All this week I’m in the process of conducting mock interviews with a select group of people who are hunting down employment opportunities. Mock interviews in which one can practice their skills and get valuable feedback and support is extremely helpful in increasing the odds of landing a job offer. Understandably then, I’m proud to see such an enthusiastic group putting in the effort to make sure this opportunity before them is one they get the most out of.
Yesterday I conducted three such interviews; each one about an hour in length when you factor in the interview and summarizing how they’ve performed with both verbal and written feedback. While I asked each 8 or 9 questions, I’m sharing 3 such questions with you here, as well as some tips on answering the question better than your competition.
Question 1: Impress Me.
This is actually the last question I pose to most of those I interview. So before you read further, how would you respond? Resist the urge if you can to ignore thinking about it and just forging on to read more. Where would you go and where would you take me as you respond?
One purpose of the question is to give the applicant, (in this case you) the opportunity to wow me as the employer. Use this opportunity as your one chance to make a strong final impression on those interviewing you. For just as an interviewer is impressed or not with your first impression, they will be similarly affected one way or the other when you leave them.
The second purpose of the question is to gauge how you can think on your feet with something you may not have prepared for. Best to look thoughtful, pause and then launch into whatever it is you want to say. Good advice is to smile, look positive, entirely engaged and proud as well as emotionally connected to this answer. It is after all how they’ll remember you as things wrap up.
Question 2: Tell me about a time you’ve made a serious error and what you did to overcome it.
Built on the premise that we all make mistakes, this question is one you should expect. Why? It’s likely you’re going to make at least one mistake if not more in this new job if offered it. So the interviewer is asking to hear not so much the error itself but rather how you reacted to the mistake and what you’ve learned from the experience so it’s chances of being repeated are lowered or eliminated. In an interview you are working hard to come across as polished and confident, marketing your strengths and assets as best you can. So this question is designed to expose a potential problem, perhaps some training needs or where you might benefit from support. Whatever you do, by all means don’t offer up a fatal error where the outcome remained a negative.
Question 3: Describe the position you are applying for as you understand it.
Whereas the first question I’ve shared with you is actually one I ask last, question 3 here is one I typically slot in at number 2 in a mock interview, following on the heels of the famous, “Tell me a little about yourself.”
As the interviewer, I pose this question to find how well the applicant actually knows what it is they are being interviewed for. Surprisingly, there are many people who go to job interviews with only a vague idea of what they’d actually be doing in the job they are applying for. So do you know how this job fits in with the organization? Knowing how this job or role connects with other positions in the organization is critical. Does it support other positions? Is it a mentoring or leadership role?
Do more than just regurgitate what is in the job posting under the heading, “Duties” or “What You’ll Do In This Role”. Yes, if you zero in on what’s under these headings you’ve hit on the right things to share, but your competition can memorize bullet points too. So if you just repeat back what the job ad says and stop talking, while you’ve technically answered the question, you won’t score as high as the applicants who add more.
So what to add? Excellent question! After having summarized what the key things are, the best applicants then prove how they have actually done what the job entails in one or more of their earlier jobs. Even in situations where the applicant hasn’t had that same experience, the best will talk about how their past experiences use transferable skills which they’ll bring to this place.
Believe me, if you’ve got a wealth of experience and skills and you undersell yourself and your accomplishments, you are gifting your competition and making it highly likely you’ll be passed over. Those with little to no experience will benefit if you fail to illustrate and prove you’ve got what it takes.
If you answered these questions well, congratulations. If you don’t know what to say, bring these three questions with you and put them before whomever you’re working with to help prepare for upcoming interviews. Together, perhaps they can help you compose 3 solid responses.
While job interviews cause anxiety for many, when you practice, you lower your aversion and grow in confidence. While you may never love them, you’ll fear them much less.