October 28, 2016
You found the office without getting lost and you even have 10 minutes to spare. You have copies of your resume in a manilla folder, your shirt is free of coffee stains, every hair is in place and your breath is minty fresh. You have the experience and skills and you're feeling ready to nail this job interview until that question you weren't expecting.
Getting your foot in the door is only the very first step. Next up is showing your potential future boss you're the best candidate for the job. This is going to take preparation. Thinking about your answers to some of the most common interview questions, and even rehearsing your answers with a friend, just makes sense. While there are many questions you'll want to think about ahead of time, here are three of the most common questions you can expect to answer at your next interview.
For this and every hard interview question you're asked during an interview, Pete Abilla, a former executive at Amazon and eBay, said you want to frame your response to answer what the interviewer is really trying to ask - the "question behind the question." Ask yourself what information about you are they trying to learn with their question.
A very common, though not always particularly effective question, is, "What is your greatest weakness?" Answering that you're too much of a perfectionist or too much of a workaholic is trite and doesn't get at what the question is trying to answer. When an interviewer asks about your weaknesses he or she is often testing your self-awareness. Everyone has weaknesses. Do you recognize yours? Can you be honest about your shortcomings?
James Rice, head of digital marketing at WikiJob, suggested talking about a skill or talent you lack that isn't directly related to the job you're interviewing for. "If you're applying for an analyst position, you might refer to your lack of client-facing experience while reaffirming your preference for working with numbers," he said. Abilla said it can be helpful to talk about ways you are working to improve on a skill you are weak at. "For example, let's suppose that your biggest weakness is organization," he said. "What did you do to learn about ways to become better organized? What systems and habits did you put in place to help you get better organized? Did you seek help from other people? What advice did you get and what did you implement? How are you now? Are you better organized?
You can prepare for this standard interview question by thoroughly researching the company you're interviewing with ahead of time. Spend time learning about the company's history, mission and ethos, as well as the description of the job you're applying for, Rice said. Try to match your own goals and ambitions with what the company is trying to accomplish. "If you have any connections within your network who have worked with the business, it's also a good idea to speak with them to find out more about the company from someone who has first-hand experience," he said.
Abilla said interviewers who ask this question aren't interested in why you think you're the best person for the job but rather why you're a better fit than others competing for the same position. "Here you may want to focus on relevant experience that the job might require," he said. "Or that you're a fast learner. Or you work harder - and show how."
First things first: Don't speak negatively of the company you're currently or formerly working for.
"Here the interviewer cares about your motivations for this particular opportunity, not your issues with your last job," Abilla said. "Never ever talk bad about your previous boss or previous company. Instead, focus on this specific opportunity and why you want it so bad."
Rice said it's helpful to find ways to frame what may be a negative aspect to your current job in a more positive light. "When deciding how to answer it's important to present yourself as a positive, proactive and rational person who is leaving for the right reasons," he said. "As a result, it's best to avoid listing reasons that reveal issues with other members of staff or with the company overall. If that's unavoidable, it's important to put a positive spin on things."
Securing an interview is a big step, so being well prepared with answers to common but tricky questions is an important way to ensure a strong performance.
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