I wrote a blog for recruiters yesterday called: The 3 Interview Questions I Always Ask and Why.
After years of recruiting, using a variety of techniques and questions, I’ve found that there are actually only four things that recruiters really want to know about their candidates.
So this week, I’m revealing those four things to you, along with three common interview questions, used to assess them.
What do we all look for in candidates?
Honestly, there are only really four things recruiters want to know about you:
- Have you got the skills to do the job?
- Do you work hard and can you handle the pressure?
- Will you fit into the company culture?
- Are you committed to that role?
So if you can prove all of that, with examples and stats during your interview, you’re onto a winner.
Now, I can’t really help you with number 1. Obviously different roles with require and assess different skills and it would be impossible for me to go through all of them – although these competency questions may help.
But I can help you with the other three.
So let’s take a look.
1. Do you work hard and can you handle the pressure?
This “question” can come in many forms, so here are some examples:
- “Describe a time when you got really stressed at work.”
- “Tell me about a time when you had to work to a tough deadline.”
- “How do you wind down after a tough day at work?”
You have to accept a certain level of pressure in most jobs these days.
So it will be important for employers to know that they can count on you to handle yourself (and not burnout) when the going gets tough.
If you say you never get stressed or have never been put under pressure, then it begs the question: why not? Do you avoid the extra responsibility? Or do you just not really care?
Or are you just the kind of person who, calm and collected, thrives under the pressure?
How should you answer?
Your interviewer will want to know:
- What kinds of things stress you out? They won’t want to hire someone who’s constantly stressed as you’ll be at higher risk of burnout – and your stress will rub off on others.
- Can you cope? Some people really do excel when the going gets tough. Others crumble.
- How do you cope? Being able to understand when you are getting stressed and use a coping strategy to get through it is very important. This could be something as simple as listening to music or having a chat with a colleague. If it works, it works.
So basically, you need to show that first and foremost, you do get put under pressure at work and then that you know how to cope, using your own strategies.
Don’t (ever) say:
- You’ve never had to cope with stress before.
- I don’t like stress. (Obviously.)
- I’m always stressed!
Here’s an example answer:
“Honestly, I kind of thrive when I’m put under pressure.
Last year at [IT Company], we suddenly had a huge surge in sales which meant we were trying to service twice the amount of companies, but hadn’t had time to recruit extra staff yet. This meant that we were all working overtime to ensure all queries, issues and emergencies were covered.
I temporarily joined the first line support team to ensure that they were adequately covered, as they had the most calls coming through.
To stay on top form each day, I made sure I left by 6.30pm every evening and really took some time to relax at home. I would also go to the gym and run to blow off some steam.
With the help of all departments, we got through the busiest week of my life and recruited 3 extra consultants to help out.”
You may have noticed that this is also a “STAR” answer.
2. Will you fit into the company culture?
Now, obviously, the interview is essentially a test of cultural fit. Meeting someone face-to-face is the only real way of judging how well they would fit in.
But some employers may feel the need to dig a little deeper and find out something a little more personal about you.
They may ask:
- “Tell me something I don’t already know about you.”
- “What do you do in your spare time?”
- “How would your best friends describe you?”
How should you answer?
Whether you choose to talk about your family, a hobby or even to share some kind of strange fact about yourself, the whole point is to reveal something a bit different (and positive) about yourself.
You’ll get bonus points if you can show that…
- You have similar interests to some of the other team members.
- Your values reflect the company’s (for example are you caring, creative or altruistic?)
- You have a great personality! (Fun, friendly, good sense of humour etc.).
This question can be very revealing and sometimes a little shocking! I once had a candidate who admitted to stealing pens at his last workplace and another who said their hobby was “gin.”
Try not too:
- Come across boring. Surely you have some interesting passions outside of work?
- Come across too busy. If you have a million and one commitments outside of work, the interviewer may worry that you won’t be as committed to their company.
- Try too hard. Quirky is great, but overbearing (and even weird) will put employers off.
Here’s an example answer:
“I love food and I love writing, so I actually write a blog, reviewing different restaurants around my area. A couple of my friends help me out by coming for dinner and letting me know their thoughts!”
This shows that a) you have a passion other than just work and b) you have friends (you can’t be that unsociable!)
Check out this blog – How would you answer these 14 personality questions in a job interview? – to find more examples of cultural fit interview questions.
3. Are you committed to that role?
One of the most annoying things that recruiters have to deal with is a last-minute candidate dropout (especially after an offer has been accepted).
So to save themselves some heartache, they may ask one of the following questions to suss out your real commitment to the role:
- “What will you do if you get a counter-offer from your boss?”
- “What would your current company have to do to keep you?”
- “What do you think your boss will say if you hand your notice in?”
Your interviewer is looking for one kind of answer. And that’s essentially this:
“No matter what, I want to join your company.”
But obviously don’t say it like that. Give reasons why you’d leave, despite a counter-offer.
Here’s an example answer:
“I would be grateful but politely decline any counter-offer. I’ve really enjoyed working at [Company Name] and have learned a lot, but I am looking for a new role, within a growing company, that can offer me further opportunities to progress.”
Keep it positive! Never (ever, ever) badmouth your current company, boss or employees.
Also try not to:
- Come across like you love your current company.
- Sit on the fence.
- Seem desperate to leave.
You want to be positive about your current company but show that you’re really passionate about the new role.
Obviously, you’ll need to personalise these answers to your own experience, but essentially, you need to show your employer that you’re able to do the role, passionate about doing the role and that you’re a hard worker.
Recruiter Pro Tip
While you’re preparing for an interview, it is essential that you do some research into the company, including:
- Their culture.
- Their values and mission statement.
- Their employees.
Finding out all of this will help you to sculpt your answers in the most impressive way, showing them that you really are the best person for the job.
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