There are two basic methods of questioning an applicant, traditional and behavioral-based. Both types of questions have their value to the interviewer. The traditional questions are sometimes tailored to see how quickly the employee thinks on their feet, or to find out how the applicant views him or herself. The behavioral based questions seek to discover how an applicant will work in certain the company environment or how he/she will react to situations that may arise on the job. You are likely to encounter both types of questions during the interview, although some companies like IBM are leaning more heavily towards the behavioral based interview format.
Some examples of traditional questions.
- "Tell me three reasons why you think you would be good for this job." Here, the interviewer is looking for what you know about the company and its culture. They are also looking for how you view yourself.
- "Tell me about your background." The interviewer does not want your entire life story here. Although you can weave the aswers into a chronological series of life events, the interviewer is looking for things you have done that will make you valuable to the company. So try to focus on your work experiences, and how they would relate to the position for which you are competing. And always be positive. Even if you grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and have had miserable jobs, put a positive spin on everything you say.
- "Tell me your three best qualities and your three worst." Here, the interviewer is definitely looking for how you view yourself and how you might relate to other people. Be honest with your good qualities, and put them in a context that shows the interviewer how these qualities would help the organization. For your negative qualities, also be hones, but put a positive spin on them. For example, if you are somewhat of a perfectionist and sometimes this has caused problems for you, say "I am very driven, and sometimes get too wrapped up in a project." When stated the right way, even your negative qualities can be helpful in the interview.
Some examples of bevavioral based questions:
- "Tell me about the most important thing you have accomplished in the last year"
The interviewer is looking for an academic or work related achievement. Your answer should show your qualities in a specific area. Focus on the assignment or problem, how you approached it, and the benefits derived from your solution."
- "Tell me about a difficult team situation in which you worked and how you handled it." This questions is designed to show how you handle difficult team situations, such as a peer who is not carrying their share of the load. Once again, state the problem, how you handled it, and how it resulted in a positive outcome. Whatever you do, don't whine about someone else, be professional in your demeanor whenyou answer this question."
- "Tell me about a situation in which you were less than successful, and explain why." This type of question is geared to see how you handle a disappointing situation or how you handle failure. The best thing to do is show what you learned from your mistakes and how you then applied them to another similar situation to produce a positive outcome."
As you can see the questions that you are asked are designed to find our about YOU. The interviewer wants to see a positive attitude. He or she also wants to see what kind of experiences you have had that will relate to the open position. They also want to see how you can think on your feet. Be prepared for both type of questions. Be yourself, show a little humor if appropriate, and BE POSITIVE. Also, make sure your answers don't sound rehearsed, as if you are reciting from memory; this can be a real turn-off.