Job Interviews: 10 Questions to Help You Stand Out From the Crowd

English: Tina Fey at the Union Square Barnes &...
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“Don’t hire anyone you wouldn’t want to run into in the hallway at three in the morning.”
– Tina Fey, Bossypants

This has always been my approach when interviewing people for a job. Not that my kind of work would have me roaming office hallways at 3 in the morning. (Much. I think I did pull a couple of all-nighters back at the PR firm.)

But the point is, if you’re going to be spending half your waking hours with this person, make sure it’s someone you can get along with. Or, as Fey puts it:

“We work long hours at these shows, and no matter how funny someone’s writing sample is, if they are too talkative or needy or angry to deal with in the middle of the night at the printer, steer clear.”

This is important to remember when you’re interviewing for a job. In this market, companies can find any number of qualified, experienced candidates. In fact, there are at least four unemployed workers for every job opening.

Ultimately they are going to hire the person who fits the culture, who they click with, who is “normal.” Hopefully, that’s you. But they’ll never know if you sit there like a stiff, refusing to open up. You have to show some personality.

In fact, that’s actually the one thing you have that nobody else can duplicate. It’s your competitive advantage in the marketplace. There is only one “you.”

This all assumes, of course, that you’re a well-adjusted person whose personality attracts instead of repels people. If you’re not, this advice won’t help. But if you are, you need to think in advance about how you’re going to give them a glimpse or two of your winning personality.

And you’re going to have a find a way to work it into the conversation. If this leaves you stumped, here are 1o questions to ask yourself in advance:

  1. What do you love about your work?
  2. What makes you jump out of bed in the morning?
  3. What gets you excited and makes you proud?
  4. What is your favorite hobby or passion outside of work?
  5. What is it about that activity that fulfills you? The skill it takes? The discipline and focus? The ability to express yourself? The opportunity to improve?
  6. Who’s the most important person in your life?
  7. Who do you most admire and why?
  8. What’s the most important character trait in people?
  9. What is a challenge you’ve overcome and how did you do it?
  10. What is your life’s goal?

Pick one or two — whatever excites you the most — and think hard about it. You might even get asked one or two of these questions, but even if you don’t, find a way to weave it in. And when you do, talk about it with passion and enthusiasm and energy.

That is how you will set yourself apart — by being the kind of person they’re going to want to spend a third of their life with.

Edit: I recognize that a few of these are the types of interview questions people dread being asked. But they’re only dreadful if you sleepwalk your way through them. You’ve got to sell it, perform it. And if you can’t get passionate about these things, or whatever stirs your soul, you shouldn’t be going to the interview!