A job interview can be one of the most never racking experiences you’ll ever encounter. In fact, for most people it probably ranks right behind public speaking and being caught naked as one of the social situations they would most like to avoid. And this anxiety can be even worse if you aren’t prepared or don’t know what to expect.
Unfortunately, for many of us, whether we like it or not, becoming a skilled interviewee is a role in we must learn to excel in order to find a career. Each interview and interviewer will differ, and many questions you will be asked will relate to a specific job or job functions. There are however, a few interview questions you can almost always count on to rear their ugly heads no matter what the job or who is asking the questions.
More experienced job hunters might recognize the following questions or nod your head in agreement, as you scan through them. While some of you might have your answers well rehearsed, you might still want to take a moment to read these tips as a quick refresher. It never hurts to bone up on your interview skills.
Question #1: What is your greatest strength?
While it is important to answer this question thoroughly, as you answer you should automatically be preparing yourself for what you know is coming next. The “What is your greatest strength?” question is the easy lead in to the all-critical and more important, “What is your greatest weakness?” question.
Sometimes you can pair the two questions. If you answer that your work ethic or willingness to help others is your greatest strength, then it might also be your greatest weakness because it leaves you exhausted at the end of the day. But follow up with the fact that your exhaustion is worth the effort due to the satisfaction and self worth it gives you.
Another way of answering the “greatest weakness” question is to make a working strength a personal weakness. Something along the lines of “Too often, I take my home with me,” or “I worry too much about work,” or “My friends tell me, I’m too organized.”
This will make your weakness something that will affect you personally but not your work or your ability to do the job.
Question # 2: How have you handled a problem with a co-worker or boss and how it was resolved?
Unfortunately, this is almost a no win question. The interviewer is going to know that if you say you’ve never had a problem with a co-worker or boss, you’ve either never really worked before or you’re lying. Therefore, the best way to answer is to be honest…to a point.
Try to remember a time when you had a minor difference of opinion with someone at work — maybe a time when you felt strongly about a certain decision and he or she felt the opposite way. When you explain how the situation was resolved, it is important to stress open and constructive communication. Telling the interviewer there was a yelling match or you came to blows, isn’t going to get you the job. Open, face-to-face, communication, in which a difference was discussed and solved in a manner that both sides agreed upon, is usually what your interviewer is looking for. It also helps if you can explain what you learned or how you changed in a positive way due to the experience.
Question #3: Tell me about a time when you faced adversity.
“Uh, how ‘bout this interview,” probably won’t gauge the greatest response from your interviewer. Therefore, look for an example that will showcase your skills and abilities as they relate to the job for which you are applying. Ensure that whatever experience you decide to use is one in which you succeeded, accomplished something, or at least taught you a valuable lesson. Stepping into a role with little training and still accomplishing all your duties, or taking on a special project that took significant time and effort on your part can be perfect examples. Successes or challenges outside the workplace such as overcoming a health related issue or a personal story can work as well, but try to keep your examples related to work and/or the duties required of the role for which you’re interviewing.
Question #4: What makes you right for this job?
For this question, avoid short answers like, “Because I’m qualified,” or “I have a lot of experience.” The interviewer will already be aware of this, otherwise you wouldn’t have gotten the interview. Try instead to look for job skills necessary for the type of work that you’ll be performing, duties listed in the job description for the position, or aspects of the company’s corporate culture that match well with you. This will not only show the interviewer that you have paid attention to the qualifications for the job, but that you have researched the company and are able to hone in on exactly what you can bring to the table. An example might be that you pursued an online MBA degree while holding a full time job. This shows you have the ability to focus and multitask.
Question #5: Where do you see yourself in five years?
“Do I look like a fortune teller?” or “Five years — I sure as heck won’t be here!” isn’t going to cut it in this situation. Try instead to envision where this person would want you to be in five years and pair that with reasonable expectations and your career interests and ambitions. You don’t want to go overboard and say you’ll be the next Warren Buffett or Bill Gates. Keep it reasonable. Whether you have any real expectations of advancing with this company or not, try to think in terms of corporate culture and ladder climbing. If you progressed as you should or as this person is expecting you to, where would you be in five years? A department head, a general manager, a regional VP – those are the answer’s they are most likely looking for.