KangarooStar Post

Your Career. Always Moving Forward.

The Ultimate Guide to Interview Prep for Job Seekers

Content links: The Prep / The Format / The Questions

Got an interview coming up? Study this guide and you’ll shine like the star you are.

The Interview Prep

1. Do your homework on the firm.

Know what the company does. Why it exists. And what it hopes to do. Google its leadership. Read the website. Then go to your interview prepared with a few questions about the company, the role you’re interviewing for, and the team you’ll be working with. Employers are looking for assistants who show initiative. When you come prepared with relevant, intelligent questions, they’ll know you’ll be an asset to their team!

2. Review the job description and be prepared to explain how your experience is relevant.

Employers aren’t looking for a line-item-for-line-item match. They want to see that you’re capable of performing the tasks required. If you haven’t had direct experience in one of the job duties listed, think of something else you’ve done that applies. Or be honest and say, “I haven’t had the chance to do that yet, but I’m excited to learn!”

3. Make a good impression. Leave a good impression.

You only have one chance to make a first impression, as they say, so make sure it’s a good one! Be early. Be prepared. And be yourself. And don’t just make a good first impression. Leave a good impression, too! Thank the interviewer for their time. Let them know you’re looking forward to speaking with them further about this and/or future opportunities within their firm. After the interview, send an email—or, better, a good old-fashioned thank you note (the kind with a stamp). (If you don’t know what this is, ask your grandma.) When you go the extra mile, employers will see that you’re the kind of employee who places value on doing a job well.

4. Be yourself.

You’re there to show them who you are. So just be yourself. If who you are isn’t right for them, they’re not right for you!

5. Be positive!

Especially about your current/former jobs/employers. Find something positive to say about your previous work experiences … or, as the saying goes, don’t say anything at all. Even if you were in a situation that didn’t suit you, you learned more about what environments would best use your skills and make you happier.

6. Practice discretion!

As an assistant, you are often exposed to confidential information. Employers are testing how discreet you are (usually not in an obvious way), so be aware! They may say, “Tell me something about your previous employer,” or “Why do you want to leave your existing firm?” With respect to the latter question, it’s ok to say something like, “I wasn’t really looking, but this opportunity looked so interesting to me that I had to check it out!” Always be complimentary of your firm and resist oversharing. This is especially difficult if you have an easy rapport with the interviewer. Just remember: Don’t get chummy! They’re there to evaluate you as a potential employee, not as a future friend.

7. Steer the conversation your way!

Write down, in advance, the three things you most want to communicate about yourself—a work experience you’ve had that’s particularly relevant, a project you completed that you’re proud of, a skill you recently learned. Then do your best to insert these things into the conversation. This takes a little finesse, but if you can swing it without it looking like you’re trying to take over, it’s a winning move for sure!

8. Reflect in advance on the following:

What do you love about your existing role? What aspects of your current role are challenging for you? (Remember to stay positive; no trash-talking or complaining!)

With your previous/existing range of responsibilities in mind, what might be different in this new opportunity? What about this new opportunity is exciting for you?

Where have you made a significant impact? Be ready to tell a story that shares how you’ve added value or gone the extra mile to ensure your team’s success.

The Format

It’s best to prepare yourself for any situation, interview-wise, so review the formats and make sure you’re ready for anything.

One-on-one interviews

The one interviewer and one candidate format is the most common format and the most preferred by job seekers.

Two-on-one interviews

Two interviewers can seem intimidating but just think of this as a conversation among colleagues. Remember to direct your eyes and responses to each interviewer, even if one is clearly leading the conversation.

Three (or more)-on-one interviews

With three interviewers, the energy in the room may be more formal. Make sure to direct questions and responses to all the interviewers even though there’s likely at least one who is more of an observer.

Why do it? Employers are often training other managers how to interview or they’re interested in efficiently conducting interviews so that you, the job seeker, don’t have to answer the same questions from multiple interviewers at multiple times.

Video interview

This should go without saying, but judging on the infractions we’ve seen over the years, we believe it’s necessary: Look presentable and tend to what’s behind you. Nobody wants to see your half-eaten sandwich or a messy pile of papers or a salaciously titled book on your bookshelf. Curate an environment that will show your future employer that you’re organized, detail-oriented, and professional. Speaking of which, even if your home office really is in your bedroom, find a more professional environment in your home to set up for the call. Or choose a background that reflects who you are from the video platform’s options. The tech has gotten better on these “stand-in” environments lately, so if you’re scrambling for a professional location, give one a try. Just try to sit still. The tech has gotten better, but it’s not perfect!

For the interview proper: video interviews can (and should!) start promptly, but can also be held up by tech issues. Make sure that your computer (or smartphone set-up) is familiar with the video conference technology the employer is using (Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc.), and get on the call early. If you’re waiting too long for the host (even a couple minutes after start time), call or email to check in.

Phone call

This is the most difficult to navigate as you’re missing facial cues, which indicate when to start and stop talking (among other things). Remember to take pauses … and to let a pause exist after the interviewer has stopped speaking. The interviewer may move into a new thought and you may interrupt. Interruptions, while normal on an interview call, can be irritating if they happen too often.

Interview Questions

Interview questions generally fall into four buckets: 1) The Old Standbys. The ones that you’ve heard before and are probably expecting (e.g., What do you do for your current employer?); 2) The Commonly Asked. These have been tried and tested throughout Interviewland for decades (e.g., What are your top three skills?); 3) The Smart Ones. These are the questions that force you to recall a story: Give us an example of a time that you resolved a very complex issue for your employer; and 4) The Killers: If you don’t prepare for these questions, you’re sunk (e.g., Describe a time when you mishandled confidential information). One of the keys to answering an unexpected question is to ask yourself, “Why are they asking this question?” and “What story can I tell to help illustrate my answer?”

The master key to answering an unexpected question is to prepare for it in advance. Which is where we come in! We want you to be uber prepared for your interview, so we’re going to walk you through a few questions from each bucket and give you some practical advice on how to handle them.

Walk me through your resume.

This is a very typical interview prompt. Similar questions include: Tell me your story. How did you end up at your firm? How did you get to your role? Tell me about your background. How has it prepared you for this role?

Why does an employer ask these questions?
They may be very curious about what they saw on your resume and want you to hear more, or they may be underprepared and need a transition into the interview. Or they may think that delivering a concise answer to this question is difficult (and it is!) and they’re interested in seeing if you can get to the point without rambling. Have a five minute answer for this and make no apologies for career twists and turns!* Pick out the most relevant jobs and share how they connect. Why they left a lasting impression and kept you going in a certain direction. Or how the combination of experiences you’ve had have led you to this interview. Tell your story so well that your future employer wants to be a part of your next chapter!

How to explain personal breaks from work.
Be honest but unspecific. Tell them that you had to step out of the workforce due to a personal matter and then shift your story to how you onboarded back into a professional role. If you’re currently undergoing the transition back, talk about the steps you’ve taken to get back into the working world and how you remained “current” in your line of work when you weren’t immersed in it every day.

How to tackle career changes.
All job experiences are valuable to your professional growth. If you worked in healthcare and moved into an office administration job, you can imagine that the problem solving, service, and empathy skills translate extremely well into the role. Your use of technology or computers is helpful regardless of the specific software or programs. If you share those transitions as part of your story, emphasize what you learned and how you applied these skills to your current profession.

Describe your current job.

This is a very typical interview prompt. Similar questions: What do you do for your firm? What are the responsibilities of your role within your firm? Describe a typical day in your current job. How has your job prepared you for the job we’re offering?

Why does an employer ask these questions?
First, the employer wants to get a sense for your current workflow and how you spend your day. Does your typical day and set of responsibilities mirror the opportunity or is it substantially different? Second, can you answer the question in a clear and concise way? Make sure to have stories that communicate the range of your role and responsibilities.

What do you love about your existing role?

Similar questions: Which parts of your job do you like best, and which parts do you like least? What aspects of your current role are challenging for you?

Why does an employer ask these questions?
Fit is so important when it comes to job matching. Employers ask questions that reveal your preferences. They’re seeking to learn about what kind of culture you thrive in. They also want to understand which responsibilities you’re attracted to and feel you do best.

If you are asked what you like least about your current job, don’t say anything negative about people or the culture at your place of employment. Simply frame the response in a positive way. As an example, if the professionals are not considerate at your current firm, you may say that what you like least is that the company is growing so quickly that the leadership has not yet been able to institutionalize communication and culture. Then say that you would be interested to work with professionals who have spent significant time around values and culture.

Tell me about a time when you were truly challenged by your job.

What was the situation? How did you handle it? What was the outcome? How did it change you?
This is a more difficult interview question, with more layers given the follow up questions. Be prepared to go deep!

Similar questions: What is the worst mistake you have made in your role? What part of your job most challenges you? What is an example of a situation in which you made the difference? How have you managed difficult situations or people?

Why does an employer ask these questions?
An employer wants to understand how you approach challenges and solve problems. Are you flexible and innovative? Are you skilled at working with difficult people or working under pressure? What do you consider a challenge?

How do you manage people or tasks that all demand to be prioritized?

Can you share a time where you created a solution in which everyone was happy? Can you give an example of a time when you had to prioritize in a way that left someone unhappy with the outcome? This is a more difficult interview question with more layers given the follow up questions.

Similar questions: Tell me about a time where you had significant deadlines and had to prioritize work. You will be working with several managers, how will you prioritize and manage the workload? Tell me about the systems you have used to help prioritize work amongst a number of managers or team members.

Why does an employer ask these questions?
An employer wants to understand your approach to working with people, to problem-solving, and to prioritizing. Employers are trying to see you in their role and to visualize you working on their team. Can you work for several people or are you better one-on-one? Can you manage multiple priorities and make sure all deliverables are met?

Describe a situation where you failed to be discreet to the level your employer would have liked.

What was the situation? Who was impacted? This is a more difficult interview question, with more layers given the follow up questions. Prepare for this one.

Why does an employer ask these questions?
Everybody makes mistakes. Owning up to them, learning from them, fixing them, and moving on knowing you’ll never make that same mistake again are the hallmarks of an excellent hire. That said, BE CAREFUL. You should practice the answer in advance and try it out on someone. With respect to discretion, leaving a document on the copier is an OK example of indiscretion. Sharing a business secret by accident is not! Employers are looking for life-long learners with humility and problem-solving skills. They want employees who have integrity, are honest, and who will, when mistakes happen, do all they can to make it right.

Tell me about a time when you saved the day.

Maybe a time when you solved something that seemed unsolvable. What was the situation? Who was involved? How did you create the solution? What was the result? How did that change you? (This is a more difficult interview question, with more layers given the follow up questions. Make sure you come prepared with some stories to tell!)

Similar questions: Tell me about a time you went above and beyond your role. What has been your greatest impact on your team? What are you most proud of in your current role? Where have you made a significant impact on your team or boss’ success?

Why does an employer ask these questions?
An employer wants to understand what “above and beyond” and “impact” mean to you. Will you have an impact on their business? What does hard work mean to you? Are you aligned? Even if the interviewer hasn’t asked for a specific example or story, be prepared to give one. Help the employer visualize you at their firm.

Do you have any questions for me?

This might be the hardest question because it seems like such a throwaway interview ender, but know this: A candidate who is truly interested in an opportunity will have questions—so come to the interview prepared! If your questions have been answered throughout the interview, come up with one quickly but authentically or ask for the interviewer’s email address so that you can follow up with questions after you have reflected on the conversation. (Then make sure to follow up!)

Why does an employer ask this question?
An employer wants to know your level of interest. How badly do you want this job? Are you interested enough to be curious about the company, the team, and/or your boss’ expectations should you get the role? If you see yourself in the role, you’ll have questions! They demonstrate that you’re really thinking about this opportunity and how it fits in with your next professional move.

KangarooStar Beta is live!

We’re up and running, adding new executive assistant/office support staff roles daily. Complete your free profile today so you’ll be ready when your perfect match shows up!

Related articles

How to Retain Talent?

This era is driven by a revolution in work ethic and consumer mindset. The rise of artificial intelligence and globalization has made customers demand more

Read More »