As an Employment Counsellor, I often work with people who are looking for employment. My job also entails meeting people in a drop-in resource centre who I’m not working with on a one-to-one basis but rather on a spontaneous one. In both cases, I often catch up with people after they’ve had a job interview and it always intrigues me when people tell me how surprised they were with some of the questions they got asked.
Now sure they might get an interviewer who threw out some odd question to test their ability to think on their feet. You know, “If you could choose the sense you’d lose which one would it be and why?” or “What’s your second favourite colour and why it isn’t number one?”
These seemingly bizarre questions have their purpose, but honestly, I wouldn’t put much time aside in preparation for a job interview in trying to anticipate such questions. These questions are intentionally meant to catch you off guard and get you to think on the spot. Therefore, think on the spot as they are asked but never lose sight of the job you are interviewing for and try to connect your answer back to the role you’re interviewing for and the company you’ll be working for.
However, let’s focus on what you can likely predict with some degree of confidence in the job interview so that you aren’t surprised. Shame on you actually if you are surprised at what you could have reasonably predicted would have been asked of you
Let’s look at a posting shall we so we can see how to predict with great success the kind of questions asked.
Wanted: Customer Service Representative
- Excellent customer service skills
- Problem solving and conflict resolution experience
- Experience using POS systems
- Good with people, 1-2 years’ experience
- Shift work required including weekends, holidays and evenings
Okay so play along here whether you’re looking for this kind of job or not; the job isn’t important but the process is critical and applies no matter what job or career you’re out to get. For now, you’re out for a Customer Service job in a retail store setting.
Here’s what we can get from this job posting:
- Always refer to the job you are applying for –whether in writing or verbally as a Customer Service Representative position. Don’t error and call this a Sales job, Salesperson or any other title. Call it what the employer calls it.
- Same goes for the people the company sells to. These are customers as the first bullet states not clients, so always call the end-users and the people you’ll sell to as customers.
- The second bullet mentions both problem solving and conflict resolution so this must be a fairly common issue and in both ways they’ve phrased it, they want solutions from the people they hire, not just people who can pass on the problems to the Supervisor.
- Don’t know what ‘POS’ means in bullet 3? Look it up on a search engine like Bing or Google. It means, “Point of Sale’; in other words a cash register or computer terminal where customers check out. If there’s some words in your job posting you don’t get, look them up!
- Teamwork is a required skill in the job; you’ll be working with other Customer Service Representatives (CSR’s), your Supervisor(s) and you will be expected to work cooperatively in order to be productive and hit sales targets.
- The second last bullet says you need 1-2 years’ experience and you must be good with people. The 1-2 years simply interpreted means they want you to have some basic experience in the past doing this kind of work but they want you to be open to their training and be trainable, not set in your ways and hard to change. You’d best have some enthusiasm for connecting with people around you too – show some personality in other words.
- The last bullet is about flexibility and being willing to work what some people won’t; right up front you know weekends and holidays are involved so don’t apply if you want a Monday to Friday 9-5 job.
Okay, so in this scenario, you should expect to be asked questions that focus on the above. These questions might start off, “Describe your experience with…”, “Tell me about a time when you…” or “What do you enjoy…”
The questions you get asked in this hypothetical interview would likely focus on problem solving, customer service, teamwork, previous experience, people skills and flexibility. To prepare properly, it would be best to think back on jobs you’ve had in the past – both paid and unpaid – and come up with examples you could give that would prove you’ve dealt with these things. For each of the items beginning this paragraph, have a story or two ready to share.
Now to you personally and the job you are after. Do the same exercise but use the job posting you’ve got before you. What skills and qualifications are they looking for? What stories or examples do you have from your past that demonstrates your personal experience, proving to the interviewer you’ve got what they are looking for?
Be prepared to tell them who you are, why you want to work with them and do a little research on the company itself so you know who they are.
When you can anticipate the questions ahead of time, you’ll be more confident when they ask them in the interview.