The interview cheat sheet

The interview cheat sheet
Interview Tips

By Silvia Flores | Alder Koten

Not a day goes by that I am not surprised when silence follows one of my basic interview questions. The silence itself tends to provide more insight about a candidate than the answer that will follow. What it says is that a candidate was not prepared for the interview. The message that it conveys is that the interest level might not be there or that it could be a reflection of a candidate’s attitude and work ethic.

Am I reading too much into it? That is how interviews work, and that is what interviewers tend to do. Doing your homework is an important part of interviewing. So be prepared with your answers and be aware of the hidden messages that you will convey.

Here is a quick look at the top 5 interview questions and some DOs and DON’Ts.

Tell me about yourself
Do: Respond with a relevant summary of your background and your career. An interviewer will want to listen to what applies to the company culture and the requirements of the position. If your answer requires more than 5 minutes, it is probably too long. After the summary, ask if there is something specific that they would like you to elaborate.
Don’t: Get into a long-winded story or go through your full resume.

Why did you leave your last job?
Do: Explain with clarity and define your drivers or the company’s drivers. Stay neutral and put your answer in the context of your career plan. This is one of the trickiest questions in any interview and a potential pitfall when it comes to hidden messages.
Don’t: Respond with “It was a mutual agreement” or attempt to explain why it was out of your hands. Above all, don’t point any fingers or blame a bad manager.

What are your strengths?
Do: Focus on the main strengths related to the requirements of the position or the culture of the organization.
Don’t: Tell me your funny. Tell me the joke. In other words, if you are great tell me why and give me examples that are relevant to the position and the company do not just blurt out adjectives.

What are your weaknesses?
Do: Make sure that it is aligned with your strengths. This is something that most people do not consider: Your weaknesses are your strengths when applied in the wrong context. You are driven (You are a loose cannon), You are patient (You are not aggressive enough), You have a positive attitude (You are not a realist). Get the picture?
Don’t: Say that you cannot think of one.

Why do you want to leave your current job?
Do: Put it into the context of your career plan and both your short term and long term goals.
Don’t: Say you are not looking for a job, and you are there just because a recruiter called you. If you are interviewing, there is a driver.
Don’t: Make it about the money.

Here are some other questions to consider:

  • What did you like or dislike about your previous job?
  • Which was most / least rewarding?
  • What was the biggest accomplishment / failure in this position?
  • Questions about your supervisors and co-workers.
  • What was it like working with your supervisor?
  • What do you expect from a supervisor?
  • What problems have you encountered at work?
  • Have you ever had difficulty working with a manager?
  • Who was your best boss and who was the worst?
  • How will your greatest strength help you perform?
  • How would you describe yourself?
  • Describe a typical work week.
  • Describe your work style
  • Do you take work home with you?
  • How many hours do you typically work?
  • How would you describe the pace at which you work?
  • How do you handle stress and pressure?
  • What motivates you?
  • Are you a self-motivator?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • What do you find are the most difficult decisions to make?
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What has been the greatest disappointment in your life?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What are your pet peeves?
  • What do people most often criticize about you?
  • When was the last time you were angry? What happened?
  • If you could relive the last ten years of your life, what would you do differently?
  • If the people who know you were asked why you should be hired, what would they say?
  • Do you prefer to work independently or on a team?
  • Give some examples of teamwork.
  • More teamwork interview questions.
  • What type of work environment do you prefer?
  • How do you evaluate success?
  • If you know your boss is 100% wrong about something how would you handle it?
  • Describe a difficult work situation / project and how you overcame it.
  • Describe a time when your workload was heavy and how you handled it
  • What interests you about this job?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • What applicable attributes / experience do you have?
  • Are you overqualified for this job?
  • What can you do for this company?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Why are you the best person for the job?
  • What do you know about this company?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • What challenges are you looking for in a position?
  • What can you contribute to this company?
  • What is good customer service?
  • How long do you expect to remain employed with this company?
  • Is there anything I have not told you about the job or company that you would like to know?


About Alder Koten

Alder Koten helps shape organizations through a combination of research, executive search, cultural & leadership assessment, and other talent advisory services. Our recruiters and executive search consultants bring to the recruiting process an in-depth understanding of the market conditions and strategic talent issues faced by clients within their particular industry. Our leadership consultants provide advisory services that are crafted to be collaborative, responsive, pragmatic, and results oriented. Focused on expanding the capabilities of the organization through talent.

Silvia Flores serves as Managing Partner of Brakston Grey, a division of Alder Koten that focuses on high potential professionals and managers on a development path for executive positions, and is a member of the firm’s maquiladora, and supply chain & operations practices.