If you are like most people, the prospect of an important job interview makes you a little nervous. Interviews are one of the most important factors a hiring manager takes into account when deciding who to hire for a position. It is important that you put your best foot forward and make a great first impression. Being prepared for the job interview in advance will not only help calm your nerves, but it will also show to the interviewer that you are a responsible candidate. Below are a list of common interview questions and suggestions about how to answer them. Before your next job interview, practice how you will respond to these common questions.
Can you tell me a little about yourself?
Resist going into a full diary of your entire life and career experience. Think of this as your “elevator pitch” or a 60 second TV commercial to market yourself. Try to grab their interest, but keep it relatively brief. If the interviewer wants to hear more, then he or she will ask themselves. There will be more time to elaborate in the rest of the interview. Give a basic outline of your most recent work experience, say a few things regarding your unique skills and qualifications, and then indicate your interest in the position.
Why should we hire you?
This is a chance to display your confidence. You can give a few examples of some of your generic skills, but make sure to try to tailor them to the specific position. Give some real-world, work-related examples where you’ve been able to prove yourself a valuable asset.
What kind of value can you add to our organization?
Think of yourself as a salesperson marketing yourself. How is their organization going to get the most bang for their buck? Provide examples.
What kind of duties did you perform and accomplishments you achieve at prior positions?
This is an opportunity to elaborate what you already have on your resume. Try to think of some specific, job-related accomplishments. Were you part of any teams that developed successful, new strategies to grow business? – Or implemented any new policies/procedures to improve productivity and efficiency? Try to be specific as you can, giving numbers and statistics if possible. Employers want to see that you are capable of meeting and exceeding expectations, can take initiative by spearheading new projects for organization-wide benefit, and can hold yourself accountable for the tasks you set out to achieve.
What are your greatest strengths?
This can be a time to gloat a little bit, but you don’t need to sound like a superhero. If you’re really good, for example, at de-escalating difficult customer service encounters, then mention that and give a real-world example. If you have excellent time management skills, then mention that and give an example, like maybe you use Google Calendar to schedule each and every day of your life with a detailed list of tasks and timetables to make sure you stay on top of things. Always provide examples.
What are your greatest weaknesses?
You can be honest, but be selective in what you say. Don’t say that you have a lot of trouble waking up in the morning and getting to work on time. Use this as an opportunity to outline how you plan on improving on any shortcomings, because let’s face it, we all have them. Don’t say that you are biggest weakness is that you are a perfectionist, it will seem disingenuous. Be honest, but don’t make yourself look bad. Remember, for every weakness you mention, try to put a positive spin on it by describing how you are planning to improve. For example, you can mention that you are prone to procrastination, but find that you work best under pressure, but nonetheless have been taking concrete steps to better manage your time and set deadlines and goals for yourself throughout a project’s duration to help keep yourself on track.
Why do you want to work for us specifically?
This is where you can draw upon the research you did about the company. Was there anything that stuck out? Any particular reasons why you think it would be a good fit for you? Try to stay work and career focused as much as you can. For example, if you’re applying to Google, don’t mention how much you want to take advantage of the rock climbing wall or free massages. Instead, mention how you want to work in the kind of collaborative, creative environment with like-minded colleagues that Google offers because you think it will really spark your own innovative thinking.
Where do you see yourself in five years? – What are your career goals?
Don’t tell the hiring manager that you want their job in five years – that will just come off as arrogant. Use this as an opportunity to discuss how you plan on growing and developing your career, and how this position at this company can best help you reach those goals. Your prospective employer is most likely looking for someone who plans on sticking around for a while. Tell them that you plan on using this potential job position to help develop new skills and take on new responsibilities. Try to think reasonably about where this position might take you up the career ladder. So if you are interviewing to be a proofreader, then it might make sense to see yourself as a junior copywriter in five years. Or if you are interviewing to be an entry-level sales associate, then maybe in five years you might see yourself as an assistant sales manager. Try to sound optimistic, motivated, and ambitious; but don’t be unrealistic.
Why did you leave your last job?
Be honest, but you can also be selective in what you say. Sometimes what you don’t say is just as important as what you do say. Don’t badmouth your past employers, even if they were miserable places to work at. If you were let go for performance related reasons, this is okay to mention – just make sure to include on how you plan on improving your shortcomings. Employers will appreciate someone who owns up to their mistakes and is willing to take the appropriate steps to rectify them.
Describe a time you made a big mistake and what you did to rectify it?
Everyone makes occasional mistakes in their careers, but what employers are looking for are people who can own up to their mistakes and do their best to rectify them. They want honest and accountable people. If you made a mistake and then ignored it until it ballooned out of control, then you will not appear to be a very reliable candidate. However, if you made a mistake and immediately took the necessary actions to best rectify the situation and minimize any risks, then you will look like an honest and reliable candidate.
How did you hear about this position?
This is a good time to mention anyone that may have recommended you for the position. You also may want to mention that you’ve always heard good things about the company and that you are interested in working specifically for them. Always try to indicate your interest. Don’t tell them that you’ve just been sending out hundreds of resumes randomly until someone took the bait. Frame your answer so it seems like you are making a targeted job search.
Describe a difficult situation and what you did you did to overcome it?
Avoid trying to look like some kind of self-centered superhero who came to the rescue. The interviewer is looking for someone who handles well under pressure and takes initiative in solving problems, but who also isn’t afraid to ask others for guidance and assistance when necessary. Remember the S.H.A.R.E. method when responding to this question:
1.) Situation; share a specific situation.
2.) Hindrances; explain what made it difficult.
3.) Action; describe the actions you took to correct the situation.
4.) Results; list the results you accomplished.
5.) Evaluate; explain what you learned from the situation.
Why do you have a gap in your employment?
• Employers value honesty, so don’t lie and make up a position that you didn’t actually have. It’s okay to give a reasonable explanation to explain any gaps in employment. Maybe you wanted to take a short break from the workforce to focus on self-improvement while you figured out what you wanted to do next, maybe you had to take time off to care for a sick relative. Try to be clear and succinct; you don’t need to give any more details than you need to give.