The only 3 job interview questions that matter

Written by Workopolis
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Why did you apply for this position? Why do you want to work for this company? What do you expect to be doing in five years? Describe a challenging situation you have faced….

According to a recent article on Forbes, all of these are used to answer these three important questions:

  1. Can you do the job?
  2. Will you love the job?
  3. Will you be a good fit for the company?

These are the three things that hiring managers really want to know.

Geoff Bagg, CEO of Bagg Group, says these questions “address the three essential considerations when hiring: skills, drive, and fit.” But they’re not good questions to actually ask because “they don’t require the candidate to provide a genuine, thought-out response.”

So true. What’s to say beyond “Yes” or “I think/hope so”? Or “Probably not but I really need the work and nobody else wants me.” (Don’t ever say that.)

So, instead of “Can we tolerate working with you?” or “Can you do the job?” they might ask you to “describe your manner of dealing with conflict” and to provide an example.

Be careful.

Bad: “I say nothing then bide my time until the opportunity for passive aggressive retaliation arises.”

“I look at both sides of the conflict, listen and present my take in a non-confrontational manner, then offer to brainstorm and negotiate solutions with which everyone is comfortable.” (Or something)

And though you don’t know what the variation queries will be, you can prepare yourself by focusing on highlighting your skills, drive and fit.

Let’s look at the three areas.

Can you do the job? 

Another way this might be phrased, says Bagg, is, “Can you tell me why you know you can do the job?”

To prep for this question or its variation, “the candidate should be ready to show their expertise with examples of how they applied the required skills with impressive results.”

He outlines the strategy S-I-R:

Situation: In a sentence or two, describe the situation. Initiative: Briefly show how you dealt with the situation. Results: Sum up the benefits of your initiative.”

(This is sometimes also known as S-A-R for Situation, Action-taken, Result.)

It will also help to make a list of all your applicable skills and, where possible, how you’ve used them to beneficial outcome, and memorize it. Don’t cite it! Just have it ready to pull from at your disposal.

Will you love the job? 

Bagg says a way to phrase this question to prompt insight is, “What would make you love this job?” or “What is it about this job that you would really enjoy?”

This is where you need to be a keener. Bagg says “the candidate needs to do some prior research to understand, as best as possible, the culture of the company. The interviewee should relate to the qualities of the company. For example, if the company is an innovator, an out-of-the-box thinker could speak of the personal satisfaction that comes from being encouraged to brainstorm. If the company is known as an excellent corporate citizen, the candidate could mention his/her own interest in volunteerism.”

Job interviews are like seductions. If you want the girl in the Birkenstocks, you bring a didgeridoo to the park.

More important, though, doing your research shows that you care enough to put in the extra effort.

Will you be a good fit for the company?

This might be the most difficult to get at. After all, everyone is on their best behaviour at the interview. But that doesn’t mean they’re at their best. I, for one, am a terrible interview — it’s one of the reasons I do freelance work — but I’m actually awesome to work with (if I may say so myself, as someone who works alone in my house).

Bagg says, “First impressions can be wrong. The young candidate with piercings and tattoos may not be a rebel but a loyal and supportive worker. The seemingly reserved candidate may be great with clients, but just not comfortable in the interview chair. It’s not easy to assess fit instantly.”

His sample for this one is “What’s a great day at work look like for you?”

To prep, he suggests, “The candidate should consider the type of social environment in which she or he thrives. Do they like a casual atmosphere or are they more comfortable in a formal structure; are they team-oriented or prefer to work solo; do they relish an open-door policy or do they like to keep their door shut so they can work uninterrupted? In this instance, the candidates do themselves and the company a disservice if they strive to give the “right” answer as opposed to the honest answer.”

In other words, it should be as important to you that you and the company are a good fit as it is to them.

Prior to the interview, make a list of your positive traits and interests, focusing on where they fit with the culture of the organization, so you have them at your mental disposal.

But don’t worry. They’ll love you, because you’re awesome.


See also:

Interview tips from the Toronto Academy of Acting

The 5 most common interview questions (and how to answer them like a boss)

How to tailor your resume to any job posting

How to optimize your resume for the 10-second skim



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