You applied for a new job, and you’ve been called in for an interview. During the interview process, there are three main questions that need to be answered to help the HR person determine if you’re the right fit for the job:
- Can this person do the job?
- Will he do the job?
- Will he fit in with the company culture?
By asking what I call “the question behind the question,” hiring managers have a better chance to making the right hiring decision. As job seekers, your task is to answer them honestly and fully. Here are 10 top questions that the interviewer might ask, along with the hidden agenda behind each one. Tread carefully — the way you approach the answer might tell more than what you actually say.
1. As you reflect back at your last position, what was missing that you are looking for in your next role?
This question gets at the heart of why you’re leaving the current job or, in the case of a reduction in workforce, it helps the interviewer understand what was missing. If you answer with, “I didn’t have access to my boss, which made it difficult to get questions answered,” then the interviewer might follow up with, “Can you give me a specific example where you had to make a decision on your own because your boss was not available?” This follow-up question will help the interviewer determine your level of decision making and how much access to the manager you’ll need.
2. What qualities of your last boss did you admire, and what qualities did you dislike?
This is precarious territory because your answer needs to have a balance of positive and negative feedback. It will show if you are tactful in answering a tricky question and if your leadership style is congruent with the admired or disliked ones. If you name a trait the interviewer dislikes or that’s not in line with company culture, then you might not be a fit for the position.
3. How would you handle telling an employee his position is being eliminated after working for the company for 25 years, knowing they would be emotional?
This question is not unrealistic in today’s job market, since companies continue to downsize as a way of conducting business. Knowing that you might have to deal with this situation, the interviewer wants to know how you would tell the long-term employee the bad news. Would you tell the business reason why the company is downsizing, and would you thank the person in a genuine, heartfelt way for years of service?
4. How do you like to be rewarded for good performance?
As simple as this question is, it helps the interviewer get a sense of what motivates you — is it money, time off or more formal recognition? If you’re interviewing for a management role, the follow-up question could be: How do you reward the good performance of employees who work for you? Are you a “do as I say, not as I do” type of manager? The interviewer is looking for congruency in behaviors, because if you don’t practice what you preach, then it might not be a cultural fit.
5. Can you give me an example of when your relationship with your manager went off track and how you handled it?
The interviewer is listening for the reasons why the relationship went off track. Are you taking responsibility for your own actions first or placing blame on the manager? The interviewer wants to learn more about your communication style and how you approach conflict.
6. When a person says “I have integrity,” what does that mean to you?
The follow-up question is: “How have you demonstrated integrity in your work?” Integrity is broad, and most people think they have it, but can you really articulate what it looks and sounds like? The interviewer is looking for congruency of words and actions with this question.
7. Can you tell me about your experience working with the generation X or Y? What are the three qualities you admire about them?
There’s been much talk about the work habits of various generations. At a startup, you’ll likely be working with younger people, and employers want to know how you will integrate with this population. And young people will be working with baby boomers at bigger companies, like Dell and Apple. The interviewer will be looking for ways you’ve collaborated with workers of all ages and used each others’ talents to achieve a goal — do you have the energy, drive and attitude to work well with others?
8. Do you think age discrimination exists in the job market and if so, why?
Some job seekers use “age discrimination” or “I make too much money” as the reasons why they did not get the interview or the job. In reality, they have applied for a job for which they are overqualified. They have too many skills for this particular job and the employer can find someone who has the exact skill and salary that commensurate with the job. Don’t make that mistake.
9. Can you convince me you are the most qualified person for this role based on what we have discussed?
The interviewer wants to make sure you clearly understand what the problems are and what would be expected of you in the event of your hire. This is the opportunity for you to sell yourself effectively for the job.
10. As you look at your previous companies, can you describe in detail which company culture did you excel in the most and why?
The interviewer is looking for a culture fit, which is one of the essential criteria for job satisfaction. They want to hire someone who will do his best work for you, so do your research before you go in for the interview.
What other probing questions have you been asked at interview? Let us know in the comments.
Jayne Mattson is Senior Vice President at Keystone Associates, a leading career management and transition services consulting firm in Boston, Massachusetts. Mattson specializes in helping mid-to-senior level individuals in new career exploration, networking strategies and career decisions based on corporate culture fit.