Getting interviewed for your first job is certainly one of the most uncomfortable events in ones life. One must prepare for it with the same tenacity and quickness of mind as one does for a fencing tournament or chess match. Even a solid academic background, spiced with an impeccable extra-curricular record, can fail to impress if you cant wield the bat properly to face the verbal googlies and bouncers. Some of these seemingly simple posers can actually leave you stumped unless you are familiar with them ahead of time. Check out these tough questions and the suggested answers if you want to avoid an interview disaster.
1. Tell me about yourself.
■ This is a really tricky question. All of us love to talk about ourselves and it is difficult to decide where to stop. What is too much and what is too little? Since this is often the opening question, be extra careful that you dont run off at the mouth. Remember, this is likely to be a warm-up question. Says Anurag Bhartia, senior vice-president, human resources, Max New York Life Insurance, Keep it as brief as possible, not exceeding 50-55 seconds. Share those details of your personal and professional life that are not mentioned in the résumé. Rahul Reddy, director of the Triumphant Institute of Management Education (TIME), Calcutta, a training institute, says, It is an opportunity to talk of ones strengths and achievements. One should mention both functional knowledge (accounting, sales) as well as general skills such as determination, teamwork, integrity and time management.
Suggested answer: I love adventure sports, so I like taking up challenges. Give examples.
2. What do you know about our organisation?
■ A common question, this can prove to be problematic as in the zeal to show how thorough his research is, a candidate can end up boring or overwhelming the interviewer with too many details. Let your answer show that you have taken the time to do some research and make it clear that you wish to learn more. Says Reddy, Researching the organisation one is being interviewed for is critical and yet very few candidates bother to do so. It is like discussing a marriage proposal with no clue about the groom and his family. Sources of information may include the Internet, friends working for the organisation and even the people at the reception.
Suggested answer: I have read everything that is in the public domain. I know that this organisation believes in equal opportunity (any other specific information that is the USP of the firm) and is the leader in its segment. That is why Im here to learn more.
3. What can you do for us that someone else cant?
■ Here you have every right, and perhaps obligation, to toot your own horn. Talk about your record of getting things done, and mention specifics from your résumé or list of career accomplishments. Bhartia advises, Read the question as why should we hire you. Link your past experience and accomplishments to what you bring to the table and in turn to this organisation. The problem is we are not as unique as we think we are. Hence please give examples of strengths and be prepared to discuss these examples in depth, says Amal Banerjee, chief operating officer of Calcutta-based information and network security firm iViZ Security. Banerjee has been volleying questions across the table to nervous candidates for more than three decades.
Suggested answer: Im good at coming up with innovative answers to difficult-to-solve problems. For example, when I was part of the college fest organising committee, we couldnt afford to put up a shamiana and build a huge stage. So we decided to hold the fest at night and do away with the shamiana. That became the USP of the fest.
4. Why do you want to work for us?
■ Here, and throughout the interview, a good answer comes from having done your homework so that you can speak in terms of the companys needs. You might say that your research has shown that the company is doing things you would like to be involved with, and that its doing them in ways that greatly interest you. Reddy cautions, An irony of life is that the more desperately you want a job, the more difficult it is to get one. So, do not appear desperate in any manner. One way is to focus on the points that an organisation is most proud of, the key achievements as mentioned in the advertisements and website.
Suggested answer: Because Id love to be part of a company that has invested a substantial amount in research and development of eco-friendly industrial processes.
5. How long would you stay with us?
■ Just as one does not go into a marriage thinking of a future divorce, similarly it is not possible to say how long you would be staying at an organisation. Explain how you are exploring the organisation for a long-term career and not just for a job option. Also, state the factors which will aid you in completing a long tenure in the organisation, says Bhartia.
A résumé showing a lot of job hopping can reflect poorly on a candidates consistency. Make sure that you have strong reasons to back up why you quit your prior job / jobs. Honesty is what matters. A candidate who is candid about why he quit his earlier workplace and talks about his future plans wins brownie points for his honesty, says Banerjee.
Suggested answer: Im looking for a career in this organisation, not just a job. If I continue growing and am justly rewarded for my contribution, there is no reason I would not have a long association with this company.
6. What do you look for in a job?
■ According to Bhartia, Factors can range from the scope of role, significance of function within the organisation to opportunities to learn and grow. It is better to keep your answer oriented to opportunities at the organisation. Talk about your desire to perform and be recognised for your contributions. Do not harp on personal security.
Suggested answer: It should be challenging, give me the opportunity to contribute significantly and bring recognition for my work.
7. What do you feel this position should pay?
■ Salary is a delicate topic. If you are asked the question during an initial screening interview, you might say that you feel you need to know more about the positions responsibilities before you could give a meaningful answer. Dont sell yourself short, but continue to stress the fact that the job itself is the most important thing in your mind. Link questions of salary to the work itself.
Suggested answer: It should justify the contribution of the role and be in line with industry standards.
8. How will you win over a colleague not well disposed towards you?
■ Diplomacy is the name of the game here. Watch politicians, beauty pageant winners and you will come up with all the right things to say.
Banerjee, the veteran of many years, advises, Say that you would have a talk with the other person. There might be reasons why he does not like you. Show that you are willing to go to that colleague and keep the channels of communication open.
Suggested answer: I would be willing to go to that colleague and talk it out. He or she may have misunderstood something I said, leading to his or her dislike. Airing the problem is the first step to solving it.
9. How successful do you think youve been so far?
■ Present a positive and confident picture of yourself, but dont overstate your case. The most convincing confidence is usually quiet confidence. Reddy advises candidates to be specific, give examples and data wherever possible. Highlight your achievements in the best possible way but do not lie.
Suggested answer: I have always delivered on time and, oftener than not, more than expected. In my last position….. Give a concrete example.
10. Your résumé suggests that you may be over-qualified or too experienced for this position. Whats your opinion?
■ This can be a dangerous question. Trying to justify your selection, you might end up blowing your trumpet or underselling yourself. Says Bhartia, This rare question may be asked to create stress and gauge its resistance. Calmly justify how you fit the role offered.
However, if you feel genuinely over-qualified then reconsider the decision. Otherwise talk about learning and exposure and say that you are looking at performance-based growth from that position, is what Reddy has to say.
Suggested answer: I think Im qualified for this position. And I expect to grow in this company, then Ill need the experience. Also, I might have the degree but this job will give me the exposure that matters.
From the moment you learn you are invited to an interview, preparation should be your priority. After all, that upcoming interview could change the entire course of your life.