Career advice

Job Interview: How to Answer Interview Questions – Part 1

by Christina Hubmann - April 28th, 2015

Make a list of your strengths before you go into the interview. Look at the job description and match it with your skills. Just don’t overwhelm the hiring manager with too many details.

Allianz-Image of a question mark

Top Interview Questions and Answers

“Hello Julia, nice to meet you. Welcome to Allianz”, says John, Julia’s potential new boss while shaking her hand. Julia smiles and takes a seat at the little table in John’s office. A small white clock stands on the table close to the wall. It ticks every second. The office is clean, empty, modern; everything is organized. The furniture seems to follow a thoughtful structure. An impressive big poster is pinned on the wall. “One piece of career advice: Join us at Allianz Group to build the strongest financial community!” it says. The Allianz blue stands out.

Sabine enters the room; she’s the recruiter. Participants greet each other. Sabine and John sit down on the opposite sides of the table. The job interview is about to begin. “So, Julia, tell us a little bit about yourself”, says John and focuses on Julia’s face.

Sabine browses through Julia’s printed application where she’s already made some notes. “Well”, says Julia. “I’m 26 years old, finished my degree in International Management last year and am now looking for new opportunities. While studying, I already gained work experience through several internships in the financial area. Aside from that, I’m a passionate long distance runner and currently exercising for the next half marathon. I am a tough, motivated and energetic person.”

While trying to answer typical interview questions, Julia summarizes the most important parts of her life. Not all of them have to be strictly job-related. The benefit of interview answers like that is to share personal insights of someone’s background. However, don’t forget to prepare three or four key professional assets which add value to the target job.

Allianz-Image of a questionnaire sheet

“What is your greatest strength?” asks John.

“I have an extremely strong work ethic. I don’t want to just meet deadlines. I want to get the work done as well as I can and as efficiently as possible. I truly stand behind my projects and feel responsible for the duties in my working area. I always try to find a way to simplify processes and get the greatest outcome from each effort.”

How to Answer Interview Questions

Make a list of your strengths before you go into the interview. Look at the job description and match it with your skills. Always have one question in mind: “What makes me to the ideal candidate for the job?” – even if you’re not the ideal candidate. It is the way you sell the brand “You” that matters. Just don’t overwhelm the hiring manager with too many details.

Job Interview Tips!

Allianz-Photo of a woman in the hallway

“That sounds good, Julia”, Sabine says. “However, you have to consider that in a global company like Allianz structures are really complex. We have to work with several stakeholders from different countries around the world. Not everybody will have the same interest. How would you handle the communications between these various contributors?”

While preparing for the interview, consider not only the job you’re applying for, but also the organization which stands behind it. Of course, your boss wants you to do a good job. But at the same time he or she wants you to keep in mind the bigger picture which overshadows every single task. By using typical interview questions, he or she will try to find out if you fit in with the particular culture and the team which – as at Allianz – could be very international and diverse.

“My strong communication and interpersonal skills have made me the leader of different group projects at university. These skills would definitely help me with my work at Allianz”, Julia answers. “Did you appoint yourself as the group leader or was this a democratic decision?”, John interrupts her.

Expect follow-up interview questions that both the manager and the recruiter will use to dig into every answer you give. Calmness, honesty and details of every aspect of your life which could affect your work performance are needed.

Allianz-Photo of a man pointing at something

“Do you consider yourself successful?” asks John. “Yes”, Julia answers promptly. “Why?” John responds with an answer. “I think so because I always go above and beyond expectations. I work hard and so far I’ve done this effectively”, Julia says after a few seconds of thinking.

Look through your resume and list one or two accomplishments in each role you have had so far, no matter how small. Think about the challenge you faced when working towards them, and the skills or knowledge you brought with you to reach one of the results.

John doesn’t only want to know about the success Julia had in her career so far but also if she loses control sometimes. “When was the last time you were angry?”, he asks. “When I get stressed, I step back, take a deep breath, thoughtfully consider the situation and then begin to formulate a plan of action”, is Julia’s best-case answer.

“Okay, Julia. But what do you do if you worked very hard on your project but it isn’t successful at all? How do you handle failure?”, Sabine asks and looks resolutely into Julia’s eyes.

This type of question is a test to dig in deeper, to provoke you a little bit and to tease you. The boss wants to get to know your level of weaknesses – do you have the confidence to admit your failings and learn from your mistakes? The best approach for Julia for this kind of question is to come up with some scenarios where she has had to handle failure already.

“How do you handle pressure?”, Sabine asks and takes some notes on her notepad which makes Julia nervous. “When I’m under pressure, I focus on my priorities” is the simple answer from her.

Allianz-Photo of a businessman at the office

It would be even better if Julia would give examples of how she has handled stress in the past.

“What do people most often criticize about you?”, Sabina asks to challenge Julia with some more personal questions.

This question is asked to find out how you accept criticism. Julia is not perfect, nobody is. On the other hand she doesn’t want to imply that she has been criticized in previous jobs.

“I’m open to personal and professional growth and welcome the opportunity to improve”, Julia indicates. “From the time I was a child, I always had a hard time holding presentations, in any group situation. A few years ago I took several courses in elocution”, she adds.

“Do you consider yourself to be lucky?” Although the question sounds strange, it’s one that recruiters may use to assess whether you have an optimistic or pessimistic view of the world.

What does Julia answer to this question? Should she consider herself as a “lucky girl”? Discover her answer soon on the Allianz Careers blog.

written by Christina Hubmann

Christina Hubmann

Global Communications

Christina Hubmann works in the Global Communications team of Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, the Allianz centre of expertise for global business insurance and large corporate and specialty risks. She has a journalism background.

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