Answering Qualification Interview Questions
How do you handle working with numbers/clients/multiple tasks/stress?
Each of these aspects can be really important for a given position and the Hiring Manager will want to make sure that you are the right person that he/she is looking for. Try to figure out the most important characteristics of the job that you are applying for. Are you expected to do multi-tasking? What part of your overall responsibilities would be related to financial figures? Are you going to interact with many people?
Based on your findings, you will know what to expect. Prepare good examples from your past that can serve as proof of your statements.
How would you add value to our company?
Did you see “The Wolf of Wall Street”? Remember Jordan Belfort’s famous quote “sell me this pen”? The same principle applies to this question as well, although instead of selling a pen, you need to sell the idea of you landing the job. This is what the recruiter is asking you to do. You need to convince him/her that you will add value to the company. But, how are you going to be able to tell how you would add value to the company before having worked for the company?
Most candidates will start by listing their qualifications, work experience, personal traits, achievements, and they will be hoping to push the right button, somewhere along the way. Similarly, when facing the “sell me this pen” task, most people start describing the pen’s attributes; it is a great pen, writes very well, it is very shiny and smooth, etc.
It is natural to focus on your qualities and qualifications when asked how are you going to add value to the company. However, this is a trap. Most people would do just that. They will explain that they are great and that they are qualified. But that fails to answer the question itself, right? How are you going to add value? Analogically, the person who is being sold a pen can ask “Why do I need this pen?” Instead of falling for this trap and responding like everybody else, you can instead show that you are different by using an alternative approach.
Turn this into a back and forth dialogue and figure out what value needs to be added to the team that you will be joining. What does the company need? Are there any supplementary skills that are missing? Is there a particular area that they would like to reinforce? Learn more about the Interviewer’s take on the current situation and understand precisely what is expected from you. Don’t be shy to ask about the company’s mid-term strategy and the type of people that they will need in the future. Then you can nail the question by pointing out how your qualifications and motivation match with the needs that they have.
The whole dynamic of this type of question is driven by the fact that before you are able to sell a pen, you have to know more about the person who is going to buy it, what are his needs and what kind of pens is he usually writing with. Once you have positively identified a need, you can point out that your product is the right solution for that need.
Tell me about yourself
This will probably be the very first question of the interview. A very generic question, which is tougher than it sounds. You need to avoid telling the story of your life, but you don’t want to pause after three sentences either. Given that it is the opening question of the interview, your answer becomes even more important, as it sets the tone for the rest of the conversation. The Hiring Manager is interested in seeing whether you will strongly structure the answer of a very broad question.
The secret for responding well to this question is scripting and practicing before every interview. What should you include in your response?
- Tell the interviewer only facts that you want him/her to know
- Give a hint about your personal life with one or two sentences (“I was born and raised in the UK”, “I moved to New York because it is a vibrant city and I like the dynamic environment.”)
- Show that you are a perfect fit for the job under consideration; you have the right education, your previous work experiences will be a valuable asset to the firm
- Conclude by explaining why are you excited about this possibility and how your strengths match with the profile that the company is looking for
Prepare a script that addresses each of the points above and practice answering the “Tell me about yourself” question, as you know it’s coming your way once an interview starts
What is/(are) your greatest strength/(s)?
A question that leaves a much more pleasant flavor than “What is your biggest weakness?” Nevertheless, you need to prepare to answer it, because it is an important one and it comes up at almost all HR interviews.
Think of the role you are applying for. What are the greatest strengths that someone who wants to be successful in this position must have? Let’s say that that you are interviewing for the position of Project Manager. A Project Manager needs to be a great:
- Team player
- Problem Solver
If the Interviewer asks you for your greatest strength (singular) pick one of these qualities. The one that is in fact your greatest strength and make sure that you have a great story illustrating that you are really good at this skill. If you are asked to list multiple strengths, you can pick up to three of these qualities. Don’t list more than three strengths, as it will come off as though you are strong with everything, which will dilute the effect that you obtained in the first place.
Avoid vague words (such as maybe, probably, guess, usually) when you talk about your biggest strength/s.
What motivates you about this position?
By asking this question, the recruiter wants to understand whether you are excited about the new opportunity that lies ahead of you. Your enthusiasm, of course, is highly correlated with the amount of effort you will put once the job is offered.
A motivated person would try to be proactive and create a positive working environment, which is precisely what every company needs. The real question isn’t whether you should say that you are motivated. Of course you should. You need to think of a way that would best show that you are genuinely interested in the position under consideration. There are a lot of different things that can motivate you:
- The learning opportunities that you will have on the job
- Future growth prospects
- You like the team that you will be inserted in (if you have met them)
- You share the company’s values/mission
- The company operates in a dynamic, ever-changing industry
- The company’s prestige
Of course, remuneration is one of the main motivators for almost all people. However, talking about money is not a good idea at this point of the selection process. Instead, focus on some of the aspects that we listed above and customize them to the specific position that you are applying for.
What you say while answering this question is not the only important thing. Your interviewer will be eager to see that all signs point in the same direction. Try to show that you are excited through your voice, posture and body language. This can be the critical difference that will determine whether or not you will be selected.
What relevant work experience do you have?
A straightforward question, which leaves little space for maneuvering. Make sure that you are well prepared before the interview. Carefully study the job description and identify how your work experience is going to be useful in handling the responsibilities at this new position. Try to be specific and point out, which are the activities that you learned to do in your previous jobs and how they would allow you to perform well at this new position.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
A potentially dangerous question. The interviewer wants to know whether the company would be able to count on you in the long run – whether you are looking for a job to tide you over or for a career. Besides hiring someone that is qualified and skilled, most firms want to choose a person that believes in a future with the company. They don’t want to invest a great deal of time and money in order to recruit and train someone who will leave in two years.
The hiring manager wants to understand exactly how you think. Perhaps you intend to gain one or two years of practical work experience and join your family’s business. Maybe you want to start your own company, or maybe you believe that one or two years at this job would allow you to pursue much more interesting opportunities with other companies. This is why you need to be prepared and have a good answer in mind.
Instead of replying where you will be in 5 years, which is kind of dangerous for the above mentioned reasons, you can talk about exactly what you would like to learn in the next five years. You can say that you want to become very good at what you do, gain hands-on practical experience in managing people and that you always wanted to become a technical expert in the field for which you are interviewing. As a closing statement, you can add that you are excited about this opportunity because you believe that it is a step in the right direction and would allow you to achieve your goals.
By spinning the question in this direction, you are able to achieve three things. First, you protect yourself from answering a potentially dangerous question. Second, you will be able to emphasize that the main driver in your career is professional growth and self-improvement. And third – you are able to affirm that you are excited about the job opportunity. Sounds good, right?
Similar versions of this question are “What do you want to achieve in your career?”, “Describe your ideal job”, “What are your long-term career goals?” The same logic applies for all of these questions too.
Why should we hire you?
This question is very similar to “How would you add value to our company”. The Hiring Manager challenges you to sell him/her the idea of you being hired. Your profile is the product that needs to be sold. Remember the example that we gave with the pen?
Most people will start listing their qualities and qualifications, hoping that they will touch the right nerve along the way. But that is not the way to go. The Hiring Manager has read your CV, he/she already knows about your credentials. What he/she wants to understand is whether you can handle a tough question and be persuasive while making a valid point. Try to open your answer with a question instead:
Manager: Let me ask you, with so many people applying for this job, why should we hire you?
Job-Seeker: A great question. But I would like to ask you something as well. Can I?
Manager: Sure, go ahead.
Job-Seeker: What makes a great Analyst with your firm?
Manager: We are looking for people who are very independent and are able to learn fast, even when they are under pressure. Does that make sense?
Job-Seeker: Sure, it does. I can imagine that the environment in which your firm operates requires such qualities. This is precisely what made me apply for this position in the first place. I want to be a part of your dynamic environment. I am able to learn fast and adapt to changing circumstances quite easily. For example, …
Sounds much better, right? In order to respond successfully to this question, you need to communicate well with the interviewer and understand exactly what they are looking for. Otherwise, you simply don’t know why they should hire you, leaving your answer to be a shot in the dark.