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Five Common Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

The job search process isn’t easy. Each part has its challenges. It may be that the interview process is the worst. You have to think on your feet as you can’t predict every question. You feel judged. You may blank on a question. Ahhhhh!!!! It’s enough to cause sleepless nights or nightmares.

Okay. Let’s take a breath. There. That’s better. You already know about preparation for interview and that you can practice your answers. You know to do your research and to ask for a moment to ponder a question. So let’s go over a few of those common questions that tend to come up. We’ll start with the one that opens a lot of interviews and is probably the most dreaded question…..

Tell me about yourself. It seems there a million and one ways to interpret this question and, therefore, a million and one ways to answer it. What are they looking for from you? They’re really looking to get to know you better. Keep it mostly professional but don’t be afraid to add some personal touches, like a hobby or interest. There’s two “don’ts” here: 1 – Don’t just repeat what on your resume and/or cover letter. They’ve read them and are looking for more information. 2 – Don’t mention any hobby or interest that could be considered too personal or controversial. For example: marital status/children or religious or political affiliations or activities. You may be proud of these things, but you want to be neutral in an interview. You don’t want to turn off an interviewer due to your religious views or something similar. Yes, some of this falls under discrimination laws, and it’s illegal. However, it still can and does happen. Best to avoid it altogether.

So how do you answer it? For starters, keep it fairly brief. You can start with your current situation and work your way back or reverse that order. Talk about the highlights of your career. Be specific and give examples. A sample answer may be the following:

I’ve started my career in retail where I learned so much and

found a passion for customer service. I got a great deal of

satisfaction in making people happy. I worked my way

up through the ranks to store manager where I opened three

new stores and broke three opening sales week records. There

reached a point where I couldn’t move up any further for lack

of education. I had also reached a point where I wasn’t sure

what I wanted in my next step of my career. Around this time

I got the opportunity to travel for a year, and I love to travel.

Taking the trip really broadened my horizons and opened my mind to

think outside the box. By the end, I decided to change careers and

return to school for writing. I have graduated with honors, and I

sit before you ready and eager to be a staff writer for a company

I admire for its creativity and integrity.

The answer is brief, talks about where you’ve been, some highlights, and where you are now. That’s all you really need to do with this question. It doesn’t need to be highly detailed or go back to the time when you began doing newspaper delivery when you were thirteen.

What’s your greatest weakness? Most of us don’t like to admit to a weakness, especially when there’s a job on the line. Interviewers know this, but they ask the question to see how self-aware you are and if you’re willing to grow. So answer the question with sincerity and honesty. Admit to your weakness and immediately follow up with what you have been doing to counteract it. If you tend to procrastinate, tell them how you’re prioritizing your tasks, focusing on those that have a high priority and delegating lower priority tasks. The don’ts on this question is not to be flippant like saying you have no weakness. Also don’t answer it with “I’m a perfectionist”. They’ve heard that a million times. Answer with true insight, and you’ll pleasantly surprise your interviewer.

What’s your greatest strength? Here’s an opportunity to not only talk about your best attribute but how that attribute with be an asset to the company and fit the role you are interviewing for. Most of us have many strengths so you’ll to pick the one that fits the best. Also give an example of this strength in action. For example, if your greatest strength is compassion then tell about a time you showed that empathy on the job.

Where do you see yourself in five years? This can be another dreaded question, especially if you’re interviewing for a job that you consider just a stepping stone for your ultimate goal or, worse, you just need a darn job. Here’s what the interviewer is looking for: if you have realistic career expectations, ambition, and if the position aligns with your goals. Be genuine as about where this job will take you and answer as such. If the job isn’t your ideal or doesn’t play a major role in your aspirations, you can always say that you’re unsure of what the immediate future holds but you’re hoping that this position can play an important role in making those decisions and setting your plans.

Why should we hire you? Ouch. That’s a bit intimidating! Don’t take it that way. You’ve actually been given a wonderful opportunity to sell yourself. Tell them this: that you can do the work, you’ll deliver great results, and that you’ll fit into the company’s culture. Of course, don’t word it so simply. Tell them you can do the work because you have “x” skills. You can deliver because you done something similar before. And so on. Bring out your best confident self for this question. It isn’t one where you want to be a shrinking violet.

There are so many more common interview questions, and we’ll do more articles on them as we go. In the meantime, why do you mention the interview question that tends to stump you? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll use it in a future article!


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