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Thursday, September 11, 2014

How to Be Ready to Answer Any Interview Question (Interview Series #4)

The internet is full of posts that tell you what questions you can expect to be asked in an interview. Some of these posts even tell you the "best" way to answer all of these questions. Can you memorize 100 interview questions and their corresponding recommended answers? I can't. Also, I don't see the point in stealing someone else's answers when you should be letting the interviewer get to know you by proving your answers to their questions. This strategy will help differentiate you from the ten other candidates who all said that their biggest weakness is public speaking or taking on too many tasks at once.

Sure, some companies might ask you oddball questions like "What three things would you bring with you if you were stranded on an island?". I never minded those questions. There's no wrong answer as long as you can explain your reasoning. I would bring a mechanical engineer, a zippo lighter full of lighter fluid, and drinking water.

The questions that always made me nervous are the typical questions such as "What is your biggest strength and your biggest weakness?" I always used to give the recommended answers: "My biggest strength is that I am both a strong individual contributor and team player. My biggest weakness is that I sometimes overcommit myself".

Years later I entered the world of Talent Acquisition and realized the error of my ways. Everyone else was giving those same answers. Everyone except the people who got hired. Those candidates had real answers. They also took the time to explain what steps they were taking to strengthen their weakness and maintain their strength. If you follow this formula, your answers to interview questions will likely change over time. Right now my answer is that my biggest strength is my ability to set priorities and manage them. To maintain this strength I read a lot about priority assessment methods, utilize the Eisenhower Matrix priority setting system, and use apps or software to make sure that I meet deadlines. My biggest weakness is that I interrupt people. I was raised in a family where this was the norm and this horrible habit was only pointed out to me recently. To improve this weakness I have joined Toastmasters. Contrary to popular belief, Toastmasters doesn't just help you with your public speaking skills - it also helps you improve your active listening skills.

In fact, joining Toastmasters is the best way to prepare yourself to be able to answer any interview question, even the tough ones. Instead of trying to memorize hundreds of interview questions and answers, you will learn how to prep, be a good audience for your interviewer, deliver your responses concisely and with confidence, and think on your feet.

Attend a few meetings as a guest. The worst case scenario is that you disagree with me. The best case scenario is that you join and learn to implement a slew of communication, listening, and evaluation skills that are lying dormant inside you, just waiting to be tapped into. I'm a member in District 31 - feel free to say "hi" when you visit!

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