How to Answer: Tell Me About a Challenge You Had to Overcome in the Workplace

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This is a tough question because you’re forced to talk about a difficult time with a complete stranger. Fortunately, it’s also a great opportunity to turn a big challenge into a great accomplishment. In fact, we like to think of it as a related question to “Tell me about an accomplishment you’re proud of.” Why do employers ask this question? It’s because they want to know that they’re hiring someone who has the ability to think on their feet and who is resilient when facing challenges.

When answering this question, start by giving context for the situation and then showing how you worked out a solution to the problem. Try to keep your answer short and focused. After all, the interviewer is really looking for what you took away from the situation and doesn’t need to know the full backstory of what happened. If you need help structuring your answer, remember this acronym: S.T.A.R. It stands for situation, task, action, and result.

Here’s what they each mean and how you can use them effectively.

Situation

First, articulate to your interviewer the situation you were in so that they have context. What was the problem and how did it come up? In one or two sentences, create a clear picture so that hiring manager is able to visualize the challenge. If possible, keep things professional by focusing only on problems that have come up in class or at a previous job.

Say something like: “During my summer internship at a public relations firm, a client suddenly wanted to change an entire campaign strategy two days before launch. The client was unhappy with my team’s first draft, so we were tasked with redoing the entire plan.”

Task

Talk about the task at hand and tell your interviewer what each person was responsible for doing, so that they get a sense of how you fit into the team. You don’t have to go into a lot of detail but do set the scene with one or two sentences about the roles everyone played in the project.

Say something like: “We organized a late-night brainstorm that evening. After hours of work, I asked to take the lead on putting together a new deck. This was challenging because it was my first time putting a deck together and also our one chance to make the client happy again.”

Action

Once you’re done setting the scene, explain the actions involved in overcoming the challenge. Talk about your thought process and the steps you took to solve the problem. Again, one or two sentences is all you need to convey this.

Say something like: “I overcame this challenge by looking at previously successful presentations for the client, analyzing the feedback they gave on our initial presentation and incorporating all of the team’s ideas into the new deck.”

Result

While you should be honest and speak about a true challenge you’ve faced, be sure to end on a positive note so that your interviewer sees you as a proactive problem solver and a team player. Quantify your results if possible. It’s a great way to demonstrate the impact you’ve had on a project or company, and it lets the interviewer know that you’re focused on results.

Say something like: “The client was ultimately thrilled with the fresh plan, and all of the new ideas we included!”

Here’s how to tie this all together:

“During my summer internship at a public relations firm, a client suddenly wanted to change an entire campaign strategy two days before launch. The client was unhappy with my team’s first draft, so we were tasked with redoing the entire plan. We organized a late-night brainstorm that evening. After hours of work, I asked to take the lead on putting together a new deck. This was challenging because it was my first time putting a deck together and also our one chance to make the client happy again. I overcame this challenge by looking at previously successful presentations for the client, analyzing the feedback they gave on our initial presentation and incorporating all of the team’s ideas into the new deck. The client was ultimately thrilled with the fresh plan, and all of the new ideas we included!”

Answering “Tell me about a challenge you’ve overcome” is a great way to show potential employers that you’re able to think on your feet and to solve a problem effectively. This is a skill that interviewers are looking for in all of the candidates they hire and answering this common interview question effectively will serve you well at interviews for both internships and entry-level jobs.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as How to Find an Internship as an Underclassman and find answers to common interview questions such as How Would Your Friends Describe You?.

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5 Rules To Help You Ace Your Leadership Development Program Interview

Are you considering a Leadership Development Program for your first or second job after graduation? If not, then maybe you should.

In case you’re not familiar with them, here’s a quick primer: Leadership Development Programs are rotational management and technical training programs that expose you to a variety of entry-level roles at a company. Apart from providing a range of hands-on experiences, they also help prepare you for a leadership position when the program is complete. They’re basically a fast-track route to a successful career in a field you’re passionate about.

That’s particularly true at Thermo Fisher Scientific—the world leader in serving science—where these programs are incredible opportunities to receive mentorship, network with senior leaders, and pick up the kind of experience necessary for those interested in management positions. Essentially, they’re incubators for the future leaders of the company.

Thermo Fisher’s Leadership Development Programs represent, at their core, a major investment in you on the part of the company. That’s why they pick their candidates for Leadership Development Programs so carefully. But that doesn’t mean you have to be intimidated by the recruitment process. You just need to prepare carefully so you can put your best foot forward. So, where do you begin and how can you stand out while interviewing for an opportunity that can change the course of your career?   

To find out exactly what they’re looking for in their LDP candidates, we spoke to Hannah, a Thermo Fisher recruiter.

Here are her tips for surviving (and thriving) on the road to securing your spot in an LDP.

1. You’re More Than Just Your Work Experience, So Let Them Know That

The reason you got an interview is because the recruiting team liked your resume. Remember, then, that the first interview is a chance for you to show them more than what’s on there. Don’t miss it.

Your resume told the recruiting team about your work and internship experience. While it’s important to use that experience as a base for some of your answers, you should also take the opportunity to go deeper.

The point of this interview, whether it’s in person or on the phone, is to show them a bit of who you are as an individual. Sticking too much to the script of your resume can be a major misstep. But, as Hannah stresses, there are ways to avoid that pitfall.

“One of the biggest things I see that people are missing is centered around their leadership experience,” Hannah says.

Given your experience level, chances are, you haven’t had too many opportunities to take on leadership roles at work. However, school organizations, extracurriculars, and even classroom projects are all great examples of places where you could have exhibited leadership skills. Regardless of what the leadership experience revolves around, the ability to demonstrate your potential is extremely valuable.

2. Definitely Prepare, But Don’t Over-Rehearse Your Answers (AKA Speak Naturally)

In any job interview, the recruiter or hiring manager wants to get a better sense of who you actually are—especially when they’re making such a major investment in you. That’s why over-preparation can actually hurt you.

“One of the things that we see that shoots people in the foot when they’re interviewing is that their answers seem really scripted and almost too perfect,” Hannah says. “And for us, that doesn’t give a sense of who they are. It doesn’t feel authentic. It doesn’t feel genuine.”

It’s true that you want to present the best possible version of yourself, but don’t let that rob your answers of you. Even if you prepared for a question, there’s no harm in taking a moment to think about your answer and move in a different direction. Speak from the heart, because according to Hannah, that’s what they’re hoping you’ll do.

3. Don’t Be Afraid To Talk About Mistakes You’ve Made—Just Do It Tactfully

Many important interview questions focus on how you’d respond to various scenarios, both real and imagined.

“We ask a lot of behavioral-based questions on leadership, because a lot of what we do at Thermo Fisher gives people responsibility and allows people to make decisions and take risks,” Hannah says.

When the stakes are as high as they are in an LDP, the company needs to know how you act under pressure. However, that doesn’t mean they want you to only describe a situation or tell them about a time when everything went perfectly. Why? Because even if it’s true, it doesn’t really demonstrate the kind of adaptability and self-awareness that they’re looking for at Thermo Fisher.

“We really want to see how you took a situation that you maybe struggled in and how did you come out from that? Answering around self-awareness is key instead of just feeling like all of these answers have to be perfect,” she adds.

Self-awareness and adaptability are hard to teach and extremely important for people who plan to grow a lot over the course of their time at a company—which is essential for any successful LDP candidate. That’s why emphasizing adaptability and how you respond to mistakes is so important.

Don’t gloss over these learnings—talk about them and emphasize the lessons you learned that’ll help prevent you from making the same mistakes again. That kind of self-reflection shows real growth, maturity, and potential.

4. As You Progress, Make Sure To Up Your Research Game And Come With Thoughtful Questions

The interview for an LDP at Thermo Fisher is a multistep process, and it’s as much about you getting to know them as it is the opposite. That’s why it’s okay to ask exploratory questions about the company early on.

“I think for that first recruiter conversation, it’s okay to come in and ask questions,” Hannah says. “But I think the biggest mistake that I see a lot of times is, once they get past that first round and they move on to that next step, they haven’t done enough research.”

After that initial conversation, you’ll advance to an on-campus interview with a hiring manager or an LDP graduate who is now a leader at the company. And it’s essential to come prepared. As the interviews progress, don’t rest on your laurels.

“You don’t have to come in knowing everything. But find a recent article about something Thermo Fisher did in the news or in the community or maybe about one of our acquisitions, and then ask questions about that,” Hannah explains.

“That shows our leadership team that you’re interested and that you’re curious. Curiosity is such an important quality in an interview process because it shows that you’re going to be curious when you come to work every day. It shows that you’re going to challenge the norm and ask questions and bring 110 percent every day,” she says.

By the time you get to the last round of interviews (a two-day event at the company’s headquarters in Waltham, MA), you should have a few good talking points ready for any conversation you might have with a leader.

5. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Your Recruiter For Advice

After you pass the first-round phone interview, your recruiter is there to be your ally. After all, they chose you to enter the process and they have a vested interest in your success.

“If you’re curious about something and you’re not sure, reach out to your recruiter and ask them. ‘Is the manager going to want to see a cover letter? Are they going to want references?’ I can always answer that,” Hannah says.

If there are any administrative questions you have about timing, location, or the format of interviews, you don’t have to worry about bothering the hiring manager by asking. Just follow up with your recruiter and they’ll get back to you with the info you need. They can even answer some broader questions like, “What kinds of traits does the hiring manager look for in their top candidates?”

“If you’re ever curious about what kinds of things you should include in your application or bring to an interview, definitely ask your recruiter,” Hannah adds. “Because they’re almost like your secret agent and they know what that manager is looking for and how to best prepare you, so definitely lean on them.”Think you’re ready to apply for a role at Thermo Fisher? Check out open opportunities from Thermo Fisher Scientific on WayUp!

How To Answer: Why Do You Want This Job?

One of the most important questions you’ll ever be asked in an interview is, ‘Who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman?’ Just kidding! (The answer is Batman BTW.)

The most important question actually is: Why do you want this job?

Deceptively simple, this question has the potential to make or break your chances of landing your dream job. But don’t fret, because we’re going to walk you through crafting the perfect response. Plus, we’ll go over a few common mistakes that people make, too, just for good measure.

Batman approves.

Answering The Most Important Question

There are two parts to a great answer for “Why do you want this job?”

The first part of your answer should focus on the position you’re applying to. You want to start by describing why you’re interested in that specific job.

Say, for example, you’re in an interview for the position of—oh I don’t know—Keeper of the Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Your answer should therefore highlight your passion for plants and animals. Think about specific things you’ve done that would show this. For instance, maybe you were president of Hufflepuff’s Herbology club or grew up on a Mandrake farm. The key is to take something from your past experiences that shows an interviewer you’ll work hard and care about succeeding if you’re hired.

What most people think after answering that question.

The second part of your answer should focus on why you want to work at THIS company.

The key here is research, research, and more research. You want to find something unique and interesting about the company that shows you didn’t just skim the “About Us” section on its website. Make sure you find something specific and relevant to the position you want. There are plenty of resources where you can easily access this kind of information, like WayUp company profiles, podcasts, company blogs, etc.

Read ALL the articles!

Some Common Interview Mistakes To Avoid

Even if you have the makings of a great answer, there are a couple common mistakes we’ve come across that will drive any interviewer insane.

The first is answering the phone with just a simple, “Hello.” or the painfully casual, “Hey.” This leaves interviewers responsible for following up with something like, “Is this Patrick?” and gives them unnecessary work.

A simple solution is to always answer the phone by saying, “Hello, this is Patrick.” If you’re answering a call for an interview, you want to sound as professional as possible. (Of course, don’t say “Patrick” unless that’s your name.)

The next problem is a bit harder to tackle: filler words. For those unfamiliar with filler words, I present exhibit A:

Don’t think Patrick gets too many second interviews.

We can promise that if you pepper your interview responses with “ummms,” “likes,” and “uhhhs,” then your chances of getting hired plummet. It makes you sound like you didn’t prepare ahead of time and don’t really care about the job.

The best way to avoid filler words is practice. Once you have your perfect response crafted, say it out loud over and over again until you’re reciting it in your sleep.

Do, however, leave some room for improvisation and try to sound natural. Some “likes” and “umms” are inevitable, but don’t make it seem like it’s a habit.

Think Before You Speak

If you’re applying for a job, make sure you know why you want it. Any interviewer worth her salt will want to know, so think about why the position and company are right for you. Answering this well will distinguish you as someone who’s not only qualified for a job but also ready to thrive and succeed in the long-run.

P.S. If you’re interested in seeing these techniques put into practice, check out my other article about how I landed a job by wearing mismatched socks!

How to Answer: What Are Your Salary Expectations?

Being fully prepared for the interview process means knowing what questions to anticipate. One of those questions is, “What are your salary expectations?” You won’t encounter this question during an internship interview, but it’s likely to come up if you’re interviewing for an entry-level job. Why do employers ask this? If you’re a recent college grad, it’s because they want to make sure that you have a sense of the industry you’re trying to enter and are coming into the job with realistic expectations.

Entry-level salaries vary by job type and industry, so knowing as much as possible about your field is extremely important when preparing to answer this question. Another thing to note is that entry-level salaries are most often not open to negotiation.

Here are some things to keep in mind when preparing to answer.

When it’s not appropriate to negotiate.

“If you’re recruited into a formal entry-level program (a program where a class of people starts together and trains together) the answer is likely going to be no to a salary negotiation,” explains Liane Hajduch, a former campus recruiter for RBC Capital Markets.

This includes fields like investment banking, consulting and engineering, all of which have structured salaries for entry-level jobs. If you’re entering one of those industries, it’s best not to negotiate! However, you should still come into the interview knowing the salary range for the position and having a clear sense of what to expect if you’re offered the job.

Say something like: “I expect to be paid a salary that is commensurate with the industry standard for an entry-level candidate joining this position.”

Pro tip: Sites like Payscale and Glassdoor offer a lot of information about salary ranges and can give you additional insights about a company including the average salary by job type.

When it is appropriate to negotiate.

If you’re entering a more creative field (think media or marketing) and have previous relevant experience, then negotiation might be possible. “I recommend doing your research on the industry and what similar entry-level hires are being paid,” explains Hajduch. “If you know your worth, and you have data to prove it, you’ll have a much stronger case than if you make it subjective or emotional.”

Once you’ve done the research and know the range for the position, be ready to show the interviewer that you have the skills and commitment to deserve the highest salary within that range.

Say something like: “I know the average salary for this type of entry-level position is in the $35,000-$40,000 range. I think that I would be a great fit for the role due to my past internship experience and I am expecting a salary within that range.”

Answering “What are your salary expectations?” effectively is easy if you come into the conversation prepared and with some solid research under your belt. Be confident and straightforward, but also remember that flexibility will go a long way toward making a good impression on the interviewer and the company.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as When to Start Applying for a Summer Internship and find answers to common interview questions such as Why Do You Want to Work Here?

4 Signs That Show An Employer Is Serious About Its Company Culture

“Company culture” can seem like a pretty intangible thing, especially when you’re thinking about your first job. You might not have the experience to know what actually makes it more than just an HR slogan.

Company culture is made up of the tangible experiences you have working there—and it couldn’t be more important.

Using Dell—an industry leader in company culture—as an example, here are four signs that show a company is serious about its culture.

#1: A Meaningful Work/Life Balance

Maintaining the balance between your work and your personal life is extremely important for your health, job performance, and overall satisfaction. Plenty of companies understand that happy employees are good employees, and few things make people happier than being able to have a rich life in and outside of the office.

But it has to be more than just expressing a commitment.

At Dell, if you work at any of the tech giant’s offices around the world, there are a ton of options with regards to scheduling your work. Some employees work from home for all or part of the week to cut down on commuting and inefficiency. Other employees work the same amount of hours in four days each week (instead of five).

Dell aims to have 50 percent of their workforce on flexible schedules by 2020. That’s the kind of proof you should be looking for when it comes to understanding work/life balance at a company.

#2: Genuine Commitment To Diversity

A company or team without diversity not only deprives you of the personal growth that comes from understanding people unlike yourself, but also makes concretely worse decisions. Companies AND people succeed when there’s diversity—so, yes, it should be an important factor.

It can be hard to tell whether a company employs a diverse group of people, particularly because diversity can mean a lot more than what is visibly apparent. Beyond that, corporate websites and verbal commitments can often oversell certain aspects of the company culture. One way to cut through the noise is by looking at what objective third parties and former employees have said. Check out the company’s diversity and inclusion ratings and see how credible organizations have rated them.

Dell was placed on DiversityInc’s Top 50 and was recognized by The Economist for their excellence in diversity and inclusion. Dell also does more than just hire people—they support them. Whether that means advocacy groups, accommodations for holidays and disabilities, or flexible work hours to fit people’s myriad obligations, the company is constantly thinking about its employees’ happiness.

#3: Openness To Innovation

Most companies rely on innovation to drive their business forward. But some companies truly expect it from every corner of their team. How do you figure out which is which? Here are a couple ways you can find out more about what exactly innovation means at a certain company.

For starters, ask about “intrepreneurship.” How has a select group of major tech players managed to stay at the top of an industry that revolves around advances? Simple: They’ve encouraged all of their employees to use the company as a venue for innovation. (Dell has an annual “Game Changers” competition where employees from around the globe pitch to executives who can opt to fund their ideas.)

If an employer can’t provide you with specifics about new products or businesses started by employees, then that may be a sign that the “culture of innovation” is just a phrase.

#4: Ethics And Impact

It’s important to know what kind of company you work for. Do they take responsibility for their actions? Do they contribute to the communities they’re a part of? Essentially, you need to know whether a prospective company makes the world a better or worse place.

This is where hard facts matter the most. Awards and accolades given from third parties are usually for a reason. So, when Dell has taken home trophies for their efforts to cut down on their carbon footprint or for being the largest global recycler of electronics, you know that it’s because they did and they are.

There are things like community engagement, manufacturing practices, and much, much more that you should look out for. There are many ways to make an impact—positive or negative. Companies who take ethics seriously usually have employees who do, too, and it can be great to be around people who care.

And Beyond…

Little things like dress code, snacks, and social events can make a huge difference in helping you adjust to a new city or new stage of life. So, don’t forget about these aspects of company culture, either.

Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Being An ‘Intrapreneur’

When we hear “innovation,” it’s hard not to think about the classic success stories and the images of people tinkering with old-timey motherboards in the pursuit of scientific progress. That’s where so many key tech companies like Dell started, after all. But it’s important to remember that it’s not the only way it happens.

There’s a reason major players in tech can manage to stay in the game for so long: Creative and technical geniuses innovate within the structure of their large corporations. The business world has taken to calling this practice “intrapreneurship,” and it could be the way that you manage to thrive as an innovator.

What is intrapreneurship?

Intrapreneurship—in contrast with entrepreneurship—is the practice of creating, pitching, and getting funding for your own business idea or product while working as an employee within a larger corporate structure.

“It’s a new kind of product or a new kind of business,” says veteran intrapreneur and Dell Product Manager Juan Vega. “It’s about identifying new opportunities and leading from the front.”

LEARN MORE ABOUT DELL AND APPLY FOR OPEN JOBS HERE

In the same way that you would start your business on the outside, you have to build a team, invest your own time, and aggressively seek sponsorship from execs in the right department. “You can’t lead from behind,” Juan stresses. “You have to take a risk and say, ‘I really think it’s worth doing something.’ And then you have to go and create the story and the arguments and the support and everything else you need, just as if you were out solo in the business world.”

How Juan tapped into a multi-billion-dollar business.

Juan knows a thing or two about intrapreneurship. Having spent more than 20 years at Dell, Juan has worked on (and started!) countless new businesses and products for the company.

For example, in 2008 he was running the successful Optiplex team, but he wasn’t feeling inspired by his role. “They figured out the formula and it was on track. It was doing great and winning everything. It wasn’t taking a lot to improve it; it just needed someone to keep it going,” he says.

As an innovator, Juan was ready for his next challenge. “I was bored, basically. I ended up looking at the market and thinking, ‘Where are we underserved?’ I started looking for that opportunity,” he says.

He settled on the small business market. The business packages and hardware were just too expensive at that scale. However, it didn’t have to be this way, and Juan knew that. “We had a ton of pricing conflicts. We had a cost problem that wasn’t being resolved in that space,” he says. “So, I found a backfill and got out of the job I was in, once I had sponsorship to drive this new business space.”

The result? “We built a new desktop and notebook business that was specifically focused on driving down costs and meeting the needs of the small business owner. And that’s a billion-something dollar business today.”

How can you do it? It’s all about the company culture.

An intrapreneurial culture is not the only thing that makes a company successful—there are plenty of established businesses that got to where they are by moving methodically and sticking to their guns. There are also flagging industries in which companies will be much more risk-averse because they just aren’t thriving. And it’s those types of companies—whether they’re cautious or just plain old conservative—that you have to avoid if you’re trying to find a place that will let you innovate.

If you’re someone who likes the idea of contributing to a larger team, having steady pay and benefits, and getting exposure to the workings of a major corporation, but you still want to make something new, then you have to make sure you find a company with a culture of intrapreneurship.

LEARN MORE ABOUT DELL AND APPLY FOR OPEN JOBS HERE

“It’s never about asking permission,” Juan explains. “You get permission along the way. You get investment dollars. You get head count. You get project teams. [At Dell], you get whatever it is you need to create that new business.”

How does this happen at Dell? According to Juan, it’s the people. “It’s because of the kind of people who are happy at Dell. We’re a pretty type A company. It all started with Michael in his dorm room. It’s people who are in a lot of ways self-motivated—entrepreneurial-type people— who just happen to be working in a giant corporation,” he says.

“And when you mix the two together, what you get is people who tend to ask a little more forgiveness than permission, and tend to bring opportunities to light as a part of their normal roles and responsibilities.”

Here’s How You Should Answer Common Recruiter Interview Questions

The core skills you need to succeed in recruiting—leadership, self-management, resiliency, and being detail-oriented and quick-thinking, among others—have remained consistent over the past few decades. But how you use them has changed markedly thanks to technology.

So, where does that leave you when you’re interviewing for a Staffing Recruiter firm as a job?

It depends on a number of different factors, including your work experience and familiarity with the industry. That said, most early-career candidates will not have recruiting experience going into the interview.

And that’s fine!

Just remember that the questions will be broad enough to allow you to demonstrate these fundamental skills in a way that wows your interviewer and leaves a lasting impression.

Recruiting expert Casey Weickgenannt from Apex—one of the premier staffing and recruiting agencies in the country—opened up about her experience hiring for these roles. What are the most common interview questions she asks? How should you answer them? How do you follow up appropriately?

Check out her answers to these and other pressing questions below.

What are your strengths?

This question, while standard to most every interview, actually has a few specific right answers when it comes to recruiting.

According to Weickgenannt, there are many questions hiring managers are looking to answer. “Are you money-motivated? Do you thrive in a fast-paced environment? Can you multitask?” This question gives you an opportunity to show that you are all of those things—and more, she says.

Emphasize your ability to multitask even in a hectic setting. Talk about how you build relationships and are a quick learner. And don’t just say what you are, show them. Speak eloquently and confidently to prove to the recruiter that these are among your many, many strengths.

Do you have leadership skills/experience?

This is one of the more concrete questions in a recruiting interview, which means answering it should be a little more straightforward. This is the time to talk about any clubs or teams you’ve started or belonged to. Specific experience works, too.

Talk about a time when you took the reins on a group project or organized others to accomplish something. Leadership means different things in different settings, so think about your own experiences and how it applies.

Do you like working with people?

This question is key when it comes to recruiting. “Our product is people, and people are very unpredictable,” Weickgenannt says.

That means you need to understand how to work with all kinds of people. So, to ace this question, communicate that you not only enjoy being a service-oriented team player, but also are skilled at handling the twists and turns of working with a range of personalities.

At the end of the day, Weickgenannt stresses, the most important qualification for a Staffing Recruiter boils down to essentially one quality. “We’re looking for somebody who has very strong interpersonal skills,” she says. “That’s definitely the most important qualification for us. Someone who’s able to connect with others and have strong communication.”

What would you do if…?

These types of behavioral questions—during which your interviewer will present a scenario and ask how you’d handle it—are very common for Staffing Recruiter interviews.

First, don’t panic.

The important thing to remember is that you will receive a lot of training once the job begins, so it’s more important to show that you’re resourceful, clever, and smart. Don’t perseverate on the fact that you’re unfamiliar with the specifics or tactics you’re presented with.

Weickgenannt also recommends researching common behavioral questions. “There are plenty available online,” she says. Yet no matter what, always make sure you:

Practice beforehand.

Polished answers will demonstrate your public speaking skills and sales skills.

Engage with the interviewer.

Make sure you’re actually engaging with what the interviewer is asking. This way you can learn about the position and better prepare for later in the interview process.

Ask thoughtful questions.

Do your research beforehand so that you can ask an informed question when the interviewer turns the tables. Additionally, you should think of a question based on something the interviewer either said or asked. And avoid topics like benefits, vacation time, or salary. Those can be ironed out later.

Follow up!

“A candidate who can stand out in the application process is someone who’s being responsive,” Weickgenannt says. “Following up, keeping open the line of communications—that’s really memorable.”

These interviewers are handling a ton of applications for a variety of jobs. Following up by thanking them for their time and reminding them of your strengths is a great way to ensure you’re going to be top of mind when decision time comes around.

Interested in a career in recruiting? Apex is hiring on WayUp now, so check out their open roles and apply!

How to Answer: Tell Me About a Time You Made a Mistake

Although no one likes talking about their mistakes, being able to discuss your past mistakes in a job interview can actually be a great way of impressing the interviewer. So when you encounter a question like, “Tell me about a time you made a mistake,” during an interview for an internship or entry-level job, you should focus on how you dealt with the mistake and what you were able to learn from it. When the hiring manager asks this question, it’s not because they’re trying to trip you up; rather, it’s a chance for the interviewer to see that you are able to acknowledge your mistakes and learn from them, two very important qualities. An employer would rather hire candidates who admit and grow from their mistakes than those who think they never make any.

As with any frequently asked question, it’s important to make sure you have an answer prepared before you go in for the job interview. These tips will help you describe a time you made a mistake in a way that will make it clear you’re the right person for the job.

Be honest

It’s important to be able to admit that you’re capable of making mistakes (as we all are), and that you’re willing and able to admit it. Therefore, you should refer to an actual mistake you made instead of attempting to appear that you don’t make any.

Take responsibility

It’s tempting to catalog how other people’s actions led to your error. But if you spend time during your interview talking about all the ways in which others — or the company itself — failed, you’re not actually admitting you made a mistake. Instead of pointing the finger at others, acknowledge the role you played. Your answer should be related to work; the interviewer doesn’t want to hear about the argument you had with your parents. Nor do you want to reveal any mistakes that could indicate a lack of professionalism on your part. Stick with school or work-related issues that stemmed from a true oversight or misunderstanding:

Highlight the resolution

Make sure to spend time discussing how you addressed the problem and outline the concrete steps to took to rectify it. The interviewer will want to know how you handle complications.

Emphasize lessons learned

Demonstrate that the mistake you made was not in vain. The interviewer wants to know that you can learn from your mistakes and take action to make sure they don’t happen again. By concluding the story of your mistake with what you learned, you can frame the incident in a positive light and show that you’re able to grow from your mistakes.

Say something like: “At my previous internship, I underestimated the amount of time I would need to work on a presentation for a team meeting. I was still getting used to the workflow in a busy office so I didn’t realize that I would need an extra few hours to put a deck together. Luckily, I managed to catch the mistake before the presentation was due to take place and asked my manager for help to complete it in time. It was a valuable lesson in time management and I’ve become better at prioritization and mapping out my schedule as a result of that experience.”

While it can be awkward to discuss mistakes you’ve made, your ability to do so is an asset. Interviewers know it’s a difficult question, and that’s why the right response will signal that you’re the right candidate for the job.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as How to Dress for a Job Interview at a Nonprofit and find answers to common interview questions such as What Motivates You?

Questions for You to Ask at the End of an Interview

As you near the end of your interview, the hiring manager will likely turn to you and say, “So, do you have any questions for me?” The answer should always be yes. In fact, many employers automatically reject candidates who don’t have questions because they don’t seem sufficiently interested in the role.

By asking the interviewer questions, you’ll able to walk away from the interview with a better idea of whether or not the job is a good fit for you, while also showing the employer that you’re engaged in the process and that you care about the position. So whether you’re interviewing for an internship or an entry-level job, asking questions is something you should do in every interview.

Here are the top questions to ask at the end of your interview.

Company-Specific Questions

These questions relate to the organization itself and are fine to ask in almost any interview.

1.  What makes working at this company special?

This question shows employers that you’re not just looking for any sort of job but that you care about finding the right cultural fit.

2. How do you see this company/industry evolving in the next 5 to 10 years?

By asking this question, you let employers know that you’re interested in the future of the company and care about how your professional growth aligns with the company’s growth.

3. I know one of the company’s values is [value]. How is that defined and demonstrated here at the company?

When you ask this question, you demonstrate to employers that you did your research and that you’re looking for a company that aligns with your values.

4. What qualities and attributes make for a successful employee here?
This question demonstrates to employers that you are eager to succeed and that you are making sure you will be a good fit for the company.

Role-Specific Questions

These questions are specific to the position you’re interviewing for so be careful when asking them and research as much as you can about the role beforehand. For example, asking about the day-to-day responsibilities of a role is appropriate for a consulting position but would seem out of place during an interview for a sales job, where the primary responsibilities involve reaching out to potential clients and selling the company’s products.

1. What are the day-to-day responsibilities of this job?

This question is important to ask if you are unsure what the role entails, particularly if the position is cross-function or part of a small team. This will help you get a better understanding of the job and whether it is the right job for you.

2. What is the most challenging aspect of the job?

By asking this question, you let employers know that you are rational in your expectations – no job is going to be a walk in the park. You should also know both the good and bad things regarding the job you are interviewing for.

3. What does the ideal candidate for this role look like?

When you ask this question, you are able to assess whether your skills and background align with what the company is looking for.

Wrap-Up Questions

These are great questions to ask as the interview is winding down though again, some are more appropriate for certain interviews than others. For example, if you’re interviewing for a junior role, the question about next steps should always be directed to the person who set up your interview in the first place.

1. What are the next steps? What is your timeline for making a decision and when should I expect to hear back from you?

This question is important to ask because this will tell you what to expect in the next steps of the interview process. This is also a good time to tell employers about time-sensitive things they should know about such as if you have other offers on the table or if you need to figure out arrangements for relocation, visas, etc. Again, be sure to ask this question to your hiring manager.

2. Is there anything else I can provide you with to help you with your decision?

This question is a polite way to make sure everything is covered and there is no uncertainty around your candidacy. This will also give you peace of mind since you have done everything you can to nail the interview.

3. What’s been your best moment at [company]?

This is a great wrap-up question because it asks the hiring manager to reflect on one of their great experiences with the company and to show some the value they’ve gained by working there. This question is the perfect way to end on a high note and we recommend asking it in every interview.

 

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as The Art of Networking Offline and find answers to common interview questions such as Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?.

How to Answer: What Can You Offer Us That Someone Else Can’t?

This is a common interview question and one that gives you a chance to elaborate on the answer you gave to “What are your strengths?” It’s a question designed to gauge your confidence level and knowledge of the company, so even if the interviewer doesn’t ask it directly, be prepared to show that you’re a qualified candidate who can bring something unique to the table. Read through the job description to identify the main things the hiring manager is looking for and show how you meet those needs.

Here are the things you need to keep in mind when preparing your answer.

Show off your experience and unique abilities.

Your interviewer is essentially asking “Why should I hire you?” and your answer should show that you’re different from other candidates they’ve interviewed. Think of the top 2-3 things they’re looking for and explain how you meet those criteria. For example, if you’ve had an internship in the industry, talk about you experience. If you’re not sure what to focus on, look at the job description and identify key traits in the first 3 bullet points.

Say something like: “I’m a creative problem-solver who wants to be part of a team that develops great branding campaigns. I’ve worked on several marketing campaigns during class projects and at a previous internship, so I’m familiar with the challenges I’ll face in this role and I know how to address them.”

Explain what you bring to the table.

Next, show how your experience and unique qualities make you stand out. If you’ve already made it clear that you’re a hard worker, you can emphasize the fact that you always keep a positive attitude and will bring a new level of leadership to the team. Be humble but confident. Giving a direct answer will show that you’ve thought about the question and know exactly what you can bring to the position.

Say something like: “I bring three things to the table that most candidates can’t offer: My problem-solving ability that I’ve used to improve campaign performance, in-depth knowledge of social media strategy and previous experience with email marketing.”

Connect your experience to the position you’re applying for.

Being an awesome employee has a lot to do not only with your unique abilities but also with how those abilities meet the employer’s needs. Whether the company you’re interviewing with is a tech startup or a consulting firm, demonstrating that you understand the organization’s needs and can address them will go a long way toward impressing the interviewer and helping them to see you as a part of the team.

Here’s how to bring it all together:

“I’m a creative problem-solver who wants to be part of a team that develops great branding campaigns. I’ve worked on several marketing campaigns during class projects and at a previous internship, so I’m familiar with the challenges I’ll face in this role and I know how to address them. I bring three things to the table that most candidates can’t offer: My problem-solving ability that I’ve used to improve campaign performance, in-depth knowledge of social media strategy and previous experience with email marketing. With my combined knowledge and enthusiasm for this industry, I know that I would be a good fit for this role.”

Pro Tip: Make sure your answer takes less than 60 seconds and practice it over and over until you have it down pat.

Answering “What can you offer us that some else can’t?” is a great way to show how you stand out from other candidates. By highlighting your unique skills and demonstrating how your personality and future goals align with the company, you’ll impress your interviewer and increase your chances of getting the job!

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as 5 Technology Trends You Need to Know and find answers to common interview questions such as How Have You Displayed Leadership?