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If You Think Interviews Are Hard for You, Probably You Haven’t Got Prepared for These 20 Questions

If You Think Interviews Are Hard for You, Probably You Haven’t Got Prepared for These 20 Questions

Job interviews can be daunting at the best of times especially when we worry about what kinds of questions will come up. That fear of something being asked that we haven’t prepared for or which throws us off in our nervous state, is enough to make anyone dread an interview.

But there are some standard questions that are always going to come up and if you prepare these answers well, you will feel much more confident in yourself and will transcend throughout the interview process.

Preparation Is the Best Way to Boost Your Confidence

Preparation creates the mindset of ability and gives us the confidence in ourselves. There’s an expectation that the typical interview questions require a high standard of answer without hesitation. Preparing your answers well doesn’t mean memorising them so you can recall it like a parrot, but giving good thought about what you want to say and how you’d like to present yourself.

The Top 20 Questions That Are Commonly Asked in Interviews

With this in mind, here are the most common interview questions and answers you can prepare for ultimate confidence.

1. Tell me about yourself.

This is the typical open-ended question that an interviewer will start with. The main purpose is to break the ice and make the atmosphere feel more comfortable. It’s also a way to let the interviewer see a bit of your personality.

The key is not to go into too much detail or bring up irrelevant information. Start by mentioning a hobby you’re passionate about that can show off a positive side of you such as being a long-distance runner or an avid reader. Mention any volunteer opportunities you’re involved with to show your value and contribution.

After which, start to bring in your professional experience with a phrase like: “That being said, my professional life is a major part of who I am and I’d like to talk a bit about what I can bring to this role.”

Keep this quite brief though, as you don’t want to talk too much and save having to repeat yourself in later questions.

2. What responsibilities did you have in your previous job?

This is where your knowledge of your CV or resume is paramount as well as the job description for this role. Always try to relate this to the current role you’re going for.

For example, if you are going for a management role, talk about any projects you’ve led or people you had to manage – anything where you had lead responsibility.

This is also an opportunity to show your personality and stop yourself from being just a name on a page. Show them that you are responsible and personable – try not to recount bog-standard, boring answers.

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3. What did you find challenging about your previous job and how did you deal with these challenges?

This question is trying to see how you handle difficulties and how effective your problem-solving skills are. Talk about a challenge with a positive outcome and explain how you dealt with it and what you learned for future similar situations.

“When we came across a major glitch in our software system that would affect our workflow and ability to sustain smooth work processes, it was my job to get the software engineers together and problem-solve. I learned how to motivate and organise the team in order to get the quickest and most productive income.”

4. What did you like or dislike about your previous job?

Whatever your response, remember to keep this positive even if you disliked some of what you did in your previous role – they are trying to elicit how you typically react to a role. Remember to try and keep your answer related to the skills required for the current job vacancy and keep your answers engaging and descriptive.

For example you could say: “I helped streamline the company’s in-house workflow system and was recognised for saving significant time on daily operations.”

Any reward-oriented answers are particularly effective here.

5. What is your greatest strength?

This can be a difficult one because many of us try to be humble about our strengths but it’s important to be confident without showing off – a fine balance! It’s important to show the interviewer that you have the right qualities they are looking for.

Focus on the strengths needed for the job. For example, you can say something like: “I have great time-management skills due to working in such a deadline-driven environment. This caused me to finish projects way ahead of schedule and I was given recognition in my current role for finishing one particular project two weeks in advance.”

6. What is your greatest weakness?

This is another one that can trip us up. The best way to answer this is to be honest and show the ways in which you’ve overcome a particular weakness.

“Being organised wasn’t my strongest point, but I implemented a time management system that really helped my organisation skills.”

7. How do you handle stress and pressure?

This is particularly relevant if the job you’re going for is high-pressured. They essentially want to know how you would react when faced with pressure and stress.

A good answer could be: “Pressure is a good tool for me as it helps me stay motivated and productive. I feel my strong organisational skills have allowed me to develop the ability to create small and manageable schedules in order to help me accomplish a project.”

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8. What was your biggest accomplishment in your previous role?

What accomplishment are you most proud of and what did you learn from it? Remember it doesn’t have to be something that worked out but what’s important is what skills and knowledge you got from the experience.

“I set up a major project for which I was the main project manager. It was a challenge but I managed to organise a large team, both an internally and an externally outsourced team. It was so successful that the client agreed to further ongoing projects that made a lot of money for the company.”

9. Describe a time when you were faced with a difficult work situation and how did you deal with it?

There’s not really a right or wrong answer here but be sure to use specific examples. It’s purely for the employer to see how you would approach a difficult situation and what you would consider difficult.

“When the company was going through a redundancy process, I had to make some tough decisions about who was to be let go. I took the time to think carefully about all those involved, with the best interests and intentions for the workers and the company. I found the process hard but I didn’t shy away from making difficult decisions for the good of the company and all those involved.”

10. What was your starting and ending salary?

This question is asked in order to see how competitive you are in terms of salary. Remember to be honest about pay because your prospective employer can easily find out. Be ready to explain any inconsistencies such as a salary reduction.

“My initial salary was XX and over time I took on more responsibilities including line-management and project management. As a result my final salary was XX.”

11. Why are you leaving your current job?

There can be many answers to this such as relocation, redundancy or wanting more opportunity for growth. If it was for difficult reasons, try to keep positive and emphasise your goals for the future and what you want for your career development.

“There isn’t room for growth with my current employer and I’m ready to move on to a new challenge.”

12. How do you evaluate success?

This question is giving an insight into your work ethic and general career and personal goals. In essence, it will reveal a lot about how you operate. It’s a great opportunity to show your values such as motivation, determination, drive and enthusiasm.

“I evaluate success based on not only my work, but the work of my team. In order for me to be considered successful, the team needs to achieve both our individual and our team goals.”

13. Why do you want this job?

Everyone must have been asked this in an interview so your answer is expected to be confident and to the point as they want to know if the position is in line with your career goals. Make sure you demonstrate your knowledge of the company, emphasise what you can contribute and why you’d be a good fit.

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“I’ve found that your company is up and coming through reading several articles and press releases and I would love to be a part of your business as it grows and develops. I feel my extensive experience in project management will contribute greatly to your expansion during this exciting time.”

14. Why should we hire you for this position?

This is a chance to expand on what you can bring to the company. What kind of achievements can you see yourself making in this role? It’s time to sell yourself!

Make sure you know the skills and expectations required for the job and how your experience and qualifications can fit well into this. Try to keep it concise.

“I have high-quality management skills that I would love to apply to the role and I believe I’d be an asset to your company. From the job description, I feel my skill set is a perfect match for the person you’re looking for. I would relish the opportunity to be a crucial part of your team.”

15. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

With this answer, it would be good to think about how the company can be involved in your future career plans and make sure you indicate that you’re intending to stay fairly long-term with them.

“I’m really looking to evolve within a company where I can see myself growing, developing new skills and taking on different responsibilities. I love that you invest in career development and I think these would be great opportunities for me to develop further my skill set and contribute fully to the future of your company.”

16. What are your salary expectations?

This can sometimes be an awkward question to answer especially if you’re unaware of the salary. Make sure you take time to research similar salaries online so that you have a ballpark amount but also take into account your worth. It’s important to not try your luck and go for a figure that’s way too high either.

“Taking into account the role and responsibilities, I would be expecting around XX (include a range) but I’m open and flexible to negotiating.”

17. Talk to me about what you’re passionate about.

This is to find out what kind of person you are. Your answer doesn’t have to revolve around work and career so feel free to talk about what you get up to out of work hours. Whatever is important to you is relevant here and be genuine as this will allow your answer to come across as enthusiastic.

“I’m passionate about making a difference to people’s lives and my community as a whole. I spend much of my time volunteering with children and young adults who are seeking extra support which allows me to bring a sense of value to them as well as myself.”

18. Who was your best and worst boss and why?

This is a way to find out what management style you lean to and away from. It’s really important to not come across as too negative about your worst boss, instead spin anything negative around to show what you learned from it. Negativity can leave a potential employer wondering how you would speak about them given the opportunity.

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“I’ve appreciated every boss I’ve had. The best ones have shown me what to do while the more challenging ones have taught me what not to do.”

19. General questions about your previous co-workers.

Another way to evaluate how you would fit in with the culture of the company along with your communication and interpersonal skills, is asking how your relationships were with your previous co-workers. It could range from “tell me about a time you worked with a challenging co-worker” to “tell me about a time you helped out a co-worker.”

These can come in many forms so it’s good to have a few answers prepared beforehand.

“I’ve had the experience of working with someone challenging as they were very unpredictable. However, I chose to focus on their positive aspects such as their skills and ability to problem-solve. This allowed me work well with them even though we were never considered friends.”

20. Do you have any questions?

This is always an inevitable question at the end of the interview. Never say no – always come prepared with a few in your mind otherwise it will show disinterest. It can even give you further opportunity to highlight any skills you didn’t manage to show during the interview.

“How would you describe the responsibilities of the position?”

“What are the prospects for growth and progression within the role?”

“What are the biggest challenges of this job?”

“In your opinion, what would you say is the best part of working for this company?”

“What sort of management style does the company adopt?”

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Last Updated on May 28, 2020

How to Succeed in Business: 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs

How to Succeed in Business: 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs

Learning how to succeed in business used to be a case of being really good at one skill or area and milking it for all its value. Today, we are fast becoming a “skills economy”[1], driving trends in employment and even the way we approach entrepreneurship.

To succeed in today’s business landscape, business owners and executives need to possess a mix of skills that enable them to stay ahead and adapt to change.

1. Digital Savviness

As the adage goes: “If you’re not online, you don’t exist.” Today’s entrepreneurs need to take to the internet to increase their presence and to remain relevant in an evolving business landscape.

Companies like Amazon, Netflix, Airbnb and more are a testament to the disruptive impact of technology and the new image of what it means to be a skilled, successful professional. Think about today’s Mark Zuckerberg versus a banker from the 90s.

Being able to quickly adapt to new technology, like cloud applications and collaborating remotely across the internet, is fast becoming the expected norm for executives.

For businesses, discoverability on the web is becoming a quick litmus test for credibility. Potential customers and investors bank on the first page of Google to make up half their minds about making further transactions with a business. GE Capital Retail Bank found that 81% of retail shoppers conduct online research before buying[2].

How to Develop This Skill

For a start, begin by hosting your website and reserving all of your brand’s handles across social media platforms. While hiring a web developer might sound like the next step, consider first hosting your company’s site on more user and budget-friendly options like Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress.

From here, you can start on some simple search engine optimization techniques that will increase your discoverability over time. Through keyword research, organic content creation, and external back-links, your site will, eventually, slowly but surely garner more traffic.

Note, however, that an increase in search traffic does not immediately imply an increase in revenue. But it’s a start for delving into customer conversion rates in the future.

2. Financial Forecasting

Let’s face it, many business owners feel that time could be better spent on developing and running the business instead of planning for it financially. However, a financial forecast serves as a roadmap for shaping any kind of business and is not just reserved for the likes of listed companies providing financial guidance to shareholders.

Largely, forecasting and planning your financial goals will give you a clearer idea of resources required and ways to measure success. It can also provide assurance to investors as a testament to the thorough research and planning you have done when included in business plans.

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However, inaccurate forecasts can lead to livid investors and mismanagement of expenses, which could potentially result in financial teething problems. When creating a detailed financial forecast, a rule of thumb is to always start with your expenses.

How to Develop This Skill

Generally, it is easier to calculate and predict your expenses compared to your revenue, so noting down your expenses is a starting point to benchmark how much you might need to generate in sales to turn a profit. It is a good habit to regularly update and evaluate how adjacent your operations are to what you have forecasted.

Building a precise set of growth forecasting will take time, but, remember, you are an investor in your own business. You must have confidence in the validity of your business concept.

3. Video Production Skills

The rise of visual mediums and the dopamine boosts it gives to users has long been researched and proven as providing an unfair advantage to businesses that leverage it[3].

If you’re a heavy user of social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and even YouTube, you’ll know that it’s pretty hard to stop once you get started on a binge-watching session.

In fact, video marketing is seeing a non-stop rise in popularity and effectiveness when used in conjunction with social media to drive traffic and boost conversions[4]. According to research, by 2019, 80% of global Internet consumption will be video content[5]. With video marketing becoming more ubiquitous, businesses that fail to leverage the power of video are almost certain to lose out.

How to Develop This Skill

Some ways to get started with using videos for your business would be:

  • Creating a series of educational videos that cover useful information for your audiences
  • Live videos interacting with your community at large (these can be shot on your smart phone)
  • Using videos on landing pages to boost your customer conversions

4. Benchmarking Personal Goals to Business Performance

As far as you get into achieving endeavours on your business bucket list, it’s important to remember that being an entrepreneur is just one facet of your identity. Don’t forget why you started in the first place.

Ambition usually stems from some lifestyle goals you’ve always wanted for yourself and the people you might be providing for today or in the future. Working 24/7 is a surefire route to burnout and may manifest in an unhealthy interaction between partners and employees as well.

How to Develop This Skill

Money can’t be your only motivation, but look into the positives of how having more financial freedom and time can impact your life. In the short term, involving your interests in your businesses can make everyday tasks feel less like mundane errands. In the long run, your business may also bring you fruitful rewards, including personal fulfilment.

Set realistic income goals to manage expectations for your performance and your company’s revenue, especially during its earlier stages. See how projected growth can align with your personal goals and make adjustments accordingly to maintain a balance between growth and your personal values.

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5. Leveraging Healthy Competition

Some of the best athletes who have spent their careers neck-and-neck with each other have changed the standards in their respective sports. The notion of healthy competition applies to the business world more than it may seem on the surface.

Innovation has always been a key driver in free markets, which were intended to boost economies and provide customers with more choices. Just like the biggest sporting rivals that build on each others’ game, you can use your biggest competitors to hone your strategies.

How to Develop This Skill

Turn a competitive market landscape into an advantageous one by leveraging on long-established systems your business proposes an alternative to. Learn from the mistakes of predecessors once you discover their product or service loopholes.

For example, the Dollar Shave Club’s viral video[6] became a big hit because it hit the right buttons of consumers being tired of purchasing expensive but low quality shavers from incumbent retail giants. Going in second meant they could fill a gap competitors might not even have been aware of.

Apart from lifting off from what could have been your second-mover advantage, solidify your place with your business’ own first-mover advantage — whether you’re tapping into a new geographical region, unexplored market sector, or introducing a business model that proves more viable than others. There’s always room for improvement in business from mature markets to newly emerging ones.

6. Honing Pitches to Investors

Stand out in a broad mix of budding entrepreneurs by mastering the art and science behind a solid investor pitch that can determine the acceleration of growth for your business. Get comfortable talking about your ideas and receiving feedback or questions from peers, partners, and advisors before setting out to make a good impression on potential customers and eventually investors.

The phrase “If you can’t convince them, confuse them,” will certainly never get your business funded, especially in front of seasoned venture capitalists who have seen thousands of startup pitches. You should be able to deliver a quick elevator pitch that summarizes your unique proposition and its market viability for casual meet-ups[7] because you sometimes only have a few minutes to make a good impression and move on to another meeting.

How to Develop This Skill

Develop your investor pitch deck by highlighting your business’ strongest points, which will vary for every funding round. Create your deck with the investors’ interests in mind, balancing technical jargon and buzzwords.

You can also introduce your diverse team of experts, some proven traction, or the current state of the market to demonstrate profitability and the attractiveness of the opportunity to investors.

Ensure each slide flows into the other to develop a persuasive narrative, utilizing consistent and intelligent design principles to support your content.

7. Developing a Strong Brand Identity

In a world of saturated content and numerous emerging businesses that offer similar service lines, developing a unique brand identity will help you cut through the noise and stand out from your competition. From aesthetics to the body of clients you’re associated with, these contribute to how you’re perceived by prospects looking to buy.

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Evaluating your brand identity is linked to identifying your target customers, your business goals, a proposed promised land your solution achieves, and identifying values that are aligned to these components. Brand identity serves as a guide to maintaining consistency and creating an image you want your business to be associated with.

How to Develop This Skill

Efforts to strengthen your brand identity are closely tied to giving marketing strategies a direction. By knowing what makes your target customers tick, their values, ideals, and behavior, you will be able to elevate your business from simply being a service or product to be utilized into a projected brand customers and partners would be happy to identify with.

8. Automating to Your Advantage

The need for efficiency is often the general problem new businesses aim to resolve across all markets and industries. Assure that your proposed solution is more efficient than what’s readily available in the market to instill the need for it.

Efficiency is often achieved nowadays through digitalization and new technologies. While your product or service may not necessarily be the most innovative out there, you can apply the same automation concept across your business’ daily operations.

How to Develop This Skill

Shorten turnaround times and conversion rates by investing in small tools for automation where you deem fit. While it may come out of your pocket in the early stages, evaluate the holistic advantages and benefits of automating certain processes. At our office, we’ve tried using collaborative apps like Workplace by Facebook, Slack, Asana and a few other popular apps to reduce human error and friction.

9. Managing Millennials

Your team plays an integral part in whether your business will accelerate at breakneck speeds or be dragged down by dead weight. Hence, it is imperative to be selective and strategic when choosing your team.

In leaner small business teams, the addition of every new teammate can impact how your organization culture evolves.

Today, learning to manage millennials has become an increasingly sought after skill as well due to the increasing proportion of them in the workforce[8]. Some brand them as strawberries that are easily bruised and others loath their need for “meaning” and wearing t-shirts to work.

How to Develop This Skill

Naturally, there are many misconceptions surrounding millennials, and various businesses would do well to leverage their unique skills.

A couple of ways to manage a millennial team include:

Encourage a Flat Team Structure With Open Communication

Maintain clear professional lines between supervisors and subordinates but keep communication channels open to ensure no negativity festers.

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Offer Constructive Feedback

Baby boomers are well known for their straightforward approach to delivering feedback. Millennials, on the other hand, don’t always take feedback in a form that could be construed as deep criticism.

Being constructive with feedback ensures that we don’t coddle millennial workers but also tell them the things they need to hear.

10. Maintaining a Network of Connectivity

Instead of proposing a business that’s ambitiously and entirely disruptive to the supply or process chain in a respective industry, foster connections with other companies that cater to the same target customers as long as they provide a different service.

By creating partnerships, both you and other businesses thrive simultaneously through creative avenues for customers to utilize your products and services for a holistically improved user experience.

Sole market disruption isn’t always the best strategy to take. Not everybody has the opportunity, bandwidth, or financial capacity to dominate and monopolize a marketplace. See your potential for integration into other businesses and services as a good opportunity for co-collaborative marketing efforts with shared campaigns, split costs, and a strengthened customer database for everyone to tap into.

How to Develop This Skill

Regardless of the stage your business is in, never stop looking for ways to expand your network. Keep in contact with mentors you can look to for valuable industry advice that can help you avoid pitfalls and costly mistakes. Strengthen brand awareness by attending cross-industry events and casual meet-ups to open your business to reinvention and innovation.

As the African proverb goes:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Collaborating will get you where you want to go quicker and gear you up for further growth.

More Tips on How to Succeed in Business

Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

Reference

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