Every time I’m on an interview panel, I can’t help but wish more people knew how to better prepare for common questions…especially when they’re rattling on for 20 minutes on just the first question! Having done hundreds of job interviews for multiple organizations, here are the most common questions you’ll probably hear and how best to answer them.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Job interviews will often start with an open-ended question asking you to introduce yourself. Because your answer will set the tone for the rest of the interview and may be the only open-ended question, it’s probably the most important question you should prepare for.
How to answer: Keep your answer relevant to the job to which you are applying. No need to regale your interviewer with your life story about where you’ve lived, your hobbies, how many siblings you have, or your medical history…seriously. Your answer should be like a cover letter – a narration of your professional history and how your experience/skills make you the best candidate for the job.
Why do you want this job?
This questions can be a bit annoying because clearly almost everyone applies to jobs for one reason – we need money! But resist the urge to roll your eyes and give a genuine, non-cheesy response instead.
How to answer: Needing money and benefits aside, think about why you applied to this job as opposed to others. Are you interested in developing your skills in the industry? Does the schedule align with other commitments in your life? Did someone refer you to the job? Be honest, but not flippant, and definitely don’t go over-the-top about how passionate you are about helping people or the interviewer will be the one rolling their eyes.
What’s your greatest weakness?
People typically answer this question one of two ways: they are either too honest about what their not good at doing and make the interview question their competency, or they try the ill-advised “turn a weakness into a strength”. Interviewers are tired of hearing about people who care too much, are perfectionists, and work too hard.
How to answer: Be honest about a professional weakness (i.e. don’t joke about your inability to slam dunk…actually, if you’re short that would be funny, but follow it with a real answer…and read the room), but make sure it’s one that is not critical to the job duties. More important than the weakness you choose, be sure to address how you are working to improve upon it.
Do you have any questions for us?
You may think the interview is over at this point, but this question is a critical opportunity for you to show you’re genuinely interested in the job and the organization.
How to answer: One of the best ways to answer this question is by asking about something the interviewer said during the interview because it shows you were listening. Because you are a prepared job applicant who researched the organization and their work, you could also ask about something you found on their website or social media. Another good response is to turn the tables on your interviewers and ask them what they like about their job or the organization – this breaks them away from their script and may give you genuine insight into whether the job is right for you.
Have you ever been caught off guard by a job interview question? Tell me in the comments!