Different Types of Interviews
"Tell me about a team experience in which one member did not meet expectations." This question demonstrates the type of question common in behavioral interviews. Based on the premise that the best way to predict future behavior is to evaluate past behavior, this form of questioning allows the recruiter to assess your abilities based on what you have already done.
Typical Behavioral Interview Questions
- Tell me about an obstacle you have overcome.
- Tell me about the most unethical situation you've observed or experienced.
- Tell me about your last experience with success.
- Tell me about a goal you have met.
- Tell me about a time you criticized the work of another.
- Tell me about a time you motivated a dysfunctional team to excel.
- Tell me about the biggest risk you have taken.
- We all break rules. Tell me about a time when you broke a rule.
- Tell me about a team project in which you assumed a leadership role.
- Tell me about a time you failed.
- Tell me about a former supervisor with whom you did not agree.
S.T.A.R. Response Style for Behavioral Questions
In responding to behavioral questions, first set up the Situation or Task which probably stems from an item you have listed on your resume (i.e. team project, work experience, community volunteer project, class project or other experience), then describe the specific action you developed or took because of the situation or task, and close with the a description of the results—good or bad—including what you learned from the experience.
Prepare to provide detail regarding what-where-why of past performances:
- Expect probing question: "peeling the layers from an onion."
- Expect to provide details, not theories or generalizations about several events.
- Expect a structured interview concentrating on areas that are important to the interviewer, rather than allowing you to concentrate on areas that you may feel are important.
- Expect that recruiters will take notes throughout the interview.
The behavioral interviewer has been trained to objectively collect and evaluate information, and works from a profile of desired behaviors that are needed for success on the job. Because the behaviors a candidate has demonstrated in previous similar positions are likely to be repeated, you will be asked to share situations in which you may or may not have exhibited these behaviors. Your answers will be tested for accuracy and consistency. If you are an entry-level candidate with no previous, related experience, the interviewer will look for behaviors in situations similar to those of the target position.
- Recall recent situations that show favorable behaviors or actions, especially involving course work, work experience, leadership, teamwork, initiative, planning, and customer service.
- Prepare short descriptions of each situation; be ready to give details if asked.
- Be sure each story has a beginning, middle, and an end. Be ready to describe the situation, your action, and the outcome or result.
- Be sure the outcome or result reflects positively on you. If the result itself was not favorable, talk about what you learned or would do differently next time.
- Be honest. Don't embellish or omit any part of the story. The interviewer will find out if your story is built on a weak foundation.
"Simply put, a case interview is the analysis of a business plan or situation. Unlike most other interview questions, it is an interactive process. Your interviewer will present you with a business problem and ask you for your opinion. Your job is to ask the interviewer logical questions that will permit you to make a detailed recommendation. The majority of case interviewers don't have a specific answer that you, the candidate, are expected to give. What the interviewer is looking for is a thought process that is both analytical and creative (what consultants love to call "out-of-the-box" thinking). Specific knowledge of the industry covered by the case question is a bonus but not necessary. An understanding of the business models and processes as well as global business experience is helpful for success."*
"Many management consulting firms, especially the strategy firms (such as McKinsey and Bain) love to give prospective employees a problem to solve during the course of an interview. The case questions are designed to help the interviewer screen candidates and determine which people really have what it takes to be a real, live, card-carrying management consultant."**
Question categories can be identified as:
- Market-sizing questions focus on determining the market size for a particular service or product.
- Business operations questions refer to running a business and getting a product out the door. The focus may include purchasing and transporting raw materials, manufacturing processes, scheduling of staff and facilities, product distribution - the day-to-day running of the business.
- Business strategy questions deal more with the future direction of a firm. Good strategy questions may have a market-sizing piece, a logic puzzle, multiple operations issues, and a dose of creativity and action. These types of questions tend to be quite complex.
- Resume case questions come directly from the candidate's resume. One example may be, "I see that you play rugby. Describe all the different positions on a rugby team, and the play strategy for each."**
* Source: Vault Guide to the Case Interview, 5th edition, Mark Asher, Eric Chung, and the staff of Vault, 2002.
** Source: Ace Your Case III - Practice Makes Perfect, WetFeet Insider Guide, 2nd edition, 2003.
Part of the philosophy behind brainteaser interviews is that IQ is all that matters. Bill Gates' hiring philosophy is based on the fact that a smart person can be trained to do anything. Intelligence is valued over skills or experience. Therefore, logic puzzles, riddles, hypothetical questions and trick questions have become commonplace in computer industry and the fast-paced consulting business interviews.
Questions may include:
- How many times a day do a clock's hands overlap?
- Why are beer cans tapered at the top and bottom?
- If you could remove any of the fifty U.S. states, which would it be?
- Why do mirrors reverse right and left instead of up and down?*
"It's all about thinking outside the box - just make certain you know what kind of box."** Other recruiters will ask unique brainteaser questions during a "typical" interview. It is important to stay focused and be adept at answering all types of questions. Keep your poise and sense of humor - and think carefully about the question. Recruiters are often evaluating your skills, creativity, and ability to think on your feet.***
* Source: How Would You Move Mount Fuji?: Microsoft's Cult of the Puzzle - How the World's Smartest Companies Select the Most Creative Thinkers, William Poundstone, Little Brown & Co., 2003.
** Source: Paul Boutin, Wired.
*** Source: How to Ace the Brain Teaser Interview, John Kador, McGraw-Hill, 2005.
Telephone interviews often precede in-person interviews, and are used as a screening tool to filter out potential candidates for a position. In an employer's point of view, they are an efficient way to further narrow the candidate pool to those who will best fit the position. The first step is to make sure you know the organization and position very well. Besides that, you will want to keep the following items handy (and preferably set up in a private, quite place where you will be able to concentrate):
- Your resume
- Any info you have about the organization (maybe their webpage up on your computer)
- Paper and pen to take any notes you need to during the interview
- Notes to help you answer common interview questions
- A list of questions to ask the interviewer
- A glass of water
Although it may seem trivial, it may be helpful to dress in a professional manner as a way to psychologically assume the right mindset. Do not slouch or roll your eyes at any point during the interview, and remember that smiling will single-handedly enhance the tone of your voice, giving warmth and energy, which can be harder to convey over the phone!
During the Interview
- Slow down, breathe, and concentrate!
- Watch for pauses. They are dead air, unlike in a face to face interview, they cannot see you are thinking
- Speak in a normal tone - do not use speakerphone and make sure they can hear and understand you
- Remember to smile, sit up straight or stand, and make sure your surroundings are not distracting you!
- When the interviewer seems to have no questions left, make sure you have questions prepared to ask them
- It is all about getting a face to face interview - let them know you are interested in meeting in person, ask the interviewer for an approximate timeline of when the company will be notifying candidates for in-person interviews
- Hanging up can be awkward. Have a closing line planned, end on a high note, not an awkward one! Thank him/her for making the time to call you, confidently hang up