“WOW!” Hiring Managers: Answers to the Top 5 Interview Questions
Congratulations! You successfully made it past the HR screening. Now it’s time to meet with the person who will ultimately decide if you’re the right candidate for the job—the hiring manager.
When going into an interview, it’s important to know what questions to expect and how to approach them. Preparation is key, which is why, as a career coach, I provide mock interviews and guidance for those looking to successfully navigate these crucial career moments.
Below are five common questions asked by hiring managers and how to prepare for them.
1. Tell me about your experience at Company X.
In other words, how does your past experience relate to the job the hiring manager is looking to fill? When answering this question, you want to convince the hiring manager that you can hit the ground running and bring value to the team by providing specific examples that resulted in successful outcomes. It’s also helpful to identify how your current and prospective employers differ. This will help you determine which skills to emphasize.
Sample Answer: Despite working for a company that prefers organic growth, I have worked through the nuances that evolve when two organizations with distinct cultural norms are brought together. For example, recent new leadership from Company Y brought new ways of evaluating projects. I set out to understand their ways of doing things by building a rapport with key leaders and sharing with them my institutional knowledge that I built during a successful eight-year career in the firm. An example of when my knowledge was beneficial is…etc.
2. What is your biggest professional accomplishment to date?
This is your opportunity to provide an example that shows you can do the job. Think about the skills detailed in the job description and which of your accomplishments most directly relate. The goal is to convey to the hiring manager not only your past successes but also what you are capable of accomplishing if offered the job.
Sample Answer: My greatest accomplishment was when I grew the IBM business on my agency’s behalf by 25% in one year. Most clients were cutting back on producing events as a way to warm leads for their sales force. With my creative team, I came up with a way to offer the same high-touch experience via webinars. Each webinar was accessible 24 hours a day and led by IBM thought leaders. In the end, I reduced event production costs by 40% and, with those cost savings, IBM invested in more webinars worldwide. I won my agency’s award and was soon promoted.
3. How would people you have worked with describe you?
This question centers on how well you work with others and your ability to manage relationships with your peers, managers and direct reports. Give examples of situations that illustrate how you work with people across various functions. Answer truthfully, as the hiring manager will reach out to your references at a later point to ensure your perception of yourself is in line with theirs.
Sample Answer: My managers would describe me as someone who would rather tirelessly overcome obstacles on my own than continuously seek managerial guidance. I make my managers’ lives easier in this way. For example, when I first started working at firm C, I was asked to figure out ways to cut costs. Instead of relying on my manager, who had other projects to oversee, I decided to better understand the transportation logistics behind the wood chips that my employer needed in each facility. After seeing what worked best and what could be improved, I took this information to my manager, who was grateful for the initiative I took.
4. What is your greatest weakness?
Often dreaded by job candidates, the key to answering this question is to be honest yet strategic. On my site, I go into more detail on new and effective ways to answer this question truthfully without taking yourself out of the running. You also need to address the unspoken follow up, which is what you are doing to overcome your weakness. Ultimately, you want to show the hiring manager that you are self-aware, thoughtful and proactive about your strengths and weaknesses.
Sample Answer: My greatest weakness is my low patience when a team member withholds important information to the detriment of his or her peers or the assignment’s success. I have always tried to maximize knowledge-sharing by bringing team members together prior to launching any assignment to ensure everyone is on the same page. Yet, there have been times when people have withheld information even after these efforts. In those instances, I have learned to speak privately with those team members to understand why information was withheld.
5. Why are you the best person for this position?
In asking this question, the hiring manager is looking for you to succinctly convey what sets you apart from the other candidates. Think of your most impressive and unique strengths that closely relate to the job description and use those to pitch yourself in a way that clearly illustrates the skill set and qualities you bring to the table.
Sample Answer: My analytical horsepower sets me apart from other candidates. For example, I imagine all of your candidates can create robust Excel-based financial models. However, I can also see and articulate the business story behind the numbers to influence decision-making. During a major food-chain deal, I conducted the due diligence necessary to come up with the right multiple that my superiors should consider based not only on raw data but also on what was the best way to position the assets we were selling. My strategy resulted in a more profitable deal. *Side note: The best way to benchmark your skills verses those of other potential candidates is by leveraging my highly acclaimed The Winning Benchmarking Matrix (TM)
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