Why is it that preparing for an interview is so difficult? There are likely many answers to this question, but one obvious reason is that you don’t know what questions the interviewer(s) will ask. You can research the company, memorize the job description, but you still don’t really know what’s coming. Of course, this is certainly intentional. The employer doesn’t want you perfecting rehearsed answers to questions ahead of time—they want to get to know who you really are.
On top of that, what questions should you be asking? You’ve probably heard the old saying, “They’re not just interviewing you, you are interviewing them too.” Part of being an effective interviewer is asking thoughtful questions in your interview. Determining the questions to ask your interviewer(s) can be difficult, but there are numerous types of questions to ask. Some should be very specific to the job and the company, and others are questions you can ask in any interview.
Below are 3 common interview questions to prepare for and 3 thoughtful questions you can ask!
QUESTIONS TO PREPARE FOR:
What do you know about our company? As a former recruiter, this was always the question I started with. It should be simple, a gimme, a layup, yet you might be surprised how many people struggle with this. Either the candidate has done so much research that it’s difficult to know where to start or how to craft his/her answer, or they have not done any research and don’t know how to respond. The best thing you can do, in addition to spending lots of time on the company website, is read news articles and press releases. Find out what is happening with the company right now and mention that in your response. The employer is likely used to hearing candidates recite the company’s mission statement, but when you mention a new product or leadership change, they will be impressed.
How would your boss and co-workers describe you? Certainly the interviewer is looking for any potential red flags, but also this question centers upon the candidate’s self-awareness. One easy way to approach this question is to draw from a recent performance review. “Referencing specifically where you’re getting your information from makes it easier to describe yourself as “trustworthy, dedicated, and creative” without cringing” according to Lily Zhang of The Muse.
What are your strengths and weaknesses? Well, strengths should be easy, or eat least easier… Think about the qualities you have or what you have accomplished that directly relate to the role. Weaknesses, obviously, are a bit harder. Think about how you can be honest and show self-awareness, while also providing some insight into how you are as a worker. Are you a perfectionist? Do you sometimes spend a lot of time on the details and lose sight of the bigger picture? Do you struggle with ambiguity and find yourself asking a lot of questions? These are some examples of weaknesses you could share in a response to this question, but the most important part is to show that you are aware they are weaknesses and that you are working on it. So think about this: how are you going to overcome those obstacles or how have you already overcome them? Take a look at what Kimberly Lucas, President/Chief People Connector at Goldstone Partners had to say about these interview questions!
QUESTIONS TO ASK:
What are the biggest challenges for someone in this role? This is a great opportunity to get information from the employer on what is going to be difficult. As the interviewers are evaluating talent they want to know how you are going to handle those difficult tasks, so this is one way to get it all out in the open.
What are some things that you like about working here? What are some things you would change if you could? The fun part about this is you get to put them on the spot and force them to be a bit critical of the company or department they work in. It can also be illuminating to hear what their frustrations are, or at least what they are willing to share in an interview setting. Measure their response(s) against your own values—this could be a great way to determine if their culture would be a match for you.
What are the strategic initiatives of the company? How do you see the organization evolving in the next 5,10 years? Hopefully, you will have done your research ahead of time, so this could be a way to get an insider’s perspective on the direction of the organization. It also shows that you are thinking “big-picture” and invested in a long-term commitment with this company. As organizations change, you want to make it clear that you are interested in evolving and growing with the company.
This is just a taste of how to prepare for certain interview questions (and prepare questions of your own). You might want to schedule an appointment with your Career Advisor to go over additional preparation activities. Please also create an account in InterviewStream to practice interviews virtually!