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How To Answer Ten Common Interview Questions — With Confidence
Almost every job-seeker has found themselves stumbling over one of the standard job interview questions at some point. That’s okay! We stumble over common interview questions because we haven’t had the chance to think through our answers in advance.
You don’t have to memorize your answers to common interview questions like the ten listed below.
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The specific words you choose to answer the question aren’t important. What’s important is your mindset.
What’s the most healthy, appropriate and effective mindset for any job interview? It’s this: the mindset that you’re happy to be in the interview conversation but you aren’t desperate to get the job.
You are confident, instead — confident that if this is the right job for you, you will know it and the interviewer will know it, too.
You have no one to please or impress at a job interview. They are checking you out, and you are checking them out too! If they don’t like your brand of jazz, they can hire someone else. You don’t have to contort yourself into pretzel shapes to try to make them like you.
As you read through these questions and sample answers, picture yourself sitting in the interview room feeling strong and contented with yourself. Keep in mind that the right manager for you will see your talents and intelligence right away.
If they can’t see those things on their own, do you really want to talk them into hiring you?
You are only as powerful as you believe yourself to be. Other people will only be able to see your power when you feel it yourself!
Sample Answers For The Ten Most Common Interview Questions
1. Why do you want this job?
To answer this question, talk about the job — not about yourself. This is an opportunity to make it clear that you’ve read the job ad, thought about it and understand (or at least have an idea) what the job is about.
Interviewer: Why do you want this job?
You: It sounds like this position has a lot to do with keeping projects on track, and that’s something I love to do. I want to run bigger projects that involve more than one vendor, and my impression is that this role will let me do that. Am I on track with that idea?
End of Script
Whenever you can end your answer with another question, do it! That will help move the interview out of Q & A mode to become a real, live, human conversation.
2. What is your greatest strength?
This question is lame, but you can turn it into a story-telling opportunity like this:
Interviewer: What’s your greatest strength?
You: I think it’s my ability to see beyond the immediate facts of a situation to the larger picture — here’s an example. We had a crisis at my job last year. A competitor threatened to sue us over a trademark issue. We knew their complaint had no merit and that if we got sued we would win, but some of our company’s leaders wanted to back off on our marketing activities for that product in case things didn’t go our way.
I broke down the marketing plan to show which marketing activities were already committed and which could be put on hold — and then it was obvious that there was no benefit to slowing down, much less stopping, our marketing efforts for that product whether we ended up getting sued or not.
We didn’t get sued and that product is still going strong, but my analysis helped guide us through a sticky situation. The company’s executives really appreciated the insights we got from taking apart the marketing plan piece by piece. That was a huge learning experience for me!
3. What is your greatest weakness?
Interviewer: What’s your greatest weakness?
You: I used to stress and obsess about things I didn’t think I could do as well as I should have been able to. Eventually it hit me that I’ll never be good at everything in life — who is? The key for me is to focus on getting better at things I do well. There are so many things I have no business doing, like building Excel spreadsheets and writing code. I need to focus on what I’m good at and love to do, especially writing website copy and creating powerful messaging for customers.
End of Script
4. With so many talented applicants, why should we hire you?
You: Great question! Let’s see if I understand what you’re looking for. My impression is that you need someone to support the sales team with customer callbacks and prospecting so they can focus on closing big deals. I see the job as preserving the sales team’s time and energy by taking care of their day-to-day customer support and making sure they don’t waste a minute talking to unqualified prospects. Is that pretty close to what you’re looking for?
5. Where do you see yourself in five years?
You: Five years from now I expect to continue exploring the world of investor relations and strategic communication. Given how much I’ve learned about those topics in the three years I’ve spent in the field and the incredible pace of change in the business world, there’s no telling what a role like mine will look like five years from now. I’m excited to see what these next five years bring!
6. What would your last boss say about you?
You: My last boss would say that I supported her both by helping to carry out her agenda and also by playing the devil’s advocate role to anticipate issues she might not have thought of otherwise. She would say that I gave my best to the job and wasn’t afraid to get tough issues out on the table. That’s one reason my boss and I worked together so well.
7. What’s your greatest career accomplishment so far?
You: My greatest professional accomplishment has to be managing my job while making room for my personal life, my health and my outside commitments. I’m thrilled that I am able to serve as VP of Programs for the International Society of Frogs and Toads in addition to holding down a busy job. The two roles reinforce one another. I think professional associations are incredibly important for anyone operating in the global business community. What do you think?
8. What would you like to achieve in this company?
You: I’m interested in learning more about your structure and culture and especially, your long-term mission and strategy. I love to take on new challenges and would never say no to the chance to dig into a meaty assignment, but I care less about titles and promotions than I do about working on issues that will have a big impact on the organization’s future. How do you see the company evolving over the next year or two?
9. Do you consider yourself a team player?
You: Here’s a quick story about that! I worked on a team with fifteen people based in four continents. It was hard for us to connect in real time. We worked out ways to stay in the loop, all based on mutual trust. If anybody had an issue with another team member, or any kind of miscommunication, we made sure to bring it up rather than keeping silent or complaining to somebody else about the problem. It was a huge learning experience but I grew muscles during that project, and so did my colleagues.
10. How do you feel about working nights and weekends?
You: My working style is to give everything during the day and then shut down my operation for the evening, and recharge my batteries. I try not to take work home, and I seldom have to worry about it because I’m very careful in making commitments. I take due dates seriously. I almost never work on the weekend unless there’s an emergency. If there is an emergency, I try to make sure the same issue doesn’t flare up again.
I’ve learned over the years that if I burn out then I’m no good to myself, my employer or the people who rely on me. What’s your take on work/life balance?
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You will never get the job you deserve by begging or pleading for it, because the only managers who want to hire beggars and pleaders are fearful managers who don’t deserve your talents.
Walk into every interview with the idea that if the job is right for you and vice versa, then it will happen. You don’t need to convince anybody you are right for the job.
You’ll be amazed what happens when you step into your power. Fearful weenie managers will be horrified at your confidence. You’ll see those emotions right on their faces! That’s okay.
Let them recoil in horror as you speak — it’s good for them to be shaken out of their stupor every now and then.
The right manager — a confident person with heart and vision — will be happy to meet an adult who knows who they are and what they bring. They will be thrilled to meet you. That is the manager you’ve been waiting to meet. That’s the only kind of manager you have time for!
I was a Fortune 500 HR SVP for 10 million years, but I was an opera singer before I ever heard the term HR. The higher I got in the corporate world, the more operatic the action became. I started writing about the workplace for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1997. Now I write for …