Out of hundreds of potential questions HR folks and hiring managers ask during the course of an interview, we have compiled five of the best and attempt to give some good advice as to the best way to answer them. In addition to what you say and how you say them, the secret of answering interview questions is not sounding rehearsed or coached. Experienced interviewers have their antenna up for the ‘stock’ answers. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t practice and rehearse potential responses, but it does mean that running through some replies is important. There are experts that are convinced that often the person who gets the job is not always the most qualified, but is the person who interviewed the best. Here are five of the most common questions asked and some of the better replies:
- Why should I hire you? Companies want your opinion. After a short conversation, the interviewer wants to hear why you feel that it is a good match based on your experience, knowledge and education. After listening attentively, it is now your turn to calmly go over your qualifications and present how they can be seen as a win-win situation for everyone. You will now get to use all the ammunition that you gathered before the interview in doing internet research on the company, speaking with industry contacts and learning as much about the company (and interviewer!) as possible. During the course of the interview, you should be asking good questions and also be taking mental notes as to what qualities are the most important to them. You can then tailor-make your answers to align with their needs. The underlying question is always, ‘Are you going to fit in with us?’
- Why did you leave or why do you want to leave your job? Don’t rush through this one. This is your chance to show your professionalism. If your last manager was a nightmare, the commute too long or the job just wasn’t the right fit any longer, then this is where you take your time to explain the things that you learned there and how you are ready to utilize those skills in a new position. You can now talk about your experience and career goals. Never, ever badmouth former bosses. It’s time to focus on the future and how what you’ve already learned and experienced will translate into a great match.
- Can you describe a difficult situation with a supervisor or coworker? How was it resolved? Again, this is where tact comes into play. The interviewer wants to hear how you handled conflict. How you handled this in the past is a prime predictor of how you will handle it in the future. Clashes occur in the workplace all the time and it’s natural for people to have differing opinions. The best way to answer this is by thinking of the beginning and how the ultimate resolution was reached. Discuss what happened in between. Use discretion when choosing your story. It needs to have a ‘happy’ conclusion in which all parties walked away content.
- Why do you want to work here? Many people make the mistake of selling themselves to the company and failing to prove why the position and company is right for them. Ask yourself “Why is the job right for me and why am I right for the job?” The answer you give is always the right answer because you’re proving that you’re the ‘one’ who is the perfect fit.
- What is your greatest weakness? Ah, the dreaded question that seems to be the most popular but also the most squirm-inducing. No one wants to admit faults or flaws. Yet we all have them. How you convey this information is important and there is a method to achieve this. Choosing the ’weakness’ is important. Pick an area where you have room for improvement and what you are currently doing to gain that skill. The old standbys don’t work anymore: ‘I’m a perfectionist’, ‘I work too hard, etc. For example, as most of us have a fear of public speaking, you can state that you are joining Toastmasters to hone that skill. It shows that you understand that we all can improve ourselves, that you recognize it and are working on handling it. It also shows that this weakness will not affect your productivity. Whatever flaw you pick must be able to be turned into a positive.
A confident response shows that you have prepared for the question, recognized your faults and have set a plan into action for improvement.
Answer every question honestly and turn the interview into a conversation. A good interview involves both parties asking questions and building a rapport. Success in doing the above means you’re more likely to be yourself and give off a great first impression.