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Don’t Be Stymied In Your Job Interview

Don’t Be Stymied In Your Job Interview

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Image courtesy of Imagerymajestic

By Anna Mathieu, Redfish Technology

Unless you are a reporter, a recruiter, or other special personality, you probably don’t interview on a regular basis. An interview is a sales presentation, the company’s goal is to purchase (hire) a new employee and you want to be the choice. Honing any skill set requires practice and preparation.

You can practice with a friend or colleague by using a list of interview questions and asking your mock interviewer to change them up and throw some curve balls. You can practice aloud in the shower or in your car, answering classic questions that are likely to be asked, varying your vocabulary and presentation while hitting your main points. You can prepare by researching interview questions in your sector. has a list of 20 common interview questions, and Forbes a list of 50 questions, or search for your niche, ex. Java developer interview questions.

Be prepared. This might be the most pivotal 60/120/360 minutes you have for the next few years. You should become well acquainted with the company, division, and interviewer in advance by reading the corporate website, press releases, industry resources, and networking with professionals familiar with the space and people you are interested in.

Since you will do your homework, when it comes time to “show”, don’t forget the “and tell”. When asked about why you are there, instead of just feeding your interviewer the company’s mission statement or parroting the tagline, delve deeper. Identify the opportunities or challenges that are most exciting to you and how you can impact the company/division/team.

Preparation and practice don’t always prepare you for everything that an interviewer might throw at you. Here are a few interview questions that you may want to ponder in advance so that you can avoid being stymied in the interview. Keep in mind that it is important is to convey your ability to do the job, fit well into or be a great leader of the team, help the accomplish meet and exceed its business objectives.

Why do you want to work for this company?

Ok this is a basic but somehow folks mess this up way too often. Hopefully you have chosen to pursue something you are really turned on by. (If not, do some soul searching. It’s never too late to pursue your passion). Now speak to the unique opportunity and why it has you excited. Relate your particular experience and know-how to the specific opportunity for which you are interviewing.

What is your greatest weakness?

This is a question that aims at understanding your personality, gaining insight into how you deal with weaknesses/challenges and how your work on improving, and whether you have what it takes to get this job done.

To answer this question in the best light there are several tactics. You may choose to discuss a skill that isn’t required in your line of work, for example a marketing professional who can’t stand the sight of blood, or a computer programmer who has a sweet tooth (although you might skip that if there’s a diabetic or other health issue).

Another classic strategy is to pick a weakness that leads into a discussion of your strengths. But be careful of making an overly canned statement such as “I work too much”, “I’m a perfectionist”, “I won’t stop until I accomplish my goals.” Every employer wants employees with a strong work ethic but they don’t want a maniac nor a brown nose.

Making your answer specific to the opportunity at hand and honestly addressing any areas where you may not fit perfectly with the job description can open a frank discussion of how you excel at most of the requirements and what skills you may be working on. For example, a mobile developer with only 3 years of java rather than the job description’s expressed requirement of 6 years, may disclose this ‘weakness’ as relates to the job description, however reveal the heavy ruby and hadoop skills and the development team leadership experience that they bring to the table.

How would colleagues describe your greatest weakness?

This question again tries to discover more about your qualifications but perhaps more about your fit and human relationships. These types of questions provide you with an opportunity to demonstrate self-awareness and understanding of the employer’s concerns.

Always answer honestly – one of these folks may be asked about you in a reference check, or the interviewer may be buddies with your potential new boss. Frame the answer such that you show you are sensitive to how others perceive you, that you can see the big picture, and have what it takes to be successful in the new job. For example, a sales manager who would be responsible for achieving a sales team’s ad revenue quotas may respond by saying that

“I’m aware that my standards are high and I come off as no-nonsense, and that sometimes makes some of my staff feel like I’m very exigent. However I lead by example, and hold myself to the same standards. I also bring the whole team in on establishing objectives from the beginning, it is then up to each and everyone to strive to meet and exceed those targets.”

What are your greatest strengths?

This is the corollary of the weakness question. Be relevant, choose skills and abilities that will directly make you a valuable addition to the interviewer’s team. Provide supporting examples that highlight your achievements. You do not want to come off as arrogant, but you definitely want to communicate confidence and present yourself as a solution for the interviewer’s problem.

For example, a Product Marketing Director will need to count on excellent technical/production/communication skills, superior correlation with market requirements, and a team player who can ensure timeliness to market. Your answer may be that you have a superior track record in accomplishing product releases working with all internal stakeholders to meet release targets while developing close relationships with industry advocates to gain timely exposure and positive hype around the company and its products.

How many bricks are there in the yellow brick road to Oz?

If you had a dinner party and could invite three famous people, who would they be? How many quarters do you need to stack up to reach the moon? There may be an engineer prepared to provide an astonishingly accurate answer to the question, however the interviewer may not even have the answer. The purpose of this type of question is to test your thought process, probe your values, discern your character, and glimpse how you may perform under pressure. This is again an opportunity for you to sell yourself.

If you are the engineer who can instantly access mathematical facts from the recesses of your grey matter, perhaps you can bust out an answer such as “if stacked on edge, it would take 15,849,951,832.46 quarters to reach the moon at a distance of 238,900 miles.” This is your chance to shine by answering literally.

If you don’t have the literal answer at your disposal, you might counter with a twist. Perhaps you ask the interviewer if they are talking about the pre-1828 quarters which were thinner or the “Johnson Sandwich” quarters which were introduced in 1965 and made thicker by the copper-nickel clad, or the silver quarters that were produced as of 1992 for inclusion in the annual Silver Proof set. Didn’t know that? Okay, ask if the quarters are to be stacked on edge or head to tails.

Remember the purpose of these bizarre questions is to catch you off guard a bit and see how you react. Can you be creative? Are you analytical? Do you have a sense of humor? Can you think on your feet?
Interviews are a short opportunity to vet you for a fit in a position. Hiring is a costly and often lengthy endeavor that takes away from actually getting the work done. Risk assessment is key. The interviewer has to determine: Can this person get the job done? Will he fit with the team? Will she add value? Do I want to work with this person? Keep this in mind throughout, and close the interviewer at the end, assuring him/her of your ability and desire to work there.


Have any funny anecdotes? Tell us your funniest interview questions or situations.


About the Author:

Anna Mathieu, Marketing Communications Manager, brings together in-the-trenches recruiting experience as well as years of marketing and sales success in a variety of industries from software to real estate development. She thrives on evangelizing the Redfish brand and communicating Redfish’s expert recruiting services, to drive bottom line results.

About Redfish Technology:

Nationwide IT Recruiting for the High Tech Industries

Founded in Silicon Valley in 1996, Redfish Technology has been a leading provider of high tech and clean tech professional and executive talent. Partnering with growth mode companies, small and large, Redfish staffs executive functions and builds out the teams below. The company provides services nationwide and has offices in Silicon Valley, the East Coast, and Sun Valley.

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