The current job market is ripe with opportunity. In fact, this year’s college grads entered the strongest market conditions we’ve seen in nearly a decade. Whether you’re looking for the safety net of a major corporation or the unpredictability of a tech startup, finding open positions shouldn’t be an issue. But there’s still that whole interview thing. You’ve got to knock the socks off the hiring manager before you can secure your future.
Even if you were the most personable guy or girl on campus, you aren’t immune to interview pitfalls. Millennials tend to make some big mistakes when they’re one-on-one with HR. Among them, applicants tend to ask too many questions, do too little research on the company they’re interviewing with, and they can’t adequately explain their skills and achievements. If you want the job, you need to be ready for whatever comes your way. The following scenarios/questions are some of the most common you’ll encounter.
- Describe a time when you had to complete a project in which you were provided very little information.
The focus here is on your problem-solving skills. The interviewer wants to know you’ll survive if every detail of a project isn’t ironed for you. To answer this question, think of situations in which you used your creativity, initiative, or resourcefulness to get the job done. Then, use the STAR format to answer the question. You’ll describe the Situation or Task, detail your Approach, and share the Results. And yes, you can reference the time your professor gave you a one-sentence description for your research paper assignment.
- Describe strategies you’ve used to gather information and better understand customer needs.
Regardless of the industry you’re entering, there’s bound to be a customer service component of your job. This question is designed to determine if you’ll be the company’s next service rock star. Think about relationships you’ve had with customers in any job you’ve held, even if it was the local Starbucks. Talk about the steps you took to recognize and meet your customer’s expectations, and also how you handled situations in which a customer’s needs weren’t met.
- Tell me about an unpopular decision you've had to make.
Conflict is part of every professional environment, and the interviewer wants to ensure you’ll handle it without tackling a co-worker in the middle of a meeting. Try to avoid retelling any conflicts that paint you in a bad light, and be sure to use the STAR method.
- Describe a time when you made a critical error in your work.
Like conflict, failure is an inevitable part of your work. However, you need to prove that you’ll bounce back stronger than ever after it happens. Avoid saying anything along the lines of “I’m perfect” or “There’s so much to choose from”. Find some middle ground with a solid STAR example and prove that you’ll do what it takes to right your wrongs.
- Describe your most recent experience working with a virtual team. What were the challenges you faced and how did you work through them?
Teamwork is essential to any employee’s success, and increasingly, your team members may not always be in the next cubicle. Here, you want to show how you play well with others and how you can keep the ball rolling over long distances. Try to bring up situations where a team member didn’t pull their weight, and you had to have that uncomfortable conversation.
- How would you respond to managing tasks that don't necessarily fall within your remit?
This is all about your flexibility. If you get pushed out of your comfort zone, will you dive into the new task, or will you start outlining what’s actually included in your job description? Think about times where you’ve had to take on new projects, clients, or partners with a moment’s notice. Talk about how you navigated those situations and still completed the work.
Though you’re already dreaming about kicking your feet up in the corner office, there’s plenty of work to be done before you even answer the first question. Prep your answers to these questions ahead of time, and you’ve got a shot at the next step in your professional career. Good luck!