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Tackling Tough Interview Questions - With Ease...

February 7, 2010
by Tim Tolan
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OK – I have been out for weeks (seems like months) tied up with a few new projects, new search assignments AND kicking off the new business year with my team. Somehow, in the midst of all of that I managed to catch a terrible flu that seemed to last for weeks. OK- it did. But… I’m back (post Z-Pack).

I wanted to give you some feedback on how you can prepare for tough questions during an interview. Some of us have the ability to think fast on our feet, while others need more time to answer questions out of left field. I thought I would share a few questions you should be prepared to answer:

- Why are you here today? That’s a tough one - and one you need to answer with conviction. To simply say you are there because you understand you are being considered for the role you are interviewing for is not what they are looking for. Nope. Hopefully you have done your homework on the organization and are able to clearly explain exactly why you are interested in the role with specifics. This is NOT the time to express sour grapes about your existing job. Just be clear about why you are interested in them – and be clear. It might be the culture, career advancement or some another reason. Just know the answer.

- What would your administrative assistant say about you? It has been asked many times by candidates we have worked with – so don’t be surprised. What would he/she say about you? Be honest and straightforward when answering this question. They know you very well and see you at your best and well… your worst. And if you make the final slate – they may get a reference call anyway.

- What was your finest moment (your greatest career accomplishment)? No time to stumble when answering this one. You should know the answer to this question- cold. It should be so easy to nail this one. It will come up eventually –so be ready to tell your story. It’s not time to brag, but rather time to convey your value equation. Make sure you talk about the impact the event had on others, your team, an internal customer or the organization as a whole. Be specific.

- Tell me about a decision you made that had a negative outcome. Then tell me if you could do it all over again what would you do differently - and why? Everyone has a blemish somewhere and this is the time to show you are not perfect. More importantly, make sure you take the time to explain the lesson(s) you learned and how your mistake made you a better leader or a better person .Relax it’s OK to discuss your mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes.

- Tell me something about yourself that might surprise me about you? This is where to get the chance to talk about something fun (I hope). If you ride a motorcycle, have climbed Mount Everest, won a dancing contest or write children’s books – this is the time you get to talk about something in your personal life that you are proud of. Details please. This shows that you do have a work/life balance and actually have a life after you leave the parking lot at the end of the work day.

There are countless other open-ended tough questions that both recruiters and employers will ask you to learn more about you and to gauge how you react to their questions. If you don’t know the answers off the tip of your tongue just ask the interviewer to give you a minute to think about it (just a minute). Take a deep breath, pause and relax after each question and be honest. Be yourself. You’ll do just fine.

By preparing in advance for tough questions in advance of your interview you will be much better off. The interview should flow much better and you will likely have a better outcome. Much better!

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Comments

Tim,

We're glad your back! And your came back with a great post.

As an employer interviewer, I always prepare 3, behavioral interviewing questions that relate to the role and it's challenges. Not only am I looking for (and starting with) the positive outcome which they achieved, I'm looking for, succinctly, how they achieved it.

That response should be two sentences or less and be detailed. They should be able to answer with ease and be prepared, since I always draw the question from a bullet in their resume.

I strongly agree with the advice "Be Yourself." A good interviewer will get an accurate assessment that includes of your style. If you are not yourself, your body language will betray you.

Joe:

Thanks and it was great to see you at HIMSS! Great advice on your drilling down to find out how a candidate was able to succeed in their current or previous role.
I always want the candidate to tell me a story - and that's a great place to start!

Tim Tolan

Senior Partner, Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice

@@TimTolan

http://sanfordrose.net/thetolangroup/

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