How to prepare for the most common types of job interview questions
In many ways, a job interview is like a date. After reviewing your cover letter and resume and determining you have enough of the skills and experience needed for the role, the hiring manager is interested in getting to know you a little better. Through a series of questions, interviewers want to learn about more than just your qualifications; they’re also looking to understand your thought process and personality to determine if you’re the right fit for their company. To uncover that, interviewers will typically use three types of interview questions:
- Skills-based (hard and soft)
Let’s take a closer look at what they are, why interviewers ask them and how you should answer them.
These are designed to uncover what hard skills (teachable skills that are easy to quantify, like technical experience) and soft skills (subjective skills that are harder to quantify, like communication or interpersonal skills and teamwork) you can bring to the role.
- Do you have experience designing and building pages in WordPress?
- Have you managed a team before?
When answering skills-based questions, you want to inform the interviewer of how much experience you have and provide examples of projects you’ve worked on to illustrate the depth of your experience.
Talk about how you’ve executed on designs in WordPress, some of the challenges that you’ve faced and how you’ve resolved them – give them examples. Tell them about the number of years you’ve been a manager and the number of people you’ve directly managed – or, if you haven’t had a chance to be a people manager yet, how you’ve led a cross-functional team project in the past and how you successfully motivated the team to deliver the project to completion.
By asking behavioural questions, interviewers want to hear you talk about past experiences with the belief that this will indicate future performance. They want to understand whether you have the required skill or the right attitude.
- Tell me about a time when you had to solve a difficult problem. What did you do?
- Can you think of a time when you were not successful? What did you learn from this experience?
A great approach to answering behavioural questions is to use the STAR method:
- Begin by outlining the Situation you were facing
- Move on to identifying the Task, or goal, you had to achieve
- Then discuss the Actions you took to help achieve your goal
- And finish with the end Result
Prepare by reviewing your past work experiences and lining up a few short stories that highlight positive qualities that you would bring to the organization. As an example:
S – We had an online tool that we were going to test by sending out an email to 5,000 users inviting them to try the tool out.
T – We hoped to see users engage with the tool, measuring engagement through the number of actions they took with it and through repeat visits.
A – We tested the tool and tested the email. Everything looked good and we deployed it to our 5,000 users, as planned.
R – After deployment, we realized that the page the tool sat on had no tracking so we could not measure engagement or repeat visits to the tool. After this, I designed a QA list which I shared with the team so we could make sure nothing like this was missed again. The QA list is now part of all projects on the team.
Similar to behavioural questions, situational questions can be hypothetical and are meant to provide insight into your analytical and problem-solving skills. They also give interviewers an opportunity to see how you handle problems on the spot, without a lot of preparation time.
- You disagree with the way your supervisor wants to handle a problem. What would you do?
- You have several projects on your plate with competing deadlines. How do you prioritize? What do you do?
Because these questions may be hypothetical, even if you haven’t experienced the exact situation presented in the question, you must still provide a response. Remember, interviewers want to understand your approach, your thought process. So take your time and think it through. And then clearly take the interviewer through the steps you would take to solve the issue presented to you.
By understanding the motivations behind the types of interview questions being asked, you’ll be better prepared to provide the information that interviewers are look for to determine whether you can contribute to their organization’s success. So go out there and rock that next interview!