The only five interview questions you need to prepare for

By Colleen Clarke

The five interview questions you need to prepare forInterviewers are very busy people. When you walk into an interview, consider that they want to hire you. They want you to be the right fit so they can get on with their next hire or task at hand.

Start the interview with the idea that you have 100 points, you basically have the job. With each question you answer incompletely or fail to impress the listener(s) with, you lose points. Prepare strong answers to these 5 questions, run them by a hiring manager or HR professional then practice, practice, practice. People remember stories they don’t remember words so for each skill you have identified that you bring to the job create relatable and meaningful stories to validate your professional wonderment.

1. What have you done that has caused you to stand out amongst your peers? Explain how you have gone the extra mile by taking courses or volunteering outside of work in a certain skill set area. Even if you are a student interviewing for your first job you can talk about your school involvement in clubs, teams, camp leadership or creative hobbies.

2. What have you done that has caused your company department to either generate income or reduce its costs? Using a Situation, Action Result model, tell a story. Include sourcing a cheaper supplier, recycling a product usually thrown away, or taken a course so a consultant doesn’t have to be hired to do the work. If this ‘result’ hasn’t been a part of your reality then relate how you personally respect and treat company equipment and supplies that may positively affect the environment or recycling programs.

3. What have you implemented to help your company save time? Using SAR’s again, tell of the resource database you put together or a telecommunications implementation. Maybe you designed a form that saved a few steps in a process and was easier to fill out. Be careful about multi tasking stories unless they are moderate and manageable and haven’t led to a weakness like stress or taking on too much or not being able to say no.

4. How did you contribute to the interpersonal element in your company?
Tell about how you organized the company golf day, or have stayed late to help others. Talk about how you make a point of ‘walking around’ to engage your colleagues and comment on something they have accomplished lately or a new clothing item. Make yourself more visible by sitting on a committee and taking the initiative to mentor or orient new employees to your department.

5. What are your weaknesses? Make sure however you answer this question that the weakness does not pertain to any skill required to do the work involved in the position. You might mention how you aren’t as accomplished at something that you would like to be so you are taking a course or practicing daily on your own. It is also perfectly acceptable to say that as far as the skills required to do this job, you don’t have any weaknesses though you are unfamiliar with the way this company executes such and such, but you can learn than in no time and be up and functioning fully within two days, or whatever time line you determine. There are many different answers for this question, whatever you say, be sure to turn it into a positive.

Keep in mind that you are selling yourself first and foremost. Interviewers want to know what results you bring not the features. Be sure to tie what skills you have to what benefits you will deliver, it’s called benefit selling and all successful salespeople use this technique to close a deal. Good luck.

Colleen Clarke
Career Specialist and Corporate Trainer
Author of Networking: How to Build Relationships That Count and How to Get a Job and Keep It

5 Responses to “The only five interview questions you need to prepare for”

  1. Miran Shaikh says:

    Right fit depends not merely by questions the interviewers ask, but a lot many features like the body fit, facial expressions, no fear complexions, body language, the ability to indepth analysis of the question,the visibility of the candidate’s confidence etc.

    Gone were the days when only knowledge-based answers enable the candidate to land the job, but currently TALENT is what is required to acquire, improve and stabilize the candidate on the job.

    Anyway, nice comment. Keep it up.


  2. Elaine says:

    One interview question I was stumped on was “how would you be creative on the job”. This was a social services position. I could only think of things later such as recycling program, organizational lists for services, resources etc and keeping them updated, changes in policies and procedures for networking agencies, a lunch program 1x monthly for all coworkers, etc. Have no idea if any of those were what would have been considered.

  3. Liz says:

    Very informative article. The one thing that I would add, and recommend to those who are working and looking for a change. Apply for a position you think you would be interested in. Attend the interview, investigate the qualifications required and determine how marketable you are. It is helpful after being in a role or company for a few years to determine if your skills and approach need updating. Would you be hired, if you lost your job tomorrow? Are you prepared to compete with the workforce? Why would a company hire you? Be honest with the questions and do not be shocked with the results. Explore other opportunities while you are working, invest in your job skills, and determine why the next employer should hire you.

  4. Rick says:

    The only five questions you need to be read for? Over the past two decades I’ve encountered exactly one of them, and that only rarely. Something tells me this is the classic bit of assuming job advice specific to one field, (usually media or HR), is universal.

  5. Lorna says:

    I have an extensive resume of 25 years of progressive positions in health and wellness management and, of these 5 questions, have encountered only one (What are your weaknesses?) in the past and that was likely more than 10 years ago.

    I like the spirit of this article – that you need to be aware of the bigger picture considerations of your role and the company’s needs/expectations for it BUT, like Rick, I think this may be specific to one kind of industrial. I’m not going to waste any time memorising my answers to these 5.


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