Have you ever gone in to an interview dreading those 'tell me about a time when' questions. You know, those questions that make you think on your feet, but leave you face down if you answer incorrectly.
We know that interviewing can be a daunting, painful endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be. The more familiar you are with some of the most common behavioral interview questions, the easier it becomes to formulate great answers and let your true self shine through. To help you ace that next interview, we've compiled a list of some of our favorite 'tell me about a time when' questions.
1. Tell Me About Yourself
Sounds simple, right? Who doesn’t enjoy talking about themselves?
Don't overlook the importance of this interview question. It can be a window of opportunity, if approached strategically. We’d recommend taking a step back and asking yourself ‘what are they really trying to learn by asking this question?’
Give some thought to their intention, and respond with ‘Where would you like me to start?’ Likely, the interviewer will provide some guidance as to what they’d like to know. For example, they may ask you to share your relevant experience or most recent role. This will help eliminate the tendency to ramble, and help you deliver a useful, compelling and insightful answer.
Professional Tip | Provide specific details that are relevant to the position you're interviewing for.
2. What is your biggest strength? What is an area of growth for you?
These are loaded questions and sometimes difficult to answer. Yet they're critical in shaping the opinion the interviewer has of you.
By asking these questions, the interviewer likely wants to learn:
- How self-aware you are. Being aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and areas of growth shows you've taken the time to reflect on your work and how you can improve yourself.
- The time you've invested in career growth and development. Taking the initiative to better one’s self and address one’s career development is a top indicator of a great candidate. Interviewers want to make sure you’re driven and proactive in your personal growth, as these attributes translate to determination and a will succeed on the job.
- Your Cultural Fit | Assessing your cultural fit within an organization is crucial for your long term success (if you were to join their team). Although this doesn’t necessarily affect your day to day responsibilities, it’s important to assess how you fit a Company's core values.
Professional Tip | When addressing your growth areas, make sure to articulate a few ways you're working to improve your skills. Be specific and in-depth as you explain your action plan and next steps.
3. What are your salary expectations?
Oh boy! Regardless of when you want to address salary expectations, they will come up sooner or later, so be prepared. To make sure you’re set up for success, phrase your response in a way that sets expectations. Be honest about your hopes, while providing a range you’d be comfortable with.
Professional Tip | If possible, avoid providing a concrete number. It’s always best to avoid scaring away a Company with a number. Plus, if you're unsure about a roles’ responsibilities or scope, you don’t want to regret suggesting a number that might be too low.
4. Tell me about a challenge you faced recently in your role. How did you tackle it? What was the outcome?
These questions measure your problem-solving skills and how you've manage adversity in the past.
An effective way to address these questions is to outline an example of a situation that went wrong, what you did about it, and what the resolution was.
Since you’re highlighting your ability to handle challenges, spend most of your time discussing the reasoning behind your actions.
Professional Tip | Pick an example that highlights your problem-solving skills, shows how you learned a valuable lesson or exemplified your poise under pressure. You want them to know that you're ready to save the day if and when a challenge presents itself.
Do you have an interview question you'd like help answering? Send it to us and we'll help you with a response firstname.lastname@example.org.
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