Surprise Interview Questions

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This is part of our careers inspirations blog series by Gartner Sales Exec, Omaid Homayun. You can see read more of his blog posts here or follow him on Twitter @omaidh.

Prevent being a deer in the headlights

There are a couple surprise interview questions that if you prepare for in advance you’ll be able to roll the answers off your tongue for maximum impact.

#1 – Why are you leaving your current job?

Sounds simple, but often times you don’t want to tell another company that you may hate your boss or you’re probably going to get fired at the end of the quarter. Maybe for you, that’s not the case, but you definitely want to have this down so it’s a natural response iterated with conviction.

Example: My current role is a short-term opportunity because of XYZ, I’m really looking for a home at a company where I can grow with upward mobility.

Note: Never say anything negative about your current or last company, or current or last boss. To borrow a line from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People…

“Always be loyal to those who are not present.”

If you talk behind their back, the person interviewing you knows well you may do the same to them when they’re not around.

#2 – Tell me about a time where things didn’t go well, what did you do to fix it and what was the result?

The more concise your story here the better. If you don’t prepare a few stories to choose from you’ll spew out a vague story that won’t leave a positive impact during your interview. We’ll cover other core competencies in another post, but to borrow Kirk Hallowell’s methodology, he calls it the CAR Method.

  • Challenge: Briefly describe the situation in which you specifically addressed the opportunity to take action. Explain how you thought about the opportunity and what led you to take the course of action you took.
  • Action: Describe the specific actions that you took to address the issue or opportunity in broad strokes. Avoid getting into any unnecessary detail. It’s fine to mention the supporting actions of others but the example should focus on the actions that you directed or delegated.
  • Results: Summarize the key results of the actions that you took in the situation. Frame the results in specific metrics whenever possible, including measurable changes that resulted directly from your actions.

If you frame your story with the methodology above, you will be swinging for the fences with a solid answer. Example: Our team needed to increase revenue by 10% by the end of the year. I compiled a team of 5 people to craft a plan to do so. By managing the project and helping my peers see it through, we were able to not only achieve our goal but we surpassed it with an increase of 12% which equated to $3 Million.

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Omaid Homayun Bio: Omaid spent the last 10 years working in tech in various direct and channel sales roles at Verizon, BlackBerry, and Google. In his current role at Gartner he strategizes closely with senior leadership at enterprise tech startups in Silicon Valley to help them optimize their go-to market strategy, gain market-share, and uniquely position their brand.

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