Interviewing can be a harrowing experience for candidates, but fortunately, most hiring managers and recruiters will give people a pass on being nervous. What is unforgivable, however, is coming to an interview totally and completely unprepared. If you’re planning on winging it or faking it until you make it, you run the risk of being eliminated in the first round. Fortunately, some interview questions are pretty standard, asked in almost every interview. You want to be sure you have a good response to them before you get in front of the hiring manager. Here are a few common interview questions, along with how NOT to answer them.
So…tell me about yourself. Although this question can be categorized as #LazyRecruiting, it is a question that I like. It’s one of my favorites. Although this one often hinders candidates, the beauty of it is that it allows you to control the narrative. And because it’s usually one of the first questions asked, your answer can set the tone and define the direction of the interview. How not to answer this question? Don’t treat it as an opportunity to share your life story. Instead, use it as a time to give your “elevator pitch,” that highlights your essential qualities.
Why do you want to work here/what interests you about this role? The worst thing you can do is to go into the interview utterly uninformed about the company and the role. For example, if you’re interviewing with G&E, you should know that the company does more than make lightbulbs. Research the company, the position, and the hiring manager before you have a conversation.
What is your greatest strength/weakness? Okay, this is another #LazyRecruiting question. So don’t give it a lazy answer! Don’t say that your greatest strength is your punctuality, or that your weakness is that you’re a perfectionist. Think about a REAL strength and an ACTUAL weakness – yes, a real-life example. “My greatest strength is my ability to lead teams. In my current role, I lead a team of 6 talented developers who, this year, surpassed our release goals by 28%.” Or, “I used to believe my greatest weakness was in understanding financial data and reports. I took a few classes on financial reporting and analysis, and now feel comfortable analyzing what the finance team sends me.”
Where do you see yourself in X years/what are your long-term career goals? Perhaps the interviewer is genuinely curious, but this is a question that has little bearing on the job for which you’re interviewing. Your career goals aren’t what’s relevant; what’s relevant is the business problem that the hiring manager is trying to solve. Instead of, “You know, I really hope to be cashed out, living on the beach, and running a taco truck,” try “I’m interested in growing my skills in X and developing my abilities in Y. This position interested me because it would allow for both of those.” Make it about the employer, not about you.
As with all things interviewing, it’s imperative to practice your responses and to do your research before you get on the phone or get in front of the hiring manager. Identify the three key messages that you want to convey and practice working those messages into your answers to potential interview questions. Most importantly, keep the focus on what you can do for the hiring manager and how you can solve the business problem at hand!