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To tell you the truth, there are many interviewers who don’t know what they’re looking for. They are asking the questions that they read “should” be asked in interviews.
The savvy interviewer however will have his “reasons” for asking certain questions. He will be listening to hear beyond the answer you give.
Whether you get a savvy interviewer or someone who is just asking questions without a plan, it is a good idea for you to be prepared for these common questions and what is behind the five most difficult interview questions.
Question – Tell me about yourself.
This is a core question that is asked one way or another in most interviews. What the interviewer wants to know is, “What can you bring to the job? What do you have to offer?”
The interviewer wants to hear about your strengths, skills, abilities and experiences – especially related to the job you are interviewing for. Although you may be a great cook the interviewer probably won’t care unless you are applying for a chef’s job.
It is best to stay focused on what the interviewer is seeking in a candidate.
Question – Why are you leaving/did you leave your last position?
This is a question you can almost count on being asked. Why are you available?
The interviewer wants to know if there were any “unusual” circumstances behind you leaving your last job. Were you a problem before? Will you be a problem again?
If there are unusual circumstances that have put you in job search – fired, laid off – it would be a good idea to script your answer to this question, emphasizing the positive rather than the negative.
A scripted answer might be something like:
“It was an experience that I would like to forget, but I learned a costly lesson in the process.”
Whenever you deal with negative information try to change the focus and reframe the answer toward more positive information.
Question – Why do you want to work here?
The interviewer wants to hear why you chose this particular company or position.
A very unflattering answer would be, “I saw the ad and knew I could fill the position.” This would be the equivalent of a man asking a woman to marry him and when she asked, “Why me?” he answered, “I’ve always wanted to get married and you’re a woman.” Not good!
If you do some research before the interview you can speak about the things you learned about the company – the company’s policies and mission. You can tell the interviewer that the mission and values of the company are in line with what is important to you. If this is the truth.
The other answer to this question is that you are there to find out whether this is a good place for you and whether you are a good fit for the position. Remember you are checking them out while they are checking you out. Would you want to work there – for these people?
What is your weakness?
This is always a tricky question. To admit there is something “wrong” with you in an interview goes counter to the idea of “selling” yourself.
The employer is listening to hear where you focus when you answer this question. It can be very revealing to the interviewer what you say about your “flaws.”
When asked a negative question like this one it is best to accentuate the positive. That means talking about skills that you are working on to become more affective in your job performance. Select a trait and then give an action you are taking to overcome your weakness. An example would be:
“I pride myself on being a ‘big picture’ guy. I have to admit I sometimes miss small details, but I always make sure that I have someone who is detail-oriented on my team.”
When confronted with this question, remember the interviewer is looking for a fit. A single answer will probably not keep you from getting the job, unless of course it is something blatant. Put your energy into the positive and what you have to offer. Then let the interviewer know that although you may not be perfect, you are working on any shortcomings that you have.
Do you have any questions?
“No, I think you just about covered everything that I wanted to know. I’m sure I’ll have more questions if I get the job.”
Surprisingly, this is the most common answer to this question. Not only is this the wrong answer, but it is a very passive response that doesn’t demonstrate interest or imagination. Once you get the job, if you get the job, it may be too late to ask questions.
The interviewer is listening to hear your questions and to assess your interest in working for this company – in this position. Good questions to ask are follow up questions to those asked of you during the interview:
“Yes, I do have some questions. From what you’ve been asking me during the interview, it sounds like you have a problem with customer retention. Can you tell me a little more about the current situation, and what the first challenges would be for the new person? ”
If you don’t ask question you have also missed an opportunity to gather information you need to make a decision about whether this is the right place for you.
Remember, interviewing is a two-way process. The goal should be to find a good fit for you and for the employer. That is a win-win situation.
No two interviews are alike so it is impossible to be prepared for all the questions you will be asked. Preparing for some of the basic questions like the ones above will give you an advantage over those who will attempt to wing the answers. You will stand out from the other candidates by being prepared and you will be able to beat out the competition with an unfair advantage.