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Job Interview: The 4 Categories of Questions

This lesson is a part of an audio course Complete Job Interview Preparation by Felix Peeters

Ok, so after going over style & attitude and ways to structure your answer, let's start working on the actual questions. And before we jump into the actual questions and me giving you the best possible answer, which will absolutely happen in the last 4 lessons, let's talk about how to recognize interview questions. At this point, I feel like making a bold statement. In terms of preparation, there are only 20 interview questions. At this point, you may think I'm crazy, but hear me out: listen to the following questions and think for a second:

  • What do you intend to achieve through this role?

  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

  • What does the ideal career look like for you personally?

I agree, these are 3 questions. But when it comes to preparing an answer, I would like to convince you that the answer will be the exact same. So maybe I should adjust my statement: there are only 20 answers you have to prepare for a job interview, and after that, it becomes a matter of recognizing the question. And to help you recognize the question, let me offer you the 4 categories or types of interview questions.

There are fundamental questions, skill-based questions, behavior questions, and cognitive reasoning questions. Let me clarify that for you:

Category 1. Fundamental questions: these are questions that are… like the name says: fundamental, because they are the foundation of the interview. Think about: why do you apply? Why should we hire you? Why this role? What is so great about you? What are your weaknesses? Questions that get to the bottom of your motivation, ambition, and determination.

Category 2. Skill-based questions. From the point-of-view of the recruiter, these skill-based questions are there to verify that you have the required skills and experience to perform well in the position you are applying for. Think about questions like: do you have experience with data analysis? What are the 3 most recent trends in the food-and-beverages industry? These are questions geared towards understanding whether or not you have the skills, the knowledge, and the experience to survive the day-to-day challenges in that role or position.

Category 3. Behavior questions. In my opinion, the most important category, and luckily, the easiest question type to recognize. Behavior questions are questions where you are asked to describe your past or future behavior, to assess what you have done or would have done in a situation. Think about this one: can you tell us about a time you had to pivot your strategy in order to be successful? Or: what would you do if you discovered a co-worker was stealing from the company. Tell us about what you have done, or tell us about what you would do in a hypothetical situation. The hypothesis is that based on your past behavior and your hypothetical future behavior, the hiring manager gets an idea about your actual future behavior. Interesting in theory, but not completely fool-proof if you ask me. Fun fact: companies like Amazon are relying almost exclusively on behavior questions. That is, for corporate roles. Engineers are obviously tested on their technical and analytical skills more heavily.

Category 4. Cognitive reasoning questions. These questions are designed to test your reasoning skills. Are you able to solve problems? Or, more accurately: are you able to stay calm when asked to solve problems on the spot? These questions used to be very popular in large tech companies, for example, but have gradually made a place for… you've guessed it: behavior questions. Anyway, take this example: you take a die and roll it twice in a row. What is the probability that on the second roll, it lands on 2? This is a trick question. There is no specification on the first role, so the probability is just 1/6. Which is what, like… 16%? Either way, the trick here is to stay calm and to explain your reasoning. And we'll practice that together.

So, 4 categories of questions: fundamental questions (why you?), skill-based questions (do you have the experience and the skillset?), behavior questions (tell us about a time when or what would you do if?) and the cognitive reasoning questions, which are either riddles or a very open question like: as a pedestrian, can you cross a red light if there is no one around?

So, let's move on to lesson 5, where I tell you how to recognize any fundamental question and how to be completely prepared? Great, see you there!

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Written by

Felix Peeters