Predicting Potential Interview Questions

Oftentimes when offered an interview we think to ourselves "I've done it! I'm getting a job!" and then we add it to our calendar and go out for margaritas only to show up late, unprepared and completely dazed.

Okay, okay, that was over-dramatized, but I can't tell you how many times I hear of people going to an interview without any preparation whatsoever. It's ridiculous and quite frankly, a waste of time. You might as well not show up.

I would assume that many people don't prepare because it takes time and effort, but what if I told you that through time and effort, we could basically put together a whole cheat sheet of potential questions with relevant responses and experiences personal to you?

Would you do the work then?

I thought so!

In my last post on writing cover letters we talked about the often untapped value of the job posting when it comes to knowing what to write in your letter. The job posting applies just as well in determining potential interview questions specific to the job and company.

Let's go through a series of similar exercises that you can follow along with as you prepare for your next job interview using the example job post below:

Exercise 1##

Most job postings have 4 sections and in this job posting we have highlighted this information with different colors denoting each section:

  • Blue: What the company does
  • Pink: Company culture and values
  • Green: Technical requirements
  • Yellow: Daily responsibilities and details

Next, let’s take some time to break apart each section and list the topics from the job posting:

What is RainFocus?

  • Event marketing platform helping Fortune 1000 companies prepare and execute large events worldwide
  • Their software improves the attendee's experience, streamlines event operations and accelerates marketing with better insights
  • Recently secured a lot of funding

What kind of culture does RainFocus have?

  • They care about employees, clients and the world
  • Their work is challenging, exciting and fun
  • Fast-paced environment
  • Pushing the boundaries of personalized, embedded experiences
  • Traveling to client sites is something you'll do
  • They provide Team Building activities
  • Sponsor company charity events and offer paid time off for volunteer work
  • They value hard work and having fun

What are the required technical skills?

  • Software Development Experience 1 year
  • ReactJS
  • JavaScript
  • HTML, CSS, LESS
  • SCRUM
  • Agile Development
  • jQuery
  • Bootstrap
  • Graphic Design, Photoshop
  • Object-Oriented Design, Java
  • Unit Testing

What would your daily responsibilities include?

  • Building enterprise grade web applications with modular and reusable components and a focus on usability, security and scalability
  • Work closely with Product Management to deliver high-quality products to our customers
  • Develop advanced prototypes for new innovations
  • Leading small teams
  • Working in a team environment
  • Working in a challenging environment
  • Using Agile and SCRUM
  • Excellent written and verbal communication

Exercise 2##

Ok, so now we have a good list of all the requirements and expectations for this job along with what you'd be doing on a day-to-day basis. Let's now apply this to potential interview questions that could be asked to help a hiring manager determine whether or not you have these skills and experience:

What is RainFocus?

  • Event marketing platform helping Fortune 1000 companies prepare and execute large events worldwide
  • Their software improves the attendee's experience, streamlines event operations and accelerates marketing with better insights
  • Recently secured a lot of funding: Tell me what you know about RainFocus. Do you have any questions for me about RainFocus?

What kind of culture does RainFocus have?

  • They care about employees, clients and the world; and they sponsor company charity events and offer paid time off for volunteer work: Do you have any charities you volunteer with or causes you care deeply about?
  • Their work is challenging, exciting and a fun; and they value hard work: Is working in a fun and challenging environment important to you? Do you have any examples of past environments you've worked in that have been like this? Tell me about a time you worked hard to accomplish something.
  • Fast-paced environment:
    Tell me about a time where you were successful in a fast-paced environment.
  • Pushing the boundaries of personalized, embedded experiences: Can you give me an example of a time you or a team pushed the boundaries of a product for the better?
  • Traveling to client sites is something you'll do: Have you ever traveled for a position before? Did you enjoy it? What kind of travel have you done for work?
  • They provide Team Building activities: What are the benefits of team building activities and working on a good team? Tell me about a coworker or team you really enjoyed working with.

What are the required technical skills?

  • Software Development Experience 1 year: Tell me about some of the applications you've built. What do they do? Tell me about a difficult challenge you encountered while building them, how did you overcome it? Tell me about your work experience. Do you know any of the technologies below? Are you learning any of them? what do you like about (React, JavaScript, etc)?. Why is unit testing important?
  • ReactJS
  • JavaScript
  • HTML, CSS, LESS
  • SCRUM
  • Agile Development
  • jQuery
  • Bootstrap
  • Graphic Design, Photoshop
  • Object-Oriented Design, Java
  • Unit Testing

What would your daily responsibilities include?

  • Building enterprise grade web applications with modular and reusable components and a focus on usability, security and scalability: Tell me about a project where you implemented reusable components. How did you focus on security? Scalabiltiy? etc.
  • Work closely with Product Management to deliver high-quality products to our customers: Have you had experience working with a Product Manager before? What was that like? Why are Product Managers important? What makes a good Product Manager?
  • Develop advanced prototypes for new innovations: Have you developed a prototype before? What happened?
  • Leading small teams Tell me about time where you led a team or project. What was the result?
  • Working in a team environment: Have you worked in a team environment before? What are the benefits of working on a team?
  • Working in a challenging environment: Tell me about a time where you produced successful results in a stressful or challenging environment.
  • Using Agile and SCRUM: What is Agile? What is SCRUM? What are the benefits of Agile and SCRUM? Have you worked with them before?
  • Excellent written and verbal communication: Tell me about a time when communication was key in solving a problem at work. What happened? Were you a good communicator?

Exercise 3##

After creating a list of possible questions you'll next want to go through the list again and write a response for each question.

If there is a skill you don't know or an experience you haven't had before, no problem. Don't plan on saying "I don't know" instead, start learning that technology or come up with an idea of how you might approach a situation like that successfully.

There are many other common questions asked in interviews like "Tell me about yourself", "What's your greatest weakness" and "Why should we hire you?", thanks to The Interview Guys, I've actually pulled together a folder of cheat sheets that you can use to review questions like these and the best ways to answer them.

Exercise 4##

After writing up a list of responses for each question, the final step is some good old fashioned practice! The more you practice the more confident you'll feel and better luck you'll have with the interview.

Practice your answers in front of a mirror. Role play with a friend. Try it on the phone, in person, everything!

Is this all going to take a lot of work? - Absolutely.

Is it worth it? - Yes!

Don't let this interview opportunity go to waste! You've submitted dozens of applications and put in all the work, now let's make it well worth it.

Some final advice:

Remember, every company already knows exactly what they're looking for and they've listed it all in the job posting. Your mission is to prove to them that you're capable and have what they need. Focus on answers that demonstrate your ability to do the job and meet their needs by tying in the requests in the job posting.

If the question is: "Tell me about an app you recently built" don't just talk about a simple JavaScript todo list when the position is for React. Dive deeper and highlight a JavaScript app that also incorporates React, Redux, and any other technologies they need.

As the interviewee, you really do have the power to lead the conversation by introducing the specific skills you have that are listed in the job posting. -- But you can't really do that if you haven't done the work. ;-)

Now let's get back to work gang! You can do this!