Job Search Tip of the Week #22 (2018)

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How to Ace Your First-Round (or Really, Just About Any) Interview

Think Like an Interviewer – Q16



Nowadays, it’s not enough to just be able to do the job. When we ask hiring managers to describe their ideal candidates, they often say creative problem solvers who can adapt quickly and effectively to any situation (particularly unanticipated ones), like changes to customer requirements and technologies. That’s why you often get asked interview questions that assess your competence in these areas.

“Tell me about a project you worked on that required heavy analytical thinking” is one of these questions, and a behavioral one at that. Remember, during a behavioral interview, the interviewer asks about your experience overcoming (or succumbing to) obstacles in the workplace, under the premise that past behavior predicts your on-the-job performance. As such, your interviewer wants to hear a specific work-related example of when you successfully applied your analytical thinking skills.

You could talk about a time you:

  • Had to diagnose a problem. What approach did you take, and what was the outcome?
  • Anticipated a problem. What preventative measures did you take, and were they successful?
  • Encountered a problem. Why was it such an issue (i.e., what was its significance or impact)? What factors did you consider when evaluating potential solutions? What solution was implemented, and what did you learn?

But don’t just pick any old anecdote. Do your research and relate how you’d use your analytical abilities to help the company meet its goals or fulfill a primary responsibility of the position you’re interviewing for. For example, if you’re a web developer you could talk about how you were migrating a client’s WordPress site to another location and kept getting “500 Internal Server Error” pages. Talk your interviewer through your thought process and what troubleshooting you performed as you worked to deduce the cause of the problem (“Since two of the most common causes of this error are a corrupted .htaccess file and an insufficient PHP memory limit, I decided to first try…”).

And since this is a behavioral interview question, use the “PS CAR” method to keep you on track as you answer:

  • People: Who was involved
  • Situation: What was it and why was it particularly problematic
  • Cause: What led to the problem / How did the situation arise
  • Address: What specific actions did you take, and why did you choose that particular course of action over the alternatives
  • Result: What was the end-result, and what did you learn from it (Was it what you’d expected? If so, why? If not, why not? What would you do differently the next time you face a similar situation?)

Remember, interviewers ask this question to gauge your ability to think independently, analyze and evaluate problems, and make logical connections between ideas. Touching on all points of PS CAR when responding to behavioral interview questions will show your interviewers that you’re confident and capable of problem solving with clarity and good judgment.


Sound Off: Describe a project or situation that best demonstrates your analytical abilities.


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