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How to Ace 3 Common Interview Questions (and Some Curveballs)

Katie Clayman
Principal Talent Advisor

"Understand what they want you to achieve with the position, and discuss how you can help them accomplish it." - Katie Clayman, Principal Talent Advisor

You’re a competent, responsible, and driven employee who delivers on time, works well with others, and has great ideas to share. However, when it comes to job interviews, are you able to demonstrate you have those attributes? If you suffer a little unease at interviews, take a few minutes to go over some basics so you’ll be better prepared to offer engaging answers that really reflect who you are.

Let’s look at some of the questions you’ll almost certainly be asked when you’re sitting across from a recruiter or a company Hiring Manager.

“Tell us about yourself”

This is where you present a summary of your experience. It’s a chance to cover some areas that may have been missing from the conversation you’ve had up to this point, which you believe reflect well on you. Take about five minutes to:

  • Highlight what you enjoyed in previous positions
  • Discuss what interests prompted you to move from one job to the next
  • Succinctly explain your success in the position that relates most closely to the job you’re currently applying for

Keep it short. It’s better to make it concise and engaging so it leads to a few questions afterwards, rather than to cover every detail of your life (starting with your award-winning, fifth-grade science fair project).

“Why do you want to work here?”

Ugh…really? In many cases you want to work “here” because “here” is where the job is, but alas, that’s not usually a suitable response. There are other variations of this question as well, such as “Why do you want this job?”

Let’s start with the first thing you must do when you’re serious about working for a specific company: your homework. Check out the company’s website and its entire social media. Come armed with a few solid bullet points that serve as a connection between the company’s identity (brand) and your personality and professional aspirations. The job description is a great resource for insight, especially since many times, the Hiring Manager has written it!

If you have colleagues who’ve worked for, or are currently working for the company, mention how highly they speak of the company. Perhaps we shouldn’t have to say this, but if these are friends who formerly worked there, make sure they parted on good terms.

If you don’t have a personal connection to the company, let the interviewer know that you’ve been following the company, including good knowledge of the company’s presence in social media. Also, discuss things the company has achieved or is noted for.

The basic rule here is to have a few tangible things to say, and to include positive references to the company.

“Why would you be successful in the position you’re applying for?”

This might be simply stated as “Why should we hire you?” In the previous question, the job was to highlight the company and then yourself. Here, it’s the opposite. This is where you sell yourself.

  • Whether you’re interviewing for a spot in pharma or biotech business development, project management, or any other position, keep this sales principle in mind: solutions are more important than features. Understand what problem they expect to solve when they bring you on board, and discuss how you can help them accomplish it. If you enter the interview not clear on what the firm needs to accomplish, ask. It should lead to a good discussion for both sides.
  • Skip irrelevant details. Degrees, previous positions, or specific skills outside of the context of their contribution to the solution aren’t helpful. Plus, they’re on your résumé, so you would be plowing old ground anyway.
  • Show company culture alignment. Your research, recruiter, or previous connections to the company should’ve introduced you to the company’s culture—and if there’s any doubt in your mind about the culture, make it a topic of discussion during the interview. For example, if working as a team is important, pull that into your conversation. Grab onto any important attributes. By the way, before interviewing, be sure you’re, in fact, a good fit for the culture. Also, management will appreciate you having taken the time to consider your compatibility with the way they do business.

How to handle curveballs

No matter how much time you prepare for an interview, sometimes a question will stump you. When this happens, it sometimes affects your confidence. You may feel that you’ve probably blown the interview! Remember that sometimes an interviewer will ask a question that you can’t answer just to see how you react. When you run into a question to which you don’t know the answer, simply admit that you’ve not worked in that area and move onto the next question. If you think that this was a test question, your attitude will remain confident. Don’t let one question ruin the whole interview.

Now that you know how to answer interview questions with confidence, why not try out your new skill with us? Oracle has great opportunities for driven, talented, and self-starting individuals like you.

Head to our Careers website and explore our current openings in a variety of areas. Apply today for the position that best fits your profile. Come create the future with us.

Join the discussion

Comments ( 4 )
  • Rick Harris Wednesday, January 2, 2019
    I completely agree with your blog. I only with the people whom i've hired recently would've read this first.
  • Byron Jamieson Tuesday, January 8, 2019
    Very insightful, thank you for sharing Katie.

    I have always understood the importance of being aligned with the values of every company I have ever worked for.

    For example, at Javelin I won an award for reducing my carbon footprint by riding my bike to work 3 days a week for 3 months which covered a distance of nearly 400km. This was part of an ongoing initiative by Javelin to be carbon neutral. Ultimately this became an important factor in my decision to accept their offer. Of course, I might not have known about our shared passion for preserving pur environment had I not asked the question in the first place.

    It is important to always remember that an interview is an equal opportunity for both the employer and the candidate, to ask open ended questions that will allow the conversation to open up and flow naturally.

    Speaking of conversations, I noticed that Oracle is hiring. I welcome the opportunity to discuss your corporate goals for 2019, and how I can help you to achieve them.

    Best regards,
  • Peter Granger Wednesday, January 23, 2019
    More wisdom, thank you. It's strange how we (well, I, anyway) often forget some of this. Another good checklist to have in the back pocket and spend some time on before the interview. And, as per your last point, maybe it's time to check out your career site. I know quite a few folks at Oracle and they all seem to genuinely like it there!
  • Saverna Ahmad Monday, March 4, 2019
    Thanks for sharing Katie. Very informative content. Simple, yet detailed enough to be resourceful to the reader.
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