The Interview's Three Big Questions

By: Doug Hardy

The Interview's Three Big Questions

When you interview for a job, it's natural to wonder about the impression you make on the interviewer. You want to dress right, show respect and prove you're qualified for the position. You can't prepare a canned answer for every potential interview question - there are just too many possibilities! The interviewers I know, however, admit that there are really only three big buckets into which most questions fall. Here's how to prepare for the interviewer's three big question marks?

1. Can this person do the job? Your job application or resume has to show you have the basic skills do the job in order to get an interview, so if you're face to face with an interviewer you've already jumped the first hurdle. Now you have to prove your claims with solid evidence. Tell stories about how you've used your skills in past work, and remember that these skills might be applied to many situations (such as how to manage a tight schedule) or very specific (such as how to operate a forklift indoors safely). Offer to demonstrate your skills, and offer testimony from people who have supervised you in the past. The interviewer shouldn't have to "take your word for it" - anyone can claim to do a job well but the candidate who proves their claim gets the job.

2. Do I like this person?It's natural for any interviewer to enjoy talking with someone likable, enthusiastic, and easygoing. Good interviewers, however, mean something different when they ask, do I like him? They mean, "will this person fit the culture of the workplace, will s/he be reliable, will s/he be self-disciplined or become a 'high maintenance' employee?"

It's great to have friends at work but this question is more about sharing work values. Are you going to represent the company accurately in your behavior? This can differ from job to job. For example, a home-service technician might represent efficiency and a receptionist might represent friendliness and welcoming. Both might be part of a company's culture, and in different ways, this is what an interview means when s/he says "I like this person for this job. They're a good fit."

3. Can I get this person to work here?Assuming the answer to the first two questions is "yes," this is the last important question. The interviewer doesn't know exactly what it will take to get you to join the team.

Part of the question is money: Your potential employer has a salary or hourly rate for the position already. It might be set by the home office or by a union contract. It might just be what others in the position are making today. (Whether you can negotiate higher pay is the subject of another column.)

Beyond pay, the interviewer knows that you have choices, and might feel some urgency to hire a good person as soon as possible. In a small business, the boss might be stuck doing the job until she finds a replacement, so there's some urgency there! Also, a good employer wants to get someone who will stick around for a while, because training and re-training new staff costs time and money.

So a good interviewer asks, "What do I have besides money to attract this person? Will they like our culture, our location, or our clients? What can I offer in terms of flexibility or a fun workplace that my competition won't offer? Even if there isn't much flexibility in money, there might be some in other aspects such as which shift you work, or whether you can take some work home and complete it there.

Before you step into that interview, remind yourself that the interviewer's job is really to answer those three questions. See if you can rehearse by answering those questions aloud to a friend in the days before the interview. You'll be ready!