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  • Pamela Murray

5 Common Interview Questions, And How to Ace the Answers

Updated: May 25



You've identified the job of your dreams.  So, you worked long and hard (perhaps with an employment recruiter or temporary staffing services) crafting a killer resume and persuasive cover letter.  The good news is that you made it through the initial cut: you were just informed the employer is inviting you to interview.

Here's the good news.  You're already way ahead of the pack.  According to TopResume, about 75% of candidates for the job you want didn't get that coveted invitation.  In fact, many resumes are never viewed by human eyes.  That's because most businesses now employ an "applicant tracking system" (ATS), an automated process for scanning and assessing job resumes based on their format and content—and whether they include important "keywords."

YOU NEED TO TREAT A JOB INTERVIEW LIKE A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY Said differently, getting a job interview—especially for a position you really want—is a significant move forward in your job search.  But that also means you need to prepare for that interview even more studiously than you prepared the documents that got you there. 

As Chron correctly points out, the interview is arguably the most important component of a successful job search:

"The interview gives the employer its first impression of you and provides you with a crucial opportunity to "sell" yourself. The manner in which you present yourself often determines if you are offered the job. You want to establish yourself as a highly competent individual who is well suited for the position -- as well as a competitive salary. The interview also sets the stage for your long-term relationship with the company, establishing your potential for advancement."

THE ANSWERS THAT WILL ACE YOUR JOB INTERVIEW Of course, for your interview to be a success—meaning for it to lead to a job offer—you'll need to look your best, act poised and confident and show that you have both the hard and soft skills to become a valued new employee.  But there's one more thing you need to do—you need to anticipate the questions the interviewer will most likely ask, and you need to have the best possible answers to those questions. Of course, every business (and every interview) is different, this based on the industry and job you're applying for.  In general, however, here are 5 questions you're most likely to be asked—and the best way to answer those questions:

1.  TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF First, the interviewer will in most cases already know a good deal about you from your resume and cover letter—so simply repeating verbatim what's on those documents doesn't help the interviewer, or you.  Instead, answer this question by filling in details that don't appear on your resume, like why you took one of more of those jobs, and why you left for your subsequent job.  It's also a good idea to bring in something personal that reflects positively on your character.

2.  WHAT ARE YOUR MAIN STRENGTHS? Again, the interviewer knows your strengths from your resume.  To nail this question, give a concise and compelling answer.  For example, you could say, "I'm a natural problem solver."  Then, back that up with one or two brief examples of an intractable problem, and precisely how you solved it.  Equally effective, before you arrive for the interview, find out as much as you can about the company and the challenges it's facing.  You can then explain how you would help solve that company problem.

3.  WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST WEAKNESSES? Be careful about this one—many interviewees answer with a supposed "weakness" that's really a strength.  If you say for example, "Because I have such a strong work ethic, I sometimes neglect my family and don't take time off when I should," the interviewer will probably conclude that you're not being honest—perhaps that you're hiding something.  Answer this question honestly.  Interviewers know that everyone has weaknesses.  Choose something that's a real weakness, and what you're doing to improve yourself.

4.  WHY SHOULD WE CHOOSE YOU? As with the previous question, this is an opportunity to demonstrate the strength of your character, something interviewers care about.  You obviously can't say that you're stronger than other candidates, because you don't know who the other candidates are.  What you can say is that your credentials meet the requirements of the job, that you genuinely want the position, that you've always been a hard worker, and that you'll dedicate yourself to the company's success.

5.  WHERE WILL YOU BE IN 5 YEARS? There are two possible mistakes in answering this question.  The first is to come off as arrogant and overly ambitious, painting a picture of the future in which you're a superstar.  The other is to be too timid, telling the interviewer you're just focused on being the best employee you can be now.  The answer to this question is an honest one.  Tell the interviewer where you reasonably expect to be in your career in 5 years.  You should add what additional training or skills you want to acquire to get to that point.

IN CONCLUSION Of course, this list isn't comprehensive, and there's no guarantee an interviewer will ask these questions and not other ones.  In other words, navigating the job search process can be complex, and at times downright confusing.  That's where we can help. To learn more about the ways our contract-to-hire, long and short-term projects, and direct placement services will help you jump start your career and find a job you'll love, contact us today.

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