Some of my clients like to send out a brief interview questionnaire prior to scheduling an in-person interview. They provide a set of questions designed to see how the candidate communicates in writing as well as learn about some specific skills and experience. The human resources and hiring managers put a great deal of thought into what to ask in order to learn more about the candidates.
I forward these interview questionnaires on to the candidates so I’ve seen more than most people when it comes to what types of questions are out there. I always include a link to the company web site so the candidates are able to research the company.
It is surprising to see how little effort some candidates put into providing responses.
The following are a few examples of questions, what the question really means and how short and sweet is not always the best way to move forward:
Question: The job requires significant travel. Are you ok with traveling up to 80% of your time and working odd shifts to accommodate the customer’s schedules?
Feedback: This is your chance to tell the hiring manager how you feel about travel. How excited you are to travel. How you love to travel. How you have traveled in the past and where and how well you interact with different cultures. Possibly even mention you have some additional language skills that may be useful. Or let them know you have a passport or want to get a passport or have always dreamed of having a job that allows you the opportunity to see the world.
Question: How well do you know MS Office? Explain.
Answer: “Excellent computer skills.”
Feedback: This is your opportunity to elaborate on how you have used the various MS Office products in the past. How you use Word and Excel on a daily basis. How you are a guru with MS Project or Access or feel that you can use Outlook to its full capacity. You could also list computer software training courses you’ve already taken. You could offer to take computer software training courses in areas where you feel you could learn more.
Question: How much do you know about our professional product line and equipment?
Feedback: This is where you can show off your technical expertise and experience and show your excitement for the opportunity to work for this company and its products.
Even these seemingly unimportant pre-interview questionnaires are examples of you and your work. Remember to think through your reply and always proofread everything!
It’s great to be concise and to the point with your answers and you don’t want to babble on without making a point, but be mindful of what the question is really asking and respond in a way that showcases your skills in the best possible way.