Ask Dana: How to ace these 3 awkward-yet-basic job interview questions

How to ace these 3 awkward-yet-basic job interview questions
How to ace these 3 awkward-yet-basic job interview questions

How to ace these 3 awkward-yet-basic job interview questions

Question

I’m terrible at interviews! I get hung up on seemingly basic questions. What are the most awkward-yet-basic questions I need to be prepared for? And can you tell me how to answer them?

Answer from Executive Job Coach Dana Manciagli

That’s a hard question because so many people blow it on seemingly simple interview questions. Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll pick three that are common-yet-challenging for most of my clients and readers. To give you more help, I dedicated two full chapters on interviewing in my book, “Cut the Crap, Get a Job! A New Job Process for a New Era.”

1. “Tell me about yourself.”

Nine out of 10 candidates blow this common-but-awkward question. It’s awkward for the candidate because it is SO big and broad. The secret to answering it — make three points then stop talking:

  • First sentence: Summarize your education.
  • Second sentence: Summarize your work history.
  • Third sentence: Summarize why you are here today, interviewing for this position.

Example: I have a Bachelor of Science degree from UCLA in economics from 1995. I have seven years of operations experience in Fortune 500s such as Boeing and five years of finance experience, with a successful track record of execution excellence. I am here today because you are looking for someone with solid performance in ________ and _______ (from their job description).

2. “Why should I hire you over other candidates?”

This is another common-yet-awkward question because it triggers self-doubt and you don’t know the other candidates. The secret to answer it — make three points then stop talking! Pull all three from THEIR job description. This question is not about YOU…it’s about THEM.

  • First sentence: You are looking for someone who can do ___________. I have excelled in that for three years.
  • Second sentence: You need someone who is ______________ and __________ and I can give specific examples where I have proven this is a core competency of mine.
  • Third sentence: You are looking for someone who is passionate about your company, your industry and this particular job. I really want this job, and I know I can deliver superior results for you and work well as a team member.

3. “Give me an example where you have failed.”

This is awkward because they use the word “failed” and you are supposed to tell a story. The secret to answer it: DON’T tell a horrific story that throws yourself under the bus.

A recent client of mine (an ex-CEO) shared a story about how “I took a pilot into a nationwide expansion and missed the numbers, so I underperformed.” The interview was over.

The secret to answering: Give a “middle” example, but one that shows self-awareness AND what you learned:

  • I lead a major cross-team initiative but learned later that two people weren’t fully on board. I should have met with each person individually, and I have done just that ever since.
  • I had to analyze and synthesize tons of data into a report for senior executives. I spent so much time proofing my data and cross checking that I finished it at the last minute. Since then, I have enlisted an extra pair of eyes to review my work, and I complete things earlier.
  • In sales, I called on a major prospective client for six months, continuing to work with the people responsible for making the buying decision. However, I should have also worked the executive suite, including the CFO, with a value proposition that appealed to them. I learned how to do both effectively.

Subscribe!

Sign Up to Receive Free Offers and Insights

Thank you for subscribing!

Subscribe!

Sign Up to Receive Free Offers and Insights

Thank you for subscribing!