Unlike job descriptions, interview questions are much less straightforward in terms of revealing an employer’s expectations. Interviewers are trying to assess if you have the experience, skills, and talent to succeed in the role and if your personality and desired career trajectory complement their company. The most common pitfall is walking into an interview with the mindset that the employer is trying to get to know you. They are most certainly not. Every question interviewers ask is a mostly subtle, sometimes obvious method of getting to know you only in relation to the position at hand. So, make sure you adapt your answers based on the role and company. Below are 7 Tips for Answering Interview Questions, focusing on common interview questions, translated for clarity, and tips on answering them accordingly to help you ace your next interview.
Tips for Answering Interview Questions
1. Tell me about yourself. This may seem like a friendly conversation starter, but its purpose is far more profound. Remember that an interviewer only cares about you when in relation to the open position that they want to fill. By asking this questions, they are really asking you why you are the person they should hire for this role. Demonstrate your dual fit: describe your relevant experience and accomplishments along with your personality in relation to professional ability and personal career ambitions. This is your opportunity to provide a soundbite to employers of why they should choose you for the job. Don’t try to cover too many points or you risk losing the interviewer’s attention. Keep the message simple and clear.
2. Why are you interested in this role? Many people approach this question as a way to compliment the position’s potential, the employer(s), and the company. But, this is already information the interviewer knows. They understand what they are offering, and they know you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t also value the role and company. What they really want to know is how much you understand the role and its responsibilities and the company and its mission. Show them your genuine passion and well-researched knowledge. You know what it is you are getting into, and exactly why you want to pursue this role at this company.
3. Where do you see yourself in five years? Employers want to know if your career trajectory aligns with what they have to offer as a company. If you want to branch off in a different direction, then you are not likely to stay in this position. This makes you, by default, a bad potential hire. If the position you are interviewing for continues you down the path you hope to go, then explain your goal and how this company is a great fit for you. Be sure to also demonstrate your knowledge of the company through your answer. If this position isn’t as obviously situated with your career trajectory, or you are unsure of your career goals, then explain to the employer what skills and knowledge you hope to gain through this role that ultimately lays foundational groundwork for your future. Incorporate the idea that this company is a contributor to your future, not a stepping stone for your success.
4. What is/are your weakness(es)? Interviewers already know what skills or experiences you are lacking or missing. What they are doing is giving you the chance to appease their concern of potential obstacles you may face in this position. They are expecting you to be self-aware and value self-improvement. Prior to the interview, go through the job description and your resume. Then, after identifying potential weaknesses, prepare responses that either explain how you will compensate or demonstrate how you have already overcome similar problems in the past. A common mistake that I hear through this question is, “I’m a quick learner.” Show them you are a quick learner with an example – one that has a successful result or accomplishment – rather than tell them. Unsupported claims do not travel far in terms of reliability.
5. Tell me about a situation or accomplishment you are most proud of. This is often misconstrued as a personality-only question. Remember: the employer only cares about you in relation to this job. So, pick an example that is most relevant to the current position and demonstrate why you can serve and, better yet, further the company’s needs. In order to deliver this answer in a clear manner, use the STAR method: explain the situation, walk the interviewer through your thought process, narrate your action steps, and describe the results.
6. How would co-workers and/or supervisors describe you? When answering this question, keep in mind that employers will have access to previous co-workers and/or supervisors through your references. They are assessing if your self-description, which displays your self-awareness, matches the descriptions provided by those who have already worked with you. Yes, they are definitely looking for the classic hallmarks of a good hire: team-oriented, ability to take initiative and problem-solve effectively, and motivated to learn/grow through a position. The trick is to make sure your answer will align with potential answers provided by your references.
7. Do you have any questions? Not only are interviewers assessing what is important to you through your inquiries, but they are also trying to see if you have been engaged with them throughout the interview process. Prepared questions are definitely recommended, especially questions aimed at the interviewer’s personal experiences at the company. They are also very common. Stand out by asking the interviewers about crucial topics they perhaps did not cover during the interview: company culture, potential challenges, potential for growth and so on. With these types of questions, you are essentially filling in the blanks information-wise and demonstrating to the interviewers that you have been paying attention and you want to fully understand the candidate profile they are seeking.
Before every interview, place yourself in the position of the recruiter, human resources professional, or hiring manager and prepare answers that highlight your specific fit for their role and for their company. Get feedback from family, friends, colleagues, and even from prior interviewers. Similar to your resume, interviews are not only about who you are and what you have done or can do but also about how you present your personality, skills, and experiences.