You are searching online for your next job and you come across a posting that jumps out at you. You read through the spec and send your CV and play the waiting game. You receive a call – they want to meet you for an interview – brilliant! What’s next? The interview. And you know the questions they will ask you can be quite difficult to answer.
The spotlight is on you now. As the interview begins the light is turned towards you and the light will shine bright and you need to perform. Interviews aren’t designed to try and catch you and it’s important to remember that. There will, however, be questions that will throw you off your game. A poor answer can effect one’s confidence for the rest of the interview – I have seen this first hand and it is tough to see but a sign of a good interviewee is not resting on that and moving on.
It got me thinking of some of questions I have asked during my career as that have thrown people off their interview game. Again, this isn’t deliberate on my part! And in this article, I want to share my insight into how you can answer these difficult questions.
”Tell me About Yourself?”
A typical opener for interviews but where to start right? It’s a very, very open question. Do you cover all your experience to date? Do you talk about your personal life? I would suggest this answer is two minutes at most. It’s important to be concise, confident and clear. Without these you will ramble through the random stages of your life/career – don’t jump too much. Cover your early career, education, work history and end on your current/most recent role. This is a warm up question – don’t try and sell your skills too much here. If you do so, you will run the risk of giving repetitive answers to the interview questions that follow.
”What would you change about your last job?”
One image should arise in your head for this question. A burning bridge. Even if you are coming from a company which had a poor infrastructure, culture, managers whatever the case is if you dive too deep into it you will come across poorly and it will, unbeknownst to you, put you in an unflattering light. Your answer must not critique a colleague or put you as the source of the problem. Instead, you can answer this question by saying, for example, that you put in a lot of effort in your work and aspired to eventually move up the organisational ladder, but the company did not give you the chance to do so. Or, you were convinced that a certain idea you came up with would contribute to the company’s success, but remained unconsidered.
”Why Should I Hire You?”
A very simple question in practise. You are there for the interview so there is clearly mutual interest from both parties. You want to join the company and the company are interested in your profile. So, distilling the interview to its most simple function – why should the company hire you? If you haven’t prepared for the role by researching the company or the job specification you will suffer most here as, I have found, the less research the more generic the answer becomes. Research is key and your answer will reflect how much you have done and, in the eyes of the interviewer, how serious you are about this job. When you visit the company’s website you could look for information that is related to the organisation’s culture, goals, mission, vision so you can show why your skills and capabilities would be an addition to the company. Don’t sugar-coat it, be honest and genuine in the way you think why you are a fit for the role. The same counts for the following question you will have to answer.
”What is your biggest weakness?”
This is one of my favourite questions to ask. I have seen such a range of answers to this and I completely understand that this question is a potential nightmare for an interviewee. The key to this is not to contradict yourself. If you have mentioned a strength in the interview previously, then don’t mention the opposite once you are about to describe your biggest weakness. An example I’ve heard recently is a candidate who claimed to have great time management skills but poor organisational skills. This will just confuse the interviewer and will send mixed signals about your strengths as well as your weaknesses.
You must make sure that the moment you’re posed to this question, you explain a weakness that is fixable. In other words, something that can be considered a weakness but is solvable such as having the weakness to speak up in big meetings. Also, what I would like to add is that you should avoid cliché’s. Some of the classics include: “My biggest weakness is that I work too hard”, “I’m too eager at times”, and “I can be too much of a perfectionist”. You might think that turning a weakness into something that sounds positive might work, but take my word for it: it doesn’t.
“Do you have any questions for us?”
I would argue it is impossible that during an interview a new piece of information will not surface about the role, the company, the culture, the structure, or something else. So, as is the last question in nearly all interviews, not asking any questions for the interviewer doesn’t is a risk not worth taking. I cannot emphasize enough that you need to have something prepared otherwise as it may come across as disinterest.
A golden tip I want to give you when you’re starting to prepare questioners for the interviewer is that you can ask about the salary, but never as the first question and most definitely not as the only question as this will raise a red flag immediately. Instead try to think of questions related to opportunities to progress within the company or how does a work day look like.
There are other tough questions to answer, what are your salary expectations, how would your manager describe you as an employee and various others as well but these five are just some of them I have seen. Look – there is no way of getting around how tough interviews are but I hope some of these tips will help ease the stress – even if just a little!
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