We all go through the stress of job interviews at some point of time. Sometimes we crack them easily, at other times we don’t even know what we did wrong, because we didn’t get the offer call. One cannot really judge your work through the CV but it’s the one-on-one interview that really cracks the deal. And also those little questions that we actually don’t pay attention to. So here are those simple questions every one is asked during an interview, and here’s how you should answer them…
#1. Tell me about yourself :
It seems like an easy interview question. It’s open ended. I can talk about whatever I want from the birth canal forward. Right?
Wrong. What the hiring manager really wants is a quick, two- to three-minute snapshot of who you are and why you’re the best candidate for this position.
So as you answer this question, talk about what you’ve done to prepare yourself to be the very best candidate for the position. Use an example or two to back it up. Then ask if they would like more details. If they do, keep giving them example after example of your background and experience. Always point back to an example when you have the opportunity.
“Tell me about yourself” does not mean tell me everything. Just tell me what makes you the best.
#2. Do you want this job?
Do not sound desperate. Read the job description well before you head for the interview. Introspect and ask yourself why do you think you are the right candidate, before your interview. Talk about the company’s achievements and how you would like to be a part of it in a promising manner.
#3. Why should we hire you?
This is a differentiation question. What you want to tell them is: they’d be crazy not to they hire you.
Focus on them: You need to not only share how you meet almost all the criteria they seek, but also have two to three additional abilities that they might not even know they need…yet. They need to know you are a candidate who can meet their needs now, but also be valuable for where they want to go. Are they likely to need another skill set as they grow as a company? Or maybe you have skills that you noticed are in another job description they are looking to fill; you can help out with those deliverables until they find someone (or be a backup to the person they hire).
Have you been down a path already that they are currently starting? Having “lessons learned” to offer them is a very strong plus for a job candidate.
#4. What is your long-range objective?
The key is to focus on your achievable objectives and what you are doing to reach those objectives.
For example: “Within five years, I would like to become the very best accountant your company has on staff. I want to work toward becoming the expert that others rely upon. And in doing so, I feel I’ll be fully prepared to take on any greater responsibilities which might be presented in the long term. For example, here is what I’m presently doing to prepare myself…”
Then go on to show by your examples what you are doing to reach your goals and objectives.
#5. What are your greatest professional strengths?
This one is tricky, don’t end up boasting about everything. Again, read your job description and put your strengths forward accordingly. If your job demands multitasking, talk about your experience. If the job involves research then talk about your research projects in the previous workplace.
#6. What is your greatest weakness?
Most career books tell you to select a strength and present it as a weakness. Such as: “I work too much. I just work and work and work.” Wrong. First of all, using a strength and presenting it as a weakness is deceiving. Second, it misses the point of the question.
You should select a weakness that you have been actively working to overcome. For example: “I have had trouble in the past with planning and prioritization. However, I’m now taking steps to correct this. I just started a planner app on my mobile t better plan and prioritize…” then pull out your mobile to show how you are using the app.
Talk about a true weakness and show what you are doing to overcome it.
#7. What do you know about us?
This is actually a test. If you know very little, it is an indication that you are not very serious about working there.
Focus on them: Candidates who are really excited about the prospect of working there have done their homework. If you really want to stand out, learn more than what is listed on their web site. Do some heavy research—perhaps find some articles on the company that not many would know about. It may even come up in conversation spontaneously, and you can show them a copy of the article (I have had this happen to me).
#8. If you had to live your life over again, what one thing would you change?
Focus on a key turning point in your life or missed opportunity. Yet also tie it forward to what you are doing to still seek to make that change.
For example: “Although I’m overall very happy with where I’m at in my life, the one aspect I likely would have changed would be focusing earlier on my chosen career. I had a great internship this past year and look forward to more experience in the field. I simply wish I would have focused here earlier. For example, I learned on my recent internship…” then provide examples.
Stay focused on positive direction in your life and back it up with examples.
#9. How do people describe you?
Here’s another opportunity to differentiate yourself. Everyone claims to be: a hard worker, good communicator, and team player. But how many are a: problem-solver, game-changer, leader in the industry? Be creative, and have stories to back it up. The interviewer will want to know why someone thinks you are one of these things.
Focus on them: You want to present attributes that make you sound like the go-to guy or gal wherever you work. Even the standard answers can be taken a step further to be more valuable:
- Yes, they want hard workers, but most likely that’s commonplace at their office. Maybe you work hard, but also help others work fewer hours (by helping them do their job better or making their jobs easier).
- Good communicators are everywhere. But this doesn’t mean just speaking well. It includes listening. Do you hear things that others don’t? Do you understand things quickly? Can you figure out what people are trying to tell you through other clues (body language, for example)?
- Being a good team player is expected, too. But what does this really mean? Getting along with everyone? That’s not hard to do if you’re a nice person. Pulling your weight in the office? Again, expected. What have you done, beyond your job description, that saved the team from a disaster or helped them make an impossible deadline? Have you won an award for this?