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How to Prepare for an Interview: 10 Common Questions, Tips and More

How to Answer Top Interview Questions

You got the interview, you know you're qualified and you want this job. As the big day gets closer, you may start questioning yourself. It's completely normal to feel nervous before an interview, but if you're confident, know how to answer interview questions and prepare yourself ahead of time, you can make a career-changing situation much easier to handle.

Prepping Your Responses to Top Interview Questions

If you're looking for ways to up your game in interviews, consider what these career advisors have to say about responding to these top interview questions:

  1. "Can you tell me a few of your strengths and your weaknesses?" You're comfortable stating your strengths, but listing your weaknesses to a potential employer can feel counterintuitive. According to Cait Glennen, a member of the Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) Career Services Team, you should never say your flaw is that you're a perfectionist. "This shows that you are unable to critically reflect on how you can improve," she said. Instead, she recommends answering this question by turning a negative into a positive. "Whatever your biggest flaw, turn it into a moment of growth. Explain the steps you've taken to try to overcome the issue."
  2. "How would your teammates describe you?" Are you a hard worker or always willing to help? Are you the problem solver when everyone else is unable to find a solution? A little introspection should help you find the answer to the question they're really asking: Where do you shine when working with a group
  3. "How do you stand out from the other applicants?" When you go in for an interview, there will be other candidates with education backgrounds and resumes similar to yours. "Every single candidate being interviewed is qualified for the job or else they wouldn't have an interview," Glennen said. "So now you have to make yourself stand out, fit in well with the company and showcase that you'd be a great person to work with."
  4. "Can you tell me about a project that didn't go as planned?" Not every project we undertake is going to run as smoothly as we had hoped, but remember that failure can be a learning experience. "Discuss what you have learned about yourself and how you are improving moving forward," Glennen said
  5. "Have you ever made a mistake?" "Own up to any mistakes you might have made and do not place blame only on the shoulders of others," Glennen said. We all make mistakes from time to time. Tell your interviewer about an error you've made in the past and explain what you did to fix it. This shows the interviewer your willingness to not only own up to a mistake but do whatever you can to make it right.
  6. "What kind of work environment do you prefer?" Tailor your response to the role you're applying for. Will you be asked to work on team projects, or are you going to be expected to work by yourself? Also consider the company's culture and whether it's more of a creative or corporate environment
  7. "Tell me about a time when...." If you're asked to describe a specific situation, no matter what follows, be honest. Grace Donahue, another career advisor with SNHU, said an interviewer asking this type of question "is trying to use information about your past responses and behaviors to understand how you would handle a situation in a new position." When it comes to behavioral questions, Donahue said the best way to form your answer "is to prepare a number of personal anecdotes and practice telling them in a concise way." Donahue suggested using the STAR method: Outline the situation, explain the task you had to undertake, describe your actions and tell them the result.
  8. "What are some of your hobbies?" Sometimes, an interviewer wants to get to know who you as a person. Whether you like to hike or knit may not have a lot to do with your abilities to perform the job you're applying for, but it may help them get a better understanding of how you'd fit in with their organization. It may even give you the opportunity to make yourself distinct from other candidates. Beyond standing out, what you're passionate about might give them insight into your strengths
  9. "Why Should We Hire You?" 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, said James Rice, head of digital marketing at WikiJob. 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. Pete Abilla, a former executive at Amazon and eBay, 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.
  10. "Why Are You Leaving Your Current Job?" 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."

BONUS:

  • "Do you have any questions for me?" Always ask your interviewer about the role you're interviewing for or about the company. Try to prepare at least two questions to have on standby. For example, you can ask about the day-to-day responsibilities of someone in your role, the company's plans for the future or if the company is involved with local community or charitable organizations. Asking questions shows you're engaged and truly interested in being a team member. Never ask about salary or vacation days.

Job Interview Tips

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. Here's a couple additional job interview tips:

  • Be conversational. "Look for opportunities to turn an interview into a conversation," Glennen said. In the situation where you're asked how a teammate would describe you she said, "Be sure you give your answer, and then ask if the interviewer can describe the team you would be working with if you were selected for the role." Creating a conversational tone not only makes you seem more personable, but it can help you feel more at ease.
  • Take the time to prepare yourself. Interview preparation is key. Map out your route and find parking options if necessary. Select an outfit or two and wear the one that makes you feel the most comfortable. Donahue said while you should try to show up 30 to 45 minutes before the interview, don't go in until around 10-15 minutes before your scheduled time. "I recommend sitting in your car or a local café and positively visualizing your interview," Donahue said. "Imagine yourself walking into the room and meeting your interviewer. Imagine your confidence, posture, strong hand-shake and eye contact. Imagine yourself comfortably answering their questions and having a positive discussion. It may seem like a silly exercise, but I find that it's a great way to calm my own nerves and feel more confident in the moment."

As a final interview tip, Donahue also suggests practicing some power poses to boost your confidence. Taking time to fully prepare yourself can ease any nervousness you're feeling and allow you to present your best version of yourself during your interview.

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