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Job Interview: Fundamental Questions

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

As you remember from the previous lesson, fundamental questions are questions about your intrinsic motivation, your ambition, and your unique combination of capabilities. I would argue there are 6 fundamental questions to prepare, and I'm happy to go over each of them with you. And the key challenge with fundamental questions is: they're about you, so you know the answer, and you'll have the tendency to keep talking, so the goal here is to apply rock-solid structure and to keep it concise.

The first one would be: "Why are you applying for this role/this company?" So here, the question could be why this role, or why this company. The answer is the same because in describing why the role, you'll mention the company as an argument, and vise versa. To answer this question, let's make 3 arguments and a conclusion. Take my example here: I've always been passionate about sales processes, and I would consider this company at the forefront of sales innovation.

A second reason would be that I strongly believe that for the role I'm applying for, you need to have strong communication skills. I believe I have those.

Lastly, I've spoken to people that work at this company / I've read a lot about the company's culture and the pillars of diversity and inclusion. It seems to me that this is a culture I would like to work in, and more importantly, a culture I'm confident I can contribute to.

So you see what I've said here: Why this role or why this company: the company is an expert at X, I am very good at Y, and the culture appeals to me, or even better, I'm a great fit for your culture. 3 arguments that will lead to a very strong answer. I invite you to pause, think about a possible answer for yourself or go back and listen to this answer again. Meanwhile, I'll pick up the pace a bit: 5 more fundamental questions to go:

"Why do you think we should hire you?" Please note that this question is identical to the questions: why hire you and not someone else? What will you bring to this company? What makes you unique? \ To answer this question, please refer to the 3 arguments-structure and come up with 3 compelling arguments. You can make the last one about cultural fit again and copy that from your answer to the question: why did you apply.

I'll leave this one to you. We can move on to the 3rd one: \ "What do you intend to achieve through this role?" This question is not different from the questions: where do you see yourself in 5 years, and what's your professional ambition? Here is how I would approach that: \ On the one hand, I want to do something meaningful and impactful with my professional capabilities and my bandwidth. Working in industry X or role Y will allow me to build knowledge and experience to further contribute to… for example: "a more inclusive society" or "the success of small businesses online" or "a more sustainable supply chain." \ On the other hand, I like to challenge myself: Through this role, I would like to grow in the company and pursue a management position within this and X years.

So, in conclusion, I think my motivation for applying is a combination of the long-term desire to make a meaningful and lasting impact on society and my professional ambition to grow as a leader.

Question 4 and question 5, we can deal with together: "What are your key weaknesses, and what are your key strengths?" For key strengths, I'll let you think about that: pro tip here – go for a diverse set, perhaps one that relates directly to the job and one that reflects how great of a person you are. More interesting are the key weaknesses. You have to strike a balance between being honest and not underselling yourself.

Here's my answer:

  • My first weakness is that I commit very strongly: I have a high sense of responsibility, but sometimes this leads me to feeling too committed, and when things don't go as planned, it can impact me on a personal level.

  • My second weakness is that I'm sometimes a bit too biased for action, meaning that when presented with a problem, I intend to solve it, when sometimes it makes more sense not to solve it myself, or not to solve it at all, if there are too many other priorities.

  • A last weakness of mine could be that I find it hard to move on from people: I'm loyal and invested in people. When someone leaves the team, for example, this can impact me on an emotional level. It does not reflect in my work or motivation, but I do feel it, so that could be considered a weakness.

So true weaknesses but none so problematic they might impact the outcome of the job interview negatively, in fact, it shows good self-knowledge to be able to reflect on these weaknesses so openly and elaborately.

A last fundamental question is: how do your friends describe you in 3 words. This is not the same as how you would describe yourself in 3 words, and you have to prepare for it separately, as you may get both… A good way to answer this question would be to play the humble and spontaneous card. I usually say:

"Well, to be frank, I've never asked my friends, but I know them well and they me, so here is what I hope they would say: I'd think they'd say I'm loyal, because I am there for them no matter what. Then they might say I'm smart, which is funny because I consider them smarter but they know I like to solve problems. And lastly, I can hear them say I care too much. It's not ideal, but I guess that's what they would say, that I worry and I should care a bit less. But you'll have to ask them to be sure."

Ok, so those are the 6 fundamental interview questions you should be ready for. Feel free to go back and listen to them again. And you can use my answers as inspiration for yours, just make sure to tailor them to your situation. Practising interview questions is good and not unnatural, but keep it honest, of course. This is your interview, after all. Ok, after the fundamental questions, let's move on to the second category: skill-based questions. I'll see you at the next lesson!

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Written by

Felix Peeters