It’s a new world out there, but you already know that. What this means for job seekers is that the competitive battle for every job will be fierce. Now, visualize yourself running in the finals of the Olympic Track & Field hurdler events. You made the final cut, the gun goes off, and you know you can win this. You see the finish line and, OOPS, you kick down that last hurdle. That’s what an interview is; the final step before receiving an offer.
As a three-decade hiring manager, I’ve seen the great, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Most of the time, the candidate doesn’t know they just stepped in a pile of poop by disclosing too much, being unprepared, not listening to the question, or asking poor questions.
As a job search consultant and coach, I’m so concerned when I hear, “Oh, I got this,” “I’m an extrovert, so I love talking to people,” “This will be a piece of cake,” or “Yeah, I’ve interviewed a lot throughout my career.” You know where this is going, right? Yep, these are the folks who either come across too cocky, blow basic answers, are not self-aware, or just don’t beat the competition who performed better in the interview.
Did you catch that keyword: Performed? Yes, interviews are a performance. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, a developer or salesperson, senior or entry-level, every one of you needs to spend hours preparing for interviews well in advance. Sure, there are things to do the night before, like ensure your clothes are pressed or that you have printed out the questions you are going to ask them. However, I’m talking about the interview preparation that you need to do before you start sending out resumes.
Here is how to CRUSH interview questions: what to say and what not to say.
Interview Question: Tell me about yourself.
What NOT to Say: “I was born in…” and, 10 minutes later, you complete a resume walk-through.
Why is it a Weak Answer: It is boring and overwhelming.
What to Say: Here’s the formula:
- Start with a short ice-breaker, then one sentence about your education.
- Go into two sentences about your professional experience (not a resume walk-through!).
- End with two sentences about why you are here today – why it’s a great opportunity.
- Then stop talking. This is an opportunity to promote the most relevant aspects of your background
Interview Question: What are your strengths?
What NOT to Say: “I am a good learner, adaptable, work well with people, and have a strong work ethic.”
Why is it a Weak Answer: You are starting with the soft skills rather than with the hard skills; they expect you to already have these. It’s like saying, “I breathe.”
What to Say: Highlight the skill, then describe how you are strong at it! For example:
- “There are three strengths I’d like to share with you today:”
- “One, I’m analytical. I have excellent attention to detail and am proud of my accuracy and analytical skills.”
- <Include two more>
Interview Question: What are your weaknesses?
What NOT to Say: “I don’t have any.” “My strengths, when taken too far, are my weaknesses.” “I get nervous speaking to over 1,000 people,” yet you are interviewing for a developer position that gives no speeches.
Why is it a Weak Answer: It shows a lack of self-awareness and humility. We all have areas of improvement and should be learning to correct them.
What to Say: Turn a negative into a positive by saying:
- “I’m working on the following two areas of improvement:”
- One, I used to triple-check every item in a spreadsheet; now, I try to limit my reviews.
- Two, being organized wasn’t my strongest point, but I implemented a time management system that really helped my organization skills.
Interview Question: Do you have any questions for me?
What NOT to Say: “No, I’m good.” “How much does the job pay?” “Can I work from home?” “How many vacation days will I get?” “What is the company’s five-year plan?”
Why is it a Weak Answer: If you have no questions, you are not interested or have not done any research, or you are unprepared for this interview. Do not ask financial/benefits questions. To avoid unconscious biases or judgments, do not disclose personal or special needs until you have an offer in hand.
What to Say: “Yes, I have prepared some questions.” Take out your paper to show you are taking notes. Every question should be relevant to the job, highlighting a strength, or showing you did research. Example questions include:
- I’m very self-motivated. How will you measure my success in this position after one full year?
- What are the top 3 skills or experiences you are looking for that may not be mentioned in the job description?
- When the interviewer hints at the last question: “I want to share that I am passionate about this position and hope I have your support to proceed to the next level of the interview process.” (It’s not a question, but it is a very strong closer to your encounter.)
An entire module within Job Search Master Class® is dedicated to mastering your interviews. The above four questions are just a sample of many that you will script and rehearse. Then, you will have 24 x 7 to unlimited video roleplay to practice. There are over 7,000 interview questions to choose from, searchable by function and industry.
See other relevant insights here: