My Favorite Interview Questions


I should start by saying that I’m not taking a dose of my own medicine here, but I have been speaking to several friends over the last few weeks about best practices for finding a new job and interviewing at various companies. I wrote a blog post about a year ago that details my thoughts on making the transition from banking to tech, which I believe are mostly still applicable. So in this post, I will not focus so much on the job-finding but rather the second step of the process: interviewing.

Most companies begin with a phone screen: a conversation with a recruiter. But the hiring manager or members of the team will eventually sit on a panel to question the candidate. Interview questions are generally role-specific, but there are some questions that are generally applicable across most jobs. Here are some of my favorite interview questions that you should be sure to have answers to, beyond the standards “why do you want this job”-type questions:

1. (For early stage companies): What value do you derive from the product? What feedback do you have on the product? Alternate versions of this question include What are your favorite/least favorite aspects of the product? This one is a giveaway. If you’re interviewing at a company, you should be a user of the platform, a reader of the blog, a subscriber of the service, etc. If you can’t afford it, you should at least have gotten a demo or signed up so that you know what the system entails. If you can’t speak elegantly about the product and form your own opinion about what you like and what should change, you probably won’t be a valuable asset to the company. Pro-tip: for more established companies, questions about “the product”, be it a newspaper, a physical good or service, or a mobile app, you must be able to speak knowledgeably about what exists, and your opinion on it.

2. What do you think of the revenue model? How can our company catapult revenue?  You should be able to explain the revenue model swiftly and in a few concise sentences. Regardless of the position you are interviewing for, know how the company makes money (where applicable).

For the second segment of the question, the key is to think outside the box. I don’t want to hear about how we already make money or monetization channels that already exist. Instead, you should be extrapolating what you know about the industry, competitors or general macro factors to make a suggestion about additional sources of income.

3. What are your favorite companies in the space? What do you think about ___ trend? This is a test of how well you know the industry in which you claim to want a job. Especially if you’ve never had a job in the field in which you’re interviewing, know about the trends: what’s favorable, what’s not, and how that applies to the company and people with whom you’re speaking. Understand how the trends affect this particular idea or product, and definitely have an opinion on it. Learn about not only what the popular arguments are, but how they are being publicly countered or disagreed.

4. How can you add value immediately? This is a giveaway, but not irrelevant at a small or growing company. If the hiring manager is looking to grow a team quickly and needs people who can begin working and get things done, they need to see immediate value or the hire isn’t worth it. Whether you’re just graduating from school or a team manager, you should be able to demonstrate these principles. And in this answer: show, don’t tell. Examples are much more valuable than false promises.

5. Do you have any questions for me? This is critical and not to be overlooked. Questions for the interviewer are often an afterthought, but I very often judge a candidate based on his or her questions for me. Things like “walk me through your day-to-day” are fine, but somewhat uninspiring. I’d rather hear questions like “what are some of the hardest challenges you face?”

Generally speaking, if you’re an “athlete”, someone who is smart, scrappy and nimble, you are a valuable hire. “Studying to the test”, in other words, reading only what you think you should know and not being able to think outside the box, will likely hinder you more than not having previous experience in the field.

Any questions, comments or additions? Tweet me.


My Favorite Interview Questions

How To Be A Great Analyst: Part 1


This is one post in a series on how to be a great corporate analyst, no matter what field you’re in. Stay tuned next week for more.

Most young professionals in the business world start off in some form as an “analyst,” regardless of whether or not your job title reflects that nomenclature. What does that mean exactly? It depends on your specific job, but in general an analyst is one who is asked to assess various business procedures based on data-driven insights, and represent those findings in an easily-digestible format. Analysts are often not on the front lines: not necessarily the ones presenting those findings to executives, or making the final business decisions. Instead, they provide the foundation for these decisions; without them, the pillars wouldn’t stand.

So what makes a great analyst? Here are some of my thoughts, but I am not the expert on the subject. Additions and suggestions are welcome.

  1. Always try to solve the problem before asking someone for help: if you don’t know how to solve a problem or conduct an analysis, try to do as much as you can before turning to others. This means carefully researching something, coming up with a process, Googling, or otherwise, to show that you’ve thought about it and gotten as far as you can without someone’s assistance. #Protip: usually you’ll figure it out by yourself, and you’ll be glad you didn’t use that favor chip unwisely.
  2. Be scrappy and resourceful: regardless of whether you are in an industry that has templates for decks or you work for a 10-person company, your job as an analyst is to figure out the answer to a question when asked. One of the best resources is your network. If you don’t know how to solve a problem, know the person who can get you closest to the answer.
  3. Ask questions: the best analyst, when given an assignment or a project, doesn’t not, smile, and accept. If you’re being asked to analyze something, the first test is to ask lots of questions about the task at hand. Ask about the methodology. Ask clarification questions. Ask anything you need to know to complete the assignment. You have a window of time in which asking questions is necessary and expected, but that window closes relatively quickly. If you’re a week into an assignment and you are asking basic questions, it shows that you didn’t think critically or thoroughly when you received the assignment. And don’t be afraid to ask questions that push back where appropriate. You are being judged by your understanding and framing of the problem as much as you are the outcome.
  4. Listen actively: As an analyst, you are most likely going to be touching data and process most closely. As a result, you are probably inclined to want to speak or voice your opinion at all times. Although I always advocate having an opinion, listening is an equally valuable quality as an analyst. By listening actively, you pick up on small bits of information that might prove to be helpful down the line.
  5. Carve a niche or become the expert on one task: when you begin your career, you will be asked to do a broad variety of tasks to bolster various skills. But your real value comes when you can become an expert in one thing: either a type of project, a subject matter, or a particular product. If everyone in your org thinks of you as the master of that one thing, you will be the default for any project that involves that matter. It could open your doors and your eyes to paths you had never previously considered, and builds your rapport with leaders at the company.

…More tips on how to be a great analyst next week! 

How To Be A Great Analyst: Part 1