For many people, the hardest part of the job hunt process is the actual interview itself. You wake up early in the morning with butterflies in your stomach, having not much of an appetite, and anxious over the fact that someone today is going to be directly judging your character, your appearance and your intelligence. You carve out extra time in your routine to get ready, making sure your zippers zip, buttons are all there and no bra straps are showing (sorry boys – it’s true).
Lucky for you, if you are reading this, you’ll learn that I’m one of the rare people who doesn’t get all worked up over an interview… anymore. How is that lucky for you? Because what you might not know is that I haven’t always felt this way. It was a learned skill through trial and error where I found what works and what doesn’t. After attending over FIFTY interviews (really) and having over 20 jobs (will explain this in a later post), I’ve found the most challenging but important questions to prepare for before going to an interview. As long as you’ve prepared, researched and done your due diligence, you should be able to show up feeling confident yet calm. Being present and yourself is what will make you stand out.
I’ve gathered 7 interview questions that will help you in more ways than one: they will help you sound educated in what you do, be prepared for the interview and appear confident in yourself. While I haven’t listed these questions in any particular order, they are questions that you should be able to answer confidently, no matter what industry you are in or what job title you’re striving for.
Question 1: Tell Me About Yourself
I once was in charge of recruiting interns and account executives at a previous job. Part of that process was screening candidates before bringing them into the office for interviews with other members of staff and management. One of the first questions I always ask is the simple “tell me about yourself”. This is a question I used to struggle with because it’s so open ended and can lead down several different roads. One time, I asked a candidate this question, and they quickly answered nervously “I graduate in 2015, I really like macaroni and cheese and I really enjoy school”. This is a judgement free zone and I’m sure this person is happily employed at this point in their life, but I couldn’t help but go back to moments in my several interviews where I thought “why did I say that??” This question is one you must – and I mean MUST – prepare for ahead of time. This is your 60 second elevator pitch to sell your potential future employer why you are the best fit for the role. Don’t know how to construct a good elevator pitch? Follow this link for some tips, this one is good too. In 60 seconds or less, you should be able to articulate where you’ve been, where you want to go, and why you want to be here.
Question 2: What Do You Know About Us/Me And Why Do You Want To Work Here?
This is where you show off your research abilities. This is called doing your due diligence. Tell them how long the company has been around, who founded it, who their customers are, what their mission is and if it aligns with your beliefs, what their strategy is, how many locations they have and where, what problem their product or service solves etc… Secondly – this is a chance for you to explain why you want to work for them. Before showing up for the interview, you might want to take the time to look into further detail what the company is all about and if it truly is somewhere you’d like to spend 40+ hours a week, every week, for however long you plan to be there. I’ve made the mistake of NOT doing enough research before accepting a job, and let me tell you, it’s a mistake I won’t make again.
Question 3: How Does Your Prior Experience Relate To This Role?
Another question you might want to think about before showing up for your interview is how what you’re doing now or in the past aligns with what you will be doing at the position you’re applying for. It might sound pretty straight forward, but many job roles are similar yet different. Make a list of the skills you have and pick the top 3 that would be the most beneficial in your new role. Then spend about 1-2 minutes per skill elaborating on what that skill is and why it’s important.
Question 4: What Is Your 5 Year Plan?
Whether you have a real plan or not, you might want to start developing one before interviewing. This question tells the interviewer whether or not you are able to set and strive to achieve goals. Come up with a plan of the different roles you’d like to be within the company, and how you’d reach your goal at the end. Do you want to be in management? Do you want to manage more or larger accounts/clients/customers/patients? Do you want to own your own business one day? All of these things are important to think about and great to share with your interviewer.
Question 5: Why Are You Thinking About Leaving The Company You Are At?
This is my least favorite question because I’m not sure there’s really a “right” answer. Every answer I’ve ever come up with, whether it be I would like to make more money, or I’ve reached the ceiling, or I would like to have more responsibilities, or my beliefs don’t align with the companies – these all have bad repercussions that lead to “well why haven’t you expressed this with your company and found a solution?” Another issue this question brings up is that our generation is known to have a commitment issue across all facets of our lives – we aren’t good at staying in one place. This is one you will want think about and prepare for. Once you come up with an answer, I suggest reaching out to 3 or 4 of your most trusted peers – family, friend, mentor, previous boss, etc.. and see if they think your answer is genuine and understandable. Have them challenge you with follow up questions so you are prepared for questions from the interviewer once you explain your position.
Question 6: What Are Your Weaknesses?
This is my second most hated question and I’ve gotten to the point where [if for some unthinkable reason] I interview for another job again, I would decline the offer because this question is so
stupid!!! …I mean helpful 🙂 But it happens, and it has happened… and it will continue to happen. The most annoying and overused answers include (and I quote):
- I work too hard
- I’m a perfectionist
- I’m very type A
And to be honest, who can argue with that. While deep inside I roll my eyes at these answers, I use them because business owners want employees that go above and beyond, are genuinely willing to work more than the typical “8-5” and go the extra mile. So I’d suggest picking something along those lines so long as they apply to you, annoying as they may be 😉
Question 7: Tell Me About A Time When You Solved A Problem.
I love this question because I enjoy solving problems and do this quite often, but when you are on the spot and someone asks, you can’t say “well, at McDonald’s this morning there was a problem. You see, I couldn’t get there fast enough, so I ran five red lights, cut off an elderly person and boom- problem solved-hunger vanished.”
Joking aside, think about some of you best accomplishments and perhaps what problems or hurdles you faced on your way to achieving these accomplishments. Turning an unhappy client into a happy client, building a relationship with a coworker that’s hard to get along with just to get the job done or taking on extra work or projects to keep the business running or clients happy are good examples. Managers and business owners like employees who are self-ran – meaning you can handle it and don’t need help solving every single problem that comes your way.
What questions do you think are important to know how to answer during an interview? Have you ever been completely at a loss for words when asked something? I want to know what you might have struggled with and talk about how to get over these challenges. Leave a comment below or reach out @ firstname.lastname@example.org <3
PS – I wrote this post because my best friend asked me to talk about it. Please, tell me things you want to hear more about, I’m open to writing about almost anything, so long as it falls under a topic I cover: career, marketing or lifestyle.