Interview Questions – Part V – Conclusion

This month, we complete our series on interview questions. Although we’ve covered many potential questions, note that we’ve only scratched the surface. There literally hundreds of questions that you could be asked. Although it is impossible to anticipate every question, the more that you can plan responses to, the greater prepared you will be.

Here’s an extensive list of other questions and statements to think about, from the sublime to the ridiculous, in no particular order. If you can think of a response to each one, you will be far more prepared than most people.

  • What exactly does a technical writer do? Why do I need one?
  • What are the most critical aspects of your job?
  • What’s your energy level like?
  • Describe a typical day.
  • What’s your job experience?
  • How do you feel about your progress so far in your field?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • How long would you stay with us?
  • What are your qualifications?
  • What would you do here on your first day of work?
  • Do you take risks? Tell me about a risk you took that went badly.
  • How do you organize and plan your projects?
  • Can you work under pressure?
  • What kinds of people do you like to work with? What kinds don’t you like?
  • Define “technical communication”.
  • What interests do you have outside of work?
  • Why are you leaving your current job?
  • Have you ever done product testing?
  • What kinds of decisions are hardest for you?
  • Why were you fired/laid off?
  • How do you get information out of people? What do you do if they don’t cooperate?
  • What are you looking for in your next job?
  • I don’t know if you’d fit in here.
  • How do you cope with change?
  • Define “usability”.
  • What have you learned from your mistakes?
  • What can you do for us that someone else can’t?
  • Describe a difficult problem you’ve had to deal with.
  • If you could change one thing in your past, what would it be?
  • What makes this job different from your last one?
  • What are some of the things you’ve worked on in the past?
  • How do you take direction?
  • I’m not sure if you’re qualified for this job.
  • What other areas could you help out with?
  • What have your other jobs taught you?
  • What do you do when you disagree with others?
  • Are you a leader or a follower?
  • Tell me a story.
  • Do you work well with others?
  • Can you manage other people?
  • What do you think of your current/last boss?
  • Wouldn’t this job would be a big step down for you?
  • What have you done that shows initiative?
  • What personal characteristics are important for this job?
  • Explain your role as a team member.
  • Describe a situation where your work was criticized.
  • What kinds of things do you worry about?
  • What is the most difficult situation you have faced?

Note that some of these questions came from a recent episode of “The Apprentice” reality TV show. The remaining four candidates (all vying for a plum job with real estate mogul Donald Trump) were subject to series of gruelling interviews. It was no surprise to see Amy fired: one the interviewers commented that she was insincere, irritating, bored and acted “like a Stepford wife”!

A Travesty of a Mockery of a Sham!
We’ve been looking at interview questions like these for the last few months, but now, a confession: it has all been a sham! Here are two incredible facts: a 1989 British survey revealed if an interview was done by someone who would be working directly with the candidate (which is usually the case), the success rate dropped to 2% below that of picking the name (of qualified candidates) randomly! And if the interview was done by a “personnel expert”, the rate dropped to 10% below picking the name randomly! It makes you wonder what on earth personnel experts are paid to do.

Why then do companies waste huge sums of money and time conducting interviews, when they would probably be better off just picking names randomly? I believe it is simply because they know of no other way to hire people, and most of them would certainly have no idea that the interviewing process is largely useless.

However, the fact that the process is useless is not your problem – it is the company’s problem. Your challenge is to learn the tricks and techniques that can help you win interviews. The fact that the process itself is flawed is irrelevant. There is simply no other way to play the game if you want to work for a company. Even freelance writers often have to go through the interview process, at least with new clients.

Winning the Interviewing “War”
The Chinese general Sun Tzu wrote in his famous military treatise “The Art of War”: every battle is won before it is ever fought. When you are heading into an interview, you are going into battle. You are up against every other person who is applying for that job. Fortunately, it is a peaceful battle, and you will probably never see (much less have to kill) your opponents. Tzu’s statement simply means “planning is everything”. What is astonishing is that Tzu wrote these words 2,500 years ago, yet they are still incredibly relevant today.

All major endeavors, from warfare to job interviews, involve three major areas: an objective, strategies and tactics. Do not make the mistake of getting these mixed up. The objective is the ultimate, single purpose of something. The strategies describe at a high level the ways you will achieve the objective.
The tactics are the specific actions you must take to achieve the strategies, which in turn lead to the completion of the objective.

Comparing these areas for warfare and job interviewing, we get:

Warfare Job interview
Objective To win the war. To win the job interview.
Strategies Weaken and confuse the enemy.

Overwhelm them with force.

Show the interviewer your strengths.

Position yourself as a problem-solver.

Show how you are unique and a good match for the position.

Tactics Eliminate the enemy’s leaders to create chaos.

Carefully position all your divisions.

Bomb the enemy’s factories, bridges and roads.

Capture the major cities.

Continually rotate your troops to wear the enemy down.

Cut off the enemy’s supply lines.

Destroy the enemy’s communication system.

Practice interview questions.

Prepare a one-minute summary about yourself.

Be able to list several examples of your accomplishments.

Bring a portfolio of your work that graphically illustrates these accomplishments.

Appear confident and interested in the position, but not desperate.

Show how you lowered costs and improved efficiencies.

Tie the job description to your skills, point by point.

Whether it’s war, job interviews, dating, getting in shape, or any other task, planning is critical. The more you plan, the more you strategize and think about how you will behave and respond to these many questions, the greater your chances of success.

Remember – the person who wins the interview isn’t necessarily the best person for the job, but is the person who is best at getting that job.

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