The “Why” Behind Final Interview Questions
Congratulations, you made it to the final round of interviews! That’s a big accomplishment and you should be proud.
As you know, most hiring processes include multiple rounds of interviews where you meet with several employees. This time members of senior management, such as executives or the HR manager, will probably conduct the interview.
This interview is a chance for you to make a strong final impression on high-level employees. Developing effective answers will help you make this good impression and increase your chances of receiving the job offer.
Previous interviews have likely covered your skills and qualifications, so you probably won’t be asked about these again. This interview should cover questions about your work habits, interpersonal skills, and how you’ll fit into the company culture.
In other words, you can expect more questions about your past behavior. Employers are looking for examples of how you handled past situations to see how you’ll handle them in the future.
To prepare, you should review the job description and consider what challenges you might have in the position. You should also research common behavioral questions and brainstorm past examples of situations that showcase the kinds of strengths the employer is looking for.
Once you pull this all together, practice your answers out loud. Make sure they are as concise and coherent as possible. This will build your confidence for the interview.
Technique A technique that will help you effectively answer behavioral and situational questions is the STAR technique. STAR stands for situation, task, action, and result.
It will help you sufficiently answer the questions while showcasing your past success in overcoming challenges. STAR gives you a framework for providing a story with a clear conflict and resolution. It also allows you to show off your critical thinking, problem-solving, leadership, and conflict resolution skills — all the things the employer is looking for! So, let’s break it down.
This is where you set up the story by giving the context of the situation or challenge you faced. It’s best to use past relevant work situations, but if you don’t have any, transferable experience such as academic projects work too.
Make sure you talk about a specific instance instead of general ideas or duties. This should be the shortest part of your answer because the action that you took and the results you achieved are what the interviewers are most concerned with. Sharing a few pieces of information that describe the situation is all you need.
This is where you describe the task you were trying to accomplish. Be sure to describe your responsibilities and role in the situation. This part should also be short. A few key points will do the job.
This is where you explain the steps you took to handle the situation or overcome the challenge. This section is the most important and should have the most detail. Share the most important and impactful steps you took to solve the problem you were presented with.
These workplace challenges often include being part of a team. Focus on what you did in the situation. Remember to use the word “I” when answering the question and not “we.” The employer is interested in hiring you, not your past team.
Here you describe the outcome you achieved. This is also an important part of your answer. You should spend slightly less time on this section than you did on your actions. Choose the two or three most impressive results and focus on those.
Quantify your success with concrete examples if possible. Facts and figures are a great way to do this. Lastly, discuss what you learned from the situation, how you grew, and why you’re better because of it.
Examples of final interview questions
Here are some examples of final interview questions that the STAR technique is perfect for tackling:
- Describe a time you were under pressure at work and how you handled it.
- Describe a time you had a conflict with a colleague and how you resolved it.
- Describe a situation where you faced a difficult problem and how you solved it.
- Have you ever had to make an unpopular decision?
- How did you handle it?
- Tell me about a time you worked with other departments to complete a project.
- Tell me about a time when you had to persuade someone to do something.
- Have you ever had to motivate others? How did you do it?
The salary question
If the company hasn’t asked about your desired earnings yet, they probably will in the final interview. How you answer this question is extremely important because you don’t get the salary you deserve, you get the salary you negotiate.
Desired salary vs. desired compensation
These two topics seem similar but are very different. Your salary is only the incremental, reliable cash your employer is paying you. Your compensation is the total value of your financial benefits, which can include your base salary, bonuses, equity, and benefits such as equity, health insurance, stipends, 401k matching, etc. They may ask about your desired salary or your desired compensation so it’s important to remember the difference.
The question can come in a few different ways:
- What is your current compensation?
- What is your target compensation?
- What are your salary expectations?
- What are your salary requirements?
No matter how the question is asked, they want to know one thing — can they pay you what you need to be paid to accept the role?
The most important thing to do in this situation is avoid lowballing yourself. If you give a number that is at the bottom of the range, that’s what they’ll offer and you won’t have much room, if any, to negotiate. If you ask for $100k and they offer $105k, that’s a sign that you asked for a number below their budgeted range and you won’t have any leverage to negotiate.
If you’re at the end of the interview process and you provide a number that’s above their range, there isn’t as much risk as providing this number at the beginning of the process (where you might be eliminated from the process) but it won’t help you either.
So, how do you answer? Usually the most effective strategy is to avoid providing a number right away. The Golden Rule of answering this question is to not answer till the timing is right, if at all.
Instead, you want to inquire about what they have budgeted for the role. Many recruiters will just tell you. Remember, they just need to check the box if these questions are coming before an offer. It’s important to ask about this in a way that doesn’t raise any red flags. It doesn’t work to answer with “actually, could you tell me what’s budgeted for the role?”
A better answer would be, “I don’t quite have a specific number in mind yet because I’ve been focused on finding the company and role that will be the best fit for me. But just to make sure we’re on the same page, could you give me an idea of what’s budgeted for the position?”
Most recruiters will give you a range. If the range is above or aligned with your target, you can check the box by saying: “Great, that is aligned with what I’d expect.”
If the range is below your target, you can respond with, “hmmm, I’m really interested in this role but that’s lower than other opportunities I’m exploring. Is there any flexibility around that range?” If there isn’t, the role may not be a fit for you. However, you might want to ask if there might be a possibility of creating a position of greater responsibility that would have the higher compensation you seek and discuss how you might be able to deliver higher value.
Sometimes a recruiter won’t answer your question about their budgeted range. It’s rare, but it happens. In this case, shift the conversation to research you’ve conducted. Here’s an example: “Oh, well I did some research and it seems like the market average for this kind of role is around $100k. Is that in the ballpark?”
Click here for more information on how to answer this question and calculate what you’re worth at different stages of the interview process.
Asking questions at the end of the interview
It’s important to ask questions when the interview is done with their questions. These questions can further demonstrate your expertise and interest in the role. It lets them know you’ve paid attention during the interview process and have done research on your own. It also gives you a chance to learn more about the company and position to further confirm fit. Here are some questions you can ask.
- Are there any reservations about my fit for the role that I can address?
Even though this question is asking for criticism, it is likely the interviewer will go easy on you. This question allows you to gauge whether you’re a competitive candidate and gives you the chance to change their minds about your weaknesses and qualifications for the role.
- What is the turnover rate for this role?
This can tell you how often employees leave this position. If the turnover rate is high, it could mean that past employees were unhappy with the role or the company. Their reasons for leaving could be an unpleasant workplace culture, lack of autonomy, or poor management. But it could also mean these employees get promoted quickly, so ask clarifying questions.
- What do you think is most important for me to understand about company culture?
Company culture has an impact on employee engagement, decreases turnover rates, elevates productivity, and boosts performance. It also allows you to decide if the company aligns with your goals, values, and personality. Considering a company’s culture is extremely important when deciding whether to take a job offer.
- What are the most significant challenges someone in this position faces?
This will help you anticipate and prepare for the challenges you will face if hired. It also shows you are thinking ahead and prepared to tackle the responsibilities of the role.
So, prepare by thinking of past situations you handled that show off your problem-solving, interpersonal, leadership skills. Practice telling about these examples with the STAR technique, and recite your answers out loud. Do your research, and come prepared to answer the salary question. Also, be prepared to ask questions of your own. Follow these steps, and you’ll do great!