It’s all about your skills: Winning answers to common interview questions

When we put a candidate forward for a job interview, we always follow up with clients for feedback. One theme we often hear is that job seekers tend to focus more on specific qualifications or the particulars of their CVs, rather than focusing on their skills in a larger sense.

That’s why we wanted to share some of our thoughts on answering interview questions based on skills and competency, rather than on experience. Clearly, you can’t really have one without the other, so this distinction may seem confusing – but what we want to encourage candidates to do is to look at the bigger picture when it comes to the benefits they can deliver.

Let’s look at some examples, using common interview questions.

1. Tell me about your career to date.

DON’T: start at the beginning of your career and list all the places you’ve worked. That’s what your CV is for.

DO: talk about your professional achievements, the things that drive you, what you’ve learnt and where you see yourself going next in your career.

2. What are your greatest strengths?

DON’T: merely list the particular data qualifications you may have, or programming languages you know.

DO: talk about your personal characteristics and give examples of when you’ve displayed them in order to achieve a successful outcome. Perhaps you’re tenacious which helped you solve a problem that others had abandoned?

It’s also useful to consider your greatest weakness too, as they’re often two sides of the same coin. One person’s ‘decisiveness’ is another person’s ‘impulsiveness’, but the best candidates will acknowledge this and show how they’ve overcome it.

3. Why do you want to work here?

DON’T: be insincere, or indifferent. Interviewers can always tell. We heard of a candidate who answered this question with a combative ‘why not?’ Needless to say, he didn’t get the job because he didn’t demonstrate the right attitude.

DO: read our previous post about researching the company you’re applying to. Then show off your insider knowledge about the aspects that truly excite you. Even if you’re an undemonstrative type of a person, show enthusiasm by raising your voice slightly, sitting forward, gesturing more or simply smiling.

4. Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

DON’T: get caught flat-footed on this one. It’s a classic interview question that is used to gauge a candidate’s ambition and potential loyalty to the company.

DO: aim high. Talk about a future with this company, within a role higher than the one you’re applying for. Do use this as an exercise to show some vision and creativity in terms of where you think data management might take the company in the long-term.

5. What would your current boss say about you?

DON’T: reply with safe or closed-ended sorts of answers, such as ‘She’d say I was a hard worker’ or ‘He’d say I was reliable.’

DO: try to articulate the how’s and why’s of these answers: ‘She’d say my work ethic was the key to getting a new data warehousing project in on time and under budget’ or “He’d say he could rely on me to be a positive influence on the team and to always deliver to a high standard.’

If you’re a job seeker, it’s very likely you’ll be asked some variation of these types of interview questions. What we suggest you do is spend some time really considering what your answers would be. Our final tip is to adapt your language according to the person who’s interviewing you. Language specific to the data industry, standard terminology and certain buzzwords are fine if you are speaking to a technical interviewer. When you meet HR, be careful not to put them off with too much jargon, however much you use it in your day job.

How have you turned an interview question into a platform to talk about your achievements or competencies? What types of responses do you think would generate the most positive feedback from interviewers? Leave us a comment below to share your experiences with our readers!

KDR Recruitment is the home of the best data, technology and analytics jobs. For more career advice follow KDR on LinkedIn.

Chris Bongard

November 20th, 2014 View my profile

You might also like: