We work so hard trying to land job interviews that, ultimately, depend on how we perform actual interview. No interview questions should ever catch you off guard. There are many common ones that you can prepare for, but here are the 3 most common interview questions and the best way to answer them.
1. Tell me about yourself…
Where should you start and what do they want to know?
This is the most common interview question and one I can guarantee you will be asked. It is often asked early in the interview and how you answer this question will set a precedent for the rest of the interview. This can be a challenging question to answer if you are not prepared for it, but it’s really asked as an icebreaker.
An important goal that you want to have during your interview is to become memorable. Now is your best chance to do this. Interviewers conduct countless interviews, which becomes monotonous and boring, and especially makes it difficult to keep track of how all the interviews went and which candidates were the best.
Have a quick and memorable story ready to tell during this question. Tell one that reflects on who you are and has a touch of humor built it. Memorize it, and then practice telling it to your friends and family five to six times.
Briefly talk about your current employer. Discuss 2-3 of your most significant accomplishments. Talk about a few of your key strengths as they relate to the job for which you are applying and how they can benefit from your strengths. Then discuss how you see yourself fitting into a position at their company.
Also, talk in specifics. Mention specific cases where you were successful in previous positions: A project you completed on time and under budget. How you helped increased sales revenues for two straight quarters. By the way, you don’t have to be the only person attributable to this increase, but if you were working there at the time you must have had some effect, even if it was indirect. Go teamwork!
“What would you like to know?” This statement completely throws the question back at the interviewer in somewhat of an insulting way and he/she is forced to reword the question.
2. What is your biggest weakness (or biggest three)?
Unfortunately, this is another favorite of interviewers. You are almost guaranteed to hear it while interviewing, so don’t ignore it, embrace it. There is no right or wrong answer for this question. Most interviewers are asking it to see how you perform under pressure and when asked difficult questions, which will inevitably happen at any job.
Many people suggest mentioning something that really isn’t a weakness. Your interviewer will see through answers that are not genuine. Don’t confess to any work-related weaknesses that could disqualify you from the position, but still, be honest. The interviewer is simply trying to find out where you feel that you need improvement. Keep your answer very short and to the point. Feel free to use these answers if you aren’t sure what to say.
“First, I would like to improve my public speaking ability. This would help me in both my personal and professional life by being able to communicate my ideas more clearly. Second, I feel my time management skills are not as strong as I want, something that I will strive to improve at my next position.”
Especially for someone trying to break into a new career or field, this third point works well:
“Some employers see my lack of experience as a weakness. It’s true that I don’t have an extensive amount of experience, but I also want to point out, on one hand, my internship projects and some academic projects prove that I can learn very quickly and make real contributions to the team in a very short period. This is actually one reason why I’m very interested in the position at your company. Since your company is known for your great training program and excellent career development prospects, if I’m offered the opportunity, it will be terrific for me to acquire the experience, develop my career, and address this weakness. “
3. What’s your 5 year plan (long term career goals)?
This is asked to see how goal oriented you are in your life and if you have a short or long term goal or plan for your career. Never answer this question with an, “I don’t know.”
This is a good chance to tell the interviewer how you have progressed through your career, how you started, where you are at today, and that you are progressing on the right track. Be specific and to the point.
You can really turn this answer around any which way that works best for you. The basic idea that you want to get across to the interviewer is that you have a plan for where you are going. Most people don’t, they just wander around from job to job, but not you.
For whatever position or qualifications you possess, identify the next logical step for that position and use that as your answer. Try to avoid job titles and focus on gaining experience and responsibilities.
“For the past 3 years, I have been working as a systems analyst and the more that I learn; the more I see myself growing by moving into more challenging roles, with greater responsibility perhaps in management, or project management.”