Ask the Kuder Coach

I’ve got a job interview next week and I feel like I should have a few responses ready for the standard interview questions. I’ve been in my field five years and I’ve got a pretty solid resume, but I’m terrible when I’m put on the spot. Help!

Congratulations! Your cover letter and “pretty solid” resume did the trick, which is what they’re designed to do: get you an interview. Now the fun begins!

Often when people say they’re “terrible when put on the spot,” they also tend to get a bit nervous when facing an interview. Be assured that you’ve taken the first and most important step to help calm your nerves: preparation.

Prepare yourself for common interview questions.

Preparing for the interview by anticipating potential questions and then practicing your responses will go a long way in calming the waves of nerves you’re facing at the prospect of your upcoming interview.

Below are four common questions to prepare and practice your answers. You may notice that they’re open-ended questions, so they require more detailed answers than a simple yes or no. Though they do require a bit more of an answer, be cautious to not give too long of an answer; a one- to two-minute response is normally adequate. If they want to know more, they’ll ask. One more thing you should know about interview questions is that, in general, there's been a trend toward what are referred to as situational questions.

These questions are just as the name suggests: situational questions that require more depth than a simple yes/no or closed-ended question. An example of a situational open-ended question is, “Tell me about a time when you were late to your job.” These questions indicate the interviewer is seeking discover how you handle yourself in key situations. 

  • Tell me about yourself. This is a fantastic opportunity for you to, well, tell them about you! Think in terms of what they want to hear, which is normally about how “you” will fit in. As you prepare a response for this question, think about the ways in which your interests fit with the job.

  • How do your skills allow you to seamlessly move into the position? In what ways do your interests, skills, values, qualifications, and related experience align with the position and business culture? Develop a concise response that highlights the interests, skills, values, qualifications, and work experience that you believe they’re looking for based on the research you’ve done on the organization and the position.

  • What questions do you have for me? This is a great opportunity for you to pose a question or two and direct the focus of the conversation to your interviewer for a few minutes. Your carefully prepared questions will show the interviewer you’ve done your homework. They’re not only interested in learning about you; they want to know how interested you are in the organization and position. So your questions should center on the organization and position, not on the vacation time or frequency of raises the company offers. Avoid asking obvious questions that could be answered by checking their website, business reviews, or just by asking around. Here are some tips from Monster.

  • Why should we hire you? This is where you can bring everything together. This is where your research regarding the organization and position being offered will pay off. Remember that the main reason for the interview is for you and the interviewer to assess how well you match the needs of the organization and the specific position. If you believe you’re a fantastic match, explain why. Point out how and why your interests, skills, values, and qualifications align with the job being offered. The closer these are aligned, the better you fit with the organization. The better you fit, the more you’ll enjoy working there, the better you'll perform, and the more likely you'll be to continue your employment. 

As you develop the answer to this question, consider completing the following statements to help you create the answer that will best exemplify why you’re the one:

  • I’m someone who excels at/enjoys __________.
  • I maximize my potential in environments like this one, in which __________.
  • In previous positions, I found I did my best work when I __________.
  • Remember that the key is to demonstrate why you’re a good fit for their organization, not why the organization is a good fit for you. Emphasize what you’ll contribute, rather than what you’ll gain from the position and organization.

Show your enthusiasm.

Show up prepared and excited for a conversation about you and the position you’ve applied for. Organizations are looking for people who not only want to work but also want to work for them. So be excited about the opportunity to interview and show them that you’re the best candidate for the job. 

A few nerve-calming reminders.

  • The other person is just that – another person – and they want you to succeed. That’s why they invited you to interview. So do your best to think about the next 30 to 60 minutes as a conversation, and enjoy the moment. 
  • This is just an interview and in the grand scheme of things, though potentially life altering, it’s not a life or death activity! The interview itself is simply a time for both you and the interviewer to assess how well you match the needs of the organization and the specific job. Basically, are you a good fit for the culture of the organization and the specific job requirements?
  • Practice, practice, practice. Ask someone to roleplay the interview with you. It’s a good idea to have them ask you a few questions that you don’t know are coming. This will help you to become more confident and comfortable with answering questions on the spot.

Additional Resources

There is a great deal of information on interviewing in Kuder Journey®, particularly in the “Plan for Work” section, which has specifics on interview objectives, preparation, common questions, questions to avoid, what to wear, stages, and follow up. 

Also check out these articles on job interviews:

OK, so you’ve done your research, you’re prepared, and you've practiced; you're ready! Now there's only one more thing for you to do: go get 'em!

  1. career coaching
  2. interviewing

About The Author

J. Clayton Kennedy

J. Clayton Kennedy is vice president and instructor of professional development for Kuder.  

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