Preparation and Questions at a Job Interview

Job interviews are critical elements in getting a job. You have many opportunities to craft your resume, improve your cover letter, enhance your LinkedIn profile, and cultivate your professional network. There are few opportunities to practice job interview skills. I have conducted dozens of job interviews as a hiring manager and found that many candidates are great on paper but fall apart during the interview – and I don’t think I was ever particularly imposing and I certainly hope I was never mean. Here are some ideas on what how to prepare.

Prepare “career success stories” that are short, compelling and highlight your skills and personality. These will show what you are good at, what you care about, and how you have been successful. Knowing these stories are available to you will also give you confidence and lower anxiety. Do your best to be OK with interview anxiety. Accepting nervousness is likely to make you more comfortable during the interview because your fear is reduced. There are many stories about how companies have really surprising questions to test applicants. I remember one: “How many windows are there in Manhattan?” That will throw almost anyone off.

Looking beyond the direct question, what your answer to this question reveals is how you go about solving problems, how you break down a big challenge into smaller pieces that can be solved, and how you put the pieces back together. Although a “windows in Manhattan” type question is unlikely, you will need to answer questions about how you solve problems and work with others. Expect one or more questions that are designed to get you to speak authentically about your weaknesses. We all have weaknesses. If you think that you will fool anyone by saying your greatest weakness is “caring too much” or “being too loyal,” you are wrong. These are standard answers from candidates that haven’t really prepared. That is why they are so common. Being aware of weaknesses is hard – come up with a list. One on my list – something originally pointed out to me by a manager – is that I tend to act before I think which, more often or not, complicates situations. I have learned to slow down. You can expect questions that are like this: “tell me about a work project where things went wrong and what you did to get the project back on track.” Questions like this will cover skills you have but, just as importantly, will reveal how you respond to high stress situations. One of the main goals of an interview for a hiring manager is to understand how you work under stress: deadlines, a co-worker that doesn’t do much, when a major project appears from nowhere. Work is not defined by stress but all work contains stressful situations. The best hires are self aware and willing to share their vulnerability.

Being prepared for interviews can be the key difference between receiving an offer and needing to continue your search. If you need support getting ready for job interviews and presenting the best possible you to prospective employers, please consider our career counseling services. Contact us at We have proven methods to help you make career changes so you can be happy, however you define it.

Bryan Dennis, Career Solutions Group