How to diagnose two interview questions

A job interview is stressful. And probably even more so if you have never attended a civilian job interview because of your military career. Preparing for the interview de-stresses the situation considerably.

Yet, 78% of all candidates, regardless of the level for which they are interviewing actually” wing it!” This is completely avoidable and frequently causes job candidates added STRESS…

I asked my military husband about how different interview are in the service, compared to civilian ones-“not much,” my partner responded.

In this article, we are going to de-mystify two common interview questions. The key is to be prepared and to know as much as possible about position.
Sounds simple enough, right? But remember the statistic I just gave you.

No matter how you roll the dice, you must end up selling yourself to the interviewers, otherwise you will be rejected immediately. A fantastic idea is to articulate what that you are able to bring to the position, essentially value, not just the KSA (knowledge, skills and abilities). Be ready for hypothetical questions. Once again, I asked my partner to recall one of his questions for a previous role for which he was interviewing. The example was” “You have twenty minutes to get to an appointment and you realize you are not going to make it. What do
you do?” Seemingly, this is a benign question.

But wait, the interviewers will examine HOW you arrive at the answer
and what is your formula for responding to the question. Be prepared to
give a detailed answer, but within the appropriate time frame (more on
that later).

Like so much of the interview, seemingly innocent questions can trip
you up. You think you are answering them in a way that puts you in the
best light, but you’d be surprised at how many people completely miss
the boat. If you hope merely that an interview will generate a positive
result, it is not enough. That’s basically forfeiting your ability to
drive up the percentage of a positive outcome.

For instance, in response to the question, “Why do you want to work here?” some people will say things such as:
“I’veworked in this industry for 15 years and been very successful. I feel I can make a difference in your organization. I have a proven track 

record of leadership. I’ve read in the paper that your company is having some problems, and with my experience as a Director of XXXXX, I can
help straighten those out.”

That answer may sound good and appear to suffice, but on a scale of 1 – 10, it ranks about a 4!

The answer demonstrates no detailed research, no forethought, and no consideration about the company’s problems (pain points). . ,

Overall, unimpressive.

According to one recruiter whom I researched, she found that while mid -level management (think of your rank in the military to draw a comparison),
tends to “UNDER answer” the question, upper level management (for example, senior NCO’s or officers) will often “OVER answer” the
One group doesn’t provide enough information because of a limited lack of experience. The other group has been around, worked their way up the ladder in more than one company, and in their attempt to sound thoughtful, intelligent, and wise, they end up saying very little at all, according to the recruiter.

Let’s look closer at a common interview question.

Here’s where you get to show off your research. Tell the interviewer what you’ve learned about the company, and why it’s appealing to you. SPECIFICS are the key here. 

Relate those specific examples from your experience to what you’ve learned about the company, their focus, and their market. Look to your personality and what motivates you and how that relates to any details you learned from the job posting, the civilian recruiter, or the friend who referred you to the position.

For instance, perhaps the ad stated that they were looking to establish a marketing department from the ground up. If you thrive on growth, challenges, and making things happen – there’s your answer – along with examples of how you have grown, established, or done market research in a parallel situation. An example in the military may be public relations or recruitment.

And you might ask, “What if it’s not a high profile company? What if it’s on the small side and local?”
Right. Not every company is the size of General Electric or even a regional public powerhouse that you can look up in Dunn &
Bradstreet. In North America, the “chain that drives the economy” is small and medium sized businesses.

Share what you can do and why you feel you can make a contribution and benefit the company. This question is about how YOU can benefit the company, not how the company can benefit YOU.

Some interviews are lost right at this point. This is not an invitation to go on ad nauseum about everything that has happened to you since you were five years old or since your first job in the military or out of college. Nor is it the time to shrug your shoulders and give an unplanned, one-sentence answer.

Some people, especially those who haven’t prepared and have a tendency to talk when they get nervous, find themselves rambling. That reminds me of a story when I was on an interview panel at a military base. I was the least experienced interviewer at the time, in the company of military personnel. The panel was interviewing for a Mess Manager position and one of the candidates spent TWENTY minutes in answering the above question.

Strive for NO more than TWO minutes. Why? Adults’ attention spans fade after 45 seconds in listening to someone respond to a question.

Put together a 2 minute verbal bio about your career, your qualifications, and why you are interested. Know what you’re going to
say in advance.

Knowing who who are, what you want, what you have to offer and what you’ve accomplished – and having it all on the tip of your tongue – can make or break you for a job offer – not just for your perfect job, but sometimes for even finding ANY job.

Being able to sell yourself, your skills, how you can benefit a potential company and then losing the deal, justifies the time to research and learn the company. It means knowing yourself well enough that you can apply aspects of your capabilities to the INDIVIDUAL company – and that you can do it smoothly without grappling for words or just “winging it.”

And last, but not least, the words of Peter Handal of Dale Carnegie Training, echo the importance of interview preparation, including what strikes most people as silly – role playing. But as he said, “you only have one chance to make a really good impression,” and if you don’t take it seriously enough to study and thoroughly prepare, someone else will, and that’s the person who will get the job!

Do your homework before EVERY interview! There’s no chance to make a second good impression! I am living proof. Years ago, I interviewed for a counsellor position at a local college and BOMBED it. I think because I came across as overconfident.Don’t let that happen to you!

Need one-on-one interview coaching with a certified coach? Contact me at or book a career strategy session on
this site.

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