|Posted by Krista Mitchell on July 7, 2012 at 3:05 PM|
Although every organization and interviewer has their own set of interview questions, there are five you are guaranteed to be asked at some point in your job search. Being prepared to answer them is a task that is part of standard interview preparation. A few general interview prep chores are listed below as well as the five most common interview questions and the strategy to use when answering.
• Know where you are going and with whom you are meeting.
Nothing derails your chances of a successful interview than showing up late. Research directions and then do a test run at the same time of day as your interview appointment time so you will know how long it will take you to get there in traffic. Plan to arrive at least fifteen minutes early. If you are earlier than that, wait in your car until it is fifteen minutes before the interview time.
• Research the company and possibly its competitors as well.
Use the company’s website, internet research about the company, and if necessary, the local Chamber of Commerce. Know how long the company has been in business, thorough knowledge of its products and/or services, the company’s mission, its current news, and its strong points and current challenges. Try to find out information about the organizational set-up and who the key founders or operators are. Knowing about the company’s strongest competitors and challenges can come in very handy as you may be able to define how your role could contribute in that aspect.
• Give close attention to detail regarding your appearance.
Have your interview clothing ready the day before the interview. Be sure your hair will be neat, facial hair neat and trim, nails impeccable, conservative make-up and jewelry, and polished shoes. First impressions are crucial.
• Have a portfolio of your achievements and awards prepared.
A portfolio is your evidence to back up your claims of the value you bring to the company. Proof of your abilities goes a long way in convincing employers that you are the person for the job. Things you might include are certificates, awards, letters of recommendation, special recognitions or achievements, and even performance reviews. When using portfolios however, you must know that it is up to you to introduce the portfolio in the interview. They will not ask you what it is.
• Research your value.
Know what you are worth given your level of experience and job position. You can research at the websites on my Links page.
The Top 5 Interview Questions
1. Tell me about yourself.
This one is the gold standard first question (okay, statement) in almost every interview. What the interviewer is seeking is to hear is who you are as a professional, using your best communication skills. They don’t want to hear about your childhood or how many kids you have. Quite the opposite! Mentioning children can bias an interviewer who will decide you may miss too much work for sick kids. Stick to your relevant education, your strongest relevant five or so skills, your career experience and accomplishments up to this point, and importantly, how you can bring value to their company.
2. What are your weaknesses?
Interviewers are trolling for reasons to screen you out. It used to be that you could take a strong point and sell it as a weakness. For example, the most common answer used to be, “I’m a perfectionist.” Then interviewers began asking, “How is that a weakness?” Then you had to turn it into a weakness anyway.
The best line of defense here is to choose one weak skill (even though they may say weaknessES) that is totally unrelated to the job and include how you are working on improving that skill. For example, if you are interviewing for an office position, a possibility might be saying that you are uncomfortable performing public speaking but that you have been reading about techniques to calm nerves in such situations and how to prepare presentations
3. Why should we hire you?
This is your opportunity to sell your best natural traits, honed skills, and relevant education and career experience. Be careful to avoid outright bragging, and instead focus on simply conveying the best information about you. Also, include what makes you a better candidate than other candidates they may be interviewing, what added value you have to offer. For example, you may be interviewing for a receptionist position and you may be bilingual, which affords the company the ability to communicate with and possibly expand the market to include more Spanish-speaking patrons.
This is also a golden opportunity to throw in information you researched about their company and how you can enhance their service or products. Also, your past accomplishments work well in this answer. This is also a perfect time to introduce the portfolio!
An example for a marketing job might be, “I know that your company has its strongest market share in the southeastern United States, and I believe the strong network of contacts I have built in the Midwest could assist in growth of the company market share into that area as well. As you can see here in my portfolio, I increased my current employer’s market share of athletic apparel in the Midwest by 60% in the last five years through several strategic marketing campaigns.”
4. Why do you want this job? /Why do you want to work for our company?
Interviewers are gauging your genuine interest in their position and your knowledge about their company. Use of what you have researched about the company is key here. Focus on the company’s strong points. Examples might be number of years in business, recent company expansion into new markets or geographic areas, a history of being a top Fortune 500 company, a reputation for quality products or being one of the best companies to work for. Intertwine either how your role fits into that strong point or how your love of your job/career makes this job interesting to you. For example, “I really enjoy the challenge of making a sale and the great amount of person-to-person interaction that my sales career affords me. I’m excited about your new line of ‘green’ cosmetics and the market possibilities, given your company’s 85-year history trend-setting with quality products.”
Avoid discussing salary or benefits, looking ill-informed about the job or company, and appearing to have only marginal interest or interest in a different job or career.
5. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Interviewers are primarily looking for ambition and your plans to continue in your current career and at their company. Lack of ambition indicates a possibility of marginal job performance if you don’t care to advance in position. Also, interviewing and training new employees is time-consuming and expensive, and companies don’t want to spend that on someone who gives the impression that they may not stay. A good guideline is to say that through dedicated quality work, you hope to have made contributions worthy of advancement by one position with their company in five years’ time.
Prepare! Practice in front of family, friends, or a mirror. Know yourself: your skills, your experience, your accomplishments, and your planned career path. Know about the company and how you would add value there. With adequate preparation, you will feel more confident than before and you will be prepared to answer about your professional abilities and how the company can use those to further their goals.