Interview Prep Q&A

Are you ready to get some great tips to prepare for your interview? If so you’re in the right place. Keep reading to get great interview prep. What do people assume about you that would

Are you ready to get some great tips to prepare for your interview? If so you’re in the right place. Keep reading to get great interview prep.

What do people assume about you that would be wrong?

The Real Question: How well do you know yourself?

Top-line Tactic: Demonstrate self-awareness at the same time as you put the interviewer’s fears to bed.

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A question along these lines is a favorite of Zappos boss Tony Hsieh, who is famous not only for selling his shoe delivery service to Amazon for a tidy sum but also for the uniquely happy work culture he created at the company. When asked for his most indispensable interview questions in a New York Times interview, Hsieh offered this one: “If you had to name something, what would you say is the biggest misperception that people have of you?”

What is he trying to find out by asking that? “I think it’s a combination of how self-aware people are and how honest they are. I think if someone is self-aware, then they can always continue to grow,” he explains.

This question probes not only your personality but also your emotional intelligence. It takes a fairly sensitive understanding of both yourself and others to grasp not only how you’d like to be perceived but also where you fall short and why.

So how should you think about answering? As always, start from a position of honesty. If you portray yourself as a sensitive soul under your sharp exterior, and you end up in a company where everyone is warm and fuzzy when you’d rather be battling tooth and nail for your commission, neither you nor your employer is going to be happy.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be somewhat strategic about your reply. You might say:

I’ve been told I was too nice for a job before. Because I was trying to impress and was quite bubbly and friendly, they wrongly assumed that I couldn’t be assertive. Actually, when it comes to managing a project, I can be quite a strict taskmaster. I think that combination of warmth and high expectations is actually one of my strengths.

Put the interviewer’s likely fears to bed by addressing them directly. You could even ask them for their impressions of you, if you feel comfortable doing that, so you can counter any concerns they might have.

Can you tell me about a time when you stood up for the right thing to do?

The Real Question: We’re not going to end up on the front article of the newspapers for an ethics scandal, are we?

Top-line Tactic: Assure the interviewer that you’re honest and trustworthy.

Between the bad behavior of banks in the run-up to the financial crisis, outrageous executive pay and the high-profile ethics issues of accounting firms in previous years, it’s no wonder that surveys consistently show public trust in business declining (though managers take heart—government always fares worse). Companies know that their good name is precious and fragile, and any company worth working for is interested in ensuring that they look after their reputation, along with the good will and trust of their customers.

That means the only right answer to this question is to tell the interviewer about a situation where you proved honest and trustworthy. Never waffle and claim to have avoided ethical quandaries your whole career (recent graduates can draw from their personal and academic experience).

One word of caution, however. As much as companies want you to be ethical, they also need you to be able to work with other people who perhaps have slightly different approaches and boundaries. While you want to come across as upright and dependable, you don’t want to seem like an unnecessarily squeaky wheel or someone who can’t resolve issues within a team. Make sure, therefore, that your example illustrates how you tried to resolve the dilemma within your existing team or hierarchy. Also, what you say should never violate anyone’s confidentiality. No one likes a tell-tale unless the violation is truly momentous. Here’s one possible example:

When I was a sales manager at Acme I received some new marketing materials for one of our products. They looked great, but when I read through them more closely I could see the marketing department had grossly overstated the capabilities of one of our products. I always like to be honest with my customers, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because I believe trust is essential for a productive, long-standing relationship. I organized a meeting with marketing and explained that, while the materials were impressive, I felt they were misleading and would create problems for the sales reps down the road. There was a bit of toing and froing, but in the end we ended up with a campaign that worked for everyone.

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