In any job face-to-face interview, you might encounter several different types of questions:
1. Straightforward questions. A hiring manager is most apt to talk about the role and specific tasks that must be performed, and then ask: "Tell me how your background prepares you to do the job."
TIP: Wherever possible, draw parallels to the work that needs to be done, and what you have done in a previous or current job. Explain how the job you're interviewing for calls for the skills and experiences you possess.
2. Behavioral questions. Interviewers are predisposed to believe that how you acted in the past is a good predictor of how you will act in the future. "Describe a time when you confronted [insert some difficult problem or situation here]..." is a typical way for these kinds of questions to begin. These questions ask you to reach back into your own history. They often deal less with particular skill sets, and more with your personality and how you confronted interpersonal interactions or work situations.
While the question forces you to speak about an experience, its purpose is to get a sense of your personality, how you think, your values, and your ability to navigate difficult situations. Moreover, interviewers will draw inferences about you based on apparent comfort level in dealing with the question.
TIP: It is impossible to predict specific behavioral questions in advance, but you should be prepared with stories that demonstrate how you dealt with conflicting values, disappointment, the failures of others, or situations when you have demonstrated leadership, team spirit, and gone "above and beyond" for the sake of your employer.
3. Situational questions. These questions are similar to behavioral questions, however they compel you to speak about how you would deal with a particular issue in the future. These questions might begin with, "How would you respond to [insert a particular situation or problem]?"
TIP: You might want to treat these hypothetical questions with an actual example of when something similar occurred. Tell about it, how you stepped up to the plate, or made a contribution. You might bring to bear your specific skills and tell how you would employ them to turn this challenge into an accomplishment.
It is possible that you just don't have the answer. If this is the case, don't try to fake it. Instead let it be the basis for a great answer about figuring it out. Few employers expect you to know everything, and they're often impressed by a person's demonstrated initiative to do research and seek advice from others.
4. Brainteasers or skill tests. Some super-competitive companies like Google or Facebook are renown for putting candidates through elaborate tests involving use of sophisticated coding or logical reasoning. Other companies will bruise less, but might still put you through your paces to test the actual level of your skills.
TIP: Do the best you can, and remember sometimes you do in fact need to measure up to a specifically defined standard. In other instances, what is really being tested is the level of creativity, speed, or something else about the way in which you go about solving the problem rather than the solution itself.
If you're invited for an in-person interview, it means that the employer can imagine you being successful in the role to be filled. It is an opportunity for the employer to carefully evaluate you in comparison to your competition. This is the time when you can demonstrate your competence, skills, character, and attitude. You can go further by listening carefully, responding to questions openly and cogently, and thereby convincing your interviewer of your value. When you do these things, you will go a long way toward landing your new job.
Arnie Fertig is the head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, where he utilizes his extensive background in HR Staffing and as owner of a recruiting company to help mid-career job-hunters land their next job. Arnie provides one-to-one coaching services to individuals throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the job hunt, including: resume writing, personal branding, utilizing social media, enhancing networking skills, preparing for interviews, and negotiating compensation.