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Interview Tips

The interview cheat sheet

By Silvia Flores | Alder Koten

Not a day goes by that I am not surprised when silence follows one of my basic interview questions. The silence itself tends to provide more insight about a candidate than the answer that will follow. What it says is that a candidate was not prepared for the interview. The message that it conveys is that the interest level might not be there or that it could be a reflection of a candidate’s attitude and work ethic.

Am I reading too much into it? That is how interviews work, and that is what interviewers tend to do. Doing your homework is an important part of interviewing. So be prepared with your answers and be aware of the hidden messages that you will convey.

Here is a quick look at the top 5 interview questions and some DOs and DON’Ts.

Tell me about yourself
Do: Respond with a relevant summary of your background and your career. An interviewer will want to listen to what applies to the company culture and the requirements of the position. If your answer requires more than 5 minutes, it is probably too long. After the summary, ask if there is something specific that they would like you to elaborate.
Don’t: Get into a long-winded story or go through your full resume.

Why did you leave your last job?
Do: Explain with clarity and define your drivers or the company’s drivers. Stay neutral and put your answer in the context of your career plan. This is one of the trickiest questions in any interview and a potential pitfall when it comes to hidden messages.
Don’t: Respond with “It was a mutual agreement” or attempt to explain why it was out of your hands. Above all, don’t point any fingers or blame a bad manager.

What are your strengths?
Do: Focus on the main strengths related to the requirements of the position or the culture of the organization.
Don’t: Tell me your funny. Tell me the joke. In other words, if you are great tell me why and give me examples that are relevant to the position and the company do not just blurt out adjectives.

What are your weaknesses?
Do: Make sure that it is aligned with your strengths. This is something that most people do not consider: Your weaknesses are your strengths when applied in the wrong context. You are driven (You are a loose cannon), You are patient (You are not aggressive enough), You have a positive attitude (You are not a realist). Get the picture?
Don’t: Say that you cannot think of one.

Why do you want to leave your current job?
Do: Put it into the context of your career plan and both your short term and long term goals.
Don’t: Say you are not looking for a job, and you are there just because a recruiter called you. If you are interviewing, there is a driver.
Don’t: Make it about the money.

Here are some other questions to consider:


About Alder Koten

Alder Koten helps shape organizations through a combination of research, executive search, cultural & leadership assessment, and other talent advisory services. Our recruiters and executive search consultants bring to the recruiting process an in-depth understanding of the market conditions and strategic talent issues faced by clients within their particular industry. Our leadership consultants provide advisory services that are crafted to be collaborative, responsive, pragmatic, and results oriented. Focused on expanding the capabilities of the organization through talent.