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How to Answer Common Interview Questions – Breaking the Ice – II

How to Answer Common Interview Questions – Breaking the Ice – II

There are some standard questions that are asked in most interviews. We have put together a series of posts to help you prepare for these interview questions and answer them like a boss.

“What do you know about our company?”

Companies like to know that you took the time to research them and learn about what they do, and perhaps something about their values and stated mission, if they have one. The last thing you want to do is show up and say that you don’t know much, but are very willing to learn. That tells them you’ll have the same passive attitude as an employee.

“Why do you want to work here/why are you right for this job?”

Once again, find a way to use your career story to point to exactly this job at this time. Really think about this ahead of time. You don’t have to prove that this is all you’ve ever dreamed about since you were a little kid – unless that’s true. But even then, try not to be too over the top.

And try not to make your answer completely about what this generally represents (I’ve always dreamed of working in the hotel industry), as opposed to explaining why this company in particular fits so well with your career goals.

Again, doing your research ahead of time can make all the difference. And remember when you answer to keep their needs in mind. “I would love to help you to ___.” (Fill in the blank based on your research.)

“Why did you leave (or are thinking of leaving) your last job?”

If you’re still in a job, then your answer can say something about looking for a more challenging job, or realizing that what you really want to do is what this new job offers, or you’re looking for advancement, etc. The main thing is to make it positive and NOT knock your current (or former) employer.

If you were fired or quit your last job, it’s especially important to think about your answer ahead of time. You don’t want to badmouth the last employer, because it makes the interviewer think that one day you’ll be saying this about them, even if you assure them it’s not true.

If something went wrong that they may hear about, be honest (you don’t need to go into great details here), and follow up with what you learned from it and how you’re more determined than ever to do a great job now. If it’s just that it wasn’t a great fit, you can say that – adding something about why you think this job is what you are looking forward to.

“What would your former co-workers / boss tell us about you?”

You’re going to want to look for some things that not only were positive experiences in some prior job, but that point to the new job as well. Some interviewers will be happy with just the experiences, but they would probe you more to understand how well you would fit into the work culture of the company. It is always great if they get to hear that you have been able to build relationships through work and that your colleagues haven’t felt threatened by you. It’s great to be competitive, not ‘fiercely’ competitive. 🙂

Think about things that show how cooperative, resourceful, determined, talented (without sounding too boastful), and pleasant to work with, you are. You don’t have to hit all these points – and we urge you to come up with some of your own – but this should at least give you a good idea where to go with your answer.

Have a few more minutes ? Read our two other posts in this series.

How to Answer Common Interview Questions – Breaking the Ice – I

How to Answer Common Interview Questions – Breaking the Ice – I

We have put together a few pointers on answering the most common questions you can be expected to be asked every time you attend an interview. These are not simply ice breakers but actually very important questions which interviewers ask to gauge a candidate’s ability and attitude.

“Tell me something about yourself…”

One of the favorite questions an interviewer likes to ask a job candidate, usually at the beginning of an interview to get a feel for the candidate. And to see what they choose to reveal about themselves. Remember that there are a lot more questions to come, so you don’t want to start at “I was born in a log cabin… ” And you definitely don’t want to focus on overly personal things like marriage status, health issues and unrelated hobbies.

This is a time to tell your short career story, perhaps starting with education, and touching on key points in your career that ideally lead up to this moment – and the reason you are an ideal candidate. The best things you can tell them about yourself are things that make them think “we can use someone like that.” Learning stories help greatly here.

“What’s your greatest weakness?”

This question is often used by people new to interviewing, but since it can show how a person handles the obvious, even longtime job interview pros may ask it. Go for response that sounds sincere, but winds up as a positive, using the basic format of
(1) this is my weakness;
(2) I’ve worked on it; and
(3) now I’ve learned to turn it into a strength.

It can vary from that, but mainly you want to leave a good impression of how well you face and then overcome issues. What you don’t want to do is play the old worn-out “I work way too hard” weakness card. You might get away with it, but it shows no creativity and possibly leaves a taste of someone who thinks they are outsmarting the interviewer – or trying to.

“What’s your greatest strength?”

There are many good ways to answer this question, but when you prepare for it, try and think ahead of time about what the new job requires (carefully review the job description) and what you’ve done in the past (good to look at your resume). Think of a strength of yours that fits nicely with the job you want. And make sure to have a quick story as an example of how you successfully used that skill / strength in a prior job.

You don’t want to brag, but you also don’t want to seem like you’re uncomfortable talking about your strengths. Again, just answer naturally. It might help to sit up straight when you tell it, leaning in a little toward the interviewer and looking her or him in the eyes with just a bit of a smile (practice this before so that you don’t look creepy :)).

“Where do you see yourself five years from now?”

This is one of those questions with no one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on the type of company and job. Some interviewers look for strong signs of ambition. Others, for a person who will be content to grow slowly, taking on more responsibility as the need arises. And some, although they may not tell you this, are fully aware that you may not see yourself at all in this company in 5 years, but are just looking to see how you handle the question.

Hopefully your research prior to the interview will help you decide what is best. For me, a good answer paints a picture of a person who will look to build solid working relationships, and do their best wherever they are and whatever challenges they are given. Someone looking to become an essential part of the company and take on new projects and opportunities as they arise. You may also want to mention some particular goals you’d like to take on at some point based on the type of job.

Remember – practice makes perfect. If you have a series of interviews lined up, create a cheat sheet for yourself by writing your responses down and reading them aloud to see if they sound right to you.

If you found the post useful, check the next post in this series.