It’s no secret that the best way to prepare for an interview is to practice answering questions aloud.
Problem is, aside from a handful of illegal interview questions, the hiring manager can pretty much ask you anything under the sun. I’ve heard of interview questions ranging from “How many golf balls would fit in a school bus?” to “Tell me a joke.” So, where do you even begin preparing and practicing? Wouldn’t it be a lot easier if you just knew what your interviewer was going to ask?
Well, while I can’t give you a concrete list, there are a few sneaky ways to get a pretty good idea—so you can focus your interview-prep energy and go in as prepared as possible.
1. Scour Glassdoor
Obviously, the best case scenario would be having someone who went through the same interview experience give you a play by play. That’s probably not going to happen, but the next best thing is checking for interview questions on Glassdoor.
Select “Interviews” in the dropdown menu next to the search bar, and then type in the company you’re interviewing with. You should get interview questions for a variety of positions at the company. While you can further narrow down your results to your exact position (if you’re lucky), I’ve found that getting a sense of what types of questions the company favors in general to be helpful.
Definitely look closely at the questions for your specific position or similar positions, but also pay attention to whether the experience leans toward behavioral questions, technical questions, brainteasers, cases, or a mix. This will start to point you in the right direction.
2. Read Between the Job Description Lines
Once you get a better sense of the way you’ll be evaluated, review the job description closely. Grab a highlighter and mark up anything that seems more specific than the standard “various duties as assigned.”
Then, craft questions for yourself that challenge your qualifications for these highlighted responsibilities. If the company likes to ask casual or behavioral questions, you can probably expect things like, “Tell me about your experience with [insert highlighted responsibility]” or “Tell me about a time you showcased [insert desired qualification].”
Or, if you’re applying for positions with strict technical requirements, consider how the company will evaluate your expertise. If you’re applying to a programming position that requires in-depth knowledge of computer science, you might get a more definition-based question like, “What is recursion?” or a more in-depth application question like, “Write a function that sorts this list using a recursive algorithm.” Add these questions to the list you’ve culled from Glassdoor.
3. Review Your Resume
It would probably be a better evaluative tool if interviewers asked everyone the same questions, but that’s not always the case. In reality, hiring managers will often have questions that relate specifically to your background, especially if there’s anything on your resume that’s particularly different (a career change, a long gap) or interesting (time spent abroad).
So, consider this: If you were the interviewer, what would stand out or pique your interest? What would you ask yourself? Add the standard “Tell me about yourself” and “Walk me through your resume” to your list, as well as anything else that might stand out about your previous experience.
4. Do Informational Interviews
Of course, at some point, there is only so much you can do on your own. So turn to your network: If you know anyone or have ever conducted an informational interview with someone who has worked for the company you’re interviewing with, this is the time to call them up.
Explain that you’ve been invited to interview and are exceptionally excited. In fact, you’ve been working hard to prepare—and any additional advice this person could share would be greatly appreciated. You might not get exact questions this way, but sometimes you’ll learn a thing or two about the people you’re interviewing with. Maybe your hiring manager happens to really prefer written thank you notes, or is obsessed with punctuality. This is very good to know.
5. Just Ask
Lastly, remember that if you’re being invited to interview, the hiring manager wants it to work out. The company needs to fill this position—and the sooner, the better. No one’s out to get you. In fact, the hiring manager is rooting for you. So, don’t underestimate what you can learn from just asking how to best prepare for the interview.
You’re probably not going to get a list of exact questions, but you may get a sense of general topics that might be covered, who you’ll be meeting with, and what to expect on interview day. Similar to what you did with the job description, create questions based on what you learn, and add them to the list.
Now that you have some direction and a short list of likely interview questions, practice! Don’t get stuck mulling answers over in your head or typing up long elaborate answers to your questions. Practice answering these questions out loud a few times, and you’ll be just fine.
Photo of hands courtesy of Shutterstock.
Lily Zhang serves as a Manager of Graduate Student Professional Development at the MIT Media Lab where she works with a range of students from AI experts to interaction designers. When she’s not indulging in a new book or video game, she’s thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author