500 Questions: About Your Work Style, Part One

In our continuation of 500 Questions, we shift from discussing your resume to your work style.

Tell me about a problem that you failed to anticipate.

This question forces you to be humble but gives you an opportunity to relate an incident from which you learned an important lesson. Relate, in retrospect, the warning signs that you failed to see and how your judgment has since improved as a result of this experience.

Tell me about a time when you had to defend an idea to your manager.

Give a specific example of how you give advice constructively and get someone to understand your side of a situation. Demonstrate how you were able to be both convincing and persuasive in helping another person understand all aspects of the issue.

Describe a time when you had to assist a coworker.

Demonstrate a willingness to pitch in when needed. Discuss a time when your objective advice or special expertise produced a positive outcome for a coworker and for the department.

Do you prefer continuity in structure or frequent change in your daily work?

Your answer should be consistent with the job description of the position for which you are applying. Describe environments that have allowed you to remain interested and that have helped you to learn.

Describe an environment that is ineffective for you.

This is the negative version of “What environments allow you to be especially effective.” Focus on environments you prefer or that increase your productivity and efficiency.

What is your most productive or ideal work setting?

The interviewer wants to know what impact your working environment has on your job performance and how well you would fit the position. Specifically the concerns will be around your ability to adapt to the physical layout of the department and attitudes of the particular work group. Emphasize your ability to work in a variety of settings, and how you have managed to be productive in less than ideal work environments.

How resourceful are you?

This is a question about your creativity and initiative. Provide an example of how you have changed your plan or direction and achieved the same, or a better, result. Focus on how you obtained crucial information or how you changed your personal style to get someone to cooperate.

Tell me about a time that you had to extend a deadline.

Describe your accountability and willingness to adjust a deadline in order to satisfy the overall goals of a project. Had you not adjusted the deadline what goal would have been compromised?

What would your colleagues tell me about your attention to detail?

Here the interviewer is interested in your dependability and follow-through. Are you responsible? Have you contributed productively to a team effort, without getting caught up in unnecessary detail? If you do, mention specific instances and praise given by one of your peers.

Describe a time when you tackled a tough or unpopular work assignment.

Describe a time you were willing, or even volunteered, to solve a problem that had remained unresolved after earlier attempts. Or describe something you accomplished that was important to the company’s long-term interests, even if short-term implications were less than favorable.