Prep For the Interview: Review These Questions
You have now been invited to your first interview and need to prepare so that you stand out to the employer in a positive way.
Included with your typical interview questions, such as a review of your experience and the reason you are interested in this position, interviewers may also ask ‘behavioral type questions’. These questions serve to help the interviewer(s) better understand how you have acted in specific situations, as past behaviors are often a good predictor of future behavior. These questions allow them to gauge how you react under stress, how you conduct yourself in the workplace, and your experience with collaboration and leading projects. While questions will center around your actual work experience and achievements, they may also inquire about times when you failed and how you handled failure or making mistakes as well as demonstrated innovative thinking.
Preparing for the interview is critical. Steps to take include:
- 1. Studying the job posting and how your experience directly relates to the vacation position’s responsibilities.
- 2. Review past projects you have worked on.
- 3. Make a list of professional achievements.
- 4. Use the STAR Method (below) to help structure your responses.
- 5. Practice interviewing and make sure to keep responses under two minutes for each question.
One way to prepare for behavioral questions is to use the STAR method:
S for Situation. Describe the situation where everything happened.
T for Task. Describe the task you had to complete to solve the problem/issue.
A for Action. Explain what actions you took to complete the task.
R for Results. Talk about the results of your actions and try to be as detailed as possible. How did your actions lead to the organization to function better?
While there is no foolproof list of what types of behavioral questions may be asked, we have developed a short list of questions that will aid you in preparing and feeling more confident that you have strong qualifications and meet the requirements of the job.
As you prepare for your interview, take the time to consider how you would respond to certain questions. While the actual questions that you are asked may be different from our list, try to identify an example for each of the questions below. This will allow you to go into the interview with confidence and a strong recall of your experiences and expertise.
- What process do you use to examine a problem or issue before making a decision?
- What was the most difficult decision you had to make in the past 3 months, and what made it difficult?
- Describe a situation that called for you to make a decision that challenged fairness or equity.
- Have you ever had to make a decision that was unpopular, and if so, what was it? And how did you handle the aftermath of the decision?
- Describe a problem that you solved for your current or previous employer. Were others involved and if so, what were their roles and what was the outcome of the decision?
- Have you ever made a decision that in the end was the wrong one, and if so, how did you handle the outcome?
- What is your leadership style?
- Describe a time when you demonstrated leadership skills at your employer.
- How do you manage conflict?
- Describe the toughest decision that you have had to make as a leader. How did you manage the decision-making process to get to the end result?
- How do you motivate employees that are underperforming?
- What approach do you use for delegating?
- What do you do to promote a positive work culture?
- Describe a situation or decision that in retrospect you would have handled differently.
- Describe a decision where you pulled others in to aid in the process.
- How do you reward or recognize employees for their work?
- When choosing to reward or recognize employees what are you looking for to make this decision?
- What efforts have you made to create diversity in your organization?
- What efforts have you made to ensure you have an inclusive environment?
- What steps do you take to empower employees?
- Describe a situation where you had to make an unpopular decision. Or a decision that benefited a few employees but not everyone in the department.
- Describe a situation where you had to take corrective action with an employee. What was the situation? How did you approach the conversation? What steps and timelines did you put in place for the employee to correct the issue? Was this process successful?
- Have you ever had to discharge/fire an employee, and if so, how did you handle the conversation?
- Describe your experience with an employee that did not have the adequate skills to perform their work, what did you do?
- How have you handled morale issues in your department? Describe a situation that was occurring and what steps did you take to turn morale around.
- How do you engage employees to create SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) goals, and what process do you take to evaluate their performance?
- Share a situation or problem that you handled where you failed. What happened and what did you do to change or fix it?
- What has been your biggest mistake in hiring or promoting someone? What was the scenario that made it a mistake? How did you deal with the situation?
Development – Employee and Yourself
- What are your thoughts on mentoring? Have you ever mentored an employee? If so, please share the process you have used and what were the outcomes.
- Do you seek out mentors for yourself? If so, how did you find and approach them to serve as mentors? What were the benefits?
- How have you handled an employee that did not want to continue to learn in their field?
- What do you do to keep yourself abreast of changes in your field, new trends, and innovative ideas?
- What have you done in the past year to further your personal/professional development? How did you apply what you learned in your position?
- Describe an important goal that you set in the past and share how you went about achieving that goal.
- What would you say your three greatest accomplishments have been in your career?
- What style of supervisor do you work best for? What style is more challenging to work for?
- How do you define success?
- Describe the types of teams that you have been a member of. What were you tasked to solve or create? What was your role? Was the team successful?
- Describe an experience working on a team that was disappointing or where the team failed in the task given to them. In reflection, what could you have done to have changed the outcome?
- What has been your experience in both gaining the acceptance of ideas and having your ideas rejected?
- Describe something that you have done that was innovative or creative.
- Describe projects or tasks that you developed without being asked or directed.
- Describe a suggestion you made to improve the way job processes/operations worked. What was the result?
- How do you deal with employees or colleagues that are resistant to change?
- Describe a time when you went above and beyond to get the task completed.
- Describe a situation when you took a risk to accomplish a task or goal. What was the outcome?
- Share an example of when you had to present complex information to your supervisor or a group.
- Share an example of when you had to resolve a difference of opinion with a colleague or supervisor. How did you handle the situation while continuing to show respect to them?
- Have you ever had to “sell” an idea to your supervisor or colleagues? How did you do it? Were you successful? If not, what could you have done differently?
- Share an example of a sensitive situation that you encountered that required you to communicate with intention and empathy.
- Describe a time when you leveraged your written communication skills to make your point of view clear.
- How do you ensure that your colleagues feel they are heard when you are interacting with them in person? And virtually?
- Have you encountered a time when actively listening to a colleague was difficult? What was the result of that interaction? What would you do differently in the event this happened again?
- Share an example of a time when you were able to control and filter your emotions in a constructive way amid a difficult situation.
- Describe a situation where you had to address an angry employee or manager/supervisor/senior leader. What was the problem, what role did you play in defusing the emotions that were involved and what was the eventual outcome?
- Share an example of a difficult or frustrating employee that you have worked with, and how did you manage working with them?
Adapting to Change/Flexibility
- How do you manage stress?
- How do you manage conflict with colleagues? With supervisors? With senior leaders?
- Describe a situation where you faced stresses that tested your coping skills.
- How do you handle when your priorities change quickly? Give an example of when this happened and what the outcome was.
- Have you encountered a situation where you had to conform to a process or policy that you did not agree with? Describe the situation and how you navigated it.
- What is more important, meeting a deadline, or missing a deadline to submit quality or accurate information?
- How do you prioritize your work? And how do you manage competing priorities?
- How do you ensure that you have proper balance in your day? And balance between work and personal life? How do you do the same for your employees?
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About the Author: Sara Ermeti has worked in HR leadership for nearly 30 years in various industries such as higher education, NFP, Religious, Financial, Entertainment, and Transportation. She is also an adjunct professor teaching courses in HR and Business. Sara is a certified coach and resume writer offering individual and business consulting through Esperto HR Office.