Author: Judith Humphrey Source: Fast Company
No matter what sorts of jobs you applied for, you can expect certain interview questions to pop up again and again. But just because you’ve answered these questions before doesn’t mean you should skip the prep work. In fact, some of these super-common questions are the hardest ones to get right.
So get your pen out, and don’t even think about heading in for an interview until you’ve written out talking points for the following questions:
1. Can you tell me about yourself?
This question is often answered with a meandering narrative, instead of using the opportunity to present a clear, impactful story about yourself.
Such an open-ended question makes it easy to go on too long and fill in a lot of details about your education, previous jobs, like and dislikes, or interests. But no one wants to hear a dissertation on your life. It makes you sound unfocused and aimless.
Instead, think of one clear message you want to deliver about yourself, and then pitch that idea in your answer. For example, you might say “I’m a person who has performed well in a series of communications roles,” or “If there’s one thing that defines me it’s my passion for leading people.” And make sure the one idea you’re putting forward about yourself fits with what the interviewer is looking for in a candidate. Once you have the key descriptor, expand upon it. You’ll sound focused and career-savvy.
2. What interests you about this job?
This question is tricky because it’s easy to give an answer that has little to do with the job itself. For example, you may say you’ve applied for this job in retail because you’ve always wanted to be in fashion, or you are a designer and you want to be in advertising. Or perhaps you have a friend who told you about the job, so you’ve applied because your friend likes that company. Or you may be interested simply because you’re ready to move on from your current gig. These are all true answers, but they’re hardly inspiring.
Instead, use this answer to show you know what is expected, what the challenges of the job are, and why you believe your talents will allow you to achieve what is expected. Dig deep and explain why exactly you feel you can deliver in the role.
3. What is your greatest weakness?
It’s tantalizing to come up with a deeply honest answer. After all, you’ve been asked for one, and we all have weaknesses. But if you’re not prepared with a better answer, you might reply, “My weakness is that I don’t respond well to tight deadlines,” or “I don’t like situations where the team is not working well together.” These may in fact be true, but such an answer is risky.
Don’t lie, but instead prepare to answer with a “weakness” that’s actually a strength. Say, “I am a perfectionist who is always striving for excellence, even when it means I push myself too hard on a project.” Or “I’m driven to make my team the best, most successful sales team. This means the people working for me need to have aspirational goals as well.”
These behaviors are ones that will be perceived as strengths, assuming they are what’s needed in the role you will be playing.