Favorite Job Interview Questions May Not Be The Best - Part 4

In the first two parts of this series (Part 1 and Part 2), I analyzed the questions from a LinkedIn article on the “Favorite Job Interview Questions” from 13 CEO’s. I used a simple scoring scale, -2, -1, 0, +1, +2 and the “total score” was -3. There’s a very simple premise. You’ll be asked bad questions. But you don’t have to give bad answers. In Part 3, I provided some thoughts for the first six questions. Here are some specific suggestions on how the last seven of the 13 questions, both the good and the bad, can be answered. While one answer format won’t apply to all these questions, there is a strong example that will apply to many. It’s been labeled differently by several experts, the two-minute S-A-F-W response, Say a Few Words. A version I like is C-A-R Mini Stories, Challenge, Action, Result. I recommend having multiple C-A-R Mini stories prepared for each position in your work history and for your education. The focus of this preparation is on your “significant accomplishments.” Let’s take another look at the last seven questions – with possible answers.


7. Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.

You should hope every interview you have includes this question. So easy – with preparation: C-A-R Mini stories! In my current position, my most significant accomplishment in the last year was…” Remember: Have this “significant accomplishment” answer prepared for each position and for your education.

8. What’s your superpower – or spirit animal?

In my detailed presentation on “Bad Questions,” I suggested this response to the “animal” question: “One of my most significant accomplishments in my last job was… and, in that case, I think my strength would be most like a…” But this interviewer gives you an even better alternative – ignore the “spirit animal” part and answer with “One my most significant accomplishments (current job if possible) was... and my superpower, my strength was…” But the key here is really knowing your strengths – not just weak statements like, “I love people,” but real statements about what type of work makes you feel strong.

9. We’re constantly making things better, faster, smarter, or less expensive. We leverage technology or improve processes. In other words, we strive to do more – with less. Tell me about a recent project or problem that you made better, faster, smarter, more efficient, or less expensive.

You should be sensing a pattern. So easy – with preparation: C-A-R Mini stories! In my current position, my most significant accomplishment in the last year was…” Make sure you have several “significant accomplishments” prepared.

10. Discuss a specific accomplishment you’ve achieved in a previous position that indicates you will thrive in this position.

Too easy to repeat here: See #7 or #9.

11. So, what’s your story?

If this question is asked in the “tone” that I believe most people will “hear” it, don’t feel threatened by it. Respond calmly – keep it short – let the interview guide how much detail he or she wants with such an open ended question. You might want to start with a “significant accomplishment” from your first job – that’s a good start to “your story.” Here’s a specific example: “My career really started with a job I had during high school and college. I had the opportunity to work…. I really learned about the challenges of retailing…" You should see the idea here and again recognize it requires practice.

12. What questions do you have for me?

A good response to this depends on when it’s asked during the interview. If it’s asked very early in an interview, a great response is: "If I was offered and accepted this position, and I exceeded your expectations after a year, what did I accomplish?" If it’s later in an interview, a variation of that is asking for another area of success. There’s a lot of “don’t ask” questions here:
  • Don’t ask about pay or benefits (that’s for later).
  • Don’t ask questions showing you don’t know something about the company.
  • Don’t ask the Google recruiter where the company ranks in its industry and how it compares to its competition!
Instead, ask a question about something you’ve researched about the company – maybe a new project that’s been announced.

13. Tell me about a time when things didn’t go the way you wanted – like a promotion you wanted and didn’t get, or a project that didn’t turn out how you had hoped.

There is another good opportunity for providing significant details on an accomplishment where something didn’t work out as expected. It happens to everyone. Even successful projects have parts of them where you or the team struggled. Be honest – the worst way to answer this type of question is with a cocky “has never happened to me…” type response. See more on “Bad Interview Questions” at www.212-careers.com

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About the author

Jim Schreier is a management consultant with a focus on management, leadership, including performance-based hiring and interviewing skills. Visit his website at www.farcliffs.com.     Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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