At Republic Resumes, part of the secret of our success is coaching people to respond with depth and clarity to interview questions. Anticipating and practicing responses before you get in to the interview can make all the difference. Being able to answer questions such as ‘why should we hire you?’ is crucial.
Here are some of the most common interview questions, along with the best way to approach them.
“What are your biggest weaknesses?”
Every candidate knows how to answer this question: Just pick a theoretical weakness and magically transform that flaw into a strength in disguise! One approach is to choose an actual weakness, but one you’re working to improve. Share what you’re doing to overcome that weakness. No one is perfect, but showing you’re willing to honestly self-assess and then seek ways to improve comes pretty darned close.
“What are your biggest strengths?”
I’m not sure why interviewers ask this question; your resume and experience should make your strengths readily apparent. Even so, if you’re asked, provide a sharp, on-point answer. Be clear and precise. If you’re a great problem solver, don’t just say that: Provide some examples.
“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
Answers to this question go one of two basic ways. Candidates try to show their incredible ambition by providing an extremely optimistic answer: “I want your job!” Or they try to show their humility (because that’s what they think you want) by providing a meek, self-deprecating answer: “There are so many talented people here. I just want to do a great job and see where my talents take me.” Why not tell the truth – except where the truth crashes the interview!
“Out of all the candidates, why should we hire you?”
Since a candidate cannot compare himself with people he doesn’t know, all he can do is describe his incredible passion and desire and commitment and … well, basically beg for the job. Here’s a better question: “What do you feel I need to know that we haven’t discussed?”
Rarely do candidates come to the end of an interview feeling they’ve done their best. Maybe the conversation went in an unexpected direction. Maybe the interviewer focused on one aspect of their skills and totally ignored other key attributes. Now it’s your turn to shine.
“Why do you want this job?”
Now go deeper. Don’t just talk about why the company would be great to work for; talk about how the position is a perfect fit for what you hope to accomplish, both short-term and long-term. And if you don’t know why the position is a perfect fit, look somewhere else. Life is too short.
“What do you consider to be your biggest professional achievement?”
Here’s an interview question that definitely requires an answer relevant to the job. If you say your biggest achievement was improving throughput by 18 percent in six months but you’re interviewing for a leadership role in human resources, that answer is interesting but ultimately irrelevant. Instead, talk about an underperforming employee you “rescued,” or how you overcame infighting between departments, or how so many of your direct reports have been promoted.
“Tell me about the last time a co-worker or customer got angry with you. What happened?”
Conflict is inevitable when a company works hard to get things done. Mistakes happen. Sure, strengths come to the fore, but weaknesses also rear their heads. And that’s OK. No one is perfect. But a person who tends to push the blame — and the responsibility for rectifying the situation — onto someone else is a candidate to avoid.