Prepare for Three Questions

Quick Summary: Prepare answers to what your past boss might say about you and a mistake you made.


The most important activity one can do in preparing for a job interview is to formulate and practice answers to the questions that, most likely, will be asked.  The answer formulation is a “head” exercise, but the practice activity must be more than that.  Practice by saying your clear and concise answers out loud.  Three questions, two of which involve what your old boss would say about you, and a third question involving a mistake that you made need special attention.

A Google search on “interview questions” will result in hundreds of hits.  Most are very helpful.  A common mistake that most candidates make is to quickly review the questions and mentally develop a picture of how you would answer them.  Our minds work at blazing speeds compared to our mouths!  Instead of just reading and “knowing” how you will answer the questions, say your answers out loud – preferably while standing in front of a full-length mirror.  After you have stumbled with your first few answers, you will quickly realize the need for you to prepare and practice.  Focus on being clear and concise.  Most of all, be honest and sincere.  Do not craft your responses in terms of what you think the other person wants to hear.  Making a good impression is important but making a false impression will be disastrous.

There are three questions that should be asked and require your careful preparation.  They are listed in the order that I used to use.  Also, notice that the questions are asked in a non-threatening way.

Question 1:  “If I could ask your last boss  what was the most outstanding characteristic or thing that made you stand apart from others, what would they say?”

Although you may exemplify all 12 Points of the Boy Scout Law (Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent), answer this question in terms of a characteristic that is meaningful to your prospective new employer.  Follow up your answer with an example of how that characteristic helped you be successful in the past.  You need to say more than “I am a team player,” or “I am reliable,” or “I always delivered results on time”.  Make your response factual and memorable.

Question 2: “If I could ask your last boss, what one thing that would like to change about you, what would they say?”

Note the similarity of this question to the first question.  Again, answer this question with something that is relevant to your potential employer.  Obviously, do not highlight any character flaws – such as falling short of some of the Boy Scout Law 12 Points!  Many times, these negative answers are a result of overly positive intentions such as “too much of a perfectionist,” or “not decisive enough – wanting to gather too much information,” or “moving too fast.”  Identify something; none of us are perfect.

Question 3:  “Looking back over your professional career, what was a situation that you wish you could “do-over” and what were the consequences that occurred?”

We all make mistakes.  Admit it.  Be honest and explain what you learned from the situation and how you have avoided making similar missteps since then.  This is probably the most important answer that you will give to any interviewer.  It demonstrates that your ego is in check, you can objectively reflect on your work efforts, and are not afraid to show your vulnerability.

The goal in answering these questions is to demonstrate that you are a thoughtful and objective person – someone who the interviewer can relate to positively.


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