How to Answer 10 of the Most Common Interview Questions

How to Answer 10 of the Most Common Interview Questions

The original version of this story was published in NAA’s UNITS Magazine

Few people go throughout their career without participating in the job interview process more than once. This limited experience puts interviewing on the list of Top 5 Stressful Events in an individual’s career, even if they have experience interviewing applicants for a position. Life can become intimidating on the other side of the interviewing desk. Preparation is paramount to making a positive impression in an interview. Do your homework on the potential employer:

  • Review their website—all of it.
  • Search LinkedIn for profiles of employees, especially those who might be conducting the interview.
  • Google the company name for recent news articles or press releases.
  • Take notes on things of particular interest that correlate with yourbackground/experience and goals.
  • Review the job description and make a checklist of the position’s required and desired skill sets compared to yours.
  • If appropriate and possible, shop some of the company’s communities, but caution should be exercised to keep your reasons confidential.

Armed with this information, along with the job description, keep the company goals and position’s responsibilities in mind when preparing your answers to the top 10 most common interview questions. Write down your thoughts regarding possible responses to these questions.

TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF.

Many people view this as a question that is so generic it is impossible to correctly answer. View this as your golden opportunity to catch the interviewer’s attention with your suitability for the position. This is not the time to give a long rambling tale of your personal life or a detailed review of your résumé. Prepare a three-minute elevator speech with a beginning, middle and end that focuses on the quantifiable accomplishments in your career highlighting your experience as it relates to the position.

WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE COMPANY?

This is where your research pays off. The real question being asked is; “How interested are you in our company and do you have enough initiative to research potential opportunities?” This is not the time to repeat everything on the company’s webpage. Make it personal and discuss what aspects of the company you identified with and why that is important to you.

TELL ME ABOUT A CHALLENGE OR CONFLICT YOU HAVE FACED AT WORK AND HOW YOU DEALT WITH IT.

The interviewer wants to get a feel for how you respond to difficult situations. Think back over your career and be prepared to share one or two challenging events encountered and how they were resolved. A top management skill is to be able to “think on your feet” and effectively solve problems. Your examples should display this attribute.

WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST PROFESSIONAL ACHIEVEMENT?

This is an opportunity to separate yourself from other candidates, so don’t be shy in your response. Mentally review your career for awards received and/or quantifiable accomplishments and decide which would be the most beneficial to the position or the potential employer’s goals. Briefly describe the background regarding the situation and follow with what you actually did and the result. For example: “I took over a property with a 65 percent occupancy and determined that many corporations in the vicinity had not been approached. An aggressive marketing plan was implemented to reach this market with employee move-in incentives and a corporate housing program resulting in increasing the occupancy to 94 percent in a 90-day period.”

WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST STRENGTH?

The most common answer to this question is “I am a hard worker.” Take the time to think about what is your personal “secret ingredient” and how that benefits an employer. For example,”I have a gift for building strong teams and bringing cohesiveness to the workplace which resulted in a reduction of staff turnover from 57 percent to 54 percent, well below the national average.”

WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WEAKNESS?

Everyone has a flaw. The interviewer is trying to determine if you have enough self-awareness and honesty to know your flaws.

A good way to answer is to share a weakness followed by what you have done to overcome it, so it does not hurt your performance. For example, “I have a tendency to focus on the details of what is needed, so I make it a habit to step back to view the big picture.”

DESCRIBE A TIME YOU EXERCISED LEADERSHIP.

Stories sell. Describe an event that showcases this skill. Give enough detail to disclose the situation, obstacles and what you did to succeed. Examples could be how you managed a project, rallied a team or led a change in procedures. Be sure to add quantifiable results.

WHY ARE YOU LOOKING TO LEAVE YOUR CURRENT JOB?

There is nothing to be gained by speaking negatively about your current employer. Focus on the positive regarding opportunities that are lacking in your current employment that you are eager to pursue or why the current opportunity is a better fit.

WHY SHOULD WE HIRE YOU?

This is another opportunity to stand out from other candidates. Focus on the company’s needs and goals and share how you meet their criteria. Elaborate further as to how you could add value in the future based on their goals. Past experience in obstacles they may face moving toward their goals could prove invaluable. For example, “My past experience in overseeing the challenges of three different rehabs gives me in-depth insight that should prove useful as you move toward acquisitions of value-add properties.”

DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS FOR US?

Decide on a minimum of two questions to write down and take to the interview. The interviewer may touch on these very questions, but that is not a reason to say, “No, I think you have answered them all.” The absence of questions indicates a lack of interest in the position and company and questions easily answered on the company’s website illustrates a lack of effort in researching the company.

Questions should be developed that show an understanding of the market in the area and interest in what the company views their most important differences between their properties and management in comparison to the competition. Other questions pertaining to the current challenges of the position, where things are going well and where they need improvement, or what they would like to be accomplished by this role in the next three/six/nine months will show interest and give a deeper understanding of their needs.

When there is more than one interviewer, do not be hesitant to ask them the same questions. A different perspective can sometimes be enlightening.

In closing, PRACTICE. This will increase your confidence and comfort level in the interview. Read the questions and vocalize your responses aloud a minimum of three times. This is a debater’s technique that helps put the information into your short-term memory for easier recall.

Kenneth J. Bohan, CPC, CTS, is President of The Liberty Group, a national executive search and staffing firm for the multifamily industry and an NAA delegate for the Houston Apartment Association.
He can be reached at kjb@thelibertygroup.com or 713-961-7666.

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