benefits to you. First, our questions will help spark the self-reflection you should be doing such that even if you do not get asked exactly one of the questions we present here, you will have done sufficient self-reflection that you will be prepared to answer many similar questions. Second, if you find that, after reading our questions, you really do not feel like you have applications for these questions at your present job, it may be time to re-think how you are approaching your day-to-day assignments.
Interview Questions You Should be Prepared to Answer:
1) What are you passionate about?
A majority of candidates I have interviewed responded to this question by saying they are passionate about solving problems. While there is no wrong answer to this question, your interviewer is essentially trying to understand how to distinguish you uniquely from other candidates. Providing a generic answer will make it hard to distinguish yourself.
2) Tell me about a project you were responsible for that failed and what you learned from that experience?
Everyone can think of stories where they pulled things together for success. Stretching yourself beyond your boundaries and being vulnerable to failure requires a great deal of courage. Despite what Hollywood would have us believe, many times when we truly stretch ourselves, we are met with “failure”. This is why it requires courage in the first place. How a person handles him or herself when nothing feels like it is going right can reveal a lot about a person’s character.
3) How has your boss helped you in your career?
Organizations want to know that you are capable of making use of the resources around you. One of the greatest resources at your disposal is your boss. Regardless of whether your boss is a great boss or perhaps a bit non-ideal, he/she has a great influence on your work. How deeply you have thought about this and taken advantage of this reveals quite a bit about your maturity and leadership capacity.
4) They say the greatness of a leader is reflected in those who follow him/her. Describe someone who followed you and a success they have achieved.
Regardless of whether you have managed others officially or not, any adult proficient in any trade encounters opportunities where he/she can mentor others. This could find applications at work, at home, at a charity, almost anywhere. Any job that requires interpersonal collaboration should be very interested in knowing how you have handled specific situations like this in the past and what it might indicate about how you will handle inceasing leadership opportunities.
5) What are people likely to misunderstand about you?
In many situations, perception is reality. Naturally, other people’s perception is something we have no direct control over. Instead, we commonly hear people talking about managing “perception” or more commonly, “office politics.” Those who are successful at building organizations are able to anticipate the perceptions that need to be managed. Managing perceptions in an organization starts with keen self-awareness. This question taps into how well you are tuned with that.
6) Describe a conflict you encountered during your career and how you resolved the situation?
One of the most common things that happen when you bring very passionate and bright people together is a difference of ideas. A difference of ideas can result in conflict. It is very unlikely to achieve success in your career and never experience conflict. Conflict resolution and collaboration alone can spell the success or failure of a project. It’s certainly an aspect that is rarely covered on a resume, but showcasing good skills in this regard can be a huge benefit to an organization.
7) Describe a defining moment in your career.
This question separates the time-servers from the real rock stars which are so coveted by organizations. It isn’t too difficult to hop from company to company without contributing greatly to the success of the business. It takes real investment of a person’s time and energy before even being provided the opportunity to really define the business or one’s own career, for that matter.
8) Describe one attribute you want to grow in at your next job.
Organizations are not static. They either grow or they shrink. If you need proof of this, just look at the economy – it never remains static. Therefore, if you are not growing, by definition, you are shrinking. Your skill sets today may be exactly what the organization needs, but if you are successful in helping the organization grow, then by definition your skills alone are not what the company needs tomorrow. An eye toward growth is of great interest to a prospective employer.
9) If you were to start a business today, what kind of business would you start and why?
This is another way for the interviewer to understand a little about your passions. Don’t be afraid to give an answer that is in a completely different industry. Again, the interviewer is trying to understand how to distinguish you uniquely from other candidates. The only wrong answer to this question is a response that is generic and offers no hint as to the passions that make you uniquely qualified for this job.
10) What is the most important thing a company needs to provide in order for you to be inspired to stay a long time?
Similar to passions, organizations would like to know what motivates you and whether these motivations are compatible with the organization’s culture. Again, the only “wrong” answer is one that really doesn’t help distinguish you from other candidates. Think of an experience you already had where you were motivated to stay for a long duration and how you uniquely contributed to the culture in this regard. Companies spend a lot of money to ramp up a new employee. They want to be convinced that you will feel comfortable with the total package.
We hope you found these questions thought-provoking. Tell us about interesting questions you were asked at an interview and how you approached it.