“I think everyone should experience defeat at least once during their career. You learn a lot from it.” Lou Holtz
Have a look at these typical questions and consider a response for each one. Try to quantify your responses i.e. “As a result of our efforts, we increased sales by X%.
Obviously the answer depends on your circumstances, and it is worth analyzing your reasons in preparation for this question. There will probably be a number of reasons, but concentrate on the ones that present you as looking to move on, better yourself, and develop your career path.
“Formula for success: rise early, work hard, strike oil.” J. Paul Getty
Why are you looking to leave your current position? Click to view suggested responses
The interviewer is trying to build a picture of you and your motivation,
Your answer could be – I feel that I have achieved all that I can in that role. There is not a clearly defined career path, nor much likelihood of promotion. I have learnt all I can here. Now I am looking for a new challenge.
Don’t Say-“I am bored and fed up here and looking for something easier !”
Tell me about your greatest accomplishment at work. Click to view suggested responses
The interviewer wants to hear some evidence that you are good at what you do, and have achieved growth and development. Preferably something that has also benefited the company. Quantify this if you can. This is an opportunity to boast! Your answer could be “I was twice awarded employee of the month “, or “I achieved the top sales figures In October last year “ or” I increased sales by 20% last year, against a company growth of 2%”. Or “I achieved a 10% reduction in complaints “
Don’t Say “I threw the best office party ever. “Unless you are applying for an events managers position !
What skills are you looking to develop in your next job? Why? Click to view suggested responses
Prepare for this by looking at the job specification, and your own career plan.
The interviewer wants to hear that you are interested in developing skills that match the demands of the job. They have probably identified what skills you need to develop to perform well, and want to know if you are aware of that and willing to tackle the situation.
Your answer could be “This will be my first supervisory position, and as I am keen to move into management I will focus on managing my small team well, and developing good management and leadership skills. Do you offer any courses that will assist me? “
Don’t Say – “I have all the skills I need”
What are the three most valuable things you’ve learned while working in your current position? Click to view suggested responses
The interviewer wants to know that you are open to learning and developing your skills, recognize the importance of personal development, and are self-aware. Try to find things that will contribute to the demands of the advertised position.
Your answer could be “This was my first supervisory position, so I learnt most about people management and leadership skills .I came to appreciate that people need to have someone to look to for direction, it is crucial to build a relationship with each of my team and that I need to manage everyone’s time and make sure they know what the targets are. This will help me in this position if I am offered it, as I have a firm foundation to build on “
Don’t Say –“It was an easy job, no challenges, I didn’t learn anything”
What was the biggest mistake you’ve ever made on a job? How did you handle the situation? Click to view suggested responses
This is a bit like the questions about weaknesses. You need to offer something that is not likely to be repeated in this position, and that wasn’t too terrible. The interviewer also wants to see that you have handled the situation well. — That you took responsibility addressed the problem and found a solution that suited everyone.
Your answer could be “When I was waitressing in a summer job, I spilled a drink over a guest. I apologized, and talked to the manager, who agreed we would split the cost of cleaning the customer’s clothes and the restaurant would cancel the food and drinks bill for the guest. In the end the guest was fine about it, and accepted that mistakes happen, and they got a free meal. “
Don’t -mention something catastrophic that cost your company a fortune.
What do you feel makes you successful in your current role? Give an example to support your success. Click to view suggested responses
Choose something that will be pertinent to the advertised role if you can. The interviewer wants to know that you have the skills match they need to offer you the position, and can demonstrate a successful track record.
Your answer could be “My sales success is due to my attention to detail with my clients. I go out of my way to ensure I know what they need from us to meet their business needs, and search for offers for them that match those needs. For example, my key account buyer shared with me that they were targeted with reducing residual stocks. I put forward some lines that we carry season to season, so were able to offer sale or return to them on those lines. They gave me all their business on those lines, and increased their listings on other lines because they trust me to find ways to work with them “
Don’t Say “Just brilliant, I guess”
Tell me about a difficult situation you encountered at work and how you dealt with it Click to view suggested responses
This is probably going to be asked in an interview where you are likely to be presented with difficult situations-for example a public facing role or a problem solving role. The interviewer wants to see that you have a track record of handling difficult situations well. — That you addressed the problem and found a solution that worked for everyone.
Your answer could be “In my role as supervisor at a Call Centre I am often passed calls from other operators who can’t deal with an irate customer . I always make a point of listening carefully to the customers issue, make sure I understand the problem , calm them down , and offer the best solution I can “
Don’t Say– “I’m not very good at difficult situations! “
If I was to ask a co-worker about you, how would they describe you? Click to view suggested responses
You should have prepared for this question with suitable anecdotes to back up your answer as part of your behavioral or competency based interview preparations. This is the same question as asking about your strengths, phrased differently.
Refer to the job specification and mention the competencies and qualities they are looking for. The interviewer wants confirmation you have those qualities.
Your answer could be “They would say I am a team player, good at influencing people, and an excellent sales person “Have anecdotes ready to back up each of these claims.
“I am a team player because I will always help wherever there is a bottleneck of work. Recently, although I had achieved my own sales targets, I spent a week in a colleague’s area, helping them achieve theirs, so we met the team target. “
“I use my influencing skills to work with clients and convince them our products are right for them “
“I am excellent at sales; I have achieved a 20% increase in my area, against a company average of 8%”
Don’t Say- “Fun, party loving, a good friend “
Give me three adjectives you would use to describe yourself and examples of your work style to support them. Click to view suggested responses
You should have prepared for this question with suitable examples to back up your answer as part of your Behavioral or Competency based interview preparations.
Refer to the job specification and mention the competencies and qualities they are looking for. The interviewer wants confirmation you have those qualities.
Your answer could be “I am ambitious, numerate and a leader.” Have examples ready to back up each of these claims.
“I am ambitious because I always strive to be the best at whatever role I undertake. I handled customer services last year and reduced the complaints by 20%”
“I am numerate. Recently the company was looking for a volunteer to work with the finance department to reduce overheads in our department and I was chosen to work on the project which was very successful, reducing overheads by 20%”
Don’t Say “I am very sociable, fun loving and east to get on with “
Give me three adjectives you would use to describe your weaknesses/areas for improvement, and tell me how you intend to work on these. Click to view suggested responses
The interviewer is checking your self awareness and ability to recognize and tackle a problem, and your self development. They also want to see how you handle a potentially awkward question.
There are a couple of ways you can tackle this;-
Mention skills that aren’t critical for the job.
Talk about skills you have improved on.
Turn a negative into a positive
Skills that aren’t critical for the job.Choose weaknesses that will not impact on the job requirements for this position. For example, if you will not be called on to make presentations, you can say this is a weak area.Check those out by consulting the job description. Include something you have already worked on and brought about an improvement if you can.
Skills You Have Improved. Mention skills that you have improved upon during your previous job, so you are showing the interviewer that you can make improvements, when necessary. Do not mention anything that you improved upon that is critical for the job for which you are interviewing.
Turn a Negative into a Positive For example, a sense of urgency to get projects completed i.e. you are a candidate who will make sure that the project is done on time.
Your answer could be “When I’m working on a project, I don’t want just to meet deadlines. I prefer to complete the project well ahead of schedule”
“I wasn’t very organized, but I implemented a time management system that really helped my organization skills.”
Don’t Say “I’ve tried to change but I just can’t “
Tell me about a time where you were required to work with a difficult person –A client, colleague or manager, for example. How did you handle the situation? What was the outcome? Click to view suggested responses
This may be a hypothetical question, but it COULD also signal that the prospective line manager is not the easiest person in the world to get on with. There is probably something in your prepared questions that can be adapted to meet this one.
The interviewer wants to confirm that you are able to handle a difficult people and situations.
Your answer could be “I did once work with a difficult manager, so I made sure my performance was effective, and, tried to understand his motivation and reasons for his actions. If he expressed dissatisfaction, I would ask for an explanation. Eventually I made myself indispensable and things began to improve as he become more reasonable. Eventually we were able to work well together.
Don’t Say “I have no patience with people like that “
If you were given a project to complete in an unrealistic time frame, how would you manage the situation? Click to view suggested responses
The interviewer wants to see how you will deal with pressure. They may be describing a situation you can expect to encounter in the role advertised. You need to demonstrate that you will be cool, calm and collected and will manage the situation rather than let it develop into a crisis.
Your answer could be “First of all I would ascertain how important it is that this timescale is met-does it warrant putting everything else on hold and calling in reinforcements, disrupting the work of the department? Then, depending on the response, I would sit down and estimate the shortest timeframe required, and give my realistic assessment of the earliest we could meet the deadline, making clear the level of disruption that would be caused to achieve it.
Don’t Say “Not going to happen is it?”
If someone came to you with an enthusiastic, but unrealistic request, how would you handle the situation? Click to view suggested responses
The interviewer wants to see how you will deal with this potentially awkward situation. This request could come from the company owner, or your manager. Do you have the necessary diplomatic skills? You need to demonstrate that you do, and can manage the situation.
Your answer could be “I would try to deflect them by pointing out the obvious flaws in the plan in a low key way. If that was unsuccessful, and they were a senior person, I would ask them to let me have a little time to consider their request, and write them a paper outlining the pros and cons”
Don’t Say “I would tell them that’s a ridiculous idea “
Tell me about the best manager you ever had? And about the worst? Click to view suggested responses
The interviewer wants to see if you are alive to what is good and bad in a manager. Can you handle both?
Your answer could be” The best manager I ever had was consistent, even tempered, and considerate. He always made sure everyone was clear on our targets and deadlines, what had to be done to achieve them, and what our part was in that. The worst was unreliable, inconsistent and disorganized. No-one ever knew what they were supposed to be doing “,
Don’t Say “All managers are bad “
What do you think makes a company good to work for? What do you like about your current company? What could be better? Click to view suggested responses
Prepare for this question by trawling through the company website and being aware of their mission statement, policies and practices. Do they support charities? Are they not –for- profit, so they have social responsible policies? What is their stance towards staff retention? Do they have family friendly policies?
The interviewer is trying to establish if you are a good fit with the company ethos.
Your answer could be “I like to work for companies that support their communities and have a high standard of corporate social responsibility and good employee retention policies. At my current company we are very involved in fundraising for local charities and I volunteer for some of their projects and am on a planning committee. I would like to be involved in something similar here if I joined the company. I would also like to see employees helping with adult literacy, a particular interest of mine “
Don’t Say “I’m not really interested outside work hours “
Do you prefer working alone or in teams? Give examples of how you have worked successfully both alone and in a team? What makes you successful? Click to view suggested responses
The interviewer is looking for an insight into how you operate. Your prepared anecdotes will stand you in good stead here. You need to demonstrate you have all the competencies for both teamwork and working on your own initiative. And that you have been successful in the past.
Your answer could be “I like to work in a team, but I am also happy working on projects on my own. I have worked as part of a buying team , all working together towards a unified range, but within that I have managed my own categories which fit into the total ranging in terms of colour co-ordination, price structure and size offer. I have been successful because I work closely with the other buyers to ensure our ranges complement each other.”
Don’t Say “I don’t like working with other people, I like to do my own thing”
What are your own business values – what do you feel must be present in a successful business? Click to view suggested responses
The interviewer wants to establish if your values fit with company values and you would be comfortably absorbed into the company culture. Again look at the company website for their business values.
Your answer could be “I believe there must be integrity in everything the company does, it must deal with suppliers and customers and employees in a fair honest and even handed way “
Don’t Say “I don’t really have any business values “
“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” Colin Powell
It’s important to remember that there is no right or wrong answer. The interviewer is trying to understand how you will behave in a given situation. Your responses will determine if there is a fit between your skills and the position the company is seeking to fill.
So, listen carefully, be clear and detailed when you respond and be honest. If your answers aren’t what the interviewer is looking for, this position may not be the best job for you anyway.