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Job Interview Questions – How Interviewers Think and How You Should Respond

The “Big 5” Job Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

These five job interview questions being shared with you are courtesy of

Unemployment in Nigeria has been a source of concern and worry to fresh graduates and job-seekers for a long time now. Though, it is true that since Nigeria is still a developing country, there are limited jobs available for graduates and job-seekers in the labor market, I will like to also point out that unemployability and ignorance is a worse problem. While some people are not qualified for the jobs they seek, others are but lack the information and knowledge needed to face job interviews, a major tool used by employers to find out all they need to know about their potential employees.
There are five very common generic questions which crop up in virtually every interview. They relate to:
• being a good team player;
• planning and organizing your work effectively;
• good interpersonal communication;
• coping with change in the workplace;
• providing effective customer service (including internal customers).

The importance of the ‘big five’ questions

The skills listed above are vital to most jobs. It is hard to think of a job in which all five do not come into play at one stage or another, and impossible to think of a job in which at least one of them is not relevant. For this reason, the ‘big five’ actually constitute hundreds of interview questions.
Once you’ve learned how to answer the ‘big five’ questions, you will be able to respond to many other questions because there is a great deal of overlap amongst them. For example, if you can answer the basic question, ‘What makes you a good team player?’ you should also be able to respond to a range of similar team player questions, including:
• How do you like working in a team?
• Do you consider yourself a good team player?
• Describe your ideal team.
• What does it take to be an effective team player?
However, be aware that, while learning how to respond to one generic question allows you to answer many similar questions, this does not mean you will be able to answer every conceivable question asked. It’s up to you to be diligent and look for questions within the genre that may be slightly different or unexpected. Here are the ‘big five’ questions and how you can answer them as well as related questions in a job interview setting.

1. Answering a ‘team player’ question

Sample Question 1:  Are you a good team player? Can you give us examples of you demonstrating team player capabilities?
Answer: Yes, I consider myself to be an effective team player. In my previous job I was part of a team of four people who were responsible for paying the salaries, including overtime and bonuses, of approximately 2000 employees.
When I first started work in the team, there were communication problems between several team members. As well as affecting our performance, these problems were straining relations between certain members of the team. After several weeks, I thought that if we introduced more regular meetings and a rotating chair, communications might improve. When I made this suggestion, the team members agreed to it and, to make a long story short, the new meeting format turned out to be a success. Both communications and performance improved.
I also demonstrated my team player capabilities by making a point of acknowledging my colleagues’ opinions and contributions, as well as helping team members when they were having problems. I think when you’re willing to help others; they’ll help you when you need it in return—and that can only be good for the team. I also made a point of sharing all information I thought my colleagues needed to know. I would mention even seemingly unimportant information such as individuals griping about their pay and minor mishaps with the software because often it can be the little things that cause big problems down the line.
According to my colleagues, my presence in the team led to improved communications amongst team members, as well as with our clients, which contributed significantly to our overall performance. In particular, our error rate was halved within two months.
Remember that, unless the interviewer has specifically told you that the company is placing a great deal of emphasis on hiring someone with effective team player skills, chances are that you would not use every aspect of the above answer in response to a single question. You may decide to use parts of it and keep the rest in reserve for a follow-up question or a question seeking information about similar skills. It is wise to over-prepare and even wiser to know when to stop. The same principle applies to the rest of the ‘big five’ job interview questions.

2. Answering a planning and organizing question

Sample Question 2:  Can you give us an example of when you had to plan and organize an important event or work related activity? What steps did you take?
Answer: When I was working in the administration support unit for Enoch Paint Enterprises, I was responsible for planning a broad range of activities ranging from the timely ordering of paint supplies to security, building maintenance and assisting departments and managers with basic infrastructure needs.
Juggling all these activities simultaneously meant I had to plan my work in great detail as well as be very well organized.
There was one time when we had to install new security systems and new computer graphics software, as well as answering the multiple requests made by our clients. In order to deal with all of this, I needed to diarize my work on a daily, weekly and monthly basis and ensure that I continually kept up to date with what everyone else was doing. I made sure I attended as many meetings as I could and kept my ear to the ground. Given the multiple tasks I had to complete, I found it important to prioritize my work according to the needs of the organization, as opposed to the needs of a few individuals. Getting the new security systems in place had to come before some of the requests made by managers. And, finally, it was important to learn how to say ‘no’ to some requests. In my view, a good planner knows how much is enough. Taking on more work than one can handle only leads to poor-quality service or even failure to do the work.
As well as learning a great deal about what it takes to maintain an organization in terms of infrastructure support, one of the great outcomes of my actions was that my clients rated my service as ‘very high’ for three years running, which gave me a great deal of satisfaction.

3. Answering an interpersonal communication question

Sample Question 3:  Can you give us an example of when you had to communicate a complex and sensitive issue? How did you go about it?
Answer: When I was working for Magellan, I was on the team that was responsible for introducing a new performance appraisal system for all of the crew on our ship. Working on this project, I was often required to communicate complex and sensitive information to individuals and groups. I’d like to emphasize that performance appraisals were an extremely sensitive issue because people’s pay was being attached to the results.
I was successful in communicating the relevant information because I adhered to a number of sound interpersonal communication principles—principles that I have successfully implemented in the past. For example, I made a point of taking people’s sensitivities into account and addressing them early on in our conversations. I avoided any form of jargon, and often assumed that my audience had very little prior knowledge about the issues at hand. I used positive, nonthreatening body language—especially when I was confronted by the skeptics who belittled the program despite their lack of knowledge about it. I also acknowledged other people’s opinions and never made disparaging comments about suggestions, no matter how outlandish they were.
Furthermore, I always made the effort to consult with key stakeholders before finalizing decisions. The very fact that you make the effort to consult and explain the parameters within which you have to work often minimizes levels of dissatisfaction, even though people may not entirely agree with you.
As a result of my efforts, opposition to the program was virtually non-existent. The crew demonstrated a constructive attitude and gave it their best. As a result, we were able to successfully implement the program within our time-frame and budget.

4. Coping with change in the workplace

Sample Question 4:  Tell us about a time you had to learn new things about your job. How did you cope?
Answer: When I working for Northern Legions, senior management decided to invest heavily in new technology which was designed to improve quality and save us a great deal of time. This new technology involved an array of new equipment, software and work procedures, and represented a sea change in how I performed my duties.
Initially, all of us were slightly daunted at the grand scale of the changes; however, I soon realized that the changes were inevitable if our company was to remain competitive.
I also quickly came to the realization that, if I was to remain a valued member of the company, I would need to quickly learn how to work under the new regime. This realization ensured that I embraced the changes enthusiastically. Whereas some of my colleagues saw it as a burden, I saw it as the way of the future—which is how I’ve come to view change generally. As well as attending all the required training sessions,
I attended extra ones as well. I studied hard, asked questions and gained as much experience as I could. I soon became the acknowledged expert in certain areas, and people started coming to me for advice.
As a result of our efforts, the new technology was successfully implemented. My team was working with the new technology within the timelines and budget allocated to us. And I learned a whole new way of doing things.

5. Providing effective customer service (including internal customers)

Sample Question 5:  Can you give us a recent example of when you had to provide good customer service? How did you go about it?
Answer: A recent example of being required to give consistently high levels of customer service was when I was working in the accounts section of Benson Ventures. My duties involved dealing with both internal customers—that is, the various departmental managers—as well as external customers, including people who owed us money and accounts that we needed to pay.
The steps I took to ensure that I was providing consistently good customer service were often the same for both the internal and external customers. Experience has taught me that customer service principles are universal. A good example of this was when I was dealing with our departmental managers. I never made the mistake of assuming I knew what they needed from me, even though we had worked together for several years. Things change and one has to keep up with those changes in order to provide good levels of service. At our meetings, I always made the point of finding out what all our managers were doing and what their upcoming projects were. If I knew something was coming up, I could plan for it and thus ensure good service. I also made sure that I had a detailed understanding of all our new services and products, and how these could benefit all our customers. For example, the acquisition of a new database allowed me to provide managers with much more up-to-date detail about our customers.
As a result of this process, we were able to draw up a set of service delivery agreements with the various managers which gave us relevant guidelines and customer service targets. These service delivery targets played an important role in terms of our section receiving consistently positive feedback from our managers and avoiding redundancy.

10 Hard Questions You May Be Asked At Your Next Job Interview

Here are ten examples of questions you could be asked at a job interview from

The journey into the world of employment can take different forms. For some, it can be easy while for others it might be very difficult. Finding that particular job that resonates with you; that brings out the nest in you; that makes you be on top of your game at all time is not child’s play.

Job interviews are critical parts of this journey. In some cases, you might have to appear at different stages of interview – first interview, second interview and third interview. Even more in some cases. The higher the level of the interview process the more difficult the questions you are asked. And your ability to tactfully answer these questions will put you in a vantage position over other interviewees.

It is important to note that apart from the regular interview questions, some other questions may pop up that are not even related to the job you are applying for. Sometimes interviewers do this to see how you can think on the spot and make decisions when you have a short time to decide. And also know that it is one of the ways to separate the wheat from the chaff.

So what are some of the hard questions you may likely be asked at your next interview?

Let us consider 10 of such questions.

1. How did you or will you deal with a non-performing colleague?

This is a human relationship question. The essence is to test your ability to work with people and be a team player. Definitely there will be times that colleagues fail in their duties and your own work is affected, but how do you deal with such situation? Tell the panel that you will find out if all is well with the colleague provided everything necessary to do his/her work is available. Tell them you will ask if there is nothing disturbing this colleague and if anything, how may you help so that his/her work and yours does not suffer.

2. Describe your relationship with your last boss or supervisor:

The truth is that you can never have a perfect boss or supervisor. There will always be areas where you disagree with him/her. And these disagreements sometimes can be awry and leave much to be desired. However, you don’t have to tell the panel how you hated your boss or supervisor, because doing so will give an impression of how you will be relating with your new boss or supervisor should you be hired.

3. How do you get along with older or younger colleagues?

The world of work is dynamic and you will meet different people with different ideologies and age ranges. Your colleagues could be older or younger. Except if there are laid down policies that stipulate how to relate in terms of addressing each other, for example as it is in some corporate organisations where they address each other by their first names, then how you relate and get along becomes critical. Mention that respect is a virtue that you have (hopefully you do), and that giving everyone their dues is how you deal with people, whether they are younger or older.

4. What is your main weakness?

This is a tricky question and many interviewees fail it because they unwittingly give answers that focus on their inability to deliver on the job. Remember that always, during interview focus should always be about your strength and that is what you should always project. So in a situation like this tell them you have tendencies to over work. Or that you can’t stand it when targets are not met. This way you have turned ‘weakness into strength’ by giving such reply.

5. What salary do you expect?

Many job applicants fail at this stage of the interview. Many make the mistake of talking money at the first stage of the interview. Doing this may project you as being money conscious. Do all you can at this stage to show what value and how you will add that value to the company. But when it gets to the salary part, be careful not to be the first to mention a figure, because you may mention an amount lower than what the company is planning to pay. You should wait and let them give you a range that they are willing to pay and then pick a figure that is slightly above the median amount. But if you are not sure, you can tell them you will get back to them so you can go and do your research to know industry standard as it relates to the job you are applying for. You can do an online search.

6. Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

Another very knavish question that requires some level of dexterity in answering. Interviewees who are not skilled will fall into this trap easily. When you answer this question you must show how this job will help you build a career. Don’t say you are going to switch careers and move on to something else that might suggest to the interviewers that you are not committed and focused. Mention where you see yourself in five years and how this job is key to take you there, not the money, but the challenge, experience and opportunity that comes from doing such a job.

7. What kind of a leader are you?

A novice might be caught napping here. Someone who does not know that leadership is not about the position but responsibility will goof with this question. Basically, there are two types of leaders (but further breakdown exist), autocratic or democratic. An autocratic leader does not listen to team members. He just issues commands and everyone must obey without questioning. But a democratic leader is one who carries team member along; listens to their views and opinions and then accepts when he makes mistakes and makes amends. He also does not arrogate all the glory to himself but acknowledges the efforts made by other team members. So this question is seeking to find out if you are a team player. So watch your steps before you slip.

8. If you find money or any other valuable within work premises that the owner cannot be traced, what will you do?

Before anything, you should know this is a question about your integrity. Can you be trusted is what they want to know (Hopefully you can be). Tell them since the money is not yours and the owner cannot be traced immediately you will hand it over to the company for keeps in case the owner shows up later, or as the case may be, hand it over to the police. And if you have an experience that can back that point give it.

9. Why should I hire you?

Many job applicants freeze at this question. Naturally you would have thought that the interviewer should know why you are there facing the panel in the first place, so why the question “Why should I hire you?” You are expected to show the panel that you have the necessary set of skills and experience to deliver on the job. That is why you should have done your homework to know what the job entails and then go there and tell them you are well equipped with the skills and experience you have garnered from past jobs you have done.

10. Why do you want to work here?

“Why do you want to work here” is similar to “Why should I hire you”, but they are not the same. At this question of why you want to work here, you are simply to tell the panel of your admiration for the organisation. Point out some noble projects they do, some CSR projects, how they treat their staff with high regard and make working environment conducive and how their activities are helping to make life better for people and so on.

There you have ten of some of the hard interview questions that you may be asked during your next interview. Remember that the interview session is not primarily set up to look for ways to disqualify you, but for you to proof to the interviewer that you are qualified. I wish you all the best at your next interview.

© 2015. Courtesy: Nigerian Scholars

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