Many job interview questions follow a particular pattern regardless of the job role you are interviewing for or the industry. As a result, it’s really important to plan well ahead of time for both situational and behavioral interview questions.
Unlike other articles you might find on the internet, in this post, we provide questions that you can most certainly expect which appear tricky, how to go about answering these questions as well as a step-by-step approach to answer the question and a sample response which you can tailor to your own interview.
After going through this article, you’ll be better informed for success at your upcoming interview and have the appropriate tools necessary to take your job search to the next level. For the purpose of this article, we made use of a real life case study and sample job role which you can tailor to your needs.
John is applying for a Technical Support Specialist position at ABC company and has minimal experience in this field. However, after creating a great cover letter as well as improving his Linkedin profile and resume, he has been invited to an interview by ABC company’s lead recruiter. John needs to prepare for the possible interview questions.
We will focus on 6 commonly asked interview questions and share sample responses.
1. Tell me about yourself?
This question works as a personal pitch and the interviewer doesn’t need to know your entire life story. So how should you answer this question? Have the following in mind:
a. First, you need to give a brief introduction of your self;
b. Your career path so far;
c. How it has led you to where you are today and;
d. Finally, conclude with why you applied for the role/ excited about the interview and why you should be hired.
Remember that your response should be sweet and short, over talking could generally to lead loopholes in your answers which is what you want to avoid.
“My name is John. I have over 3 years’ experience in customer relationship and services. I started out in general client services at my first job in DEF company and that role was an eye opener for me because I discovered I and a passion for helping resolve customer issues and keeping them happy.
When I saw the job position, I was really interested in the role and that is why I applied because I believe that with my background, passion and ability to learn despite changing priorities similar to how tech keeps changing, I will make a great fit in this company.”
When answering this question, maintain eye contact, this is something that is very big in North American culture. To show genuine interest in the role, ensure you focus on making a convincing argument which doesn’t include irrelevant details that can’t be tied back to the role or why you applied.
Remember that as this is generally one of the first few questions asked during an interview, answering it wrongly can result in the consequence of you not being taken seriously. So do well to keep the interviewer interested in you from the first few minutes. Lastly, do not tell lies and be your true self.
2. Can you please walk me through your resume?
This is generally one of the interview questions where the interviewer can gauge your career progress or your interests. It’s also a way to see how articulated you are. We advise that you begin answering this question from your oldest job position and end with your most recent/ current job position.
This way, you’ll take the interviewer through a journey of how you began and what led you to apply for your recent position. Some interviewers may stop you in between to ask more questions while some will let you finish through and then ask questions after. Whichever approach that is applied, we advice that you keep your answer brief and straight to the point to avoid boring the interviewer.
It’s always better for the recruiter to ask specific questions into what you said, it shows they are interested and not lost. So what should you keep in mind when answering this question?
a. Give a brief summary of each past role/ job function in this order: oldest to most recent.
b. For each previous position, explain the work you did by highlighting your best achievements. Do not simply rehearse the job functions/ tasks.
c. Explain how you enjoyed the role but why you want to move to a different opportunity.
d. Always end on a positive note mentioning what you learned and how that motivated you to learn more, apply your skills and why you are the right fit.
“I had just graduated from university with a Bachelors in business administration when I landed my first role at DEF company as a customer service representative. In that role I had the opportunity to help resolve customer issues by providing possible solutions using our products/ services. I managed over 20 customers and answered over 100 calls per month on a number of issues. The role helped me shape my communication skills and understand certain business needs.
After spending around 2 years in that role, I really wanted to learn more about the financial industry so I started my next role at GHI company where I had the opportunity to work with customers but in the financial space, advising them on their insurance policies, investment opportunities and so many other related issues. I invested in courses which improved my knowledge and won an award for the Best Team Member with the highest CSAT. [You can move on to the next role you worked at until you finally get to your current role].
…This is why I am really excited to discuss this current role as a Technical Support Specialist because ABC company is a financial software company. I’ve already had experience in the financial space and will make a great asset to the team. I am willing to learn and improve my technical skills and already know a number of programming languages as I explained. I am looking forward to adding value from day one.”
3. Tell me about your failures or What is your biggest weakness?
This is one of the many interview questions that helps discover how you are able to turn things around positively even from the worst possible scenario. Many people don’t like this question, but you can make it work out in your favor.
To answer this, do the following:
a. Recall a recent story that happened at work.
b. Identify a problem/ issue that you experienced as a result of that incident.
c. Follow up on the solution you had to come up with and how you went about resolving the issue/ failure/ weakness.
d. Give a summary of lessons learned, career improvement and how it relates to the current role you are interviewing for.
“At my last role, when I initially started, I experienced some really great days with customers and other days there were a number of complex things I was to attend to. For instance, I would have around 15 email requests first thing in the morning to attend to with a timeline to meet. Some customers would request immediate response and the phone will keep ringing. On such days, I will feel overwhelmed.
However, instead of letting this consume me, I knew that I had to get better at the job because I always want to improve my self professionally. I started looking into what works best and started assigning personal priorities to my tasks because it would help me know what to attend to first. If a customer says something is urgent, I would really look into understanding their timelines to know if it was top priority or not.
I developed a method of responding to client with template emails even before I investigate their issue if their wait time was long already to let them know that their request was under review and that I’ll get back to them as soon as possible. I started blocking time off on my calendar to investigate issues like why their insurance premium was held up for instance, or requests where I needed assistance from a person in another department to look into because it was beyond my access.
Time management as well as managing my workload was something that I needed to improve not just for me but for our team too, so I brought up some of these suggestions to my boss at the time so that we could improve our team processes and help others manage their work better. This not only helped me but the team at large and this is a skill I can apply to the Technical Support Specialist role when troubleshooting issues. I keep finding new ways to improve my time management skills.”
4. Why do you want to leave your current job?”
In answering this question, maintain a positive feeling about your current job/ company. Explain how landing this new role will help improve your personal and professional development. Even if you have challenges at your current place of employment, avoid leaving negative feedback of your current employer. This could easily be misconstrued to speak negatively of you.
Rather, focus on the positive side of things and how it affects your career for you to make this next move.
“I enjoy my current role and have had the best experience working with my team. I will certainly miss the team if I move on to another opportunity. We’ve come to learn to work together and have achieved a lot together over the last 2 years since I’ve been at the company.
However, it’s time for me to move on to something different at this phase of my career. My goal is to grow professionally and have always wanted to move into this new field so it’s time for that. I also have researched on ABC company and the values/ goals of the company align with mine like XXX. I have prepared myself academically for this time by learning tools necessary for this role in technical support, I have learned programming languages, and have past experience in relating with customers, really using active listening skills to listen and understand where they are coming from.
This is why I want this role as a Technical Support Specialist at ABC company because all of my self improvement and development has led me to now.”
5. What’s your biggest accomplishment?
Here is a question that seeks to find out basically – what you’ve accomplished! To give a convincing answer, think of a story where you were able to prove your potential in your job or professionally.
It could be a project that led to increased earning for the company or closing a deal with a client despite challenges, etc. Discuss taking a professional course that improved your skills which you were able to apply to your job function and mention how it improved things for the company as a whole.
Tailor your answer to a personal experience, but be careful if you choose this route and ensure that you can tie back the personal achievement to the role you are interviewing for. You could simply ask: ‘could my answer be professional or a personal experience?’
“I believe my biggest accomplishment professionally happened a while back when I won the award for the Best Team Member with the highest CSAT at my current job. It was a big deal for me because I had just restructured my style of managing client work. For instance, I started sending follow up emails in situations where I don’t hear back before closing off a client request just to confirm that they were satisfied with suggested solutions.
To see the results come to fruition was really encouraging and motivated me to put more effort into my work. I was happy to see that my clients were satisfied with my work. This is a skill that I’ll also be applying to the role of Technical Support Specialist and I’m looking forward to working and improving myself in this role.”
6. Do you have any questions for me?
This is a way for the recruiter to know if there are other questions you have, whether you’ve been paying attention to the conversion, and more. It’s also a way for you to interview the employer to know if this is a role that meets your needs.
It’s a two way conversation at an interviewer, it’s not just about landing the job, you are growing your career as well and need to know if this is a job/ team you’ll feel comfortable at. There are a couple of questions you could ask. However keep note of the following:
a. Ask questions that shed more light on the role itself.
b. Avoid asking questions that can be found on the company’s website. Do your due diligence in researching the company on general knowledge. If you are unsure, start out with something like:
“I did some research on XXX and found that the company offers XXX…. I might have missed something but I thought XXX was the case. Do you mind explaining more on this?”
Asking your question this way shows that you put in some effort. You display yourself as a hard worker and a person who put thought into the interview rather than just asking open ended questions that don’t make you appear to be a serious candidate.
Here are some sample questions you can ask the interviewer:
- I know I have discussed my resume as well as my previous experience, but is there any other issue you have with my qualification that you will like for me to discuss further?
- What is a big challenge that you are currently experiencing in the department so that I can begin to prepare towards resolving it?
- What will be the next steps and how soon can I expect to hear back?
- Have a sense of humor – interviews are a two way communication. Be human. Relax and start out the interview with small talk which can help calm your nerves and prepare you to see the interviewer as a friend.
- As much as possible, try to keep your answers short in general. It helps prevent you from being repetitive and you avoid leaving loopholes or not getting to the point.
- When it comes to situational interviews which usually start with ‘Tell me about a time”. Example: Tell me about a time when you had a disagreement with a team member? The idea is to draw out more of your analytical and problem-solving skills as well as how you handle problems. Keep your focus on the problem, the solution you came up with, how you resolved the problem and what you learned from the entire experience.
- Prepare at least 5 stories you may have to use to answer a variety of questions that may be asked at the interview. Getting ready for this well ahead of time and spinning the stories to different scenarios will help you feel super prepared for the interview so that the answers flow from your lips easily.
- Think of 5 stories from your previous work experience that you can apply to any of the above questions.
- Prepare answers for each question based on your own experience and the role you are interviewing for.
- Rehearse your answers over and over again with a friend
Have any follow up questions or need us to cover a specific topic? Feel free to let us know. We are here to assist you in getting your dream job and will be happy to answer any questions. You can leave a comment below or send us a quick message via email. Check out other Prime articles.