Interviewing for a new job can be an incredibly stressful experience. From a psychological perspective, the nervousness makes sense: One 30-minute conversation with a discerning stranger will determine whether you fit the bill and whether the future you've imagined for yourself (encompassing a whole host of psychological processes including self-worth and identity) will be achieved—or not. These may be the underlying motivations which incentivize some to lie on resumes or during interviews (particularly if high in extroversion, according to research by Weiss and Feldman) or why being primed with feelings of power and thus feeling worthy, according to Lammers et al.'s work, increase our odds of getting the job. For Barry Drexler, a 30-year HR veteran turned Madison Avenue interview coach, acing the interview all comes down to the sell:
MB: Is there value in practicing for interviews, and, if so, what is the best way to prepare?
BD: One hundred percent! You want to do what other people don’t do you don’t want to wing it. It's almost a rhetorical question to ask because you never want the answers you give to be the first time you're thinking about them. For instance, new grads are often asked what their career aspirations are, and it'll be the first time they're thinking about it; that's not a good thing. When it comes to preparing for an interview, the first thing you do is study the job description: Everything is driven by the job description, but often people don’t read it. From there, you try to predict the questions you'll get.
MB: Are there any common questions that are asked across all fields?
BD: You'll always get three types of questions: behavior questions, situational questions, and frequently asked questions (FAQ).
Behavior questions are asking about your soft skills; your ambition, work ethic, honesty, integrity, etc. Most jobs will say "we need people that are great on a team", so they'll likely ask you about a behavior like teamwork. When companies list their values on their website, for instance, those are the behaviors they want to see in you. If a company values ambition, they'll ask you to describe how you're a go-getter. Another behavior that's popularly valued is multi-tasking; almost every company wants someone that can multi-task, so they might ask you "how would you handle conflicting priorities or a hectic day?," in which you would describe how you handle multiple tasks at once.
Situational questions are hypotheticals. For this, again, look at the job description. Let's say it’s a financial analyst position and it says "generate cash flow analysis." An obvious situational question would be "how would you generate cash flow analysis?" Take each bullet in the job description, and as you prepare, put "how would you" in front of it and practice answering.
FAQ can be predicted because they are always the same questions asked differently. If you're a recent grad, it'll be why did you choose your major? What are your thoughts about your career? If you're experienced or working, you'll always be asked: Why are you in the job market? Why do you want to work for us? Where do you see yourself in five years or where do you hope this job progresses to? What are your strengths? Weaknesses? For that one, in other words, they are asking what would your boss want to change about you.