Interview Preparation

*Say what you will about competency-based interviews (e.g. that they are ineffective, biased, and that only extroverts do well in them) but as a matter of fact they are widely used. And they can be tough. When I recently interviewed with one major investment bank I was astounded at how the interview went down. At one point I wondered whether this was still an interview or an interrogation. This was especially surprising to me since I applied to only a junior position, and here I was, having two 2-on-1 interviews, each about 30 minutes long.

In any case, this situation has really highlighted the importance of preparation. That’s why today I’m presenting to you a work-sheet for your pre-interview self-assessment. From my experience, employers’ questions will usually revolve around the following “dimensions”:

  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Conflict Management
  • Dealing with Problems
  • Creativity
  • Multitasking
  • Flexibility
  • Integrity (and Honesty)
  • Diligence

What I suggest for pre-interview preparation is to go over all the information you have provided to the employer. That can include your CV and Cover Letter, but beware that any respective online form is at least potentially also in the interviewers’ hands. Scrutinise each activity from each of the above angles. This shouldn’t come too hard to you, but here is an example:

Assume you were the President of the Chess Society in your freshman-year at university. Briefly answer the following questions (in bullet-points), which any interviewer could quite possibly ask:

  • In your position as the President of the Chess Society, when and how have you lead a group of people?
  • I assume that as President of the Chess Society you had to work with your other committee members – how did you do that?
  • Tell me about a situation when there was conflict among the Executive Committee of the Chess Club and how you, as the President, handled it?
  • How did you deal with problems in your function as President of the Chess Society?
  • Have you ever taken a creative approach to an issue when you were President of the Chess Society?
  • How did you manage to multitask between school obligations and society obligations from the Chess Society?
  • Can you tell me about a situation when you showed great flexibility as the President of the Chess Society?
  • When was there a lack of integrity among the Chess Society, and how did you deal with it?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you should have been more diligent in your work as the President of the Chess Society?

I recommend you to use bullet-points in answering your own questions, because you will then naturally avoid giving ‘canned answers’ in the actual interview. Nonetheless, it probably doesn’t hurt going over the preparation sheet I’ve compiled for you with a friend.




*: This is actually a repost of an older post of mine on my old blog. Nonetheless, I still believe it’s worthwhile reading!



3 thoughts on “Interview Preparation

  1. Hi, this is excellent! I have conducted a number of these behavioral interviews, and the idea is to ask about actual situations in work or extracurricular activities that demonstrate the desired qualities.

    One modification I would make however, is that it is not realistic to be able to demonstrate each characteristic in each job/role/outside activity. The point is to cover the range of characteristics among all of your experiences, and for each experience to demonstrate 2-3 characteristics. Thus, for example, if asked about multi-tasking as President of the Chess Society, it is acceptable to say:

    “The club met once per month, and planning required an hour every week or so, so this wasn’t challenging to fit into my schedule, but but the next semester I was involved as a research assistant and then at the last minutes was asked to TA a class, which was very challenging–can I tell you about that?”

    99% chance the interviewer will say yes because they don’t really care about the Chess Society, they want to know how_you_demonstrated_the_skill.

    Also to be complete, for those that don’t know, the answers to these questions should be structured as follows: Situation-Action-Result (SAR). So give brief context to show why the situation was challenging, what *you* did, and what the result was–note that the result can be positive or negative, that doesn’t matter, the point is that you took a positive, active, intelligent action.

    • These are indeed very valid points that you just mentioned!
      I especially agree with you on demonstrating the skills, and showing how you have demonstrated them! Also, the SAR seems to be a good framework for answering interview questions!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s