If you’re targeting 2019 as your year for professional reinvention, go full throttle on your prep. Refine your professional narrative by formulating responses to those interview questions that always seem to come up.   

Lavie Margolin, career coach, consultant and author of Mastering the Job Interview explains that a well-formulated response “is not ‘cookie cutter’ but utilizes the opportunity to prove yourself as a wonderful fit in answering the question with relevant examples.” To that end, amass responses and professional anecdotes that demonstrate your skills, character and experience.

This holiday season, explore and tweak your narrative as you converse with friends and family. Margolin emphasizes that rehearsing is key: “Building rhythm is important. To enter a stressful situation cold is anxiety-inducing. Once someone gets into the interviewing mindset- considering what he/she would want to convey in the interview and practicing with a mentor (or even a friend or family member) allows one to get comfortable answering questions.”

Get comfy talking goals and ambitions over eggnog; formulate and rehearse your answers to these key questions.  

These questions come up in nearly every job interview.  

The Basics

Question: Tell me about yourself?

Margolin sees this as a key question to nail; unfortunately, though, interviewees often mistake it as purely conversational. Margolin explains: “normally the first question in an interview, this question sets the stage for the rest of the interview. As attention spans are getting shorter if you do not capture the interest of the interviewer immediately, it would be hard to regain his/her attention.”

Question: Why are you interested in this job?

Interviewers are eager to meet candidates who have done the job they seek to fill and will, therefore, be easy to onboard. Having a sound knowledge of the role, coupled with ideas for how to grow it is a formula for success.  

Question: Why are you interested in this company?

Margolin considers this another key question. He explains: “Organizations want to see a passion for their work and mission. One can be qualified for a number of roles but demonstrating a true passion for the work will help one to stand out.”

Related: How to Answer: Tell Me About Yourself

Question: What are your strengths?

This question gives you the chance to demonstrate self-awareness and likability (both soft skills). It takes finesse and humility to discuss your strengths in a way that highlights your value but doesn’t alienate your audience.  

Question: What are your weaknesses?

This tricky question can unearth self-awareness and display mindful growth. It takes a delicate hand to discuss weaknesses sincerely without painting yourself negatively, so don’t wing it. Don’t worry, we’ve got a whole guide on how to nail this question.

Question: Why are you leaving your previous role?

Interviewers want to understand your professional history to learn what that suggests about your future.

Question: What motivates you?

Interviewers want to see how you define your values, and how those align with the company’s. Still stumbling? Read more here!

Behavioral Interview Questions

Behavioral interview questions invite interviewees to share examples from their past to demonstrate how they might handle future scenarios.

Question: Tell me about a time you had a conflict and how you resolved it.

This question gauges your communication skills and your conflict resolution ability.  The trick is to discuss conflict objectively, like it’s something you’re viewing but you’re not emotionally mired in.

Question: Do you prefer to work alone or with others?

This query gives interviewers a window into your perspective on company culture-how you like to contribute. Show your range. For example, relishing personal crunch time is a fine, productive workstyle. It also helps to know how to collaborate and to be a good listener.  

Question: Tell me about a time you took a leadership role. What was the outcome?

Leadership skills are always welcome. Even if there’s no leadership dimension to the job you’re seeking, leadership is a valuable soft skill that interviewers will want to hear about.   

Related: 11 Things To Never Say in a Job Interview

Question: Tell me about the worst manager you’ve had. How did you navigate him/her?

Interviewers are aiming to see what leadership style doesn’t work for you and how you communicate about a negative experience. Discuss what you learned about leadership from the difficult manager, and how it taught you about what you need from leaders.

Situational interview questions

Situational interview questions are like behavioral questions, but they are hypothetical rather than experiential. They help interviewers glimpse candidates’ problem-solving skills.

Question: How would you handle criticism from a superior?

Interviewers want to see that you’re coachable. Demonstrate that you’re flexible and you view yourself as a work-in-process.

Question: What would you do if you and a colleague were assigned a project requiring close collaboration, but you couldn’t see eye-to-eye?

This question teases out your ability to problem-solve around interpersonal issues without getting distracted by them. You also want to show that you can consider a co-worker’s viewpoint.  

Question: If a coworker had an annoying habit, and it hindered your quality of work, how would you resolve it?

Interviewers hope to see that you can be flexible, forgiving and keep the team’s top priority in line with your own.

Related: How Do I Answer Hypothetical Interview Questions?

Question: What would you do if you were almost finished with a project on a tight deadline, when you realize you’d made a mistake back in the beginning that required you to start over?

The interviewers want to see how you handle frustration and how you trouble-shoot in a stressful situation.  

Question: How would you handle it if you were unsatisfied by an aspect of your job?

This teases out your coachability, your ability to self-advocate and your interpersonal skills.  

More key questions

The more key questions you practice, the more confident you’ll feel.

Question: What are your salary requirements?

Salary negotiations can be stressful; preparation remedies this. Research is essential when it comes to negotiating a  compensation package that truly suits you.

Knowledge is power, so do your homework and know your worth.  

Question: What is your dream job?

Interviewers are trying to tease out your ultimate ambition and to learn about how you see yourself progressing towards that goal. They also want to know how this role fits into that picture.  

Question: Tell me about a time you made a mistake.

This offers a great opportunity to share an anecdote about how you made the most of a difficult workplace situation. 

Question: Describe yourself.

This question seems simple but it’s easy to get tripped up because it’s so open-ended. You want to show self-awareness and poise. So, practice!

Related: 7 Bad Interview Answers & How to Improve Them

Question: What are your hobbies?

This ice breaker and gives interviewers a sense of who you are outside of work.

Question: Are you willing to relocate?

Think this through before you’re in the hot seat.

Question: Are you willing to travel?

Again, work this out ahead of time and know how flexible you can be.

Related: 9 Companies That Will Pay You to Travel the World

Question: Are you a leader or a follower?

Show off even fledgling leadership skills. This would be a great opportunity for an anecdote.

Question: What would your boss say if I asked him/her your strengths and weaknesses?  

Review past performance appraisals, so you can refer to past conversations that you have some distance from and, thus, clarity around.

You’ve got this

Shaping your professional narrative helps to get you job-market-ready. Plus, you can see how much you’ve grown since your last search; 2019 here you come!

Originally posted on Glassdoor.

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