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Interview

12 Most Common Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

By | Career Advice, Featured, Interview, Job Search, Uncategorized

What are the interview questions that intimidate you the most? Questions like “Why should we hire you?”; “What can you offer our company?”; “Tell us more about yourself.”; or all? 

You might be perfect for the job, yet the overwhelming task of answering these interview questions in a few coherent sentences leaves you in tears or screams. How about we eliminate this hassle forever?

Unlike any other “how to answer” guide, this won’t force-feed you model answers but model practices on how to approach and think of the perfect answers for these interview questions.

Question 1: Tell me about yourself

The most perplexing of all the interview questions! Well, where do I begin? Summing up your entire professional career in a few lines seems like a reasonable, not at all anxiety inducing, question to begin with.

What they actually mean: What experience, skills, or knowledge do you have that are relevant to the job I am trying to fill?

How to answer:

  • Start out with your most recent position and accomplishments and work your way down the lane. 
  • Pick an accomplishment or key strength and tailor it to fit the job. I might be a copywriter but my strongest suit is research and pinpointing insights, so I always choose to focus on that and how this specific skill set is crucial to the company.
  • Make sure to narrow it down to 2 or 3 experiences that showcase that strength/accomplishment. 
  • Wrap up with how your previous experience positioned you to be the perfect candidate for the job.

Question 2: Why should we hire you?

Most interview questions are sales pitch questions, but this one specifically is the ultimate sales pitch. Here you should make it all about them; talk about their needs and how you will benefit them. 

 What they actually mean: What makes you a better hire than all the other applicants?

How to answer:

  • Do your homework! Research the company before the interview, figure out their needs, and tailor your answer to focus on the skills you have that meet their needs. 
  • List your relevant skills and abilities. 
  • Connect these skills with the job’s requirements: 
    • The requirements you meet
    • The requirements you exceed
    • The requirements you don’t meet (this is a chance to show credibility and ability to admit to shortcomings and mistakes)
  • Talk about specific things you can help them achieve. 

To prove your skills further, use recommendation letters, testimonials, or any other documents that will help establish your point.

Question 3: Why do you want to work for our company?

After the why we should want you comes the why do you want us. This is the employer’s not so subtle way to see how much you are actually interested in this specific company and not just this specific job.

What they actually mean: What interests you about this company?

How to answer:

  • Mention work-related reasons why their company interests you.
  • Talk about your career goals and how they fit into the company.
  • Tell them what drew you to their company. Align yourself with the company’s mission, vision, and values or tell them about any positive experiences using their service or product.

Question 4: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Well, such interview questions should be abolished by now, but we have it on good authority that it’s often asked in interviews. So here’s how to tackle this mediocrity!

What they actually mean: Will you ditch us in a year?

How to answer:

  • Highlight the skills you would want to develop along those five years and a general idea of how you are going to do that. 
  • Show them that you plan on moving up the ladder and not staying at the position you are applying for longer than necessary.
  • The key here is to be pragmatic and methodical. Keep it professional, realistic, and applicable with a general or even a step-by-step plan of how you are going to get there.

Question 5: What is your greatest weakness?

This one is very self-deprecating. How can you pitch your weakness in a way that still makes you perfect for the job? 

What they actually mean: How will your weaknesses affect your job performance?

How to answer:

  • Pick a real weakness you have, nothing that is generic or would sound rehearsed, none of that “my only flaw is that I am a perfectionist” nonsense. 
  • Discuss what obstacles this weakness created for you or your workflow.
  • Then end with the measures you took/are taking to overcome it.

Try to pick something skill based and not personality based.

When mentioning your weaknesses, try the CAR story formula (Challenges, Actions, Results)

Question 6: What is your greatest strength?

Maybe not as hard to answer as the weakness question, but it will still leave you flustered: how to walk the very thin line between confidence and arrogance when talking about your strengths!

What they actually mean: How will your natural strengths help us?

How to answer:

  • Always pick one or two specific strengths to talk about; don’t just randomly list strengths. 
  • Provide examples to prove how your strengths helped your performance in previous jobs.

Often at interviews, you feel like you weren’t asked about this one specific thing you wanted to talk about. Use this question to direct the conversation towards any experience or accomplishment you want to emphasize.

Question 7: Why do you want to leave (or why did you leave) your current (last) job?

This one is sensitive. Needless to say, you can’t bad-mouth your current or previous employers but you should have a concrete reason for leaving.

What they actually mean: What went wrong with your last employer?

How to answer:

  • If you were fired: admit to the fact that you were terminated and address why it happened and how you will make sure it won’t happen again.
  • If you resigned: talk about how this job change was deliberate. Focus on what you are hoping to gain by moving forward and never talk disparagingly about your previous employer.
  • Some examples of why you left your job are as follows:
    • Desire to learn
    • Desire to take on more responsibility
    • Desire to take on less responsibility
    • Desire to relocate
    • Desire for a career change
    • Desire to gain a new skill or grow a current skill
    • Company reorganization has led to change in job content
    • Desire for a shorter commute to work
    • Desire to improve work-life balance

Question 8: What are your salary expectations?

Let’s talk money! This question might be the very first step to any salary negotiations with your employer. Answer with too high a salary and you might scare them off; give them too low a salary and you would be underpaid. 

What they actually mean: Can we afford you?

How to answer:

  • Do a thorough research about the total compensation this employer provides. 
  • Total compensation includes the insurance, bonuses, company transportation, vacation days, among others. All of these might seem like added benefits to you but they are added expenses for the employers.
  • Research your salary range in the market through websites such as Glassdoor, PayScale, Salary.com, and SalaryExpert.com.
  • When you name a number for the employer, base it on all that research combined.

Question 9: What do you think we could do better or differently?

This is a common question for startups to ask. Companies need to know that you can add something, not only do your job but also contribute to helping this company grow by thinking forward as a part of it.

What they actually mean: Can you think critically and strategically to bring something new to the table?

How to answer:

  • Before the interview, you must use their product or service. Also, be sure to check their website, social media pages, and ads.
  • Bring your insights and ideas. What new features would you be most excited to build? How would you engage new users (or reengage existing ones)? How could the company increase conversions? How can customer service be improved?

These people have been working at this company for years, so they have probably exhausted any and all options to improve their product. To show that you understand and respect that, try ending your answer with a question like “Did you guys consider that approach as you were working on this? I’d love to know more about your process.”

Question 10: How do you deal with stress and pressure?

Any job is guaranteed to have rough patches where pressure is an all-time high for everyone involved. Employers need to know that you can battle through these times. Here, personal skills and self-management tactics are key to your survival.

What they actually mean: Will you break down or fold when the going gets tough?

How to answer:

  • Pick one of the stables of stress and pressure in the workplace, something that surely happens like tight deadlines, communication problems with manager or peers, and so forth.
  • Demonstrate how you have a different action plan for these stressful times.
  • Delve into the world of energy and time management and pick a tactic that works for you. Sleep cycle adjustment, meditation or breathing exercises, and so on show the employer that you know how to make life changes to adjust to the stress while still maintaining being healthy.

Question 11: Why is there a gap in your resume?

Everything happens for a reason. Your employment gap is grounds for speculation: what would make someone stop working all of a sudden? What could be so important that you would prioritize it over a job? 

What they actually mean: Were you just being lazy and that’s why you took the gap?

How to answer:

  • Explain why you’ve got gaps in your resume.
  • Share the value you picked up along this gap; show them that it wasn’t fruitless to your own development as a person.
  • Keep your explanation short. Have a finish line so you don’t trail off into embarrassed silence.

If your gaps are longer or more frequent, consider providing a brief note in your resume with a reason for the gap in employment. Just list it like any other job. Put your previous positions with the dates you held them. And for your gap, you’d have dates there too and a one-line explanation (“I took a hiatus from work in order to care for an elderly family member in need”).

Question 12: Do you have any questions for me?

This is how every interview is wrapped up. It’s better to not just say “No questions, thanks!” You should seize this opportunity to leave an impression. 

What they actually mean: Are you going to miss the chance to learn firsthand about the employer, the company, and its environment?

How to answer:

  • To avoid being stuck at a job you hate, make sure to learn more about the company, the team, and the job.

Avoid asking about the salary, company perks, benefits, or vacations. Save these questions after they have formally offered you the job. Questions like these make it seem like you are more interested in what the company can offer you, rather than contributing to the work this company does.

Key takeaways

  • Always research the employers.
  • Quantify your achievements in terms of numbers, percentages, or dollars.
  • Use storytelling to show how you used your skills in past jobs.
  • Always wrap up your answers with how your actions helped your previous employer or how you are perfect for the current position.

Feel like you need even more preparation for the interview, let alone the interview questions part? Book a one-on-one session with one of our career experts and nail your next interview like a pro.

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handshake-job interview

How to make sure you are ready for your next interview

By | #AskYosra, Featured, Interview, Job Search

When getting a job interview, some think of it as a test where they have to answer all the questions correctly, and others believe that googling a list of “the most common interview questions” is what it takes to be ready. In reality, neither approach is enough to prepare for a job interview. Interviews have two purposes. To the interviewer, he/she wants to know a couple of clear facts about what you can do for the company and how well you fit into the company culture and environment. As for you, it’s an excellent opportunity to boost your chances of getting hired through talking about your skills and showcasing how relevant they are to the job.
Achieving both of these goals when you’re under pressure takes some planning and work in advance. While there is no best way to ace an interview, every interview is a learning experience, and your preparation work can surely make you feel less nervous as well as lay an essential base for the upcoming interviews.

Know your audience

interview-glasses-hands-talking

So you have your interview scheduled, and you are quite familiar with the company and its product(s), do you think this is enough information? Better think again. Many people rely on their basic knowledge or the “About us” tab on the company website, while it takes more than just that to come across as knowledgeable and prepared in a job interview.

  1. Spend a few hours learning as much as you can about the company, use different sources besides the official website as it won’t give you the kind of in-depth information you are seeking; read news releases and talk to friends and contacts who have worked there (if applicable). Who are the company competitors? What innovations are on the industry horizon? Who are the key leaders in the field? You need to be able to talk about these topics comfortably.
  2. After that, you need to get a sense of “Who” the company is so you can identify what kind of employees work and excel there. The easiest way to get this information is by asking around your network (in case you already know someone that works there). Another is by checking the company social media pages and reading the published blog articles; the content on these pages will speak volumes about the company environment and culture.
  3. No matter what role you are interviewing for – engineering, sales or marketing- you should ideally use the company products more than one time (if possible). When hired, you will take part in adding value to this said product and its users, so being a user yourself and having feedback is considered a first step.
  4. Before your interview, try to get a list of the people you are meeting with from the company (if possible) you can ask during the phone interview about the name of the person you are meeting with and their position in the company. It’s an opportunity to prepare questions about that person’s focus in the company to help you better understand the nature of the work there.

Anticipate interview questions

Your resume lists all your accomplishments and experiences, and since you already got an invitation for an interview, most probably your interviewer has already gone through your resume. Communicate how will you use these past experiences to help the company in the future.

  1. Even if you consider yourself an interviewing machine, it’s essential to spend time going through your resume and thinking carefully what skills and experiences resonate the most with the job. The interviewer doesn’t have the time to listen to the full story of your life; you need to plan and decide on the points that you want to bring up during your interview. (these points will probably be slightly different in everywhere you interview depending on the role and the company)
  2. Have an answer to “tell us about yourself.” In most cases, interviewers ask this at the very beginning of your interview, and you want to make sure your answer is attractive enough. A well-structured way to answer this is what I like to call “The Present – Past – Future Technique.” First, you start by the present – what you are currently doing. Then, talk about your past experiences- a little bit of the skills you gained in your previous experiences. Finally, finish with the future – what excites you for the position and what are you looking forward to adding to the company. Let me give you an example:
    If someone asked, “tell me about yourself,” you could say:
    “Well, I’m currently an account executive at Company X, where I handle our top performing client. Before that, I worked at an agency where I was on three different major national brands. Moreover, while I enjoyed the work that I did, I’d love the chance to dig in much deeper with one specific company in the industry, which is why I’m so excited about this opportunity.”
    Remember, of course, that your answer should highlight the accomplishments and skills that are most relevant to the interviewer when thinking about the position.
  3. Don’t forget about the numbers! Always try to increase the weight of what you’re saying by using percentages, increases or quotas while talking about your responsibilities and accomplishments. It makes your story more compelling and helps you tell your hiring manager how awesome you are!

Practice, practice, practice.

As part of your interview preparation, you should be ready to discuss everything on your resume. Spend time not only rehearsing possible questions, but also reflecting on your experiences to date and studying the job description. When you know your story inside out, it is easier to come up with examples to just about any interview question in your way.

  1. Once you have answers to all possible scenarios, it’s time to get a bright idea of how you sound and look to other people. For example: does your voice sound dull and unenthusiastic? Alternatively, do you talk too fast? Does your body language reflect confidence? Do you say “uh” too much? It’s easy to get that feedback through having a mock-up interview with one of your friends or family members.
  2. Use an interview Cheat Sheet to help you compile all the information that you need to remember on the day of the interview; what topics do you need to bring up? Also, what questions you want to ask?
  3. When it’s your turn to ask questions, make sure you have your research has covered this part as well. Employers like seeing a candidate that’s interested in the role and the company. For example, you can ask:
  • What was the thinking behind this marketing campaign?
  • Can you give me an example of previous success?
  • How well does the company’s vision align with its actual activities?
  • What do you see as the primary goals for the person in this role over the next year?
  • Also, do NOT ask about salary or benefits until you are in final consideration for the position.

Show up on time and dress appropriately

Good for a startup interview
Good for a creative job interview
Good for a corporate job interview
Unfit for interviews
Too much for an interview
Unfit for interviews
Good for a creative job interview
Good for a creative job interview
Good for a start up interview
  1. Showing up late to a job interview is never excusable, and even if you felt like you answered all the questions brilliantly, your late arrival will always be a huge turn-off. Before your meeting, try to learn the fastest route to the company as well as other alternative routes (if available). Also, arrive 10 or 15 minutes early so you can take some time to catch your breath and get your head in the right place. It’s good to have a printed copy of your resume (neat one) and a notebook in case you wanted to jot down any comments.
  2. Back in the old days, you used to wear your best suit for any job interview. Startup executives changed that by regularly wearing hoodies and comfy clothes to the office. If you’re not sure about what to wear to a particular interview, see if you have a contact that works there and can give you a heads up as to what they wear around the office. If you don’t have that luxury, you can check the company’s gallery on their website or facebook page and see how employees and executives dress, or you can ask your recruiter on the phone while scheduling the interview.
  3. Don’t forget the little things: press your outfit, shine your shoes and make sure your nails look neat. The stuff that you think people don’t notice, but they do! Also, do a little pampering to yourself (if needed); the things that make you feel at your best, whether it’s a new haircut or a new outfit. Feeling good about yourself will always boost your confidence!

After the interview

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  1. Do an interview assessment; write down all the challenging points that were tackled and reflect on your answers to them. It is an excellent exercise to help you formulate better, more structured responses in your second interview or even in similar, future cases.
  2. Anyone who is currently applying for jobs knows that hiring processes could drag for weeks. It’s always wise to ask about the hiring process before leaving the company. When and how will you get feedback? Do they only contact the candidates selected for the second phase? Alternatively, everyone who went through the first interview? That way you will get an idea about when to expect an invitation back or when to know that you didn’t make it to the next step.

Finally, no matter how much you think you nailed that job interview, don’t just sit along waiting for your phone to ring. Keep up with your job search and explore other opportunities. You never know what might be waiting for you out there!