Congratulations, you got an interview! Whether it’s a phone or a face-to-face interview, you’re going to be nervous, fearful of the tough questions, and eager to tell them the “winning” answers. You obviously did something right to get this far. Did you do research prior to applying? Did you research prior to the interview? Good for you!
Have you forgotten to do the one thing that most candidates forget? Have you prepared your answers to the most common interview questions? After 30 years of hiring, including interviewing hundreds of candidates, I am still amazed at how the best candidates blow the most common questions.
Why? Do they think they can wing it? Can they make it up as they go, ensuring they customize the answer to the listener? Whatever the excuse is, even the best candidates are wrong on so many levels on this one.
Here are some of the most common questions and some recommended answers:
1. What are your greatest strengths? OR What would your co-workers say your strengths are?
This is one of the easier interview questions you’ll be asked. But most candidates miss the opportunity.
When you are asked questions about your strengths, it’s important to discuss attributes that will qualify you for the specific job you are interviewing for. The best way to respond is to describe the skills and experience that directly correlate with the job you are applying for.
- I complete projects well ahead of schedule.
- I have exceeded my sales goals every quarter.
- My customer service skills and resolving challenging customer problems.
2. What are your greatest weaknesses? OR What would your co-workers say your weaknesses are?
Try to turn a negative into a positive. For example:
- My sense of urgency to get projects completed.
- I want to triple-check every item in a spreadsheet.
- Being organized wasn’t my strongest point, but I implemented a time management system that really helped my organization skills.
- I used to wait until the last minute to set appointments for the coming week, but I realized that scheduling in advance makes more sense.
3. Tell me about yourself.
Because it’s such a common interview question, it’s strange that more candidates don’t spend the time to prepare for exactly how to answer it. Script it! Prepare three concise, short sentences that deliver:
- One sentence about your education.
- One sentence about your work experience.
- One sentence about your work style/ethic.
Offer three sentences that set the stage for further discussion and sets you apart from your competitors.
4. Describe a difficult work situation/project and how you overcame it.
These are behavioral or situational interview questions designed to discover how you handled certain situations. The logic behind these types of questions is that the way you behaved in the past is a predictor of what you will do in the future.
Well in advance of any interview, prepare three concrete examples of difficult situations that actually happened at work. Then be prepared to discuss what you did to solve the problem. Keep your answers positive.
Script each of the three examples that illustrate times when you have successfully solved a difficult situation.
During the interview, offer only one story with three sentences then stop! They will probe for more, if needed.
Don’t let the most basic questions cost you the interview! You are there to show your confidence, self-awareness, preparedness, and passion for the position you are interviewing for. Spend hours well in advance of any interview because there are no short cuts.
Please ask your questions and leave your comments below; I’d like to hear from you!