Job interviews can be pretty nerve-wracking experiences, and not surprisingly so when you bear in mind that things like promotions, higher salaries and better developmental opportunities, depend on how well interviewees perform. Another reason why they are so terrifying though, is because candidates typically have no idea what they are going to be asked and they are afraid that they are either going to be completely wrong-footed, or left sitting there like lemons with nothing to say.
What if I were to tell you then, that with a little bit of effort and research, you could fairly reliably predict the type of questions that will come up? In this, the first of a whole series of articles on job interviews, you can find out how to do just that.
Okay, let’s start with the fact that interview questions are never asked completely at random. After all, what would be the point in that? What typically happens when companies have vacancies to fill is that the people in HR and/or the hiring managers sit down and look at the role description for the jobs in question. They take into account the nature of the tasks and responsibilities that the roleholder would have to deal with, the skills they would need to possess to be able to do the job successfully and the personal qualities that would help them to be more effective in the role. Any half-decent recruiter will also consider the culture of the company so as to try and draw in applications from those people who would be more likely to fit in and share the same values.
Once all of this information has been assembled, they would then create a job advertisement which would probably include a few words about the organization itself, a job description, a person specification and instructions on how potential applicants should go about putting themselves forward for the position. Around the same time that the job advertisement is put together, those who are going to be involved in conducting the interviews, review the ad itself, as well as the job description, and design a set of questions which is explicitly aimed at establishing who would be the best fit for the role.
There’s no trickery involved and none of the questions are designed to catch candidates out. If the role involves lots of customer-facing activity, therefore, then you can bet that a good proportion of the questions will seek to establish how much experience each of the candidates has in this area, how they have handled certain challenging experiences involving customers in the past and what the outcomes of those experiences were. Alternatively, they might involve hypothetical scenarios which call upon candidates to explain how they would deal with these situations if they were to encounter them. In each case, the questions themselves would give interviewees an opening to talk about the skills and qualities they have used or would use to deal with these situations and so to demonstrate their suitability for the position.
Look carefully, therefore, at the job tasks and responsibilities as they appear in the job ad or job description and think about the skills and qualities that would be required to succeed in the role, and the questions that you are likely to be asked will become self-evident. Sometimes job advertisements are not very descriptive/informative. For such cases, have a look at more detailed descriptions for the same role, posted by other companies. You can also consult an occupational database (such as Career Compass or O*NET) , to get a general idea of what a particular job is all about. This, however, isn’t where your preparation should stop.
The same role in the same company can look completely different depending upon the organization’s priorities at any given time. A business that’s going through tough economic times, for example, might expect quite different things from certain of its staff members than it would if it had just won a huge new contract. Ambitions to expand, mergers and reorganizations, strong competitors and a whole host of other things can change a business’ priorities enormously, and they can change the expectations of staff beyond recognition. For you to be able to understand where those priorities lie and what types of things your interview questions are likely to focus on, you need to research the hiring company thoroughly. Ask yourself what the main issues are, that are facing the company and the industry at this moment in time, who the organization’s main competitors are, what they up to and what the hiring company is doing to try to stay ahead of them. Then look for answers on the company website, in press releases and news reports, in trade journals and on relevant online discussion forums to find your answers.
Also, think about how these concerns are likely to affect the recruiter’s idea of what success would look like in the role that you are applying for. Would it, for example, mean more emphasis on saving the organization lots of money as opposed to trying to bring in new clients or customers? Would it mean earning the company the reputation as the best in customer service rather than delivering high volumes of sales? Again, if you can get to the bottom of the recruiter’s current situation and uncover the pain points that the organization is experiencing, you can more easily work out the direction that the interview questions are likely to take.
Another thing that interviewers could very well query are aspects of your own resume, so take a good, hard look at this too. Are there any gaps in your work history that they might want to explore for example, or are there any skills or achievements that they might want you to back up with explanations? Study your resume through a recruiter’s eyes and see whether there is anything that you would want to query in his or her position.
Predicting interview questions, or at least the most important ones, really isn’t that difficult. It just takes a bit of time and research and for you to think like the recruiter. Most of the clues are actually right there in the job ad, and those that aren’t can easily be found elsewhere. If you do your homework thoroughly at this stage, you’ll be able walk into the interview feeling fully prepared and brimming with confidence.