Getting Ready For Your Interview

Prepping for your interview is vital for getting a job. Get some great tips to help you today.

Be warned, it is easy to give an answer that sounds canned. Truly over-the-top enthusiasm is likely to be viewed with a degree of suspicion (especially if it’s not backed up with evidence on your résumé), as is a too-perfect alignment between their website copy and your professed passions. This is one answer you don’t want to oversell.

What was the last thing you taught?

The Real Question: Will you be a good coach to your direct reports and teammates?

Top-line Tactic: Show the interviewer that hiring you means getting not only your skills, but enhanced performance out of your colleagues as well.

Everyone likes a two-for-one sale, and that goes for companies too. It’s great to convince your interviewer that, should you be hired, you’ll bring important skills to the organization, but it’s even better if you can put across that you will upgrade your colleagues’ skills as well.

This question is most likely to be asked of candidates for managerial positions, but the ability to teach laterally as well as down is highly valued as well, so you could face this question no matter what role you are applying for. As with all competency questions, good answers are truthful, detailed when it comes to your actions, and focused on positive outcomes. Here’s one example:

My job title is customer service representative, but it’s really half handling customer requests over the phone and half admin work, processing and tracking orders. The company recently hired someone with a strong administrative background, but less experience interacting with customers. She mastered the admin in no time, but I noticed that she was often struggling to handle customers, especially when they were unhappy or agitated. She sometimes got quite upset, which wasn’t helping anyone.

I could sympathize, because it took me a while to learn the customer service side of things as well, so I offered to let her sit in on a few of my calls so she could see how I handled tricky situations. She took note of what I did and then tried it out while I monitored her, giving her some pointers and a few more suggestions. She seemed really grateful for the opportunity and improved straight away. Now she’s one of our most successful reps, so I’m very happy I took the time to show her the ropes.

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Interview Preparation Tips For You

Making sure you ace your interview is key. Get some great tips here.

Why are you a good fit for the company?

The Real Question: Do you just want a job, any job, or are you specifically interested in us?

Top-line Tactic: Arm yourself with knowledge about the company, so you can offer evidence to prove you’ll fit right in.

(A brief note: The emphasis here could be on you or the company, meaning the main thrust of the question could be either selling yourself or explaining your motivation to join this firm in particular. There’s some overlap, of course, but you’ll have to play it by ear. If you think the question is mostly about your unique selling points see Why should I choose you over other candidates? For what to say when the focus is on your motivation to join this specific organization, read on below.)

Everyone wants to be wanted. What goes for your next date for a Friday night goes for the company that you’re interviewing with as well. If you picked someone for a night of potential romance, only to tell the person you randomly selected him or her because you thought they might answer your e-mail, he or she is not going to be very impressed. Neither will the interviewer if you can’t provide a seductive answer to this question. The best answers offer a solid motivation for your interest in this specific job.

Being a long-time fan of the company and/or its product or having a long-standing passion for the sector is obviously an ideal foundation. It gets a little harder if you’re changing career trajectory, unfamiliar with the firm or new to the job market, but fear not: you can hack your way to a plausible answer to this question with a little preparation.

Take some time before the interview to look at the company’s social media presence, for example. This should give you insight into the organization’s personality, as can poking around their website. Pay particular attention to their mission statement or values. Try to get a sense of their culture and what this company believes makes them stand out.

Once you have all this information, you have a blueprint. You can look at your own skills, accomplishments and personality and tie them in with what the organization is known for. This shows you’ve done your homework and offers another opportunity to highlight why you’re the right person to solve the interviewer’s problems:

My background is in a similar field, as you can see from my résumé, and I’ve been keeping my skills sharp and learning about the latest technology. I’ve always taken all the professional development opportunities I’ve been offered, and I’m happy to learn more. I know you’re an organization that really values staying on the cutting edge of technology. I was really impressed with some of the technical details I read about the XYZ project, for instance. There’s a good fit between my interest in evolving my skills and the fact that your firm is known for continual technical improvements.

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Interview Prep Help

Getting help with interview prep can be tough. Here are some tips to help.

If offered the job, what would be your first priority or thing you would change?

The Real Question: Can you strike a good balance between consultation and initiative? Are you going to charge in and step on toes?

Top-line Tactic: Decide how much initiative/change the company is looking for and pitch your answer accordingly.

The most important word in this question is “or.” Talking about priorities or changes you would make are two very different things. The former can be applied to any position and is more about how you’ll approach getting acclimatized. The latter focuses on shaking up the status quo and is often most appropriate for management-level positions or situations where the organization is actively looking for change. Your first task here is to figure out which side of the “or” is more appropriate for this particular position.


For roles that are less about leading change and more about individual performance, your answer should emphasize how you plan to get yourself up to speed in your new job. No matter how much you probe, you’ll never know exactly what you’re walking into, so answers that focus on acclimatization are a safe bet. You could include:

  • Getting to know your co-workers.
  • Learning about the customers.
  • Investigating the company’s products or services.

If you’re quite familiar with the role, as well as the company and its products, there are several general priorities you can cite. As always, it’s best to back up your ability to tackle these challenges with evidence from your past experience. This might sound something like:

  • Add value: In my first month, I’d love to focus on kick-starting that key project we discussed earlier. In my last job I tackled something similar, so I think I could really add value immediately by taking the following steps . . .
  • Make a colleague’s job easier: In my last job I was able to really improve candidate tracking for the HR executives I was supporting by implementing a new workflow. I’m hoping to be able to put that experience to use here straight away to save my new colleagues a lot of worry and time wasted on administrative work.
  • Make more money: In my last job I was able to save our department 15 percent annually on contractor costs by reviewing our existing contracts and streamlining things so we were dealing with only four contractors rather than seven. So one of my first priorities would be to take a look at the contractors your company is using to see if I could make similar savings.


If you’re specifically asked to do a turnaround job, are being brought in to innovate, or otherwise get the sense that the role is about making changes, go ahead and highlight some areas that strike you as in need of work, but be cautious, this is a loaded question.

No one likes a know-it-all who barges in and disregards the experience and opinions of their new co-workers, so make sure that when you suggest areas for improvement, you don’t come across as high-handed. Stress consultation and the need for information gathering. Words like evolve, examine, contribute and develop can be more effective than change, overhaul, transform or fix. You’re trying to get across that you’ll bring ideas to the table, not that you’re a bully.

On the other hand, initiative is a key skill for managers, so don’t completely dodge the question—your answer should contain a few substantive issues you’re keen to dig into straight away.

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Interview Preparation

Do you need help with preparing for an interview? If so this is for you.

Tell me about a time you’ve disagreed with a senior member of staff

The Real Question: When it comes to office politics are you going to be a pot stirrer or can you work through disagreements in a mature, productive way? We don’t want playground drama around here.

Top-line Tactic: Show you can debate like an adult for the betterment of the business, by responding openly and honestly.

No one ever says in an interview: “I’m a handful! If there’s an office feud, juicy piece of gossip or long-held grudge going on, I’m probably a part of it.”

Interviewers know that and so have found subtler ways than direct questions to figure out how you handle conflict and whether you can maintain a healthy separation between the personal and the professional. This question is one of those ways.

The success of your answer depends as much on tone as content. You’re looking to convey the warmth, understanding, rationality and professionalism with which you deal with your disagreements in the way you answer the question. Stay well away from political struggles, hurt feelings or battles over territory or influence. Instead, offer an example of professional people sitting down together to arrive at an answer to a contentious business question. Stress your ability to fight your corner in a constructive way that utilizes evidence and emotional intelligence.

I had a disagreement over sales strategy in my last job. I used to generate leads on the phone, but management wanted us to change tactics and go out to sell on foot. For me that wasn’t the best use of my time. I thought we should establish a connection first through phone calls, then develop a tailored marketing solution for our best prospects. Also, it was quite a big firm, and I thought going door to door wouldn’t present the right image.

I said I thought there was a better way of doing things and asked whether they really wanted us to be seen as a door-to-door sales company as opposed to a professional outfit that would quantify an opportunity before going out to act on it. Management let me trial my approach and it worked, so they implemented it across the regional sales force. I’d only been there for two and a half months at the time, so I thought twice before saying anything, but I was sure that applying a methodical structure to the problem would increase productivity and in the end I was proved right.

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