In almost every interview and with every interview question interviewees try to one up with the perfect answer. They often believe that behind most interview questions lurk another hidden group of questions and an agenda. They are right. Unless it is a closed ended question about facts, software/technology or right/wrong or true/false questions, most questions are focused on how you answer the question with a little panache, a bit of creativity and insight behind the typical. Interviews may be 10% what questions you are asked and 90% how you respond to those questions.

Does it every occur to you the real questions during an interview are hidden behind standard interview questions? Trust your gut feel because you are right. What kinds of job interviews demonstrate the questions behind the questions and the context behind those peculiar questions? They can be found in every type 0f interview scenario, including: Phone, In-Person, Panel, Skype, FaceTime, Pressure, Case, Presentation, Situational, Behavioral. Perhaps you conduct interviews. Many of my clients have served in hiring authority roles. But when you are the subject of the interview these questions perplex and frustrate most people.

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Behavioral Question: Describe a situation in which you failed.

Translation: How honest can you be and how will you handle a setback?

Strategy Recommendation: This is not the time to do a confessional moment. I don’t recommend you fall on your sword and admit to a real setback. Many clients of mine demonstrate their ability to fess up to recent mistakes, recent setbacks and poor decisions. That’s not how to handle this loaded question. Most interviewers want you to demonstrate humility. They want you to show your ability to handle and setback and come back strong. In this questions it’s better to reference an older mistake, what you learned and how you came back stronger and better then ever in your new habits. This question also offers the interviewer insight into your recent past and if you will speak negatively about your current or recent situation or employer. Don’t do that and find a way to show your imperfections and how you lead yourself and others through mistakes.

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Question: Why are you interested in our company?

Translation: Have you really gone beyond the typical research on our company and this role or do you just have rudimentary knowledge like every other person we have and will interview?

Strategy Recommendation: Don’t do what other interviewees do. Find out details about company facts, products, programs, how they work with their clients and how they interact with the world. Study the job that you may be taking, the keywords that you may have addressed in your resume and cover letter or application should be backed up by compelling further information and stories. Do you know what we look for in candidates? Do you know and have you interviewed or interacted with our company? If so do you absolutely understand our culture and how you will fit into that culture? Answering those questions and deeply preparing for an interview will set you apart from the front page of the website, winging it fellow competitors for the job. To go beyond the typical look for the problems, pains and other issues that have made it necessary for the position to be open now. Address those pains with passions and stories and you may have created a clear value proposition for your candidacy.

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Question: Why should we hire you?

Translation: Do you really understand your value proposition? Do you really understand how much of a difference will you make immediately? Are you going to demonstrate confidence without arrogance?

Strategy Recommendation: This question is particularly tough for everyone and at all levels of an interview. Early career people need to demonstrate their experience but also their capabilities. Mid-career top performers need to show that this is the time and place for their candidacy. If you are later career or an executive this can be seen as a kind of insulting question if presented by a younger, less accomplished interviewer. Above all and in every age group or generational group do not and I repeat do not take this question too personally or as an affront. This question tests your ability to handle a confrontational, competitive question. It offers you an opportunity to really dig into the way you make a difference to others in a positive way – peers, subordinates, senior leaders, vendors, clients. Remain confident that your individual contributions lead to a rising tide. As you know your stories need to show that your rising tide raises all ships. Those answers should be in story form and demonstrate how you benefit others.

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Interviews of all types offer you an opportunity to respond powerfully to hidden interview agendas. Don’t freak out about those interview situations. Prepare for and understand the agenda behind every question is an opportunity to show how you work, deal with others and create value everywhere you go. Now go forth and win that next interview.

If you are needing training before a big interview or are interested in updating your resume for a job search contact us to see how we can help.

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