There are a few basics that every person who’s preparing for or facing a job interview should know. A job interview is not an interrogation or an investigation. You are not guilty and you are not on trial. In fact, you have a great opportunity to get an exciting job. But before that, let’s understand the job of the interviewer. The interviewer’s objective is to make a selection. You’ve already been screened and preselected from many candidates because your résumé appears to document the skills necessary for success if you were hired. That’s the reason you were called in for a face-to-face interview. At this point, the interviewer determines whether you’d fit into the culture of his organization. To do that, he’s going to ask a variety of questions and will then make a decision based on a number of things. Some are objective; others are subjective. So, what are the types of questions the interviewer might ask? Here are a few examples.

  • The common interview questions. There are probably 20 or 30 common questions typically asked in interviews. They’re easily found because most books or articles about job interviewing list many of them.
  • The behavioral or situational questions. These questions start with “Tell me about a time when . . . ” or “What’s been your experience with such and such a situation?” Most of these questions pigeonhole you into a situation from your past, and the interviewer wants to hear how you handled it. The intent is to predict your future based on past behavior.
  • The creativity questions. Yes, some interviewers get pleasure from asking such questions. For example, “What would you do if one morning you woke up and found out you’re a frog?” Here they’re checking on your creativity, on the ways you deal with ambiguity, how well you communicate ideas, and so on.
  • The high-tech questions. These types of questions are industry specific. For example, “How many jelly beans can fit into a one-gallon jar?” These types of questions are checking on your logic, your ability to estimate, your intuition, your mathematical ability, and your ability to make assumptions. These questions are common at Microsoft, Apple, Google, and the like.

From the outset, the interviewer is approaching the interview with an open mind. He wants to find out your particular strengths that the company can use as well as your weaknesses. If he finds the weaknesses critical, you’ll lose the competition.

The best way to prepare for an interview is to make a list of, say, 20 potential questions and then answer them in a simple format by starting with a brief description of the background and situation, followed by what your contribution was and ending with the results and benefit to the company. The caveat here is to make the telling succinct and eloquent. Most people ramble on and on instead of giving a brief and pertinent answer. And that’s a sign that you’re not fully prepared. To be able to recite your answers in the best form possible, it’s wise to sound them out with a professional career coach or someone else who’s well experienced in this area. Good luck! You’ll need it!