“What do you think of garden gnomes?”
This was apparently asked of one Trader Joe’s candidate in an interview . A silly, irrelevant question for a job in grocery stores, you might say. However, questions like these that seem, on the surface, ridiculous, often provide more insight into a candidate’s aptitude for the role than you might initially think.
No one ever knows exactly what questions are going to be asked in an interview. However, there are trends that show up in every list of most common interview questions, which we have divided into five categories. We’ll provide examples for each, as well as an overview of how you should consider approaching them to showcase yourself in the best possible light.
“Tell me a little bit about yourself.”
“Why are you leaving your current job?”
“Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?”
These tend to be the questions that open up an interview, giving you an opportunity to provide a brief bit of background information about yourself, as well as an overview of your aspirations, providing the interviewer context about you and where this role fits in with your career plans.
This is not to say, however, that you should approach these questions with any less preparation or panache than others. You should phrase your answers as a pitch of your career; linear, like a story, and this job as the next step that slots perfectly between the past and the future. It wouldn’t hurt, of course, to slip in a few specific achievements that you want the employer to know about, opening up the floor for further questions on those later.
While you should phrase your answers in a way that presents this job as an ideal opportunity, you should also be honest – you don’t want anything you said in a moment of panic to come back to haunt you if you are hired!
“How did you hear about the position?”
“What do you know about the company?”
“What do you think we could do better or differently?”
To separate the wheat from the chaff, employers will frequently ask interviewees to demonstrate their knowledge about the company they are applying to. Stumbling at this hurdle will almost certainly mark the end of your candidacy for the position! If you don’t know much about the company you’re interviewing for, they will question your passion for what they do and your ability to do the most basic of research.
Interviewers want to see that not only are you passionate about their company’s brand, but that you are able to assess their current infrastructure critically and constructively present feedback using your prior knowledge and experience. Small start-ups in particular look for creativity in their employees, and definitely would like to see how you could contribute to company development from the outset.
“Tell me about a challenge or a conflict you’ve faced at work, and how you dealt with it.”
“Tell me about a time you failed. How did you deal with the situation?”
“Give me an example of a time you managed numerous responsibilities. How did you handle that?”
To get an idea of how you handle conflict, your interviewer may ask a similar question to one of these. Often, they will start with ‘give me an example…’ or ‘describe…’. The idea is to get a sense of what your personal strengths are in pressurised situations, as well as how you structure your response to problems.
There is a technique to handling such questions, named the STAR Method. As set out by Al Dea, the founder of CareSchooled and a learning and development coach, STAR is “helpful because it provides a simple framework for helping a candidate tell a meaningful story about a previous work experience,” i.e. giving your response a clear structure and minimising the opportunity to ramble.
S – Set the scene. What details do you need to share to ensure your example is clear?
T – Task. What was your responsibility and/or goal in this situation?
A – Action. What did you do to resolve the issue and complete your aim? What steps did you take?
R – Result. What was the direct result of your actions? What did you accomplish?
You can read more about the STAR Method here.
These questions could also expand to more personal ones, such as the personality types you tend to clash with, as well as your own strengths and weaknesses. Your answers to these questions can provide insight into how you might gel with the existing team, and whether the company culture is necessarily a suitable fit for you.
“How many tennis balls can you fit into a limousine?”
“How many pennies could you fit in this room?”
“Why are manholes round?”
These are questions of the same breed as “what do you think of garden gnomes?”. Questions that appear completely unrelated to the job at hand, and that there could be a million ways to answer, none of which jump out as being the ‘correct’ one. That’s because the hiring manager is not looking for a correct answer, but one that is reached in a logical, methodical manner.
If you articulate your thought process out loud, the interviewer can see how you are approaching the problem using existing mathematical abilities, as well as common sense and general knowledge.
They also reveal a substantial amount about the personality of a candidate. Your approach to the questions and ability to think on your feet speaks volumes about your character and may be a crucial insight to the employer as to whether you’d be up for the day-to-day challenges that are part of the role.
A calm-headed, logical candidate may handle the tennis ball question by demonstrating awareness of the measurements needed to perform the calculation, such as the volume of a tennis ball and the length, width and height of the limousine. An even more impressive candidate may turn questions back on the interviewer, asking as to whether there are any people inside the limousine at the time and how big the seats are.
However you choose to approach the puzzle at hand, maintain a cool demeanour, showcase your understanding of maths and problem-solving and use rational logic to show you could come up with a rough methodology to reach a correct solution, even if you do not.
“Are you under/overqualified for this job?”
“Why should we hire you over someone else?”
While these questions may appear a little forthright, and definitely intimidating, they actually present a brilliant opportunity to sell yourself to the employer in a brazen way that thus far you may have had to tiptoe around.
Use questions such as these to summarise your core strengths and the value that you would bring to the company, emphasising that you truly are the perfect fit for this job. Be careful not to overly criticise your imaginary rivals, as that’ll present you as petty – rely on your own positives in your pitch to convince the interviewer that you should get the position.
BONUS – Ask Questions Back!
It’s no secret that the key to finishing an interview well is to walk in with a few pre-prepared questions to ask the hiring manager when prompted. These should demonstrate your curiosity, prior research and genuine desire to know more about the company and the role. Perhaps more importantly, this interview is an opportunity for you to gauge whether this position in this company would be the right fit for you. Therefore, be sure to maximise this opportunity to answer any questions you still have by the end of your time with the interviewer.
Here are some examples of questions that could provoke interesting, informative answers from the employer:
“What’s your favourite part about working here?”
“What can you tell me about the company’s plans for growth in the future?”
“How would you describe the company culture?”
So, there you have it – an overview of the most common questions that could arise in an interview. If the specific question is not listed above, it is guaranteed to fit into one of those five categories. Prepare to handle questions from each of those angles, be aware of what exactly they want to see from each answer, and you’ll knock it out the park.
Posted by Susannah Hunt on 6 June 2019
How To Beat The January Blues
How To Beat The January Blues
Here are small, yet effective, measures you can take to improve your wellbeing in the workplace that can spread into your personal life in a positive, affirming way. Work/Life Balance Sir Ken Robinson noted in his keynote speech at Talent Summit 2018 that, although the invention of emails was promised to save us time, we have since found that, if anything, we are less and less able to leave work behind in the workplace. It is now part of most people’s routines to check their phones first thing in the morning and reply to work-related emails at all hours of the day, always thinking about what needs to be done. It’s important that you ‘work smart, not long.’ This means actively leaving work behind in the office, working efficiently during the day so you don’t feel compelled to continue with it after hours. If the quantity of work you are being expected to complete within working hours is too much to do so successfully, be sure to speak up and discuss the manageability of your workload with your supervisor. Communication is key – they’re going to keep piling on the work as long you stay quiet about how overwhelmed you are, so make sure you speak up and be heard before it becomes too much to handle. Employers won’t know where the pressure lies unless you tell them. If you’re unsure of how much your work life spills over into your personal life, why don’t you try keeping a log for a month? Jot down in a diary how many hours you work every day – not just when you’re sitting at your desk, but when you’re thinking about work at home, composing emails and returning calls out of hours. It may build a more objectively troubling picture than you can see currently from the inside. Make The Most Of Your Breaks Don’t be afraid to make the most of the breaks you are allotted at work. Once you’re on a roll, it’s tempting to power through lunchtime and eat at your desk, one eye always on your computer screen. Try and avoid doing this when you can. Take a walk, practise mindfulness or meditation, experience new places to eat, socialise with co-workers or friends who work nearby. “But I don’t have time to meditate!” I hear you exclaim. Yes, you do! ‘Meditation’ is not always synonymous with pulling on yoga pants, lighting up a stick of incense and adopting the lotus position. You can meditate absolutely anywhere – in a local park, at a café… even sitting at your desk! If you’re not confident leading your own meditation, you can find five-minute guided sessions free online, like this one here. There are also some great customisable apps you can get on your phone, such as Timer and Headspace. It is impossible to overvalue the importance of taking time to relax, clear your head and focus on your own wellbeing. You’ll find this re-energises you for the rest of the day, as well as provide an invaluable opportunity to assess your current state of mind and mentally address any emotional concerns or anxieties. You may also be pleasantly surprised at how easily solutions pop into your head when you take just a few minutes to collect your thoughts. Communication This one works both ways for employers as well as employees. Communication is the key to destigmatising conversations about mental health. In his TEDx talk on workplace mental health, Tom Oxley says ‘you don’t make people unwell by talking about mental health – you give them the opportunity to speak out sooner’. There’s a flawed unspoken terror that speaking out about mental illness will somehow worsen the problem, as if it’s contagious or seem as if you conjured it up into existence within your own mind. The reality is that many sufferers don’t feel able to speak up due to the prejudice surrounding mental health, and the fear that their workplace would not be supportive of them if they did so. The best way an employer can foster an atmosphere of positivity, health and wellbeing is to ensure that their workers know that they are free to talk openly about any feelings of stress, anxiety or depression and won’t face indirect penalisation for doing so. The first reaction of many employers is to offer a struggling staff member limited time off to recover, then expect them to return to work and continue as usual. While time off may be a solution for some employees, bosses should also consider the advantages of offering flexible working hours to affected workers. Tom Oxley strongly advocates for good communication practices between employers and employees to ensure that no one ever feels alienated from their place of work, and that anxieties don’t build up over time into uncontrollable crises. In turn, employees should communicate to their employers about their feelings on mental health in the workplace, as far as they feel comfortable to do so. Being transparent about how you’re feeling and what you need from your job to help you recover will give your boss the tools to help you in the way that’s most beneficial for you. If you are worried that taking time off would only serve to isolate you from the company, voice that concern. Your employer should want to get the very best out of you – they hired you for a reason. It’s in their interest to give you the support you need. Create a Healthy Routine Studies have consistently proven a strong link between mental health and physical health, and specialists are adamant that one of the best ways to maintain good mental wellbeing is to look after your physical welfare. Your job can be intellectually demanding, with long hours and difficult tasks taking a toll on your mental health. Your job is also more than likely sedentary. Indeed, scientists have connected the rise in global obesity to the increasing number of jobs that don’t require any form of physical activity. It can be hard to find the time to exercise during a busy work week, but it’s important you look after your body – the injection of endorphins from exercising can only beneficially impact your mental wellbeing. Take a stroll during your lunchbreak, do 30 mins of yoga before work, or even try training for a half marathon over the course of a few months. The same can be said for your diet, avoid that pastry to go with your coffee and instead be sure to stock up your desk drawer with nutritious snacks rather than sugary ones, such as nuts, fruit and protein bars. Snacknation has published an extensive list of delicious office snack ideas if you’re dry on inspiration. These are just a few ways you can work to improve your mental wellbeing in the workplace, which will in turn hopefully boost your productivity, energy happiness and eliminate the possibility of coming down with the January blues. While mental health is something we can’t always necessarily control, we can impact the way in which we talk about it, breaking down the harmful social barriers that currently ruin constructive discussions on preventative measures.
How to Organise Yourself in 2020
How to Organise Yourself in 2020
A new year is a time for new beginnings and fresh starts. Are you back in work this week with the best of intentions to start on the right foot, but you're finding it hard to get started? We have made a list of things to help you start your new year by being more organised and help you to have a very productive 2020. Start Your Day Right If you're overrun with many different tasks at the one time and find it difficult to know how to structure your day in the most productive way possible, don't worry, you're not alone. A simple solution is to try coming into work 10 - 15 minutes before you are due to start and use that time to make sure your desk is tidy and you lay out all the tasks you need done on that day and during the week in a notebook or use an online tool such as Google Tasks or Google Calendar. Write a list of what you need to do today and a list of the deadlines you have for the week. Taking the time to do this in the morning before emails start flying in and your phone is going off will start you off on a productive path and it should help to keep you on that path throughout the day. Prioritise Once you know what you want or need done in your day/week, the next step is to learn what tasks are the most important. One of the key elements to being organised is being able to prioritise the important stuff and know what needs your time first. A handy way to decide this is by using the below table. For every task you need to complete, you should evaluate each one by placing it in the below table. You should never have more than two priorities that fall in the box of ‘urgent and important’. The rest fall under the other categories of ‘important and not urgent’, ‘urgent but not important’ and ‘not urgent and not important’. Always structure your time around the urgent and important things. This short film about prioritising might inspire you... Ask For Help Most days you will handle your workload just fine on your own, but every now and then when you see your to-do list is particularly long, sometimes the best (and only) way to get things done is to ask a colleague for help. If you have too many urgent and important items on your to-do list, you should go to your boss to look at delegating some of your workload or see if some deadlines can be adjusted. Missing a deadline is much worse than letting someone know in advance that you need some help to get something done. Being organised doesn't mean you must manage everything yourself, it's being able to look at your workload and know how it will be done and when it will be done. Being organised is a skill, but it is one we can all learn very easily. Setting aside time every day to get organised is half the battle. Why not start this year by settng your new years resolution to give yourself time every day to get organised and prioritise? You'll see it makes all the difference to your day!
Hoping To Get A New Job in 2020? Here Are 5 Tips To Help You With Your Search
Hoping To Get A New Job in 2020? Here Are 5 Tips To Help You With Your Search
Searching for jobs is a job in itself. It can be challenging and time consuming but there are ways of making this task a little easier. If you are planning on finding a new job, Sigmar Recruitment has devised a list of top 5 job searching tips to help you in your pursuit of the perfect job this new year. Get Employers to Come to You Uploading your CV online can increase your chances of being seen by employers. Most job searching websites like; Jobs.ie and Monster.ie allow job seekers to create an online profile using their CV content. This profile can then be viewed by potential employers. There is also an option, when you create your account, to highlight specific jobs and organisations you’re interested in and receive email notifications when positions become available. This is handy for any job seeker as it does the hard work for you and allows suitable job opportunities to come directly to you. Update your LinkedIn Profile The first thing you should do before applying for a job is ensure your LinkedIn profile is up to date with all your relevant work experience. Often employers will search for you online while reviewing your CV. It’s important to make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date as it could be the reason you get called for an interview. Extra Tip: If you are unemployed and don’t have an issue with making your employment status public, you may want to update your LinkedIn profile headline to something like, “Currently seeking (insert type of role here) in (insert location here)”. This will let your network know that you are currently job seeking Target the Right Companies It’s important to know what type of company you are looking for. This all comes down to your personal preference. Knowing what you want will make it easier. Would you rather be; “a big fish in a little pond” or “a little fish in a big pond”? By eliminating the type of companies you don’t want in your search, you will narrow down the available jobs suited to you. Extra Tip: If you know of a company you think you would like to work for, search for reviews of the company online. Glassdoor.com lets you search millions of reviews of companies that are all posted anonymously by employees. This is a great way to get an honest appraisal of organisations you’re considering applying to. Network Use the contacts you have to enquire about available jobs and get the word out that you’re looking for a new position. Often jobs can be found through people we know so it’s a good idea to get in touch with any relevant contacts you may have. Building on your current network can also give you an advantage in your job search. Attending conferences and job expos are a great way to network and find out about career opportunities. Be Positive Finding the perfect job isn’t easy and may take time. As rejections start coming in, it’s important to always try to stay positive. It’s only natural for you to feel deflated when things aren’t going according to plan but try to use the rejection as a motivation to work harder. The right job is out there for you and you will find it if you stay persistent and optimistic. Don’t have the time to job search? If you find yourself not being able to find the time to search for jobs properly, you can contact us in Sigmar Recruitment. You can upload your details and CV to our website and create an online profile that will be accessed by our specialist recruitment consultants to review your details and contact you with potential job opportunities.
6 Job-Hunting Tips – Your Game Plan To Get Your Next Job
6 Job-Hunting Tips – Your Game Plan To Get Your Next Job
The search for a new job is rarely an easy task. It takes time, commitment and hard work, but most importantly, you need a Game Plan. 1. Be Clear On What You Want To Do Before you jump online and start applying for every role you find in a generic search, first think about what you actually want to do and search for this or related roles instead. This will stop you applying for roles just for the sake of it and will make you focus your job search on a more well defined area that is likely to be more closely related to your skill set, experience and interests. 2. Read the Job Spec Often a candidate will apply to a role because they think they might be able to do the job (even though they’ve never actually done it before) or because they might hold one out of the four required skills. This is not enough. If a job spec lists a skill/ability/qualification as being required, it is hugely important that you actually hold this required specification. These specs are carefully and thoughtfully designed to give you an idea as to whether or not you are suited to this role. If you think you are able for a position but unsure whether to apply, simply pick up the phone to the advertiser/recruiter and ask the question. It never hurts to try. 3. Set Up a LinkedIn Profile Anyone who is serious about securing a new role should have an up-to-date LinkedIn profile set up. LinkedIn is your opportunity to network, to connect with recruiter(s) and follow companies of interest to you, giving you a front row seat to all updates from both recruiters and companies on new roles. Not only this, but when looking to fill new roles, hiring managers and recruiters will often search LinkedIn for specific skills, experience or job titles in the hunt for new candidates and talent for ready to fill roles – if you’re on LinkedIn with the required talents and an up to date CV, you’re going to be found. Keep active on LinkedIn too as the more activity on your page, the more traffic you attract. Be sure you’re constantly updating your page with relevant dates, new skills and new qualifications – I mean what’s the point in having them if you’re not going to show them off? 4. Expect Follow Up – Be Available Always be sure when you’re putting your contact details on your CV, that you are in fact contactable! There is no point in including your email address if you’re not checking your emails regularly. Similarly, if you are including a telephone number, make sure you can actually take calls. If you’re going to focus your energy on a job hunt, you need to be able to make a little time to discuss it too. Of course, understandably every now and then you will miss a call, so it’s important to make sure you have voicemail set up (which you check) and that you return your missed calls. Failing to follow up on missed calls not only means you might have just missed out on a great opportunity, but it could also make you look like you’re not taking this job search seriously and may deter the person who is looking to fill this role from reaching out to you in the future. 5. Keep Track of Applications When applying for a number of roles at once, I would suggest keeping track of the roles you’ve applied to. Whether this is in a small notepad and you’re jotting down the Job Title, Duties and Experience, or a more sophisticated spreadsheet (for the super organised), it will allow you to recall which roles to follow up on, or will refresh your memory on a particular role when the hiring manager or recruiter calls to discuss your application. It should also prompt you towards what questions to ask so you can get as much out of the conversation as possible too – letting them know what you want and why you’re interested in this role. 6. Be Patient The main thing to remember though is to be both realistic and patient with yourself (and the process). Your ideal role won’t always present itself immediately so give yourself time to find it. There’s no point in settling for the wrong role right now…wait for what you want and it’s usually worth it.