Three Basic Interview Questions

Have you ever left an interview and wondered what was the point behind some of the questions?  In most interviews, you will be asked a range of questions to get to know if you are the right person for the  job. Some questions will seem standard like “what are your strengths ?” or “tell me about a time when you…[situation you would face in the job].”

Many other questions asked of you will seem as though they have come out of nowhere, and in many interviews you will get questions that you have never been asked before and likely never will again.

In almost any company, your future boss has a boss. This is regardless of whether you are interviewing with a CEO or a newly promoted front line manager because even the CEO reports to the board of directors and/or the owner(s). By deciding whether or not to hire you, they are thinking about what their boss will think.

They are trying to predict how successful you will be, what you bring to the table, and whether you will be able to get along with the people already working there.

Ultimately, you can break down interview questions into three different types of questions.
1. Do you really want this job/want to work here?
2. Can you do this job?
3. Do we want you to work here?
There is a way to make interviews seem less complicated. When faced with interview questions, you want to simply break down the questions being asked into one of these three types of questions (although often questions can cover more than one of these themes).

At the same time, you want to play the golden rule… think of how you would be thinking and feeling in case you were interviewing candidates for the job and had to go back to your boss to explain why you chose the candidates you wanted to move on to the next stage or even a certain candidate to hire.

Let’s expand on the three basic questions and give some examples of each.

1. Do you really want this job and to work here?

Examples include:

  • Why are you applying for this position?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  •  What do you want out of your career?

This is your chance to show the company that you want to work there. Think about it. If you were the interviewer, would you want to go back to your boss and tell them that you are hiring someone who does not seem to care about the job and lacks interest in the company?

There are three basic questions being asked in interviews: do you want the job, can you do the job, and do they want you to do the job.

There are three basic questions being asked in interviews: do you want the job, can you do the job, and do they want you to do the job.

To help answer this type of question, do your homework on the company and know some basic facts about the company such as the things the company would broadcast to the world on their company’s website.

Spend time preparing some notes of what you think you bring to the table.  Doing your homework shows initiative. Showing initiative shows that you are likely the type of person who will also show initiative if hired to do the job.

If you can, try to get some inside information from anyone you know who works at the company.  This will help you be able to talk about how you would be able to specifically contribute towards certain company initiatives. This shows that you want to be there and can do the job.

2. Can you do this job?

Examples include:

  • Tell me about a time that you [situation someone in that job would know how to handle]?
  • What would you do if you had more that had to be done in a day than you had time to do?
  • Walk me through the most complex [job related] situation you have dealt?
  • [Questions pertaining to your previous jobs and responsibilities]

Ultimately, the interviewer wants to know if you can do the job and how much training coaching it will take to get you to do the job, if you are able to do the job. Even if you have vast experience doing the job you are applying for, there is still going to be a ramp up period in which you will need to learn how to do the job and the expectations of the new employer.

If you are interviewing with someone who would be your boss in the new job, they are also trying to determine if you are coachable.  Ultimately, the responsibility of making sure that you are able to be trained and do the job is going to rest on their shoulders.

No one wants to take on a new team member who is going to be difficult to train or might not even be able to pick up the job.

The bottom line is that coachability is often just as (if not more important) than technical experience or knowledge. Not to say that you will get a job that requires a great deal of technical understanding if you have no background in that field, but oftentimes, you will bridge the gap in the interviewers mind between your background and your ability to do the job if you appear that you are coachable.

HELPFUL HINT: One way to appear coachable is to show interest in things that the company is working on or specific responsibilities of people in the position that you are applying, especially if they are unique to that company.  You can prove this with the research you have done as well as the questions you ask in the interview.

3. Do we want you to work here?

Examples include:

  • Tell me about a time you resolved a conflict between two people on your team.
  • What are the characteristics of your ideal boss?
  • Do you prefer grey or black and white situations?
  • Tell me about something I would not find out about you if I were to look you up on social media.

Questions about whether or not we want you to work here are there to make sure that the company not only has the best people but also avoids having the wrong people for the company’s way of doing things, mindset, and values – you know, culture. A wrong cultural fit can be a bad situation for everyone involved including the wrong fit employee, the boss, the colleagues, and the customers of the company. It leaves a lot of work for the boss to have to try to fix the situation, and it can be hard getting rid of that person, if it comes down to that.

This is why careful thought is put into place by the employers to make sure that they find people who are both technically proficient (can do the job) and will be able to do the job there.What is most important is that you will be productive and be able to work in a way that is consistent with the culture and values of the organization. Ultimately, will you get along with the people there?

We often want to think getting ahead in the world is simply about merit or working hard, which in many ways it is.  However, it is also just as important to employers that you will be able to fit in with their culture.  I am not talking about whether or not you will be best friends with all the “cool kids” at the company.

If you have ever managed people, you know that that there tends to be that one person who everyone seems to have trouble getting along with.  Oftentimes, without being a put a finger on why, people may not fully trust this person.

If you have not managed people, you probably can think of a person(s) from your previous jobs who fits that bill. This person might not even be a bad guy or gal. They just might not be a fit for that organization’s culture, and their ability to do their job suffered.  This can be a real headache for the hiring manager, and one that they want to avoid.

As you are answering questions, you want to make sure that you are conveying that you are the ideal candidate to do the job at that company, are coachable and willing to learn, and really want to work there.


Last updated : April 22 2014