Traditional interview questions, often related to your professional or management style, allow employers to evaluate your fit within the culture of the organization. These questions tend to focus on how you would handle hypothetical situations. While most employers have shifted to behavioral-based interviews, you will likely encounter several traditional interview questions, such as, “Tell me about yourself,” “Why are you interested in working for us?” and “Where do you see yourself in the next five years?”
To answer a traditional interview question:
- Be prepared to sell your skills and experiences.
- Provide a specific example, even if they do not ask for one.
- Avoid rambling. Your answers should be structured, direct, and concise.
Many organizations now use behavioral-based interviewing techniques, which require the job applicant to describe past experiences that relate to situations they might encounter in the new position. This approach is based on the belief that past performance is the best predictor of future behavior. Even if you don't have a great deal of work experience, companies expect you to be able to relate past experiences to this position. This interviewing format is less common for faculty jobs.
Behavioral-based interview questions generally start with any one of the following phrases:
- Tell me about a time when you...
- Describe a circumstance when you were faced with a problem related to...
- Think about an instance in which you...
- Tell me how you approached a situation where...
When your interview is behavioral-based, you should expect a structured interview with set questions, as opposed to a more conversational style. The interviewer is probably evaluating you against a profile of desired behaviors considered necessary for success. You may receive follow-up questions that probe for more details and attempt to evaluate the consistency of your answers. Many of the questions will have multiple parts, and the interviewer will generally take notes during your answers.
Employers often use case interviews to assess candidates’ ability to communicate ideas persuasively, solve problems collaboratively, and think strategically. You may be asked to participate in a case interview with other candidates or with one or more interviewers. In a case interview, you will be given a situation or problem and will be asked to provide a resolution. To be successful during a case interview:
- Listen and understand the prompt. Ask for clarification.
- Define the problem and identify what analysis is necessary to research a solution.
- Focus on creating value for the client and explain your reasoning.
- Do not jump to conclusions—take time to consider and organize your ideas.
- Be creative and experiment with options. Test your hypotheses.
- Summarize your thoughts and make a recommendation.
Job candidates for positions in IT, engineering, and science industries may encounter technical interviews. These interviews contain questions specific to the job itself in addition to numerical reasoning questions, coding challenges, word problems, peer discussions, puzzles, and brain teasers. Your answers allow the employer to evaluate the depth and breadth of your experience, how you approach problem solving, and your ability to communicate.
- Sell your skills and experiences. Know your audience before going into the interview.
- Practice whiteboarding. Be prepared to communicate your thought processes visually and verbally.
- Revisit core principles and basics. You will encounter questions that range from high-level to fundamental.
- Consider how you have communicated technical information in the past. Bring a portfolio or examples of your work.
- Ask questions. Make sure you understand the problem.