I helped my son’s friend prepare for an interview last week. We started out talking about common interview questions, which evolved into a discussion of which ones are more and less effective. Below are some of the questions we agreed were interesting, some from the employer perspective and others from the applicant’s point of view.
What is a career-related accomplishment you are particularly proud of?
As an applicant, I encourage you to have an answer to this one ready. It’s not so much about the accomplishment that you select, but about the hurdles you had to overcome to achieve success or completion.
Also as an applicant, demonstrate a lot of enthusiasm when you answer this question. If you aren’t passionate about your accomplishments, what will your energy be day in and day out on the job?
Explain something you know a lot about to me in two minutes or less.
As an applicant, this is another opportunity to share your passion. It could be how to wind surf or bake a seven layer cake. It could be how to simplify a code or deconstruct a sentence. Whatever you select, you should be able to explain it so the interviewer understands and becomes interested in your topic.
As an employer, this is a chance to see how the applicant speaks, how they organize their thoughts and again, how they demonstrate their passion for something that they know well.
Have you witnessed racism, and how have you worked to eliminate institutional racism in previous jobs?
As an employer, it’s important to know if the candidate will talk candidly about racism and it’s also important to know if they will be an advocate for observing and eliminating racism in your organization. Do they notice and challenge the status quo? Even if the candidate doesn’t have a proven track record of improving inclusivity, any defensiveness is, well, defensive and will not be helpful in your organization’s quest to create an inclusive culture for all.
What have you done in the past year to enhance your skills related to your career?
Organizations are constantly evolving and changing. It’s critical that applicants make the time to learn and grow in their field. The candidate should have a list of things they have learned.
As an applicant, prepare a list of work-related articles you read, meetings you attend, podcasts you regularly listen to. You can even cite ideas you have learned on the job from your mentors and colleagues.
Tell me about a time when you have helped or mentored someone in your previous organization.
Organizations need people who help others. If the applicant’s focus is entirely on their own accomplishments, you may not be hiring the team player you need.
When I was in school, a long time ago, sometimes teachers would say, “No question is a dumb question.” For employers interviewing candidates, I am not so sure this phrase is true! Asking questions that could be discriminatory or lead an applicant to short, one-word answers aren’t so smart and could be illegal.
Preparing for an interview is equally important for the employer as it is for the applicant. For the best interview experience, both parties parties benefit from being well-prepared. Employers should truly think about the qualities they are seeking in their next employee, and applicants should be ready to show their best self.