A recruiter’s guide to your best interview answers

Good, better, best responses to interview sample questions

5 min read

May 2021

Man and woman sitting in chairs at corner of long office desk in well lit room

Interviews are a key part of the hiring decision process, and for a lot of people, these interactions can be challenging. Ever wish you had inside knowledge into what a recruiter thought about your interview responses? Here’s your chance. Read on for some sample interview questions with responses and comments from a seasoned recruiter.

Interview question 1: Tell me about a time you helped an upset customer.

General response: “The customer was upset about a late fee on her bill. I asked my supervisor what options we had, and my supervisor said we should waive the late fee. I waived the fee and the customer was so thankful. She said I made her day.”

Recruiter insight: This response doesn’t highlight the candidate’s skills because the manager came up with the idea of waiving the fee. So there aren’t any skills demonstrated to assess.

Better response: “The customer was upset about a late fee on her bill. I let her know I’d do a thorough review of her account. I saw the customer had called to change her address a few weeks ago, however the change never processed, therefore she never received her bill. I explained what happened and apologized for our error. I verified the correct address, updated it, and made sure the change was successful. Because the error was our fault, I removed the fee. Additionally, I offered our automatic payment option where we deduct payments automatically each month so she wouldn’t have to worry about late fees in the future. She was so thankful and signed up for the program.”

Recruiter insight: In this response, the candidate takes ownership of the situation and performs a thorough walk through. When an error is discovered, there is honesty and empathy. By offering a product to avoid this from happening in the future, it solves not only today’s problem but future problems as well. This response highlights skills to resolve customer needs and anticipates future needs.

Interview question 2: Tell me about a time you received constructive feedback at work and applied it.

General response: “During a meeting with my manager, I was told I needed to remember to ask for the sale before ending a conversation with a customer. I let her know not all customers like that. I can read my customers by really listening to them and determine when it’s best to ask for the sale or not. My manager understood.”

Recruiter insight: The interview question hasn’t been answered. The question asked about a time when the candidate received constructive feedback and applied it. In addition, the response doesn’t highlight skills for taking and applying feedback.

Better response: “During a meeting with my manager, I was told I needed to remember to ask for the sale before ending a conversation with a customer. I asked for suggestions to ask for the sale and she provided several options. I took notes and made a cheat sheet for myself. I began applying the feedback right away and learned repetition is key to making it habit. When I didn’t have a customer, I would review my cheat sheet to become more familiar. I also shared my cheat sheet with my teammates. During my next meeting with my manager, I was surprised how my sales improved with this small adjustment.”

Recruiter insight: In this response, the candidate details specific feedback and action taken to apply it. Questions were asked to understand the feedback. The response demonstrates self-motivation to study independently and teamwork by sharing ideas with others.

Interview question 3: Tell me a change that happened at school or work. How did you adapt to it?

General response: “Our systems at work completely changed and I had to start using all new software and I learned it fast.

Recruiter insight: This response fails to include the specific actions the candidate took to adapt to the change. As a result, this candidate is missing the opportunity to share how their skills relate to the position they’re interviewing for.

Better response: “Recently, our company completely changed our computer software. Because we were busy, we didn’t receive training. Instead they gave us an online link to a handout with helpful tips. I received approval to come in early to review the handout before my shift started. When helping customers, I would navigate to the handout to ensure I followed the correct process. I picked up the new system quickly, and I know I was successful because my quality scores never dipped. I maintained high scores even during the changes.”

Recruiter insight: In this response, the candidate shares specific ways they handled a change at work by coming in early, reviewing materials, and using resources with every customer interaction. This response shows commitment to quality, ability to navigate a computer by accessing online help, and taking personal initiative to work overtime and to learn.

Preparation is key to making sure you highlight your skills. As a best practice, you should have at least 10-15 planned interview responses when interviewing for a role. By practicing your responses in advance, you’re more likely to be ready to detail a specific situation, your actions, and the results. So, what are you waiting for? Get yourself a notebook and start coming up with scenarios. You’ll be one step closer to landing your dream job!

Stephanie Mills is a corporate recruiter with more than 20 years of experience with Progressive insurance. She has a passion for finding diverse talent who truly enjoy helping customers which is the core of everything we do at Progressive.

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