Questions & Answers

Questions to Expect:

1. Tell me about yourself?

  • Use the Picture Frame Approach
  • Summary Statement. Example, I have spent [X # of years] as a [job title] in [specific discipline]
  • Credentials. Example, I have [X # of certifications, etc.]
  • Major Responsibilities. Example, I manage [X # of people] or have responsibilities for [X # of plants]
  • Personal Statement. Example, I enjoy problem solving and I am told I am good at seeing the big picture.

2. Walk me through your resume?
When an interviewer asks you this question, they want you to review only those things in your background that are relevant to your qualifications for this position. It would be a mistake, for example, to start out with discussing why you chose your first job out of college if it is not directly related to why they should hire you for this position. Focus on the more recent positions that are related to the position, giving only a very brief review of earlier non-relevant positions.

3. Why did you leave (do you want to leave) your most recent (current) job?
Never answer with negative reasons, even if they are true. Frame your answer positively by answering why you want to move to the target company, instead of why you left or want to leave your most recent (current) job. For example, instead of answering, “I don’t get enough challenges at Acme Industries,” respond, “I am eager to take on more challenges, and I believe I will find them at XYZ Company.” If you were caught in a lay off, keep it short when possible, give a “group” answer (e.g. our office is closing, the whole organization is being reduced in size for big picture/strategic reasons). Be consistent throughout the interview.

4. Tell me what you know about us?
Research the target company before the interview. Basic research is the only way to prepare for this question, coupled with information from your Columbia Search Partners professional Recruiter. Do your homework, and you’ll score big on this question. Good things to know are the organization’s products, services, history, all their locations, who their major clients are, the company philosophy & goals and the company growth. If there is time after your response, re-direct the question back at the interviewer and ask: “I would love to know more, particularly from your point of view?”

5. What experience do you have?
Pre-interview research will help you here. Try to cite experience relevant to the company’s concerns. Also, try answering this question with a question: “Are you looking for overall experience or experience in some specific area of special interest to you?” Let the interviewer’s response guide your answer.

6. What don’t you like about your current job?
Refrain from answering negatively. Respond ” I like my current position and have acquired and developed a great many skills, but I’m now ready for a new set of challenges and greater responsibilities.”

7. How much are you making now? How much do you want?
It’s always best to put off discussing salary and let your Columbia Search Partners (CSP) Recruiter handle that.
ANSWER: I am looking for positive career growth and would be receptive to a reasonable, competitive offer. I’d prefer to be sure this opportunity is right for both of us before we discuss salary.

8. What’s the most difficult situation you ever faced on the job?
Remember, you’re talking to a prospective employer, not your best friend. Don’t dredge up a catastrophe that resulted in a personal or corporate failure. Be ready for this question by thinking of a story that has a happy ending-happy for you and your company. Never digress into personal or family difficulties, and don’t talk about problems you’ve had with supervisors or peers. You might discuss a difficult situation with a subordinate or overcoming functional resistance, provided that the issues were resolved inventively and to everyone’s satisfaction.

9. What are you looking for in this job?
Flip this one over. Despite the question, the employer isn’t really interested in what you are looking for. He’s interested in what he is looking for. Address his interests, rather than yours. Use words like “contribute,” “enhance,” “improve” and “team environment”. Fit your answer to their needs.

10. Why should I hire you?
This may sound suspicious, negative, or just plain harsh. This is often a test to see how you can defend yourself. Relate past experiences which represent successes in achieving objectives which may be similar to those of the prospective employer. Focus on goals you’ve achieved and how they would benefit. Sell yourself and be confident!

11. Tell me about a time when you handled a particularly challenging situation?
Behavior-related questions aim at assessing a candidate’s character, attitude, and personality traits by asking for an account of how the candidate handled certain challenging situations. Plan for such questions by making a list of the desirable traits relevant to the needs of the industry or prospective employer and by preparing some job-related stories about your experience that demonstrate a range of those traits and habits of conduct. Before answering the question, listen carefully and ask any clarifying questions you think necessary. Tell your story and conclude by explaining what you intended your story to illustrate.

12. How do you handle rejection?
Rejection is part of business. People don’t always buy what you have to sell. The trick here is to separate rejection of your product from rejection of yourself: “I see rejection as an opportunity. I learn from it. When a customer takes a pass, I ask him what we could do to the product or price or service to make it possible for him to say yes. Don’t get me wrong: You’ve got to make sales. But rejection is valuable, too. It’s a good teacher.”

13. What kinds of people do you find difficult to work with?
Use this question as a chance to show that you are a team player: “The only people I have trouble with are those who aren’t team players, who just don’t perform, who complain constantly, and who fail to respond to any efforts to motivate them.” The interviewer is expecting a response focused on personality and personal dislikes. Surprise him or her by delivering an answer that reflects company values.

14. What are your short-term and long-term goals?
Long Range: Keep long range answers fairly general and don’t be unrealistic.
Short Range: Be more specific; talk about particular skills you want to master, growth opportunities, maybe having more responsibilities, or moving into management.

15. What are your greatest strengths?
Present three. Relate them to that particular company or job opening. Focus only on the professional rather than the personal. Share examples of how these strengths were an asset to your previous employers.

16. Tell me what your greatest weakness is?
Give a weakness that is really a “positive in a disguise.” “I am sometimes impatient and do all the work myself when we are working against a tight timeline”, or “I tend to put in too many hours at times.” Whatever you choose, make sure that it is a weakness that can be turned into a positive for your employer.

17. If I spoke with your previous boss, what would he or she say are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
Be consistent with what you think the boss would say. Position the weakness in a positive way. Again, give a weakness that is really a “positive in a disguise.” “I am sometimes impatient and do all the work myself when we are working against a tight timeline.”

18. How would you describe your leadership style?
Keep your answer short and relevant to the job and organizational culture. In general, companies want confident, proactive, and fair leaders; leaders that can get the most out of their people and get results.

19. Describe what would be an ideal work environment?
Team work is the key.

20. How would you evaluate your present firm?
Be positive. Refer to the valuable experience you have gained. Don’t mention negatives.

21. What do you think of your boss?
If you like him or her, say so and tell why. If you don’t like him or her, find something positive to say.

22. Why do you want to work for us?
You feel you can help achieve the companies objectives, especially in the short run. Focus on how you can help the company and not on how the company can help you. Express that you like what you’ve learned about the company, its policies, goals, and management. “I’ve researched the company and everything indicates this is a good place to work.”

23. What kind of hours are you used to working?
“As many hours as it takes to get the job done.”

24. Did you ever fire anyone? If so, what were the reasons, and how did you handle it?
If you haven’t, say so, but add that you could do it, if necessary. If you have, explain the situation. The company may be interested in your leadership style or abilities. They may be looking to see how you counseled the person and why it did not work, etc.

25. You may be over-qualified or too experienced for the position we have to offer.
“A strong company needs a strong person.” “Experienced people are at a premium today.” “An employer will get a faster return on investment because I have more experience that required.”

Along with these questions, you will likely be asked industry-specific questions relating to your knowledge of a specific software or process. If you’ve been in the industry a while, these should be much more straight forward to answer, but just remember that all responses should highlight specific work-related examples showing how they will benefit from you.

Your Columbia Search Partners professional  Recruiter will work with you to make sure they have access to and understand the details of the position and can bring out relevant examples from your past experience that would highlight why this company would benefit from hiring you.