Interviews seemed to be a lot harder than I remember,” says Nick, a Baby Boomer executive who called for Interview Prep Coaching. “I was so unprepared for some of their very difficult questions. I know I blew it.” With more employers hiring and more jobs being listed every day, the interview piece of the hiring process is one people take for granted. They think because most are on ZOOM that it will be easy. He found out, like most others, that thinking is entirely incorrect. Today, some of the new questions that employers are asking are challenging to answer.
Expect that your first question will be the common one: Tell me about yourself. Using a technique I call the 60 Second Sell is the most effective way to open the interview. It is a tool that helps you target your skills to meet the employer’s needs. First, you summarize your five most marketable attributes straightforwardly and concisely. Think of this as your 60-second verbal business card that summarizes your best skills, accomplishments, and previous experience in a well-thought-out fashion that will immediately make the employer know why they should hire you. For more specific details on using this technique, read the article Best Way To Open An Interview To Secure A Job Offer.
What is your superpower?
This seems to be a hot new question that many people, especially in tech, are being asked. You should interpret this question to mean what’s unique about you? You must select your crucial strength and relate it to the job they are asking you to perform. Here is a good example. I was prepping an Account Executive for a top Sales Rep role and he said this question had stumped him before. After some discussion, I determined his superpower was his ability to connect to prospects and customers instantly. He instinctively knew if the other person wanted an analytical approach or a more social conversational style. His communication ability allowed him to be an expert networker and great at prospecting. That became his answer and the employer he interviewed with was impressed and said, “Great superpower. I like that answer.” And yes, he did land that job.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Keep in mind if you said your superpower already, then only touch on it here. Add in 2-3 other vital skills you have and provide detailed work examples of how you have successfully applied the skills in previous roles. Offering work examples are critical as it allows the employer to envision you can do the same things for them and deliver similar results. When answering the weakness question, it is now better to illustrate a weakness you have overcome. For example, you might say, “When I started at XYZ company, I had no background in eCommerce advertising platforms, only digital marketing. In my new role, this was a blatant weakness. So, I took the initiative, attended classes, and quickly earned several important certifications in this space. I also attended company and industry webinars and tutorials to get myself up to speed quickly. As a result, I have been able to work successfully in the eCommerce arena for the last two years.” It is vital to conclude with how you have overcome the weakness, and it is not a weakness anymore.
What research did you do on the company?
You better have done a lot of research and be knowledgeable about the company and the specific job duties. You cannot fake this answer. Look at who their competitors are. Read any recent press articles about the company. The employer feels if you do not take the time to learn as much as possible about this company, you will not put in the extra effort to succeed on the job. A wise idea is to also go onto LinkedIn and ask to connect to the recruiter and hiring manager as well as anyone else you interview with.
Why do you want this job?
You need to be able to identify precisely why you want to work for this company first. Prepare an answer that shows you know who they need. Discuss what attracts you to them and the job. If you have direct industry experience, bring it up. Also, add in 2-3 key points on how your X and Y skills or background will allow you to get up to speed quickly and make some vital contributions fast. Be specific. A great deal rides on you convincing the interviewer you have the passion and drive to perform the work.
As a manager, what strategies have you used to address diversity challenges?
Diversity has become a hot issue, and many companies are now asking questions on this subject. Be sure you give a specific work example and not just a generalization. You might say, “Many of our customers are from different ethnic or cultural backgrounds, so being savvy on how to act and what to say shows insight and good business acumen. As a result, I have taken several classes on diversity and became more sensitive to this issue. I do my best to promote tolerance, acceptance, and inclusion. I work with some resistant people who I identified needed additional training classes and coaching to be more sensitive. I mentored them privately. In addition, I also had HR set up a training course for my teams and indirect reports. I sell it as a terrific way to get more input from every person on the team, which allows us to come up with new ideas, enhance productivity, and process/system or design improvements. That approach has been successful for me.”
Have a sophisticated list of questions to ask
You need to show you have done your homework. Asking good questions impresses the employer. Write out these inquiries and cover things like the boss’s management style, what impact COVID had on the company and anything else you want to know. Do not ask about salary or perks – wait until you get the job offer before you ask those questions. Be specific about your job duties and industry. For example, a product marketing manager would need to ask in-depth questions on any new products in the pipeline, the sales process, technical issues, competitors, market position, etc.
How to CLOSE the Interview
The most effective strategy to close the interview is to use the 60 Second Sell you created to open the discussion. It contains your top 5 selling points on how and why you can excel in this job. Once you have asked all your questions, and it seems the interview is concluding, say this, “Thank you for meeting with me today. I am very interested in the position. Let me summarize for you what I can bring to this position…..” Then give them your 60 Second Sell.
Keep in mind that confidence is vital! Use short, concise answers. Do not ramble. Listening is essential to ensure you understand the question, especially if there are two parts to it. Being able to master these new tough questions will allow you to sell yourself more effectively when you face the interviewer.
This article was originally published in Forbes.com.