In an increasingly competitive market, joining the job hunt becomes a job itself.
Though you might not know exactly how each interview will go, anticipating possible questions helps you prepare for tougher ones ahead.
Here are just a few of the most common things interviewers ask, and the best way to answer them:
1. Tell me something about yourself.
This isn’t a warm-up for you. It’s for the employer to gauge your eligibility based on your background and personality.
Only share information that’s relevant to the position or the company. Don’t make your interviewer feel uncomfortable by delving into your love life or personal problems.
If you’re a fresh graduate, try providing your educational background, interests, and your most noteworthy achievements.
Were you a student leader? What did you study and how will it contribute to the job? Mentioning things like your time at community service will make you seem like a team player, boosting your image.
For seasoned job seekers, try describing your work experience and skills. Show them know that you’re aware of what the job entails.
Here’s an example of what you could say:
“I’m a recent college graduate from [name of school]. I graduated with a degree in the Liberal Arts, which I believe has equipped me with the specific skill set necessary for this position. During my stay in college, I was an officer in one of my organizations, where I headed several projects. In my third year, I took an internship in [company name] that has helped me further develop my passion and my knowledge.”
2. What are your strengths?
Interviewers ask this question to see if and how your skills fit the job.
This is a good chance to show you’ve done your research. Making the effort to present strengths that complement the job will convince the interviewer that you’re serious about your application.
Select three personal strong points which highlight your work ethic so you can properly expound and develop each strength.
Avoid overused general strengths like hardworking and organized. Instead, focus on a specific forte you can relate to the job, like strong writing skills or good interpersonal skills.
Give an instance of when you displayed these strengths, either in your previous job or when you were still studying.
Here are some ways to emphasize your strengths:
- “As a regular contributor to my college’s school paper, my strong writing skills helped me deliver quality articles. I stepped up as editor-in-chief so I could contribute my eye for detail and grammar proficiency.“
- “In addition to this, I have good interpersonal skills, which served me well in my previous job at a PR firm.”
- “I am both a team player and team leader. Last year, I headed a successful campaign for our company, which attracted plenty of new clients.
3. What is your greatest weakness?
Don’t tarnish your appeal as a candidate by telling them any actual weaknesses you have.
Making a strength look like a weakness doesn’t work with most employers. Bluffing perfection, on the other hand, will make the interviewer question your integrity.
Be honest with yourself and present an actual weakness that you’re either currently working on or have already conquered. Your future employer will appreciate your honesty, and focus more on how you handle these flaws rather than on the flaw itself.
As with your strengths, clichéd weaknesses like I’m a perfectionist, or I’m a workaholic are things your interviewer’s heard a thousand times. Weaknesses like I’m a bad listener, or I did have some difficulty working in groups, are more honest and unique answers.
Confidently relate your weakness with a statement like this:
“I can be very forgetful. I used to miss meetings, and forget to catch up with deadlines. To keep them from happening again, I organized my schedule. I started keeping a planner for my to-do list during the day, week, and month. I also encircled important dates on both my personal and digital calendars so I would remember them.”
4. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Employers love a successful employee who has a clear ambition with short-term and long-term goals.
Even if the current job isn’t in your intended career path, find a way to relate it by saying how it will help you grow in your chosen calling. These goals have to be in line with the position you’re applying for, or else you’ll seem more like you’re applying for the position just for the money, rather than because you’re excited to work there.
Point out that as much as you want your employer to invest in your personal and professional growth, you’re just as willing to invest your hard work and effort in them as well.
For example, do you see yourself as a supervisor or manager in the company? Or do you want to improve or acquire certain skills that the position can teach you?
Your five-year career goal can be something like:
- “My current vision is to be in a company that lets me learn and grow. I’d like to take on a managerial position eventually, but ultimately what matters to me is building a fulfilling career.”
- “Being accepted into this position is an opportunity to learn more and develop an expertise in my chosen field. I hope to head and take on major projects in the future, which can further hone my skills.”
- “To be honest, I still see myself a long way from my goals, but I see this position as something that can improve my skills in the field. I hope to take on a managerial role in the long run, and I believe the things I’ll be learning from this position are important for me to achieve that goal.”
5. Tell me about a problem you’ve encountered and how you dealt with it.
This looks at how well you deal with possible scenarios. Unlike overcoming your greatest weakness, which involve personal shortcomings you’ve solved, your past problems can be things that you managed to handle gracefully despite being outside of your control.
Don’t choose an obstacle that’s too difficult to explain. As with talking about your background information, giving problems that are too lengthy, personal, and unrelated to the job can confuse your interviewer.
Go with something simple and focus on the behavioral process behind your solution. One common yet efficient example is encountering conflict during a team project, whether it’s in executing the project itself or with a groupmate.
Emphasize the role you played in solving the problem. Most companies will want team players with initiative, so mention your display of these traits in the midst of conflict.
Show how you handled the situation with something like:
“I was heading a campaign in my former job, which required me to coordinate with the other department managers. The client we were working for was strict about its deadline, so we couldn’t afford to fall behind schedule. Unfortunately, one of the teams failed to deliver on time, and as the campaign head I took responsibility for the mishap. We compensated by offering the client extra services to supplement the campaign.”
Getting the Job
Although there’s no one way to ‘correctly’ answer the questions thrown at you, preparing yourself for them builds your confidence and increases your chances of getting the job.
The key to every successful job interview is to be strategically honest.
Interviewers don’t want someone who bluffs too often, but they also won’t hire an applicant who divulges every dirty secret.
Make yourself valuable and beneficial to the employer by providing background information relevant to the position you’re applying for.
Show them that you have ambition and initiative by preparing a list of short-term and long-term goals you want to achieve inside and outside the company.
Master your answers to these questions, and you’ll get the one question you’ve been waiting for: “When can you start?”
So are you ready for your next interview? Go out there and get hired. Click here to check out the latest job posts and apply now on Kalibrr!
Rick Enrico is the CEO and Founder of SlideGenius, Inc., a global presentation design agency. He regularly publishes expert presentation tips on the SlideGenius blog. He currently oversees an experienced team of designers, software developers, and marketing professionals that specialize in creating custom corporate presentations and cloud publishing applications. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.