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How to Nail the Most Common Interview Questions


I hate interviews. I’m always nervous, I’m never sure if I look right and I’m always second-guessing what I’ve said and how I said it. No matter how much you wish for it, there is no way to know for sure what any individual interviewer is truly looking for. There are, however, ways to answer the questions they ask that shows you to be the intelligent, well-spoken person you really are.

1) Tell me about yourself – I know, it sounds like a trick question. What do they want to know about you? Don’t ask! This question is a test! They want to see how you respond. They want to know what aspects of yourself you mention. They want to know how long it takes for you to answer, not in minutes and seconds per se but do you talk a lot or are you precise? Keep your response brief – no more than 4 or 5 sentences. They don’t want to know about your hobbies and your dreams, but they are interested in education, training, what you like about their company, and goals. Here is my response to this horrible question: “I’m an MBA student who is about to earn her Masters in Marketing. I currently work for Barnes & Noble as a Barista, and I am just starting my own pet sitting business. This business may not last me a lifetime, but I see it as practice so that when I start my Market and Business Analysis firm I will feel more confident in myself and my abilities.” There. Now you know what I’m all about!

2) What would you say is your greatest strength? – Don’t get too complacent. You are taking a test, after all. You want to tell them what your strength is, why it is your strength, and give them an example of how your strength saved your bacon. Here is my strength, “I am a very resourceful person. If there is ever a problem, I try to find the simplest, most effective solution. For example: when I worked at Java City my boss needed an extra person to help with a catering order at our third location, so he was going to have an assistant manager from our second location go help, and then I was to move from our first location to the second location to cover the assistant manager’s position. This was a ridiculous amount of shifting around, so I volunteered to just go to the third location and leave the assistant manager at his post. It was simpler and a much more effective use of personnel.”

3) What is your greatest weakness? – Yes, they really do ask you that, and it is the make-you-or-break-you question. You can’t blow it off, because if you pretend that you don’t have any weaknesses then the interviewer knows you are lying. You are human just like they are, so you may as well admit it. But… you can’t just have a weakness; You have to explain to them how you are trying to improve. That shows that you are trying to better yourself and that you are willing to learn. Here’s my weakness: “I get very nervous when I do things for the first time; I’m always afraid that I’m going to mess up big-time and fail. But, I don’t let it stop me. Every time I do something new, I learn from it. Then, before I know it, I know what I’m doing and my comfortable bubble has grown.”

4) Where do you see yourself in 5 years? – I hate this question. The correct answer is “I want to have your job,” or so I’m told. I don’t like that answer. It sounds so contrived to me. I like to say, “Well, if you aren’t here then I’d like to have your job, but if you are still here then I suppose I would like to have your job at a different location. Its no cool taking the job of the person who hired me.” Hopefully they laugh. I don’t know if that’s a good answer, but I like it! When in doubt, though, it may be best to stick with the standard. What do you think is a good way to respond to this one?

5) Do you have any questions for me? – The answer is always a resounding “yes.” Always have at least three questions to ask them throughout the interview. After all, it isn’t just them interviewing you – you are interviewing them too! The fit has to be on both sides if you’re going to effectively work there! Write any questions you think of down on a piece of paper you’ve brought with you to the interview and leave spaces to write their responses. They write notes on you, so turnabout is fair play. Can’t think of any questions? Here are some:

What does an average day on the job look like?
What are the customers like?
What is it like working here?
Lets talk turkey – what would you pay me?
What are my chances for promotion?
Do I qualify for benefits?
Do you have daycare? – Only ask this one if you have children!

Ultimately, Don’t freak out. Stay calm and as relaxed as you can. Keep eye contact, but not too much! Don’t fidget and keep your hands within view. An interview is a conversation where two people and a company are getting to know one another, hopefully for the benefit of both. Good luck, and happy hunting!


From → Business

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