Day 4: Specific, General and Unspoken Interview Questions

Many of the questions asked in the interview are very specific about your experience in a situation and as a result the question frames your response. Take for example, the question “Tell me about the most recent time you were not satisfied with the quality of your results and how did you resolve this situation.”  The “spoken question” sets the framing for the answer. “About two months ago we had a situation … where we attaining the minimum quality standard … We wanted to achieve a higher quality standard this early in our research project and … which resulted in a higher confidence to proceed.”  You just need to find a relevant example in your work or life experience, borrow some of the question language and use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action Result) format to provide your response.  That targeted response will get a high grade from most interviewers.

How do you respond to the much more general question such as, “Why should we hire you?”

“Because I am the BEST candidate from the BEST school with an awarding winning mentor …” probably will not be considered as addressing the question.  In preparing for the general question which you will get, you plan your answer for the “Unspoken Interview Question!” The use of a General Question provides the interviewer insight to your preparation for your interview with a specific company. Will your answer to the general question align with the specific requirements in the job ad? Will your answer relate to this company’s values and mission? Will your answer demonstrate a respect for a diverse workforce? Make sure you do your analytics on the job ad and description so you know the company specific knowledge and skill requirements for this specific job. Do your homework and research the interviewers and the company products, services, and mission statement!

Here is an example of doing your communications homework when your research finds this statement on the company website in the Jobs Available section:

We are recruiting for the type of “Associate” that will have pride in working for our company, be the best scientist they can be, and have a personal commitment to respect every “Associate,” consumer, supplier, investor and local community member.

This is the Unspoken Question which is hidden in the General Question. For interviewing with this company, the preferred answer to the general question “Why should we hire you?” would address this statement. Have your STAR story that would give examples from your past when you exhibited this type of behavior.

Another possible response to the question “Why should we hire you?”  would be based on your analysis of the job ad.  Your response could be “When I analyzed the job ad, it was clear that you want a highly technical scientist with a track record of success, and an experienced team leader that has worked with a cross-cultural team.  I would be glad to discuss either of these job requirements. Do you have a preference?” You have demonstrated knowledge and analysis of the job as well as giving the interviewer the choice on further directing your response.  This response is not only scoring high, it is probably developing a favorable state of rapport.

In summary, specific questions give you a structure for your interview question response. A general question is a “cover” for an unspoken question which is hidden in the job description or the company profile.  Be prepared to take advantage of general questions as a demonstration of your communication acumen and effectiveness.

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