How to Handle Your First-Round Interview

The types of questions you are most likely to encounter in your first-round interview include:

  1. “Tell me about yourself.”
    The perfect opening for your two-minute presentation! Describe your educational and work background, identify your key strengths and provide a couple of illustrations, and state your intended career direction. Usually, this is the first question asked. If it isn’t, you can usually defer answering a different question by saying “It may help if I start by providing a bit of background” and following with your presentation. Then you can return to the interviewer’s question.
  2. “Why would you like to work here?”
    Explain what you have learned about the company, highlighting what you find appealing or admirable. Try to be specific–broad generalities sound trite.
  3. “What are your career goals?”
    Focus on the idea that you want to grow professionally, but realize that there may be a variety of opportunities in the company as time goes on. Avoid naming titles–you may shoot too high or too low.

    Good answer: “I’ve learned from the experiences I described earlier that I enjoy leadership, communication, and negotiation. I’m interested in learning to manage projects, people, and business situations. My goals are to work for a manager I can learn from, to develop on-the-job experience, and to achieve or surpass the goals that are set.” (Ties together the past and future and shows business awareness and achievement orientation.)

  4. “Who is your hero?”
    Pick someone–don’t answer that you don’t have a hero or heroine, because the question is about the traits you value. (If you don’t want the job, you might say that no one lives up to your standards.) This should be someone you genuinely admire, and you should make sure to name the traits that give rise to your admiration. Also consider whether the values these traits represent will seem positive to the company. If you say, for example, “I’ve always admired my Uncle Al because he did whatever it took to pile up a fortune,” you’ll come off as greedy and selfish.
  5. “Why should I hire you?”
    Be prepared to cite the key strengths that you see as necessary to do the job, relating them to your own demonstrated skills, as illustrated in stories you’ve already told. Then try to name one desirable extra that you provide, such as your enthusiasm, your ability to work long hours when necessary, or your love of learning.
  6. “What are some of your values?”
    You can answer this as you would the hero question, if that question hasn’t already been asked. Or just name some things you genuinely admire or desire. Examples: a collegial environment, good teamwork, honesty, fairness, willingness to help, trust.
  7. “Do you set goals for yourself?”
    Do not say no. Name a situation where you did and tell what you did to be sure you met them.
  8. “What characteristics would you look for in a good manager?”
    Select the elements that are most important to you from the range of traits considered desirable in a manager: honesty, providing clear goals, encouraging resourcefulness, challenging employees, respect, giving feedback, offering recognition, inspiring, caring, being available. Don’t give the whole list, or you’ll seem impossible to satisfy.
  9. “What are your limitations on travel?”
    If you have limitations, think about these beforehand and come up with ways to work around them as far as possible. And before you jump into telling the interviewer all your limitations (no flying, no trips of more than two days, claustrophobia, vegetarian meals only, and so on), find out what the person has in mind in the way of travel. If you can handle the requirements, say so with enthusiasm.
  10. “Tell me about your greatest challenge and how you dealt with it.”
    This is the perfect entrée for telling another of the accomplishment stories you developed when you were preparing your two-minute presentation.
  11. “Do you have any more questions?”
    Never say no! Keep several good questions in reserve for just this request (more than one, because over the course of the interview the manager may address one or more of them). See “Interviewing” Companies.

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