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Are you answering these job interview questions wrong?

Posted by Amanda Augustine

March 25, 2014 @ 07:20 PM

Learn the right way to answer these difficult – and essential – job interview questions. 

The very first thing to do after a company or recruiter has contacted you to schedule an interview: Congratulate yourself!

In a field crowded with highly qualified candidates, it’s no small compliment to learn you’ve set yourself apart from hundreds of candidates. Your resume, online and offline brand, and all the networking efforts you’ve made have stood out to this employer, and that’s cause for pride.

Now, get ready for your close-up. Interviews can be multi-part affairs and take place in a variety of settings, but the intent is the same: to gauge how you measure up in real time and assess if you can put your mouth where your personal brand is. That means preparation is key. Be prepared to answer these common interview questions so you’ll respond with confidence when it matters most. 

Tell me about yourself. (Translation: Why are you a good fit?)

Trust me, the interviewer doesn’t want to know that you love long walks on the beach (unless that’s part of the job). And you’re not doing yourself any favors by asking the interviewer what they want to know about you. Consider this an extended version of your elevator pitch, specifically tailored for this opportunity. Before the interview, review the job description and think back to your initial phone screen to determine the core must-haves for this role. Use those top requirements to develop talking points that demonstrate how you are qualified for this role. Weave a story that explains how your experience and skill sets have led you to this opportunity.

What is your biggest weakness? (Translation: How self-aware are you? Can you overcome challenges?)

Recruiters and employers don’t want to hear that you’re a perfectionist or any of those other faux weaknesses that can be turned into strengths. They actually want to know what areas you’ve struggled with, and most importantly, what you’ve done to overcome those shortcomings. For instance, if you’ve been too efficient for your own good in the past and missed the little details, you can explain what measures you’ve taken to ensure you produce a high-quality, error-free product now. Remember, as long as you can explain what steps you’ve taken to improve your skills, you’re good to go.

Tell me about a time … (Translation: Prove it. Give me an example)

Employers are often trying to get a sense of your problem-solving abilities or management style with these types of behavioral questions. When faced with these questions, stick to the STAR approach: describe a Situation or Task you handled; explain what Actions you took to resolve the issue; and summarize the Results of your actions, especially how it benefited the organization (costs cut, revenue increased, less employee turnover, etc.) To prepare for the interview, use the core job requirements to brainstorm relevant behavioral questions and succinct stories from your work history that demonstrate your abilities. 

Do you have any questions for me? (Translation: How interested are you in this opportunity?)

The answer to this question should always be an enthusiastic “Yes,” whether you’re on your first or fifth round of interviews at an organization. Use this opportunity to not only demonstrate your interest and research into the organization, it will also help you better understand the needs of the hiring manager so you can position your skills as the solution to those needs. Here are five sample questions to test out in your next interview: 

  1. What are the three most important things you want the person who joins your team to achieve over the next year?
  2. If you could describe your corporate culture in three words, what would they be and why?
  3. What is your vision for this group/department/product line/etc. over the next 2-3 years?
  4. What kinds of people are successful at this organization?
  5. What’s the timeline for making a decision on this position? When should I get back in touch with you? 

Practice responding to these questions so you’ll feel confident when it matters most.

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