Blog entry by Alan Chapman

Anyone in the world

How To Reverse Engineer An Interview Into A Great Job A Guide To Proactive Interviewing

 What if potential candidates looked at interviewing from the other side of the desk?  What do I mean by that?  I mean what if a person were to anticipate the questions a potential employer might ask and be fully prepared to answer them in an articulate and confident fashion?

This would be the most powerful way to approach an interview and impress a potential employer.  It would also minimize the anxiety and nervous energy people typically bring to an interview and make them far more composed and effective

I want to propose a series of questions to anticipate and suggest that whichever questions below are not asked could then be used by a candidate in response to “Do you have any additional questions or comments for me” at the end of the interview.

Two cautionary notes:

1.     One will never get the opportunity to ask or answer all these questions so pick and choose based on how the interview is progressing, who the interviewer is (title, personality, circumstance, etc.) and what time constraints have been agreed upon for the interview.  Don’t try and do too much.

2.     These questions are suitable for almost any potential job, but they do not take in to account the specific technical, legal or circumstantial details of jobs that are specific to an industry or business model.  Those “proprietary” questions need to be dealt with outside the bounds of this guide.

There are certain categorical traits that all employers should value and these questions are presented within these distinct categories in no particular order of importance.

Prioritization - People who manage time and prioritize effectively help the business grow.

  • Tell me about a time when you had to juggle several projects at the same time.
  • Tell me how you organized and scheduled the last project you planned?
  • Describe the last time when you felt overwhelmed and how you handled it?
  • Tell me about the last time you delegated an important task successfully.
  • How do you determine how long a task should take?

Leadership - High quality leaders who can inspire and bring out potential in others are far more likely to outperform their competitors.

  • Tell me about the last time something critical didn’t go as planned at work. What did you do?
  • Describe the last time you needed to persuade someone to see things your way.
  • Give me a specific example of the last time you led by example.
  • Tell me about the toughest decision you’ve ever had to make. 
  • Tell me how you last “sold” an important idea to your coworkers.


Collaboration - Hiring people who can collaborate effectively is essential to success. 

  • How did you last handle working with someone difficult? 
  • When someone doesn’t understand you what do you do? 
  • Tell me about one of your favorite team building successes.
  • Describe the traits of the best coworker you’ve ever had.
  • What did you do the last time a project changed direction at the last minute.


Environmental Match - Employees who fit well culturally stay longer and perform better. 

  • What are the things that are most important to you about company culture?
  • What were you doing the last time you were really happy at work?
  • What’s the best thing about you that’s not on your resume?
  • What would make you chose our company over our competitors?
  • What is most misunderstood about you and why?


Adaptability - People need to be able to adapt to change to be successful.

  • When was the last time you were asked to do something you’d never done before?
  • When did you last embrace a new idea at work and how?
  • How did you last handle a task assigned outside your job description?
  • What’s the biggest change you’ve ever had to deal with?
  • When’s the last time you had to adjust to someone else’s style to meet your goals?


Potential For Growth - Hiring people who have the potential to grow saves turnover and retraining costs.

  • When was the last time your boss was unavailable and a problem arose?  What did you do?
  • When was the last time you took the initiative to learn something new without being told to? 
  • What might encourage you to look for another job right now? 
  • Do you ever ask for direct feedback from superiors?  Why and when?
  • What’s your biggest career accomplishment to date?


If a potential candidate were to think through all of these questions in preparation for an interview the probability of success would be greatly improved.  The exercise would also be helpful in flushing out weaknesses and preparing for them so they might even be leveraged into strengths.

It is still a good idea for everyone to study the company website, the LinkedIn profiles of everyone in the interview loop and to show up early and well dressed, but these proactive questions will certainly put a candidate significantly ahead of most of their competitors.

[ Modified: Wednesday, 16 January 2019, 5:48 PM ]