The Ultimate Interview Answers

April 26th, 2013 | Interviewing, Job Search | No Comments »


The other day, I had two interviews scheduled with two promising candidates. On paper, they both had a good deal to offer and going into the interview, I was eager to hear their responses to my questions. In fact, I didn’t even think that I was going to be able to decide after only one interview.

Both arrived on time, were well dressed, and were friendly with everyone they met. Back in my office, we exchanged small talk and both seemed to be genuine, pleasant people. Then, we jumped into the meat of the interview. I started by asking both, “What are you most proud of in your career?”

The first candidate was brief and his response went something like this.

“I just released an app on iTunes that is getting some major hits. There were some problems but my team & I got through them. It’s probably my best Ruby app to date.”

I waited for a few seconds for him to go further but he seemed pretty confident with what he said. His response here, and at other times throughout the course of the interview, left me with more questions than answers. In his resume, he had reiterated, time & time again, that he was a great problem-solver but didn’t really provide me with any examples. It wasn’t too long before I was thanking him for his time and wishing him well.

The second candidate was full of great examples. When I asked her the first question, she was visibly proud of a similar achievement (releasing an app on the Android marketplace) and she took the time to give me details. Her first response went something like this.

“My team recently released an app on the Android Marketplace and we really overcame some big challenges to make it happen. Halfway through, we found out about an almost identical app. Some of the team considered scrapping the project but I convinced them to wait. I pushed for a new brainstorming session to improve upon the existing app. Then, as a team, we made adjustments to our features & code structure so we could salvage some of our work. We all divided up the objectives and worked nonstop to stay on our original deadline. We even completed a full code review at the eleventh hour. Now, the app looks great! It was definitely worth all those long nights in front of my laptop.”

Her response gave me a great idea of who she was as an employee: a hardworking, problem-solver who could hold her own within the team. When I had reviewed her resume & cover letter, I had really seen those traits shine through.

If there is one lesson you can take away from this, it should be to always use examples in your answers. Treat each question as an opportunity to tell a great story about your professional career. As with any kind of story, there are rules though.

• Talk about how you overcame a new challenge or a major conflict. A story isn’t worth telling if there are no obstacles to overcome.
• Show your soft skills in action. It really reinforces the idea for hiring managers.
• Never stray too far from the main topic. Save your meandering stories for someone else’s time.
• Always try to have something prepared. Fumbling for the right words never comes off as flattering.

So, remember if you finally have the ear of a hiring manager, make the most of your time. Provide detailed examples for every question and tell the type of story that a hiring manager wants to hear. That way, they’ll want to help you continue the next chapter of your story.

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