The dirty little secret about interview questions

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Oct 08

You write enough about interview questions — or search Google looking for answers — and one could conclude that interviewing is simply a game of wits between you and the hiring manager. To a degree, this is an accurate view, but misses out on the importance of the interview in determining your fit with the manager and company.

But behind all the interview questions, there is a dirty little secret, hidden from the candidate and rarely talked about by the hiring manager. It’s this: there are some ugly problems to fix and the hiring manager is hoping you are the one to fix them.

Cubicle Warriors use this dirty little secret to get hired.

No intimidation: A company is not it’s reputation

It took me a while in my career to understand that the marketing reputation of a company, done through the advertising or getting on all of those “fabulous places to work” lists, has little to do with the actual work to get done. From the outside looking in, we think the company is fabulous and then we run into the dial telephone on the desk and needing permission to dial an outside line.

It’s easy going into an interview to get intimidated by a company with a great reputation. The reality is that each company has a unique culture and ugly problems to solve. Companies need their managers, through their employees, to solve those problems for profit.

So the very first attitude to have — and a great way to start out answering interview questions — is “I helped the company to do this…” You help companies achieve their goals through your job skills.

Find the problems to fix and show how you solved them

The cool thing about discovering the problems to solve? You can show how your past work has contributed to fixing them. Hiring managers don’t like talking about the problems in their departments, so you have to ask about their challenges.

But, if you can determine the big problems the manager needs solving, you can also design your answers around how you “helped the company” solve those exact same problems. From a hiring manager’s perspective, finding someone that will help solve the department’s problems is help you can believe in.

Use this dirty little secret to get hired

When you are asking clarifying questions during the interview, always be looking for the ugly problems that need solving. Finding the problems early in the interview can change the interview from the boring “what is your greatest weakness” to a great discussion about how you can help the company.

Wouldn’t you rather be problem solving?