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.