Thursday, November 24, 2016

How to tackle the "Do you have any questions for us?" query in an interview

           You are at the final interviews for one of the biggest tech companies in the country. It has been almost an hour; you look at your watch quickly and realize that in just a few more minutes you would be walking out with a skip in your step. You had 3 back to back rounds including this one, and you shone as bright as the sun for literally every question. Not unlike Dhoni, hitting sixes for every ball thrown at you. Towards the end though, you were asked to bowl the ball instead. An unexpected request. What do you do? In cricket, Dhoni may not be asked to bowl for the team, but here you certainly will be asked to pose questions to the interviewer! If you are wondering why your queries are required, after all, you are supposed to know everything, right? Let me give you the reasons- they may surprise you.

Firstly, the interview as you know is always a 2-way street, where you have just as much right to know more about what you are getting into as they do! You may be wondering what the future opportunities are in terms of career growth, what their work styles look like, would the culture be a fit for you etc.– These are natural questions that help make sure that the role in that firm is the right place for you; so you are not setting yourself up for failure.

Second, asking questions towards the end (either explicitly requested to or by your proactive request), is a great opportunity for you to showcase your enthusiasm, curiosity and intelligence; and a great way for you to leave the interview on a high note. To those of you wondering “Manish, doesn’t asking questions reflect my ignorance, maybe even backfire?”. My answer is: Yes, but while that may be true, the biggest issue I noticed growing up in India is the general perception about asking questions and the related fear people have in their mind about being judged on their questions. What we don’t realize is if we don’t quell our naturally enquiring minds by uncovering our doubts or satisfying our curiosity, we will always be at the losing end. Asking questions is an integral part of growing your mind and broadening your horizons. After all, if all goes well, you may see yourself spending most your coming days at this office with these very people.

Now the question remains: How do go about this? What questions do you ask to understand a bit more about the environment you may be getting into, while showcasing your smarts?

Let me elaborate: You can showcase your intelligence by using the opportunity to reinforce and demonstrate skills that the hiring manager wants to see in her/his ideal candidate - whether it is a team player, long term thinker, process oriented worker etc. Displaying these interests in your queries helps you come across as a desirable candidate. The reverse questioning also demonstrates that you are curious, enthusiastic and fearless – some of the more anticipated behavioral traits companies look for in candidates.

Remember, arm yourself for this portion of the interview. When it comes to interviews, you prepare for potential questions you may be asked, right? You will need to tackle “asking questions to the interviewer” in the exact same manner! Plan and prepare your inquiries ahead of time. To make sure you don’t come across as a person doing this for the sake of it, you need to ask yourself:

- Why are you are asking these questions?
- How would you benefit from the answers? and 
- How do these questions sound to the person across the table? In other words, how does it demonstrate that you have given this opportunity serious thought!

In my upcoming blog, I will disclose a list of basic questions you can use as a good starting point, but keep these 3 very important things in mind:

One: The volume of questions you ask. While there is no set number, as long as your questions are relevant and fall within the timeframe of the interview, you can ask away. Do be respectful of the interviewer’s time, but if you did not get a chance to ask that one last burning question, don’t let it go. Instead, politely e-mail her/him or ask the HR point of contact!

Two: Customization of questions. Ask relevant, contextual questions based on the scenario that have not already been covered, and quick on your feet to customize your queries based on the discussion and your interviewer. Example – If the interviewer has already spoken about what the career ladder looks like, asking about growth at the end makes for a redundant query, and may seem like you did not pay attention during the interview.

One more thing: Be open to having a two-way interaction and conversation throughout the interview while being courteous by sharing any proactive/leading queries when the opportunity arises, or the interviewer has been through the queries he planned on asking.

Stay tuned for my next blog to learn more about some interesting and impactful questions you can ask your interviewer, and the blog after will include a few questions you should NOT ask and why!

In the meanwhile, if you have given interviews in the past, and got an opportunity to ask questions towards the end, let us know in the comments if you did ask any questions, and if so, what they were. We’d love to know!

Manish N Gaba
(Pic Courtesy –
Copyright © 2016-to date by Career Ready Consultants LLP, All Rights Reserved. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fresh Grad Interview Questions - A Laundry List: Part 2

Hey everyone! As promised, here is a fresher grad’s special edition of common questions asked during interviews on campus or for entry-level jobs.

As always, do make mental notes as you go through these questions, on how you'd approach the answer and tackle them. Practicing these verbally, or in your mind will help you prepare for these questions (and versions of these questions) better, with a cool mind!

Remember, as you are stepping into the work environment for the very first time, most of the questions will focus around:
· How you plan to transition from being a student to being part of the workforce (your attitude and personality)
· How you plan to contribute to your new employer (ideas and hypothetical scenarios)

Keeping these 2 aspects in mind will help you better streamline your answers at the interview. Remember, stay consistent with your responses, as a question can and will be repeated in different ways.

For Example: You could be asked What skills have you gained that you can transfer to the current role? & have a version of the query resurface in the 2nd interview, or even maybe in the same interview: What did you pick up from your academics, that you plan to apply here?

I remember giving an interview as a fresh grad where I did notice that throughout all 5 rounds (even though they had detailed notes about me) they repeated many of the same questions. A few years down the line, when I was on the other side - interviewing candidates for sales, I realized that it was a great way to measure consistency in a applicant’s answers.

Before you read the list however, remember to keep your responses positive and definite. And one more thing before we jump in, know this: While you can prepare your best for interview questions, know that you can never really complete your preparation to have that elusive cookie cutter answer. Responses will constantly evolve, as they should. But what you can bet on, is that each question needs a unique flavor, that special something- a bit of You :)


What made you choose the major you are pursuing?

Why did you choose this particular college?

Does being successful in academics equal success in career? If yes, why? If no, why not?

What transferable, tangible skills have you gained that can be applied to this role?

How does your education help you prepare for the outside world in general?

How does your education help you prepare for your chosen career path?

How does your education thus far help you prepare for this role/job?

Why are you interviewing with us?

How will this job help you achieve your long-term career goals?

What do you plan to learn from this role?

What timeframes do you have in your mind for getting a promotion?

Do you see yourself shifting fields in a few years?

Do you see yourself shifting roles in a few years?

If you do not get this role, what would you do next?

(For those with unrelated degrees) You majored in 'X', but you have applied for a job in the 'Y' field. Why do you want to move fields? How do you justify this jump?

What skills did you discover you are good at during your time in college?

What were your biggest challenges in college?

What was your biggest academic disappointment? How did you cope with it?

What are some of your biggest achievements?

How did your contributions in college impact people around you?

Give us an instance where you solved a persistent problem.

Give us an instance where you lead a group of people/team? What were the challenges you faced? How did you overcome them?

Give us an instance where you executed a given task without supervision?

Did you take part in any internship program? Can you elaborate on your tasks and learnings?

(For those who took part in internships) What did you expect from a environment? How was it different?

(For those who did not take part in internships) I notice you were not a part of any internships throughout college. Any specific reasons you chose not to participate in any?

In your view, do internships help or hinder the academic flow of a student?

What skills would you need to transition from academics to a work environment? How do you plan to develop those skills?

Why do you seek out this major? What was your second preference and why?

Does your academic focus align with your skill set?

Does your career focus align with your skills set?

What type of a learner are you?

Which is your least favorite learning method?

Academics is at times based on memorisation. Do you support the system? If yes, why? If not, what changes would you propose?

Do you think present day academic systems are geared towards preparing students for the real world? What do you think are some of the shortfalls?

What qualifications do you have, beyond your academic achievements, that will enable you to excel or succeed within our company?

Where do you see yourself in 1/5/10 years from now?

Do you plan to go for higher studies? If yes, when do you intend to do the same and how does it tie with your career plans?

As a fresher, how important is your job remuneration to you?

Are you willing to relocate for this job?

How do you imagine your work environment here to be? What is your ideal work environment?

What are the 3 traits you expect from your manager?

Describe an ideal manager?

If you had several important tasks assigned to you, how would you go about completing them?

Have you had a dispute/conflict among your teammates in a certain task? How was it solved?

What is your biggest failure?

If you were the CEO of this company, what would you change in our company? 


The list can go on, however these are some of the top ones to keep in mind and prepare for. I hope you picked the theme and the purpose behind these queries. At the very least get acquainted with the query set so you are not caught off-guard or worse, don’t blank out. But remember, while you can familiarize yourself with hem and borrow the basic approach to responding to them, the crux of the answer, that special something that will make you stand out above other candidates, lies within you- where adding a bit of yourself to the answer will go a long way. Search within yourself to draw answers from your thoughts and past experiences; capture these and communicate your unique value through them.

One more thing! One important question the interviewer will have for you towards the end: "Do you have any questions for us?". Should you have questions? If so, what are you at liberty to ask in such a situation? In our next blog, I will discuss ways in which you can use this question to your advantage in any interview!

In the meanwhile, comment and let us know which of the above queries you find most challenging and how you would approach the same.

Stay tuned!!

Manish Gaba

(Pic courtesy -
Copyright © 2016-to date by Career Ready Consultants LLP, All Rights Reserved. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Open Ended Questions - A Laundry List!

          We know interviewers love their ambiguous, open-ended questions that make you panic and squirm in your seat. Not anymore! In our previous blog we discussed 3 rules that can help you tackle these curveball questions, skillfully and mindfully. In this blog, you will find a great set of open ended questions that I find candidates commonly face in interviews. While this is not an exhaustive list, it’s a comprehensive set that is a must-read for interviewees. When you read through them, prepare mental notes on how you’d like to tackle them. Practicing these in your mind will help tackle these questions even if you are asked similar versions.

But before you read the list, know this: You can never really complete your preparation for a perfect cookie cutter answer. What you can bet on, is that each question needs a unique flavor, that special twist, a bit of You :)

One more thing before we jump in, come what may, keep your responses positive and definite. That way not only will you avoid the temptation of ranting or rambling at the slightest (given the open-ended opportunity), but you will also successfully avoid any ambiguity leading to follow up queries which are also usually more– you guessed it- open ended questions!


·       What definite strengths do you bring to the table?
·       What are your biggest weaknesses?
·       How will you contribute to our team/company if we hire you?
·       By when can we see concrete contributions from you?
·       What external factors affect your job performance?
·      Have you had a conflict with a teammate at work? If yes, what resulted in it and how did you handle it?
·       What do you like to do more of in your job?
·    If you could remove one responsibility from the job you have applied for, what would it be?
·       What motivates you to push your limits at your work?
·       Define your dream job.
·   If you decide to switch companies, how long after you start would you feel comfortable making the move?
·      What did you love about your last job?
·      What did you hate about your last job?
·      How do you plan to transition to a new work environment?
·    You performed at a certain level in your last position. Would you say you gave it your best? If yes – what makes you think so? If not, how could you have improved?
·      Why do you want to work with our company?
·   Which of the following is the most/least important and why? job duties, hours, distance to work, pay, work environment.
·      Define success?
·      Define failure?
·      How do you make important decisions?
·      Who are your ideal teammates?
·      If you’re hired for this job, how will you approach the first 30 days?
·      Which tasks in your previous job intellectually challenged you?
·      Which tasks in your previous job creatively challenged you?
·      What do you think about diversity at workplace?
·      How will you ensure that the work you least enjoy is done?
·      Define 'growth'?
·      Define 'challenge'?
·      How do you stay productive when things are slow at work?
·      What were some of your biggest mistakes? What did you learn from them?
·      Have you given your best, yet?
·      If you could start your career over again, what would you do differently?
·   How do you keep yourself informed about your market and industry news and trends?
·      What is one thing you’d change about your previous work place?
·      How can we best motivate you to do a great job at work?
·      Why do you see yourself successful here?
·      What stresses you in a work environment and how do you handle the same?
·      Can you predict a need before it arises? Give us an example or two.
·      Which tasks do you typically have the least amounts of patience with?
·      Tell me about the last time you inherited a problem and if/how you solved it.
·     Describe an instance when your team felt helpless. What led to it and how did you contribute?
·      What are your preferred channels of communication and why?
·      What efforts do you usually take to learn about a new joiner in your team?
·      What do you do to make the people around you feel appreciated, and respected?
·   Do you think there are times where it’s more important to be diplomatic than correct? Elaborate.
·      Which quality of yours is least suitable for a workplace like ours? Why?
·      How do you prioritize your work hours? /How do you handle multiple priorities?
·     Tell us about a difficult peer you have worked with. Why was she/he difficult and how did you deal with the person?
·      Tell us about one good and bad habit you developed in college?
·      Who best criticizes you? How do you handle the same?
·      How do you lead? /What is your leadership style? Give us an example.
·      What kind of decisions take the least effort to make?
·      What kind of decisions take the most effort to make?
·      What makes people successful in their careers?
·      How would you define a productive work environment?
·      What was the least relevant job you have held?
·      If your teammate performs below your expectations - How would you respond?
·      How do you get back on track from breaks in your routine?
·      How do you blow-off steam/de-stress at work?

The list can go on, but you get the gist. These are some of the top questions you can expect to be asked and prepare for, or at the very least get acquainted with so you are not caught off-guard or worse, don’t blank out. Remember, you can borrow the approach but the crux of the answer, that special something that will take you above other candidates, lies with adding a bit of yourself to the answer. Search within yourself and you’ll be able to draw answers from your thoughts and experiences; capture these and communicate your unique value through them.

Did you enjoy this? There’s more where this came from and there’s something for everyone. Are you a fresher with no work experience? Worry not, In our upcoming blog, we will focus on questions geared specifically towards new grads with little to no work experience.

In the meanwhile, let us know in the comments section, which of the above open-ended queries you find most challenging and how you would approach the same?

Freshers, stay tuned!!

Manish Gaba

(Pic courtesy -
Copyright © 2016-to date by Career Ready Consultants LLP, All Rights Reserved.