I get this question a lot: “What do you think they are going to ask me?” Well, that all depends on the type of position you are applying for. Different positions entail different questions. But to speak in general terms, most employers do have one thing in common, they want to get to know you and determine if you have the qualities they need to fill this position. There are certain questions that are specifically targeted for this; below are the Top 5:
1. Tell me about yourself– I can guarantee you that this is the first question they will ask you so be prepared. This stumps a lot of people even though it’s a very simple question. A lot of job seekers think this means they want to know your life story, favorite sport, foods, or what your ideal date would look like On the contrary, there are two main reasons why they ask this. 1) They want to know what you think is important to offer that is relative to the position, and 2) this question is designed to know you on a professional level and what you can bring to the table.
The best way to answer this question is to keep your answer direct and to the point. You want to talk about where you are professionally now and what your past experiences have taught you in your development. Do some research on the company and find out what they value most and incorporate that into your answer. For example, if the company you are interviewing for strives for exceptional customer service, you want to answer this question by highlighting that skill set. Give them a success story that you are proud of that can give them an idea of your work ethic. Wrap it up by circling back to where you are now and what you hope to accomplish with this position.
2. What are your greatest strengths/weaknesses? Let’s start with the easy one: strengths I recently read about a great tactic to answer this question: grab paper and a pen and write down your knowledge based skills ( software, IT skills), transferable skills ( what you bring to the table i.e communication, people, analytical, etc.), and your personal traits (more or less traits that highlight your work ethic i.e reliable, hardworking, punctual etc). Go ahead and choose the top skills from each column that match the employer’s requirements for the position and back them up with specific examples from your own history to demonstrate why you believe it to be a strength.
Now, the weakness. This is very tricky and you will read that there are a lot of ways to go around this question, but through my experience, being a recruiter for a living, I find that the best way to answer this is to focus on the positive and not the negative. What does that mean? Well, first it means to self-reflect on what you have once considered a weakness and how you overcame it. Was shyness a weakness? Public speaking? Turn it into a positive. For example, you can say “Being organized wasn’t my strongest point, but I implemented a time management system that really helped my organizational skills,” or “I’ve learned to make my perfectionism work to my advantage. I have become proficient at meeting deadlines, and with my attention to detail, I know my work is accurate.” See, negative to positive.
3. Why do you want to work for us? This question is designed to uncover your real intent on why you want this position. They are thinking, “Does this person know us? Do they share our core values or are they just looking for a job?” The best way to prepare for this question is to research the company and learn about their mission, goals, and values. When answering, you want to let the interviewer know that you’ve done your research and you also tie your own goals to the company’s goals. Here’s an example: “I am attracted to your culture and your company’s focus on team-based product development. I have often chafed at the constraints on traditional product development methodology, and I’m avid to learn more.”
4. Why did you leave your last job/are looking to leave? This question is also tricky because they want to know if you got along with your previous employer, did you leave on good terms or bad, does this candidate bad-mouth their previous employer, or what does that tell us about this person’s loyalty and respect for business? So the best way to answer this is to follow the # 1 rule: Never speak negatively or poorly about your previous or current employer. Being negative will reflect poorly on you and your job. Plus, industries can be very small; you never know who knows whom. Depending on your current situation, here are a couple of examples: “To be honest, I wasn’t considering a change, but a former colleague recommended this job to me and was intrigued by the position and the company. It sounds like an exciting opportunity and an ideal match for my qualifications.” Or “I am interested in a new challenge and an opportunity to use my skills and experience in a different capacity than I have in the past.”
5. Do you have any questions for me? Last, but definitely not least, are follow-up questions. This is actually a very pivotal part of the interview because it is designed to test your listening and communication skills, how much you have prepared for the interview, and how passionate are you about the position and company. Talk about pressure! Fear not because I am here to give you the most honest and best practice advice for this question which is – always have questions. I’ve listed some of the best questions I often tell candidates when prepping them for interviews:
- In your opinion, what is required for success in this position?
- What are the expectations of the person to whom I would report?
- What kind of person are you looking for to fill this position?
- What are the priorities of the position?
Well, there you have it. Remember to always practice your answers out loud and role play with a friend/family member, or even in front of the mirror. Good Luck!