PRETTY IS AS PRETTY DOES (OR SAYS)
Behavior based interview questions are designed to determine how you have or will react under pressure, your thought process, and how quickly you can come to a solution. It is difficult to prepare for this type of interview. Think about some of the more challenging situations that you have faced and how successfully you handled these. Be prepared with and practice sharing as many examples of your successes as possible.
Employers also dip into off-the-wall questions that they have used in the past and feel will expose your best (or worst) qualities during the interview rather than after hire. These types of questions are also difficult to prepare for. It is important to remember that your thought process and how you arrive at and communicate your answer may be more important than the answer you actually give.
Open ended questions are often used to allow the opportunity for you to provide as much information as possible without the employer asking for it. “Tell me about yourself” is the most common open ended question asked. Answer all questions from a professional and not personal perspective. Always push your agenda: Your skills and abilities match what the employer is looking for.
1. "If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put in a blender, how would you get out?" Surprisingly, Goldman Sachs actually does ask this question during interviews. There is no right or wrong answer per se. You may want think about the issues involved, resources needed, steps required to achieve the goal of getting out of the blender when you are a size of a pencil.
Get creative and even add some humor to allow the interviewer to see another side of you than your resume communicates. For example, “I would call a meeting of the other pencils in the blender and ask for input from my team. Then, I would develop a plan of action with time frames and delegate assignments to affect my escape.”
2. Tell me about a time when you didn’t agree with a decision your boss made. What happened and how did you deal with it? You may or may not have had to deal with such a situation. If you have, be sure to answer with action words and clearly state what you did. If you haven’t, draw from vicarious experiences and state what you would do.
Tread lightly answering this question – you never want to bad mouth your prior companies or bosses! If you were asked to fire someone that you felt should not be fired, you might say, “My boss asked me to fire a receptionist that was quite possibly the best we had in a series of very bad receptionists. I communicated my opinion to my supervisor, who didn’t agree. I fired the receptionist.”
3. Write a one page essay about a light bulb. This was actually the first question I was asked in my first interview for a “real” job after undergraduate school. It was for a vocational counselor position with a small rehabilitation company working with injured workers.
Initially, I was stumped. I had previously interviewed for some very low level positions and been hired without challenge, so nothing prepared me for this type of question. I just started writing and ended up writing essentially about the energy it took to do a good job at work and how important that was. I got the job.
The employer (we are still friends) was trying to determine a few things with this request: 1) Writing skills 2) Focus and commitment 3) Personality/approach to life. Again, it is vital to push your agenda with every possible answer.
4. Do you have any questions for us? Don’t miss out on this opportunity to get your interviewer talking and/or to request a tour or to shadow someone doing the job you are interviewing for. People love to talk about themselves and their companies. An interview is also an opportunity for you to assess whether or not the position is a match for you.
Ask questions such as:
What brought you to work here? OR What do you like best about working here?
Where do you see the company in 10 years?
What would be my biggest challenges in the first few months in this position?
Why is the position available?
What advice do you have for someone like myself who really wants to be hired for this job?\
5. Of what are you least proud? This question is a toughie, to use a technical term! If you think about this in terms of addressing your weaknesses it will go a bit smoother.
Answer this question by rephrasing it and presenting a “good” weakness such as you work too hard and have trouble leaving work at the office or you are too detail oriented and make your coworkers crazy.
6. What would your ex- say about you? This question may reference your mother, your nemesis, your previous supervisor, or any other character. This question can take you by surprise if you don’t understand that the employer is attempting to get at a deeper level of information about you.
Use the answer to this question to highlight your selling points or add any skills or abilities that you haven’t been able to share yet. Because “someone else” is answering the question you have the opportunity to toot your own horn more than you normally would.
7. What would you undo if you could? Do over! Wouldn’t we all love that? This question provides you with the opportunity to share an insight or something you have learned that indicates professional growth. You should have already thought of a number of career-related anecdotes to illustrate your abilities. Make sure to be prepared to discuss something you would have done differently in a past situation, given what you now know.
8. When can you start? This will likely be the best strangest question asked in your last interview! I am always taken aback when I ask this during practice interviews and clients don’t know what to say or blurt out, “Today.” If you are really eager for the job you may be tempted to answer tomorrow or as soon as possible.
I recommend that you don’t answer today, tomorrow or as soon as possible. Give yourself time to get a proper offer (position, supervisor, pay, benefits, contract requirements, etc.) and evaluate it. The soonest you should be able to start would be the following Monday or in a week, even if you are currently unemployed. Two weeks is conventional. This will give you some breathing room and time to prepare for a successful first day of work!
9. How do you spend your free time? This may seem like a strange interview question, but the employer is probably trying to determine how well rounded you are. He or she is not making small talk that is for sure.
Answer this question keeping in mind to project a positive image. If possible, relate any hobbies or recreational activities to skills the employer might find valuable. For example, “I teach children life management skills – it is very gratifying to see their sense of self-confidence grow when they learn basic management principles.”