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Top 5 nontechnical interview questions

Job Market
Feb 18, 2022

There are many types of interviews that companies and managers routinely use: structured interviews, biographical interviews, case interviews, competency-based interviews, projective interviews, stress interviews, and all of their combinations. These interview types are similar in that they are all designed to assess the business and personal qualities of the candidate.

The number of nontechnical questions in each type of interview, however, may vary. For example, many companies divide the interview process into several stages. If the first interview is conducted by HR, there will be a greater number of nontechnical questions, and vice versa if we are talking about an interview with a manager and future colleagues.

We can say that there are many standard nontechnical questions, and you as a candidate have the opportunity to search out these questions on the internet and be prepared for them. All you have to do is search for “top interview questions” and you can get many question ideas from Indeed, Monster, Forbes, Glassdoor, and others. Some websites even provide answers to such questions, but I would not recommend mindlessly copying them because you will sacrifice some of your individuality and you will most likely be caught.

In this article, we highlight the top five nontechnical questions that are often asked in interviews and can cause difficulties for candidates.

1. Tell us about yourself.

This is a question a recruiter or manager often asks at the beginning of an interview, so it's always a good idea to prepare a two-to-three minute presentation about yourself.

It is very important here to highlight the key events of your life and career. You should not rely on improvisation; it is better to prepare at least the structure of such an answer. If you have 10-15 years of experience under your belt, focus on your most recent experience. More often than not you already know something about the company and the job you are applying for, so connect those facts to what you can say about yourself.

2. Tell us about your strengths and weaknesses.

Very often I interview candidates who are modest or underestimate their successes and as a result look unconfident. Try to formulate a list of your achievements in advance. Remember if you made a presentation despite having a fear of public speaking, or if you completed a major project. Ask your friends and colleagues about what you are especially good at and share these things during the interview.

It often happens that a candidate does well describing their strengths but falters when discussing weaknesses. So how do you answer this question in a way that does not look bad in the eyes of the interviewer? First and foremost, be honest. There is nothing wrong with admitting social fears like interviewing or public speaking or talking about some kind of failure. Evaluate the position you are applying for. If you're afraid of speaking in public and your job involves it on a daily basis, it's best not to focus on it. Rather, talk about what actions you take to overcome difficulties or what lessons you have learned from mistakes.

3. Why should we hire you for this position?

The answer to this question lies in discussing your strengths, but it is important here to convey your understanding of the job requirements and your knowledge of the company. Show your interviewer that you have carefully analyzed the company's activities and responsibilities and compared them with your competencies.

4. Tell us about a conflict you faced and how you resolved it.

One-hundred percent of candidates begin answering this question by stating that they don’t deal with a lot of conflict at work. I think that not having conflict at work is normal. In answering this question, it is worth thinking about difficult work situations that you have faced in your life—for example, a demanding client, lack of information, a busy colleague or boss, or an urgent task—and describe your behavior in such situations. Show examples where you successfully defended your opinion or convinced a colleague. Sometimes in conflict situations, we have to act as a mediator, and this can also be a good example of your behavior.

5. Do you have any questions for us?

This question usually comes up at the end of an interview, and it’s an opportunity for the interviewee to ask questions relating to the job and to show an interest in the company.

Ask questions that will provide answers you did not already know—topics like the work schedule, team, responsibilities, and expectations for the position. This question is also a great chance to agree on when you will hear back after the interview.

Different interviewers assess the absence of questions from a candidate differently. Be attentive to the schedule of your interviewers, however, and don’t try to find out everything at once. If you did not have time to ask all your questions during the interview, just ask for another meeting or phone call.

Final thoughts

These questions are far from an exhaustive list of questions that are often asked in interviews.

You can find collections of tricky questions on the internet that are used by large IT companies. Some of them have become legendary: why sewer manholes are round, how many times the minute and hour hands overlap during the day, and others. It is debatable how much questions like these help managers assess the suitability of a candidate for a particular vacancy. As another example, Apple and other technology companies might ask you what your favorite device is. When this happens, it is important not to get lost; your goal is to demonstrate stress resistance, resourcefulness, logic, or all three together. 

If you have an interview scheduled, take the time to research the company, its projects, and the position you're applying for. You can find information and possibly even video clips of your interviewers through the company's website or social media channels.

If you assess your competencies and prepare a list of different situations or projects that you can include in your interview, you will be able to reinforce your resume and talk about your strengths.

Interviewing is stressful for everyone, but quality preparation increases the likelihood that you will be successful.

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