Answering Interview Questions
There's no question that interviews can be nerve-wracking experiences. However, a lot of this nervousness can come from being unprepared for the interview questions that will be thrown your way. That's why preparing for an interview can really have a positive effect on the outcome.
Types of Interview Questions
Different interviewers are going to have different styles. However, each question posed is likely to fall in to one of two categories: questions where the answer matters and questions where the answer doesn't matter as much as the thought process used to get to an answer.
Questions that have a right or wrong answer are those that relate directly to the work you've done in the past. For example, there's only one way to answer the question of whether you've been involved with a particular technology i.e. yes or no. And in such cases the interviewer is simply trying to match up the needs of the position with what you can bring to the table.
Then there are the much trickier and potentially more stressful interview questions where the answer you give isn't critical. That is, there is no single right answer, but rather a range of acceptable responses. The idea behind these questions is to assess your thought process and perhaps to develop an impression of your personality and ambitions. For example, a typical question that comes up is, “Where do you see yourself in 3 years?” Obviously there are some ridiculous answers that can pretty much end the interview on the spot, but really this question can be answered in so many ways and still be “correct”.
Preparing Answers for Interview Questions
Regardless of the type of question, you can be prepared. At the very least you'll need to be familiar with your resume. Any hesitation about an item on your resume can be the same as giving a wrong answer. I recommend that you go through each item on your resume and write notes expanding on each item and including any memorable moments that you are comfortable sharing. Identifying these things before the interview will keep you from having those awkward moments of silence while you search your memory for something interesting to say.
Preparing for the more probing type of question is also possible. You simply need to spend some time thinking about things like:
- What type of work do you like doing?
- What are you looking for in a new position?
- Do you like to work with a lot of people or individually?
- What are your future aspirations?
- What kind of manager do you like?
- What kind of organizational structure are you comfortable with?
The list, of course, is endless.
Finally, one of the best ways to prepare for interview questions is to keep track of the questions you're asked. That means taking notes when you're talking to recruiters or hiring managers on the phone as well as spending some time recapping conversations you have in person. Every time you make note of a new question, review the answer you gave and then consider if you could've handled it better. What you'll soon discover is that interviewers all want to know the same thing and so 90% of what they ask is the same.
Great article Stuart. Preparation is really the most important aspect of interviewing. When reviewing your resume, make sure you know the lessons learned from each entry. Be able to provide particulars about how you grew from that experience and can add value to your new employer because of it.