Interviews are like snowflakes; each one is a little different. It can feel difficult to fully prepare just because there’s inherently an element of the unknown.
The good news, however, is that there are only so many ways to get to know a candidate’s experience and strengths, so nearly all interviews have a few basic questions in common.
Here are three that you will hear most everywhere, and how you can master your answers to wow your interviewer.
< ‘TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF’
This is the most common way to open an interview and is fraught with obvious difficulties.
How much should you share?
Is it time for your entire life story, or embarking on a laundry list of every hobby you’ve ever tried?
Should you keep it strictly work-related?
In this situation, the latter is your best bet.
Start your answer with a bit of personal flair about how you chose your professional path (e.g., “I realized I wanted to be a developer after helping some friends create a mobile app in college”), but this is a time to set the right tone by succinctly communicating key aspects of your professional life and how they can benefit your new employer.
Share a couple of major career accomplishments, back them up with numbers, if possible, and finish by telling your interviewer how you’ll bring those skills to his or her company.
< ‘WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WEAKNESS?’
The stereotypical approach to this question is to pick something that’s not really a weakness at all (“I’m too much of a perfectionist” or “Sometimes I put my team’s needs ahead of my own” come to mind).
However, your interviewer has heard these rote answers from just about everyone, and what he or she really is looking for is a sense of honesty, self-awareness and ability to grow.
This isn’t the time to fully disclose all your worst qualities, but it’s a great time to talk about a small professional flaw upon which you’ve genuinely improved over the course of your career.
For example: “I used to be afraid of rejection when making cold calls, and those nerves would come through over the phone. However, I resolved to get better through practice, and I challenged myself to make as many sales calls as possible. Now I am comfortable talking to anyone and consistently exceed company quota.”
< ‘DO YOU HAVE
ANY QUESTIONS FOR ME?’
Every interview ends with an opportunity to ask questions of your potential new employer, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Even if you feel as if your interviewer has told you everything you’d wanted to know, not asking questions can make you look uninterested or ill-prepared.
Go in with three prepared questions not easily answerable through a quick Google search. This is the time to show you’ve done your homework and are genuinely invested in learning more.
“What are some challenges that the person in this role faces?”
“How would you characterize the workplace culture?”
“What’s your favorite project you worked on?”
All of these show you want to delve beyond the surface and really get to know what life will be like at the company.
It’s a good idea to write out a couple of bullet points before the interview to organize your thoughts for each of these questions you’ll be asked, but don’t script yourself – you want to appear polished yet natural.
Above all, be the most prepared version of yourself, and you’ll be sure to impress the interviewer.
Emily Carter is a recruiting coordinator at The Denzel Group in Upper Macungie Township, which conducts contingent, retained and staff augmentation information technology searches for a variety of clients. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 610-366-1700.