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I Nailed Every Job Interview by Understanding the Intention Behind Each Question

I Nailed Every Job Interview by Understanding the Intention Behind Each Question

Interviews can be terrifying. It is terrifying, as it is hard to predict what the interview questions will be like.

More often than not, the hiring managers like to ask questions about our past experiences. If we have not prepared a story or two to cope with this, we sit tongue-tied.

Behavioral Interview Questions Are the Hot Items in Interviews

We’d like to introduce to you the term “behavioral interview questions”. Behavioral questions aim to get information about how the interviewees behaved in the past.

By knowing how they behaved in the past, managers can get a sense of how they will behave in the future. The important question every interviewer wants to know the answer to is: will this person work well with our organization? [1]

You may have heard some of these questions in the past:

  • Describe a time when your team or company was undergoing some changes. How did that impact you, and how did you adapt?
  • Can you talk about a long-term project that you managed? How did you keep everything moving along in a timely manner?
  • Give me an example of a time when you did not meet a client’s expectation. What happened, and how did you attempt to rectify the situation?

Their formats are varying. But more or less they can be reduced to a simple question which starts with: “Can you tell me a time…”.

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Categories of Behavioral Questions

Here, we categorise all the behavioral questions based on the knowledge of experienced hiring managers.

If you are an interviewer, this article may serve as a reference for preparing interview questions; if you are an interviewee, by knowing the forms and expectations of these questions, you may be better equipped in the preparation of an interview.

1. Teamwork

As said by Pamela Skillings, the founder of Big Interview, interview questions about teamwork are the most common.

This type of questions aims to know if the potential employee will be a good team player. After all, the ability to cooperate is crucial in an organization, and hiring managers are responsible for finding out if the potential employees are cooperative.

Examples

  • Can you tell me a time when you had to work closely with someone with a personality which was very different from yours?
  • Please tell me a time you faced a conflict while working on a team. Did you handle it well?
  • Did you once try to get information from someone who, for whatever reason, was not responsive?

Expectations

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  • Provide one or two of the most relevant examples demonstrating your skills to cooperate with others well.
  • The ultimate goal of the interviewee is to show that they are easy and a joy to work with.
  • Understand the definition of teamwork the job requires. For example, a start-up company may look for employees who work well with others by taking different roles. Or a multinational company may look for newcomers who can adapt quickly to the established working environment.
  • In order to show their cooperativeness, interviewees should demonstrate their ability to help a team succeed, instead of emphasising on one individual’s success.
  • Show respect for the previous teammates, instead of raising complaint or criticism.
  • According to Alison Doyle, there are some qualities or skills that define the ability to work well in a team. It is best if the interviewee can show some of these skills or qualities, such as listening, reliability, respect, and timeliness.

2. Problem Solving

Questions regarding problem solving are another type of questions that are often asked in an interview. These questions aim to know if the employer can manage problems smoothly.

Examples

  • Describe a time when your company was under a change. How did you adapt to it?
  • Describe the most challenging work you have ever encountered. How did you handle that?
  • Tell me a time when you faced a difficult colleague. How did you work with him or her?

Expectations

  • When answering these questions, interviewees are expected to provide examples demonstrating they are capable of solving a problem strategically.
  • The problems discussed are expected to be about professional matters, instead of arbitrary daily chores.
  • Besides the concrete problem, interviewees are expected to describe how they approached the problem.
  • Through talking about their approaches to the problems, interviewees are expected to demonstrate their excellence in problem solving and critical thinking.
  • Interviewees should not overly emphasise their accomplishments; instead, they are expected to remain humble, and articulate their growth once they solved the problems.

3. Motivation and Value

It can be said that the purpose of the interview is to find out what kind of person the interviewee is. That is why questions aiming to know what motivates them are popular.

However, most of the time, these questions are not asked directly; very often they are hidden questions that may seem random at first!

Examples

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  • Tell me about a time when you worked hard to achieve something.
  • Tell me about a time when you tried hard to help a person.
  • Tell me a time you tried hard to learn a new hobby.

Expectations

  • Handle unexpected questions well. Lily Zhang suggests that interviewees should smile first at these questions before they come up with an answer.
  • And since these questions look random, the interviewees are also expected to explicitly address the focus of these questions, which is to answer: what motivates them.
  • These questions do not expect a solid “right” answer. There is no “right” answer to them. In this light, interviewees are expected to give an enthusiastic and coherent response, despite what the content is mainly about [2].

4. Failure

The questions asking interviewees how they faced failure may be the most difficult kind of all. They are difficult, as they require skills to answer them. Interviewers especially look at how the interviewees address their past failure without tarnishing themselves.

Note that these questions are not designed to embarrass the interviewees. The hiring managers ask these questions, as they hope to know: (1) how the interviewees performed in the previous job, and (2) whether they can learn from failure.

Examples

Questions like these can be blunt, as like:

  • Describe a time when you failed.

Or they may come in a more implicit manner:

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  • Tell me about a time when you were under a lot of pressure.
  • Describe a time when you had difficulty leading a group of people.
  • Describe a time when you faced communication break-down.

Expectations

  • Be honest when talking about failure.
  • Describe the failure, while remaining positive about it.
  • Humbly admit the fault, instead of blaming others for it, or denying the failure.
  • Since the goal of these questions is to find out how the interviewees handle failure, interviewees are expected to talk more about the qualities and skills they obtained out of handling the failure.
  • Avoid talking about some detrimental failure. You are instead expected, as suggested by Alison Doyle, to talk about failures that happened in the last job, which need not be tightly related to the future job.[3]
  • It is best if the interviewees can show how they conceptualise success and failure in general.

5. Achievement

The last type of questions is about your personal achievements. These questions may simply ask for one’s talents. Yes, they are questions eliciting information about one’s skills and qualities. However, it is also through these questions that the interviewers gain more understanding about how the interviewees view success, and what their future goal will be.

Examples

  • Can you describe a time when you successfully lead a project?
  • What was your biggest achievement recently?

Expectations

  • Specify one or some of the achievements to show your capability.
  • Interviewees should avoid being overly specific or spending too much time talking about their achievement. Otherwise, they may appear to be boasting themselves.
  • It is better, instead, if the interviewees can elaborate on their strategy that helped them accomplish their goal.
  • Align past achievements with the job you are applying for.
  • Near the end of the answer, it will be best if the interviewees could link their past achievement to the future. That is to say: what is the future goal he or she wants to accomplish?
  • And finally, it is wise if the interviewees can relate their future plan to the job they are applying for, which means interviewees should state that the job is a part of their life plan.

Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

Reference

More by this author

Chris Cheung

Editorial Intern, Lifehack

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Last Updated on October 16, 2018

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

How about a unique spin on things?

These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives.

Learn from these highly successful people’s personal development skills, turn these skills into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

1. Empty your mind

It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

How to Increase Brain Power, Boost Memory and Become 10X Smarter

2. Keep certain days clear

Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

3. Prioritize your work

Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

4. Chop up your time

Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

5. Have a thinking position

Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

6. Pick three to five things you must do that day

To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

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7. Don’t try to do too much

OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew.

Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

8. Have a daily action plan

Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

9. Do your most dreaded project first

Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else.

This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule”

The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then.

Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

11. Have a place devoted to work

If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

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Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

12. Find your golden hour

You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

13. Pretend you’re on an airplane

It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

If you find yourself easily distracted and can’t focus, this method will help you overcome distractions.

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14. Never stop

Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

15. Be in tune with your body

Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it.

Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

16. Try different methods

Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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