To outshine other incumbents being interviewed for the same job as you, you must do your homework and be very prepared to stand out as the organized, prepared professional you are.
Here are a few of the tougher interview questions that are often flubbed, with the appropriate answers:
1. “Tell me a bit about yourself.” Give no more than a 3 minute synopsis of your career to date. “I am a ______ with _____ years of experience. My most recent position was as __________ with _____ . Mention (relevant) education. My areas of expertise are: 1., 2., 3. and here are some examples of those areas.” Interviewers do not want to hear anything personal about you in this 3 minute period.
2. “Where do you want to be in five years from now?” I hope to still be working for this company, with newly acquired skills, and ongoing responsibility.”
3. “Why do you want to work for this company?” Don’t say, “Because there is an opening and I really need a job.” This is where you talk about what you gleaned from the research you have conducted on company and possibly mention a common shared value. Show excitement and passion in your voice and tone. “This job posting so closely matched my qualifications and as a client I really like the customer service I get when I call with a problem.”
4. “Why should we hire you?” This is a freeze up question. Mention the benefits you will bring to the position and to the company. Tell them you are going to save them money, increase productivity or free them up to do their job by taking care of everything else using the skills that you have. Do not rehash your skills, go for the benefits!
5. “What is your greatest accomplishment to date?” Try to use a recent example that is relevant to the position and the company that you are interviewing with, but it is not mandatory. Be sure to use the Situation, Action, Result format. Tell the accomplishment with pride, and smile.
6. “What skill do you believe needs development?” Don’t say, “I need to learn Spanish so when I go south each winter I can talk to the local senoritas.” No one likes to be asked the weakness question but when you are prepared for it it’s easier to address. There are a few different ways to answer this question. One example to tell them something you would like to be better at; you can do it now but you would like to excel at it. OR your weakness could be something that was a weakness but is now a strength. Whatever you say, be sure to always turn it around to sound positive.
7. “Why did you leave your last job?” This question is to determine fit. If you weren’t fired, then tell exactly what happened. If you quit due to conflict with a manager or colleagues, tell them that your values were not congruent with those of the new manager. Everyone can relate to this response because it is the truth. If you were fired you have to craft your explanation to be short, succinct and truthful but not totally disclosing. Stick to a one sentence answer.
8. “Is there any skill or knowledge area required in this job that you would not be able to perform?” This is not the time to mention that you had by-pass surgery eight years ago. As long as the answer is ‘no’ you are not obliged to share any personal or health issue with the interviewer. If you have a condition that needs special attention or accommodation as long as it doesn’t prevent you from carrying out the responsibilities as advertised you do not have to mention it until you have signed off on the offer.
Whatever you do be yourself, be honest and don’t feel like you have to over explain yourself. Remember that people remember stories they don’t remember words so give heart felt examples and practice, practice, practice.
Career Specialist & Corporate Trainer
Author of Networking: How to Build Relationships That Count and
How to Get a Job and Keep It and
The Power of Mentorship: Visibility Networking