You finally got the news you have been waiting for! You got to the next step! The company you are interested in working for has invited you in for an interview. You may be wondering how best to prepare for the questions you will be asked, and one of our best tips to help you ready yourself for whatever comes your way is to prepare interview answers for categories, rather than to actual questions.
Because you can never be sure of the sequence, wording, and content from interview to interview, we always recommend that our candidates focus on general topics while preparing for interviews. Doing this will almost guarantee that you’re ready for whatever the interviewer will throw at you. As a bonus, by thinking about the category of questions, instead of focusing on just one; your answers will usually come across as more conversational and believable, making the interview easier for everyone. Here are a few categories you should consider:
"Tell me about yourself"
Usually a question asked at the very beginning of an interview, although sometimes it’s saved for last. At first glance, this can seem easy to answer (and it can be), but we’ve seen this softball trip more than a few candidates up.
To prepare, think of 3-5 strong and relevant adjectives that describe you and your values. Tell the interviewer what these adjectives are, then give real examples of how you’ve embodied the adjectives in your professional career. Feel free to mention hobbies or interests in your explanation but keep them relatable to the job. This is a job interview after all.
"Describe a challenge or conflict you've faced and how you dealt with it."
Your potential employer needs to know how you respond under pressure and how you resolve conflicts.
Most everyone has a story where they reacted less than ideally to an issue in the workplace. You can mention one of these experiences if you feel it’s appropriate —but don’t feel like you are tied to the office on this one. The important part is how you describe the resolution, not that there was an issue.
Choose an incident in which you were frustrated, either on or off the job, but overcame the emotional turmoil. Even better, perhaps a time where you had to make a sacrifice that didn’t jeopardize the quality of your output.
Your interviewer’s asking this question to determine if you’re candid, coolheaded and willing to compromise.
"Why do you want a change from your current career path?"
Maybe you committed to one professional direction, and for one reason or another are now pursuing a completely different path. That’s fine, and happens all the time, but you are going to want to make sure you explain it in a professional and well-thought-out manner.
You’ll need more than just, “It wasn’t the right fit.” Talk about why your last position or career path was not working for you. Perhaps start by explaining the parts you got right (try to avoid taking a complaining tone when doing this – never put down your last company or boss), then explain what you didn’t. Lack of career advancement? Do you want more responsibility or challenging projects?
Know the reasons you are moving on and stick to them. You wanted something different, and that’s why you’re interviewing now.
"Why are you interested in our industry or company?"
This is where your preparation and research will come in handy again. If you have a story about what first sparked your curiosity in this industry, that’s a great thing to begin with.
Pick a moment in time when you felt particularly connected to the work that was going on in your field of choice (positive or negative) and explain those feelings. If possible, reference something that just broke in the news having to do with your industry, this proves that you stay up to date with the latest information. Especially if you are looking for a role in technology.
"Do you have any questions for me?"
This question wants something specific from you: to see if you’ve been paying attention and whether you can multitask. There’ll be a lot of new information thrown at you during an interview, and your interviewer is trying to see how well you’ve processed it all.
You should try to ask at least three questions at the end of your interviews, but don’t just ask for the sake of asking. If you can easily Google the answer, don’t ask it. We recommend you prepare some questions specific to the company in advance and memorize them. If your head is spinning at the end of your interview, which it might be, you can refer back to them. At the very least, they will know you did your research.
It also doesn’t hurt to ask questions about what you might expect from the role. Think of questions like: “What’s the biggest challenge you think I’ll face coming into this position?” “Why did the last person leave the role?” “Who would I be working with on a daily basis, and what might an average day in the position look like?”
Finally, remember that stories and feelings are typically what the interviewer is looking for during an interview. These are things that are not possible to get across in a resume but can help differentiate yourself from others who are applying for the same position. Throughout your interview, you want to make sure you are expressing your interests, both personal and professional, and how this position can help move you toward those interests. Also, make sure to always send a thank you following your interview!