The 3 Questions Every Interviewer Wants Answered

By Gerald Walsh ©

When job hunting, you will encounter a variety of interview formats and you should be prepared for each type. Here are the most common ones:

Screening interview:  These are interviews conducted by the human resources department to determine if you have the basic skills and experience to do the job. In most cases, the HR person will not have deep knowledge of the job and may not be able to answer specific questions about the role. But don’t underestimate the importance of these interviews. You have to “pass” this stage to get to the next round of interviews.

Immediate supervisor interview: The person asking the questions in this type of interview is your potential boss and they usually have final hiring authority. Here you can expect to talk specifics – so come prepared to explain how you will solve their problems. The interviewer will also be trying to determine how well you will work with him or her and the team.

Co-worker interview: Depending on the culture of the organization, you may be invited to meet with your potential co-workers. If this happens, it is usually a good sign as it signals that the organization seeks advice from staff and values their input. When being interviewed by potential co-workers provide a short overview of your background and emphasize your desire to join and contribute to their team. While co-workers are not decision-makers, they can influence the final hiring decision.

Panel (or group) interview: Some employers prefer to use panel interviews to get various opinions from representatives of other departments. While this is daunting for some candidates – as all eyes are on you – remember to speak to every member of the panel when answering questions. Some candidates (mistakenly) only speak to the person who asks the question or to the most senior person in the room. Scan the room and make eye contact with all panel members.

Regardless of the format, all interviewers are attempting to answer three essential questions and you should think of these as you prepare for the interview:

Question 1. Do you have the necessary skills to do the job?

To help them answer this question, gather as much background information on the company as you can so that you can explain how your skills match their needs. After studying the job description, research the organization’s strategic plan and media releases. Even speak to people you know who work there, or people who do business with the organization. Be prepared to explain – using examples from the past – how you helped your employer in similar situations. Also, make sure you understand and can explain how your transferrable skills can be applied in this new job.

Question 2. Are you the right fit with our organization?

Fit is one of the great intangibles and is a lot harder to measure than specific skills. Interviewers often rely on their gut feelings (or intuition) to determine whether or not someone is a good fit for a job and organization. It’s not a perfect science. But that’s how most employers measure fit. And unfortunately it is also how a lot of skilled and qualified people get passed over for jobs. If the interviewer doesn’t get a good feeling about you, even if you have good skills, you won’t get beyond the first interview.

Question 3. Will you do what it takes to help us meet our goals and solve our problems?

Remember, the needs of most companies fall into these categories:

  • Increasing revenue
  • Decreasing expenses
  • Solving specific problems
  • Building relationships with customers and stakeholders
  • Strengthening financial management
  • Improving human resource practices
  • Developing new initiatives and ideas

You can be guaranteed the interviewer will be trying to determine whether or not you can help them tackle current and future needs. Think of good examples of when you have done this in the past.


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Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @@Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn.