IT Employment

Three interview questions you need to be ready to answer

Here are the three questions that Forbes says all other interview questions boil down to.

Employers are no longer relying on standard interview questions like "Where do you see yourself in five years?" To ace your interview, you need to be ready to answer a whole variety of new questions, including some rather odd ones, like "How many quarters would you need to reach the height of the Empire State building?."

But an insightful article on Forbes says all those questions really boil down to three:

  • Can you do the job?
  • Will you love the job?
  • Can we tolerate working with you?

Here's why they're so important.

Can you do the job?

In a time where jobs are becoming increasing complex and specialized, employers need to make sure you can do the job. That means not only making sure you have the right technical skills and experience for the job today, but the ability to learn and adapt, to think critically, to embrace new technology and approaches, to work in multidisciplinary teams, to communicate effectively with others, to take the job to the next level, to move to another area in the organization, etc. Because the job they are hiring you to do today will likely change fairly radically over the course of your employment with them.

The interviewer might not ask you all this directly, but you can be sure they're looking for clues in your answers.

So make sure you share examples of how you continually adapt and learn on the job, stay ahead of technology trends, work with others, manage risks, think critically and make decisions. Give them a broader view of what you can bring to the organization and the value you can provide.

Will you love the job?

So much research recently has focused on employee disengagement and its cost to organizations. So employers aren't just looking to hire people with the right skills and experience for the job and "fill the seat". They're concerned about finding the right candidate, who'll be fully engaged in the role and be a high performer.

Here again, it's hard for an interviewer to directly ask you about your engagement level. And clearly, if you're looking for a new job, you're likely not fully engaged in your present role. But many of the questions they ask give you the opportunity to express your passions for your work.

So make sure, as you answer questions about your work experience, you share with the interviewer the aspects of work that you love. What are the things at work that "turn you on" and make time disappear? Do you love solving problems? Are you passionate about satisfying customers? Do you thrive on the details or guiding the big picture? Do you need to work on teams? Are you jazzed by beating the competition?

What are the things you need in a role to be fully engaged? And what are the things that disengage you? Be honest about both; it's in everyone's best interests for you to work in a job that you love.

Can we tolerate working with you?

Cultural fit has also become a key consideration in hiring. So much work these days is done collaboratively that you need to be able to get along with your coworkers and work effectively with them.

But more than that, as organizations recognize that their employees are their only true source of lasting competitive advantage, organizational culture and competencies are becoming more critical. More than products/services or technology, this is what differentiates an organization from the competition.

So interviewers are likely to ask you questions that help them understand whether you share their core values and competencies. Afterall, if you're a good fit, you're likely to be more engaged and to perform better.

To help them determine this, start by getting as much understanding of the organization's culture, values and core competencies as you can. There are lots of areas on their website that will give you clues to these. Look at their company history, careers page, mission and values. Look at the words they use to describe themselves, their products/services, market and customers. And decide for yourself whether the organization will be a good fit for you, and you for it.

Most companies will be looking for things like: customer focus, commitment to quality, innovation, integrity, speed, care for the environment, responsiveness... But each will live that in a different way.

If you think there's a good fit, let them know. As you answer questions in the interview, tell them about your shared values and competencies. Give examples of how you've exhibited those on the job and outside of work. Let them know that you're more than just the skills and experience you bring to the table and that you share a commitment to the same things.

Sean Conrad has spent his career in IT, and now helps end-user organizations to successfully implement talent management software solutions.

34 comments
David G. Hendrickson
David G. Hendrickson

A little paraphrasing because these questions should not be asked openly; rather during the conversation these are of most concern. It is all about perception at this point, so your "job" in an interview is to leave the most positive impression in these areas. Can you do the job? True meaning, does your skill set match the requirements of the position? Will you love the job? True meaning, is this just a filler for you until you find what you are really looking for, or is this truly what you want to do for a living (will we have to expend resources to hire for this position again any time soon)? Can we tolerate working with you? True meaning, do I perceive anything about you that would indicate a tendency to be disruptive, or do you seem to approach things in a positive way? Or, how could hiring you impact the bottom line?

kateatkinsonvk
kateatkinsonvk

These days behaviour based interviews are very much common.... these kind of interviews anticipate that candidate's past performance is the best predictor of candidate's future performance... the best way to prepare for the interview is that take time to compile list of responses to itemize your skills, values and interests as well as your strengths and weaknesses. Just place your focus on what you can do to benefit the company rather than just what you are interested in.

Imprecator
Imprecator

Q. Can you do the job? A. Yes I can. Q. Will you love the job? A. No. Q. Can we tolerate working with you? A. As much as I can tolerate working with YOU.

Granddad200
Granddad200

Hi, Hi all, need to paraphrase for this. Employer: - I need my car fixed, can you do it? Worker: - Yes, that is what I trained for. Employer: - Can you fix my business, without affecting my bottom line? Worker: - Not my job. It is your business, otherwise I might as well be doing it myself. Employer: - Yes for what I pay you I expect more of you than I can do myself. When it goes well for me, I'll either share it with you or myself, if I think you deserve it. Worker:- Thinks, damn might as well sell my soul for this week to get foot in door! Then I'll do what I want or I'll spend my own money if I have any and make my own decisions. Pity wev'e forgotten what the truth is. Give and take, no matter how you write it.

premiertechnologist
premiertechnologist

I loved the job in the past. I cannot know if I will love the job if I work for you -- that depends on your management.

premiertechnologist
premiertechnologist

I remember the interview I had with the largest chemical company in the world who needed help with their IBM Mainframe and was looking to hire me as the only qualified Systems Programmer anyone could find. It was a mixed panel interview with all sorts of people from different departments with their own agendas. The actual live and only Systems Programmer saw an opportunity to be able to get some relief, get some time off and go on vacation because he had been working 80 hour weeks a week and with his graying hair wasn't getting any younger. The poor lady who actually needed the help was overwhelmed by those who had their own agendas and didn't want anyone new in the place because it would screw up their internal politics. The DB2 admins and developers were most suspicious of all and wanted some other kind of person that would take care of THEIR interests. Finally, the vice president came in -- if you can imagine that. Now you have to remember that the position was to see them through to displacing and getting rid of the IBM Mainframe and go to some other system (good luck with that -- especially since they had absolutely no concrete plans how they were going to do that). The VP went on for 20 minutes about how his vision was to hire someone with... vision -- with great innovative new ideas. What? It was supposed to be a maintenance type position in a highly technical area. I could do what he wanted, since I had been a manager in a Fortune 50 company in IT, but that would mean that I would be doing some of his job. He was basically nuts (how do you react to that in an interview -- I thought silence was best). The poor lady who actually needed my help looked defeated at the end. How did it turn out? Though I did well in the interview (as told to me by the head hunter), the company decided to eliminate the position. Words cannot describe how relieved I was.

premiertechnologist
premiertechnologist

Well, answer me this: Do your employees love their job? How do you know? Doesn't whether or not anyone loves their job a product of management? (Not that any of this could be brought up in an interview, mind you.)

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

So two types of answers to that question Total BS, because the candidate is desperate Or mine, which would be to get up and walk out on the spot. I wouldn't even thank you for wasting my time. No I don't need to be ready to answer this question. I've sent decades getting myself into a position where I don't have to pander to arrogant incompetents, I see no reason to throw that away.

Joshyudell
Joshyudell

I (Josh Yudell) just want to say that maximum time we feel nerves at the time of Interview. Bcz we totally unknown with Interviewer and we dn't know what type of question Interviewer will ask . So I just would like to suggest that be free of mind at the time of Interview.

kwstx
kwstx

My take is that specialists, not generalists, are being sought, with expert knowledge in more areas than most people would ever be able to cover in a career. This makes the assessment of whether a person can "do the job" a tall order. I think that "love the job" is a subpart of "can we tolerate working with you". Tolerating the job will be considered good enough if they think you'll fit in with their culture.

wrc555s
wrc555s

The most successful interviews are those that end up being a 'meeting' - interactive, open, contain debate, relaxed, equal, constructive and informative. Unfortunately, most put too much pressure on the interviewee and follow a 'structured' approach, and stifle openness; too much emphasis on 'pointless' questions which don't give the interviewer much to go on. The best advice I was given was to do your research, be yourself, and remember that it's as much about you as it is them. The usual advice is too biased on the side of the interviewer. Some interviewers could learn a lot from the advice given to potential interviewees but, in many cases, they don't.

Goshawk
Goshawk

The article touchs some very past off centered topics. I like it. The next topic should be once the interviewer(s) touch base on what you like to do off work ie fishing, crabbing, etc. he makes the centered connection personal and makes them like you even of campus.

Jake2meok
Jake2meok

Can you do the job? Yes or I would not be interviewing , it would be stupid to throw down an empty resume and try to convince them I was not the person for the job. Love the job ? I will love the job as previously said if they are honest , my coworkers are in the teamwork frame of mind and upper mgmt. has a bead on running the business. Culture is a lost cause in a lot of companies, it's stated and professed in annual emails but existing staff don't follow the culture many ignore it entirely. I look at culture statements like the "Love the job" for what they are Psych screening tactics which proof can be found by searching for HR interviewing questions online.

Gisabun
Gisabun

These questions are useless.... More like: Tell me about yourself What would an ex-boss have to say about you Why do you have gaps between jobs and what did you do + technical questions.

lysagdsl
lysagdsl

Immediately I saw this material, I decided to use it later this week, at an interview skills seminar for jobseekers. It was going to be quite straightforward until I read the comments from Steve, Bill and Andrea. Their perspectives will put some bite into the discussion, and I thank them for that. I don't think their comments invalidate the blog, which reminds us that there are three main concerns when selecting an employee or indeed a supplier - can they deliver, can they be trusted to deliver and will they disrupt the organisation. The degree of concern increases when the decision is for the longer term. The parallels with "dating and mating" are obvious. The same questions arise for one-night stands as for lifelong partnerships, but the details are handled differently. The main value of the blog is to remind people to stand back and look at any selection from the hiring team's point of view. Whether they are HR types or ops types (I was in ops for 35 years), it is up to you as an interviewee (or tenderer) to make sure these three questions are answered in their minds - even if they don't ask them! Which they probably won't (thanks to Paul for pointing that out).

premiertechnologist
premiertechnologist

These questions might be framed differently, but interviewers need to answer these questions: 1) Will you be fair? 2) Will you be honest? 3) Will I be able to tolerate you, particularly your management. At least these are the questions those of us who have integrity would want to have answered before we even consider offers, if any.

paulcrandall
paulcrandall

I would think an experience interviewer would be able to ferret out those answers without actually asking them. What is the person being interviewed going to say, "sorry no I can't do the job and I won't be happy."? I have interviewed a lot of people and I have learned you can get those answers by asking other questions and see how they are answered.

Andrea Solinas
Andrea Solinas

I totally agree with Steve, and i will add my personal experience to that... my last interview was all about teamwork, and how important it was to fit in the company friendly and flexible environment, or what could i bring to the company, well the IT "team" is every man for itself, the environment is everything but friendly, Why ask i what can I bring to the company if they are reluctant to changes and not even willing to listen to my warning about a server that is about to fail, until the machine died..?

steve
steve

Interviews are nothing but an exercise in lying. The candidate lies on how excited they are at the prospect of working for the company, can't wait to get stuck in, of course I'm totally flexible, of course I love being called in out of hours, no, the 'market rate' salary isn't a problem, and of course I understand that times are difficult and you might have to let me go when this particular project is up and running. If you need a job, then you say the things the interviewer wants to hear, otherwise you're out of the door. The interviewer also lies their head off. Of course there's a training budget, no, there's no trouble with a psychotic culture of bullying within the company, yes, we value all our employees. Will I love the job? Not likely. If you take 100 typical employees then the probable attitude to work is as follows: 40% actively hate their job and resent dragging their sorry asses in to work 30% don't particularly enjoy their job, but come in in as they need the money 20% like their job, and look forward to the day 10% love their job, and feel fulfilled and valued So no, you can believe all the Human Resources BS if you want, but the truth is the only reason most people turn up in the parking lot it they get paid to do exactly that. 'Passionate about solving problems' Yeah right. Show me the money.

billsherlock
billsherlock

The problem with interviews is that both sides are lying to a certain extent. When the person being interviewed asks "Is this a new position or would I be replacing someone?" the interviewer starts spinning. If it is a new position, then nobody knows what the job will be like really. If it is an existing position, then the response invites the follow up question "is the person who held this post still with the company?" pause "So they could brief me when I arrive". Now the Interviewer really starts lying. So, given this situation, how can any sane person ask "will you love the job?" when nobody present at the interview has actually done the job? OK, we have all seen enough interviewers with doubtful sanity, but there is no reason to make a fool of yourself. Two vital questions are not listed. "How much do you want?" and "when can you start?" The these two and the remaining two sane questions above are the core of the interview.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Despite deciding I wanted to be a programmer at the tender age of 13, and realising that goal and still doing it and the not so tender age of 50. There have been many occasions where I loathed my last job....

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

My major strength is my honesty My major weakness is my honesty. I'm sure you can guess the questions that prompted the following. 60 hours + unpaid overtime and 24/7 call out? How much, are yiou having a laugh? Nearly 50, aren't you worried about being prosecuted for agism? Windows SLQ server? Why am I here? No chance! You can't be of benefit to an employer, if being a benefit does not benefit you...

SeanPConrad
SeanPConrad

You only know if your employees love their job if you ask. Good companies do ask, through anonymous 3rd party surveys usually. Companies that not only use employee engagement surveys but actually action the results will know the answer in a general sense. And yes, it is management that is responsible for the results and are the ones who need to change to improve engagement. This absolutely could be brought up in an interview, although it would likely be brought up by a candidate. If I was interviewing for a position asking if they do engagement surveys and what actions they have taken as a result would be a great question on two levels: First it highlights my understanding of management and leadership, and second it gives me information on the management of the organization that can help me make a decision on whether or not I would like to work there.

SeanPConrad
SeanPConrad

I agree wrc555s - although instead of a meeting I would call the best interviews a conversation. That does imply that they are true two-way conversations between equals, which unfortunately is not always the case. Great advice there and any applicant that came in to an interview prepared to follow your advice would immediately stand out from the crowd.

SeanPConrad
SeanPConrad

Great point - this is a conversation and a two-way street. I like your suggestion to turn it around and as an interviewer be prepared with answers to questions like this. As a candidate you should also come prepared with a few question to ask that might let you understand the culture within the organization.

SeanPConrad
SeanPConrad

I completely agree that a good interviewer will be looking to find these answers. As a candidate we will be well served to think about these "un asked" questions beforehand and then work the answers to them into the interview conversation.

cjzachman
cjzachman

Above comments are all good points; however, taking negative thoughts or questions into an interview will kill many if not most opportunities. I suggest being aware of the pitfalls and look for them in the interview. Align your questions, in a positive way, to get more information - and be HONEST about what you cannot do! The above views are good; be prepared to dig into them with some positive questions of your own. Remember; calling the baby ugly isn't going to get you the job - better to just walk away.

SeanPConrad
SeanPConrad

Thank you for the comment. I suggest you consider "will you love the job" a silent question and figure out how to get that across to the interviewer(s) during the interview. They may say something like "Why do you want this position?" or "Why do you want to work here?" What they really want to know is will you be a highly engaged and productive employee. If you are prepared to present the answer to this question you will be ahead of the game from the start!

premiertechnologist
premiertechnologist

I really would have loved the job -- the technical part of it, so I could have said yes. On the other hand, I would have hated the politics -- but it was the sort of job I could stay away from such things and not be involved (ah, the benefits of contracting).

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

So now it's a question for the candidate Will I love the job Of course you will says employer. Right, glad that's sorted then... Engagement surveys in and of themselves mean nothing, even actions can be meaningless. Depends on what questions are asked, how they are asked and how management choose to interpret the "answers". In one famous episode after being told the engage action was to redecorate the office and listen to my input on the colour scheme. I said that I would be more engaged by being allowed more input into how the job gets done. The response was "That's just you Tony". So either the guy was talking out of his arse, or all my colleagues were more interested in what colour the walls were.... You are only going to find out by working for them a bit, exactly the same situation as finding out whether your candidate really really does love the job.

SeanPConrad
SeanPConrad

Exactly right - a positive attitude and focus is important if you are trying to not just get a job, but get a job you really want.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Word the question different, we word our answers different. How about? It pays much better than the one I have I'm about to be sacked for gross incompetence I heard you do free training I'm out of work This place is smaller so I can be a bigger fish This place is much bigger, so no one will notice me do nothing all day I want to get promoted and I figure you are moving on soon. I want to prove that you can survive on minium wage I want a green card You are just asking for another version of a credible lie. Highy productive and engaged is a total irrelevance, it assumes that everything they've been told about the role and the environment is true and will remain true. My answer to the question. You haven't said anything that convinces me I should, yet. Sits in expectant silence... All the advice you are giving is based on the arrogant assumption that the employer is in the boss seat. What if that's not true? How about changing the post title to three questions you should be prepared to answer when completely desperate... Or achieve some balance and suggest three questions an employer should be prepared to answer in order to get the best people.

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