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Common interview questions and how to approach them

3 Mins read

Let’s look at common interview questions and how to approach them. One of the most nerve-wracking parts of a job interview is being thrown questions you’re not sure how to answer. You might sweat, get tongue-tied, or blurt out something embarrassing just when you were doing so well. It’s enough to convince some people that interviews are a lost cause — and any employer who has experience dealing with candidates knows what they’re talking about.

The thing is, the key to answering these questions isn’t to know absolutely everything about the company (although knowing what they do helps tremendously). It’s more important to be able to talk intelligently about your skills and accomplishments in a way that demonstrates you’d excel at the position.

1) Tell me about yourself

a) Start with your name. If you have a cool name, say it and don’t forget it.
b) Tell them where you were born, where you’ve lived, what schools you’ve attended and your major/degree.
c) Put in accomplishments and achievements in reverse-chronological order.
d) Don’t be shy about how great a person you are.

2) Why should we hire you

a) Share your knowledge about the field, the job and the
company
b) Share the relevant experience you have
c) Give them a reason to hire you.
d) No matter what, don’t say: “Because I need the job.”
e) Consider asking them if there’s anything specific they’re looking for in a candidate.

3) What’s your greatest weakness?

a) Make sure it’s not something on your resume that you should change in future applications (Inadequate Experience).
b) But don’t say something about how you work too hard.  Instead, talk about something like needing more information or training.
c) Ask them if they mind elaborating on what they mean by weakness.
d) Be careful to phrase this positively.

4) What could you improve about yourself?

a) Discuss something that you feel will be a big help to you in this job.
b) Be careful how you phrase this, or they might ask for improvement on a particular weakness (See #3).
c) Ask them what they mean by it.

5) What are your career goals/Where do you see yourself in five years?

a) This can be tricky because you don’t want to just regurgitate your resume, but it’s important to show that you have ambitious goals and aren’t just looking for any old job.  They may ask where else you’re applying to, so know your top 5-6 choices by heart.

6) Tell me about your hobbies.

a) Don’t say you don’t have any, because that makes you seem boring.
b) Mention something you’ve done in the past (even if it was recently).
c) If you have none right now, then say that you’re looking to get involved in something.
beware of sports questions as they might lead to sports interrogatories which can bring out your inner jock instead of your focused professional

7) What kind of salary are you looking for?

a) It’s expected, so know what a person in this position should make and add 10-15% to that.
b) Don’t be overly specific unless they’re specifically asking you.
c) If they’re looking for a particular range, say $X – $Y.
d) Avoid saying “I’m not looking for a salary” because this may come back to bite you in the ass if they say they can only pay based on your experience.
e) If your employer doesn’t negotiate, say “I’m not looking for anything special,” and then just tell them what you want.
f) If your employer does negotiate, be prepared to counter with why that number is reasonable for your skillset and experience and why it won’t work out in the long run.

8) If you were given a $1 million dollar bonus, what would you do?

a) Don’t say “retire.”
b) Don’t say “take a vacation.”
c) Do give a creative (and reasonable-sounding) answer to this question.
d) Be very careful not to disparage your current employer.

9) What do you think about our company/position/industry?

a) This is the time for good, positive things you can say about the company and the job.
b) Avoid saying anything negative about them because it will be perceived as a backhanded criticism of their operation.

Conclusion

Good luck and be confident, but don’t be arrogant.
Focus on your skills and what accomplishments you have to offer.  Don’t sell yourself short, but if you’re applying for a job out of college, for example, you may want to downplay the fact that you started a non-profit when in college because it makes your accomplishments a little less impressive.

You might be interested in how to choose between hiring and recruiting.

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