Prepping for the Inverview

A job interview really comes down to this: You want to make an excellent impression, and the company wants to hire an outstanding employee. How both sides determine whether the job is a match, however, is always changing.

In fact, employers today are seeking more compelling ways to elicit information from prospective employees. Instead of being asked to describe your greatest strengths, for example, you might be asked to talk about how one particular attribute helped you do your job better. Following are three types of questions you might encounter during interviews and how to best respond to them.

Brain "bending" questions. If you enjoy answering questions that start with, "Train A leaves the station at 3 p.m. and is traveling 60 miles per hour, while Train B a€¦" you’ll be excited about these queries. However, for those marketing professionals who don’t want to spend much time considering how many times a clock’s hand overlaps in a day, brainteaser questions can be problematic. Keep in mind that interviewers who use these are trying to get a sense for your logic; they want to see how you work through the problem, not necessarily that you can come up with the right answer. What you need to do is demonstrate your problem-solving abilities. Don’t be shy when you’re figuring out the answer to this kind of question: Take a moment or two to consider the problem, and don’t hesitate to think out loud as you construct a logical solution. Even if you’re headed down the wrong path, it’s possible to impress the interviewer by showing strong reasoning skills or quick wits.

"Story-telling" questions. These are also known as behavioral questions, and they require candidates to discuss actual on-the-job experiences. For example, a candidate for a senior design position might be asked whether she’s had to deal with a difficult client and to describe how she managed the relationship with that person. Other examples of this sort of question include having a candidate give an example of when he had to think on his feet or to describe a time when he willingly went the extra mile in his last job.

There’s no way to anticipate all of the behavioral questions you’ll be asked, but you can prepare by considering key competencies you possess, how you’ve used them and what you learned from your experiences.

Let’s get to know the "real" you questions. Employers pose these inquiries to gain a strong sense of what motivates and interests you. You could be asked to describe the last book you read or movie you saw, for instance, or what famous person you would most like to have dinner with.

The good news is that there are no right or wrong answers to these types of questions. Again, hiring managers are often more interested in how you react when presented with them than your answer. It’s good to be honest in your response, but be sure not to offer too much information. For example, if the last movie you saw was Fahrenheit 9/11, you might mention that you enjoy documentaries of all kinds. Just avoid commenting on politics.

While these types of interviews questions are more difficult to prepare for, as a candidate, you get a chance to showcase your previous experience in detail and demonstrate your ability to think on your feet. By considering how you’ll respond when presented with nontraditional inquiries—and keeping your composure during the interview—you’ll give yourself on edge over the competition.

The Creative Group is a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and web professionals on a project basis with a variety of firms.