Getting the invitation to attend an interview after countless job applications can be both exciting and daunting. For recent graduates or those still in college, this interview may even be your first in the professional world, so it stands to reason that you might be getting a case of the jitters. While there is no exact science to making a success of an interview, there are various ways would-be candidates can prepare, so that the meeting goes as smoothly as possible. Here are some of the most common interview questions and how to answer them.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
This is largely intended to be an ice-breaker—what it is not, however, is an opportunity to reel off your life story, so try to avoid mentioning where you grew up and what your favorite hobbies are. Hiring managers expect candidates to discuss relevant skills, academic qualifications and work history leading up to this point. To prepare, write down key experiences you have that relate closely to the job you are interviewing for. For example, if you are interviewing for a sales position, your skills and academic qualifications may include:
- A business or retail degree
- Previous work in shops/telemarketing, which developed negotiation skills
- Strong communication and public speaking skills
- Good at building relationships
- An interest in the industry.
Why this position?
“I just need a job” is not the correct answer to this one, sorry. When hiring managers ask this common interview question, they want to know the depth of your knowledge about the company and what makes you the right candidate for the role. Thoroughly research the company prior to your interview: Find out their philosophy, achievements, what it is they do and their primary service or product. Then consider how your skills and experiences align with the company as a whole.
What can you bring to the role?
Bragging is a massive faux pas when it comes to interviews, so try to avoid the hard sell when asked this common interview question. Use this time to highlight your skills and how they can increase the company’s overall success for the future. If you are interviewing for a marketing assistant role, you might want to emphasise how your excellent writing and analysis skills gained throughout college can be put to good use. Offer an example of a successful social media campaign you ran that reached a high volume of people, and how that resulted in active sales or drove more traffic to a website.
If you are applying for a sales position, you may want to emphasize your strong negotiation skills. Give a sound example of when you successfully negotiated at work or university and the immediate result. Carefully planning your answer in this way shows hiring managers the effort you have put in to how hiring you would be good for the company.
Further reading: Free Courses to Boost Your Resume
What are your strengths?
Focusing on the strengths that closely relate to the job you’re interviewing for is the best way to navigate this awkward question. Hiring managers ask this question to gauge whether your skills and abilities align with the needs of the company, and whether you would be able to hit the ground running with your new role. Your strengths might include leadership skills, the ability to work both autonomously and within a team, ability to work to tight deadlines efficiently and accurately, or that you are calm under pressure.
What are your weaknesses?
Yes, career coaches tend to advise answering this common interview question with a positive spin. But if there’s anything you take from this article today, it’s that you should avoid “I’m a perfectionist.” This answer is extremely common. Hiring managers hear this very often and it won’t make you stand out from other prospective candidates. Instead, think of an occasion where you effectively turned a previous weakness into a positive. Examples of this might be:
- You once found it difficult to delegate tasks to others, but now are able to do it with ease.
- You once tended to overcomplicate your work, but now you look at them logically and create to-do lists to manage your time more effectively.
- You once found it difficult to speak in public, but after pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and practising throughout college, you can now do this with confidence.
Answering these common interview questions doesn’t require rocket science, just simple, old-fashioned research and practice. The more interviews you have, the more at ease you will become.