I’ve heard a lot of weird interview questions in my day…” If you were a box of cereal, what would you be and why?” or “Why is a tennis ball fuzzy?” Plain goofy, if you ask me! I think good interview questions should be targeted to assess ability to perform a particular job. As such, I formulate bespoke questions for every candidate I work with, depending on the role they are applying for. With one exception; I think every candidate should be able to answer my favourite interview question:
What would your unique contribution be to this particular job at this organisation?
This addresses three things I believe every interviewer wants to know:
What sets this candidate apart from the rest?
How would their skills benefit the role?
What could they bring to the organisation?
Now, I know it’s impossible for you to guess what the competition looks like for every job you apply for. I do think it’s fair to assume that everyone who makes it to interview is going to be qualified. Your job is demonstrating your point of difference. Imagine the interview panel is meeting to make their final decision and choose a candidate. You want them to remember you for your unique contribution. When they are all sitting around the table deliberating, and someone says, “which one was Sam?” you want them to remember that point of difference.
Let’s say our imaginary candidate Sam is applying for a job as a medical device sales rep. Sam meets the basic requirements of having a solid history in sales. Sam identifies their point of difference as two unique qualities; experience working with the major competitor and previous work experience as a clinician.
This information flows naturally into the second part of the question; how does this contribute to the role? As a previous clinician, Sam can demonstrate understanding of patient needs and business constraints such as product cost. Sam can mention existing relationships with stakeholders in the sales territory, built as a trusted co-worker. In depth knowledge of the competitor product and marketing strategy is very useful for knowing how to promote the company’s product.
Savvy candidates bring it all together by showing that they understand the values and goals of the target organisation. Employers want to know that you’ve done your homework, that you understand what is important to them as an organisation, and how your skills and values align with their strategy. Sam would be smart to finish this question by pointing out how keen they are to use their skills to work towards the shared goal.
What happens when someone from this interview panel says, “Which one was Sam?” Immediately they recall the point of difference; Sam is the former clinician with great relationships in the territory, in depth knowledge of the competitor product, and is really on board with our goal to be the most trusted product by clinicians and to meet the target of 50 new hospitals purchasing by 2020.
If you prepare an answer to this question for every role, I expect you’ll find you have a good answer ready for many other common interview questions such as:
What interests you about working here?
Why do you think your skills are a good fit for the role?
What stand out qualities do you have for this job?
I hope my favourite interview question serves you well! Good luck, job hunters!