How to Handle Common Interview Questions
Monster Contributing Writer Ian Christie
Every interview has a unique focus, but some questions are asked so often, it makes sense to do all you can to prepare for them. In order to be successful, you need a strategy — not scripted answers. Your goal should be to emphasize the experiences in your background that best fit what each interviewer is looking for.
In this series, we’ll look at some common questions and what you should consider when formulating your responses. Work through each potential question, creating your own responses, and you will be in great shape for your next interview. It helps to write out potential answers. Even better: Practice aloud with someone.
Where would you like to be in your career five years from now?
Intent: Early in your career, interviewers want to get a sense of your personal goals, ambition, drive and direction. At mid-career, they will be listening for responses relevant to their needs.
Context: You’ll need to decide how much to share. If you want to run your own business five years from now and need a certain kind of experience in a competitive company, don’t reveal that goal. But if you want to become a VP by age 35 and are interviewing in a merit-based environment, go ahead and tell the interviewer.
Response: “My goal is to be a corporate VP by the time I am 35.” Or you might give a more subjective answer: “In five years, I want to have gained solid experience in marketing communications and be developing skills in another marketing function.”
Tell me about your proudest achievement.
Intent: This question, often worded as “significant accomplishment,” ranks among the most predictable and important things you’ll be asked. Interviewers want to hear how you tackled something big. It is vital you give them an organized, articulate story.
Context: This is a behavioral question — meaning you’re being asked to talk about a specific example from your professional history. Pick an example or story about how you handled a major project that is both significant to you and rich in detail.
Response: Set up the story by providing context. Recount the situation and your role in it. Next, discuss what you did, including any analysis or problem solving, any process you set up and obstacles you had to overcome. Finally, reveal the outcome and what made you proud.