Advice / Leadership / Op-Ed / Career & Work

Job Interviews – Just “Getting to Know You”

Looking for tips on Interviews? Need some practice questions? Then this blogpost is for you! (Taken from actual interviews. *List of questions are near the bottom of this post.)

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with 2 hiring managers and an HR manager from two impressive tech companies. Outlined, below, are some of the questions they asked me. The reason I am posting this is because as a student running this race of competition in a rather “unstable” economy (however you think it is…), I know many people are struggling to find work or a co-op placement; an opportunity to gain valuable experience and to start a career/life for themselves. Personally, I think the Co-op Program is a fantastic outlet for students seeking their niche in a particular industry and the experience is invaluable. Essentially, it’s a preview of the “real world” before diving right in! I encourage all students to acquire as much experience as possible – and remember, the learning never stops!

I’m not sure what your situation is, but I hope that my blog will provide you with some insight – learn from my mistakes and take the best case scenarios. Prepare and take a deep breath. Anything is possible!

The Format

Both were phone interviews. Interview A was pretty informal. Interview B was intense! See below for the outline:

  • Interview A: Hiring Manager (Total: 40 mins)
    – Job description
    – Resume (highlights)
    – 2-3 questions (light)
    – Questions for the interviewer (20 min)
    – Hiring process, moving forward
  • Interview B: Hiring Manager & HR Manager (Total: 55 mins)
    – Intro
    – 20-25 non-stop (behavioural) questions (45 min)
    – Questions for the interviewer

My Approach

I created “weblists” to prepare for both interviews. One as a summary of my experiences, one for personal-related questions, and one for behavioural questions. I had my resume in one corner, the job descriptions, questions for the interviewer, and a key-words sticky with reminders.  There were a ton of notes.

For company A, I have been following them for 10 months now. As for company B, I briefly went over their website and products. Regardless, I am a strong promoter of doing one’s due diligence when applying for a company. If you really want to work there, you should know the ins and outs!

For example, for Company A:  I did 2 projects on the company, followed them on the news, read their entire website, looked at their annual report, talked to people in various departments in the co., read blogs about their products, engaged in conversations about the industry/company, etc.

To be honest, for this intense day, I stressed myself out for the first interview. It came right between exams and projects and I was ill. The day before, I spoke with 2 mentors and gained their perspective. At the end of the day, you realize that it’s what YOU can do. All the tips and words of wisdom others provide you with are only supplementary. Within my hour between the 2 interviews, I actually took a 10-min nap,  glanced at my notes one last time, and put everything away to the side. I took out a sheet of paper to jot down notes and keywords to their questions, so I could focus my responses. It definitely helped!

The Questions

There are several blogs and websites with good outlines. I have seen many of them. The  most important thing, I find, is to know yourself. Be confident about what you want to convey with each of your experiences and talk about the experience that comes to mind. With proper preparation, any example you take from will have it’s story. During the interview, you should be focused on yourself and the relationship, not so much the content. (That’s why you live 100% in the moment when you’re living life! You should have prepared for this the night before anyways.)

Interview A

  1. “Let’s start off by having you go over your resume and experiences and some of your goals moving forward.”
  2. Why did you apply to work for X? What is it about the company that you like?
  3. Is there is situation where you challenged yourself and came up with a creative solution?
  4. Do you have any questions for me?

Interview B

  1. Why don’t you go over your resume for us. (*see Ask for Clarification below)
  2. How do you determine which elements to include in a marketing plan?
  3. What do you like about X?
  4. How do you prep for your future?
  5. Which marketing courses have you taken? What is your favourite course so far? How did you do in it?
  6. How would you define product management?
  7. Explain a time where you had to take initiative in a project and discuss how that went.
  8. What is your process for doing research and gathering an extensive amount of information? How do you prioritize?
  9. How are your communication skills?
  10. What are the different types of documents you have handled (and the different styles)? APA? MLA?
  11. Say you were giving a presentation and you had technical difficulties. How would you handle that situation?
  12. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your level of “Adaptability”? Why?
  13. How do you manage multiple deadlines in one week and how do you prioritize your schedule?
  14. Have you ever asked for an extension? Why? How did it make you feel?
  15. You have planned many conferences – What indicates you have had a successful conference?
  16. Have you ever had to work with people outside of your main group to get something done? What did you do? What if your goals did not align – how did you handle that?
  17. Have you ever had to deal with sensitive people? How did you handle that?
  18. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your computers skills – for Microsoft: Excel, Word, Outlook, Powerpoint? Why?
  19. What are 3 attributes of the best manager you have had? What was their management style like?
  20. What has been your biggest challenge in the last 6 months?
  21. 3 words to describe the best team you’ve ever been on.
  22. Where do you see your career next year? In 3 years?
  23. Questions for the interviewer.

*NOTE: I am not joking about interview B.  It was literally one question after another for 45 minutes straight. No pausing, except for the interviewer taking notes. According to a mentor, you can definitely tell what the working environment is like based on the interview.  Side story. I was recently at a tech conference and someone from this company was presenting – I definitely gained some more knowledge on the range of employees who work there and learned a bit more about their products. (Lesson: Get informed!)

A Brief Reflection

  • Creating a S > A > R weblist the night before definitely helped (especially for reviewing)
  • Know your skill sets and have a strong example for each.
  • Do not be confined to a set of examples, but be ready to use them for any type of question.
  • Ask for clarification on the questions (Example: Go over the resume – Is there something in particular you would like me to highlight? Reply: How about highlighting your marketing experiences and describe the one you are most proud of.) See, it works and now you have a better sense of direction!
  • Learn to frame your answers.
  • “Be concise and to the point” – NEXT!
  • Enthusiasm CAN be conveyed through the telephone.
  • Do not judge how your interview went solely based on the interviewer’s reactions or tone of voice
  • Keep in mind, “They are only getting to know you. Just be yourself and share your experiences with them.”
  • Asking questions – if you’re passionate about the company, this is your opportunity to interview them! Ask them everything/anything you want to know. If you feel like you missed out explaining something when answering questions before, use this to ask questions you can give your opinion on. Here are some examples:- What is a typical work day like?
    – What is your favorite aspect about working for X and what is the corporate culture like?
    – (Co-op students) Are there opportunities to continue working at X for a possible second term or maybe to work in a different part of the company later on?
    – Ask about their opinion on their latest product (add in your own opinion)
    – What are 3 charactertistics for success in this position? (Mention that you hope you conveyed those in your interview.)
    – How should I best prepare for this position?
    – Questions related to the position, industry, etc.

Good luck and let me know how your interview goes! I’d love to hear your insights and share your findings. All the best!

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One thought on “Job Interviews – Just “Getting to Know You”

  1. Pingback: Your New Co-op Blogger! | CESA

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