The Job Interview Questions You Should Prepare For
As we’re sure you’re well aware, there is an entirely new universe of career options available today that didn’t exist five years ago. With the shift from large company training programs to startup work environments, a new category has emerged as one of the top traits hiring managers look for. We’re talking “cultural fit.” We sat down with Danielle Meichtry, our director of human resources at Clique Media, and asked her to shed some light on this new interview trend.
“Culture sets the tone of daily life at a company. It's what the company believes in, at all levels, how you work together and how they operate,” she tells us. “Creating a successful culture is a competitive advantage no matter the industry. Companies have become more protective of who they bring into the organization because hiring mistakes can be costly. Your skills and experience will get you the interview, but knowing about the culture and demonstrating your ability to fit in will land you the job.”
Read on for some curveball interview questions you should be prepared for in this modern age.
“People don’t always associate fun with work. I’ve always worked at places where we handled serious business but were never too busy to have fun,” says Meichtry. This is a great way to get a feel for your interviewee’s personality. Even if someone has an outstanding work ethic and a more-than-satisfactory skill set, if she doesn't have a personality that will mesh well with the environment, it probably isn’t the best fit.
Most employers want to hire people who not only fulfill the bare minimum, but who also anticipate change and offer suggestions as to how to improve workflow and performance for the future. It’s important to create a culture of people who aren’t afraid of taking risks to improve the status quo. Being a risk taker, in work and in life, demonstrates a proactive sensibility, which is a highly coveted characteristic in the workplace.
This is as much a question for you to answer before you apply to a given job as it is for you to answer during your first or final interview. Part of a successful work environment is excellent communication, and one key facet of that communication is knowing what is expected of you, as well as everyone on your team. If you are offered the position without fully understanding what you’re in for, some serious letdown is inevitable. Also, you should make sure your employers understand what you expect from them. (That doesn’t mean you should be asking for a job promotion during your interview.)
Who you choose as a role model reveals a lot about what you value in the office and in life. If you have similar definitions of success and inspiration as your potential co-workers, this implies a strong culture fit. Maybe one of your role models is someone who works at the company you are interviewing for, or maybe she pursued the same career path you are pursuing. Regardless, you should have a strong sense of who you look up to in your chosen industry, which demonstrates a greater passion for the field. A job candidate who is passionate about her chosen industry is an attractive candidate.
It’s always important to show your interviewer that you are a diligent, capable individual with an outstanding work ethic. But being able to answer what drives you to work so hard every day takes the standard “tell me about yourself” question to the next level. Are you driven by making a positive impact on the world? By producing quality projects? By engaging with others? By financial gain? Whatever it is, know what powers your engine, and be able to articulate that.
Collaboration is one of the most integral parts of any company. In Sweden, most people have mastered the work/life balance because there is a greater understanding of the strength of a team and the collaborative efforts of each team member. When you accept a job at a company, it’s important to understand that your performance is judged not only by how you accomplish the tasks assigned to you but also by how you work with the team as a whole. Oftentimes your work doesn’t stand alone. Rather, it’s part of a greater whole that only has value if people work together. Successful people often are great team players. Conveying your understanding of and appreciation for teamwork is crucial. A lot of hiring managers look for that communal ethos.
We love this question. One of the reasons we would want to hire you is because you would make our company better. And a big reason that you are interviewing for a job is because your last job did not meet your standards, or because you wanted to grow professionally. Either way, you have an underlying reason as to why you are job searching, and it was probably, at least somewhat, related to a past situation that you thought could be improved. Be careful with your answer, though. This is as much an exercise in giving constructive criticism as anything else. You don’t want to bad-mouth your former company, but you do want to provide a thoughtful analysis of the corporation.
There’s the standard “what is your biggest weakness?” question that is routinely met with a conspicuous positive (e.g., I’m a perfectionist), and then there is a question like this that really gets you thinking. Even if you don’t have an archenemy, you may have some people who don’t get along with you as well as others. Thinking about how they would describe you is a scary and very revealing prospect. So ponder the question before you walk into an interview. It might also be a good thing to reflect on in life to see how you are presenting yourself to the world beyond your friend group.
According to Harvard psychology professor Amy Cuddy, everyone, consciously or not, makes sweeping judgments about you based on your body language. Hence, it’s critical that you present yourself in a confident, put-together manner throughout your interview. It’s not just what you say that matters; it’s how you say it and the way your body conveys the message. Most hiring managers look for people who are acutely self-aware. Understanding your nonverbal tendencies and knowing how to tailor them to an interview situation is great prep for the sit-down.
It’s incredibly important to know how to close your interview. We recommend checking to see if there is any area that the interviewer felt needed further explanation. If there was, now is your time to elaborate. For the grand finale, we love to close with a brief 30-second “commercial” about ourselves. If you have answers to questions that you prepared for but weren’t asked, this is the perfect time to unveil those details. It’s also a memorable way to wrap up your strongest qualities in a neat and tidy monologue for your interviewer to reference when writing up her notes.
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What’s the most unexpected interview question you’ve ever received? Share with us in the comments!
Opening photo: via Women Who Work