Getting the most out of the interview regulars

We got quite a bit of reaction to last week’s column outlining common questions that arise in interviews – and, so, we will run through some more here. I must repeat my warning of last week that it is not a good idea to become fixated on the questions, as there is an endless supply of ones they may ask you, and it is more sustainable in the long run to focus on the key information you wish to get across, regardless of the questions.

But you want to hear more questions, so here goes, five more. These are drawn from various pieces of research carried out into interviewing styles and techniques.

  1. What relevant experience do you have? Sometimes the answer here is obvious, if you’re staying in the same sector or, indeed, company. But there are times when you will have to look afresh at your experience, and see where you can re-arrange it to match the job in question. If necessary, ask a friend, colleague or family member to run the rule over your experience and see what transfers to the new role.
  2. If your last boss were asked about you, what would he/she say? This can be a very helpful question. Many people find it difficult to talk about themselves, and being liberated from the ‘I’ word can allow them to speak more confidently about themselves. The third-party endorsement can come easier. Needless to say, highlight traits that are important to the new employer.
  3. How are you at handling conflict in the workplace? This is a surprisingly common question. I always feel it is a good idea to outline that you don’t see conflict as a sustainable approach in the workplace, and that you try to nip it in the bud. After that, your answer may depend on the level of job for which you’re applying: in some cases, having failed to nip it in the bud, there will be standard procedures for elevating the matter to the Human Resources department or the line manager. It may be important to show an awareness of – and commitment to – these procedures, rather than going off on a solo-run. In other cases, you may need to deal head-on with the person – again, the emphasis should be on finding a workable solution where possible.
  4. What’s your salary range? We’ve written about that here before, and recommended a ‘kick to touch’ approach. You are still trying to impress them, so it can be a bit early for negotiation on salary. You could throw it back at them saying they probably have a salary scale in place in their company. If you have a figure in mind, by all means say it: but, by and large, I would try to avoid getting into a detailed response. There will be time enough for counting when the dealing is done.
  5. What motivates you? You might be tempted to say ‘the cheque at the end of the week’, but tread warily – yes, in many jobs, it is a good thing to show you are motivated by profit, particularly if you’re working in sales, but a good salesperson knows that profits only come as a result of good processes. In a salesperson’s case, that would be relationship building, solving customer problems, or expanding the range of services provided to a customer. A teacher should talk about helping to foster a positive working environment, the thrill of watching students develop and learn, and the buzz that comes with getting good results.