John was a well seasoned engineer looking for a new job. He entered the interview feeling confident that his resume was strong enough to land him the job. Then the interview began, and the panel's first question was: "Tell us about your most impressive contribution that you've made at your current company." John simply froze. He couldn't think of a good example in those few seconds and realized he'd lost the job by not being better prepared.
Expect Situational Questions
More employers today, especially Fortune 500 companies, are using a difficult interview style of questions to weed out job candidates. My career counseling clients say these "behavioral" or "situational" questions are the hardest type to answer. If you are not ready for them, it's easy to make a fatal error.
The interviewer uses a probing style to ask questions seeking very specific examples of your actions in a work situation. These questions begin with these phrases: "Tell me about a time ...", or "Describe ...", or "Give me an example ..." The interviewer is looking for details of your past abilities and how you acted in a specific work situation. The correct answers offers specific details, a clear specific illustration of what the problem or situation was, where it took place and the RESULTS you personally achieved. The interviewer often then rates each response to determine how well you reacted to these situations in the past, as a way to predict your future performance with their company.
Here are several questions that my career counseling clients were recently asked in their job interviews:
- "Tell us how diversity plays a role in your current job."
- "Describe a recent conversation in which your current/last boss complained about an area of your performance."
- "Tell us about a difficult Co-worker you had to manage. "
- "Describe the worst boss you've ever worked under."
- "Describe what you have been doing since you've been unemployed?"
- "Tell us about the parts of your current/last job did you dislike?"
Here are my guidelines to successfully answering these kinds of interview questions:
- Prepare in advance. Think of a few examples you could use if asked these kinds of situational questions.
- Your first thought is often NOT the best example to use to make you look good to the employer. So select the example carefully.
- Offer specific details - who is involved, where did this happen, what was the problem, and HOW did you resolve it
- Give short, concise, specific answers that never exceed 60 seconds
- Answering the question fully and correctly while remaining positive.
- Do not degrade your former boss - speak in terms of his/her behavior but do not say negative things like: she was lousy, awful manager, etc.
For more help, review anticipated questions beforehand and jot down your answers before the interview starts. In the book "60 Seconds & You're Hired!" you'll find answers to many of the hardest and trickiest situational questions interviewers may ask.
- Robin Ryan
Copyright 2012 Robin Ryan. All rights reserved.
Oprah's job search expert is Robin Ryan, a career counselor providing job search, resume writing, and interview coaching services to clients nationwide. She is the best-selling author of:"60 Seconds & You're Hired!", "Soaring On Your Strengths", "What to Do with the Rest of Your Life", "Winning Resumes","Winning Cover Letters", and her newest book, "Over 40 & You're Hired".