Wouldn’t it be great when entering the labor market to submit a resume and quickly receive a call from a hiring manager, who says: “Based on your CV alone, I can tell you are qualified for the position. When can you start?” Of course, the reality is that all candidates go through the interview process before they are offered a job. And, in most cases, you are asked at least a few questions that put your thinking and communication skills to the test.
Here are 4 tough questions commonly asked by employers and strategies for answering them appropriately:
1) Can you tell me about yourself?
Many candidates are tripped up by this, the opening question of most interviews. The reason: It’s so broad that you might have trouble determining whether the hiring manager is attempting to make small talk or wants a short summary of your career. The safest bet is to limit your response to professional qualifications and achievements.
An ideal answer should be brief yet include enough information about your skills and experience, especially those that relate to the requirements of the open position, that the hiring manager understands the ways in which you could benefit the company. A rambling answer with few specifics could cause the potential employer to question your fit for the job.
Here’s an example of what to say: “I don’t have any experience in the accounting profession but during my studies I volunteered as an accountant with my hockey club. During all the holidays I worked for an agency on finance projects and assisted to install….”
2) What interests you about this job?
Hiring managers ask this question because they want to make sure you view the job opening as more than just a short-term stop. They seek employees who are enthusiastic about the company and position. As a result, your response should demonstrate you have researched the organization prior to the interview and believe the opportunity is a good match for your skills.
The point you should try to convey is that you are being selective in your job search. Here’s a sample response: “I’ve long admired your company’s position as a leader in the industry. From the research I’ve conducted, I understand your firm has recently expanded its European operations. At XYZ Inc., I was working on a temporary basis and responsible for …..”
3) What are your weaknesses?
The rule of thumb most job seekers follow is to turn a negative trait into a positive one. “I’m a workaholic” is a classic example. But these types of responses can seem rehearsed or insincere.
A better approach is to name an actual weakness but follow it up with steps you are taking to overcome the flaw. For example, you might admit that you have trouble addressing large crowds but are currently enrolled in workshops to improve your public speaking skills.
4) Do you have any questions?
The short answer to this query should be “Yes.” Asking one or two targeted questions of the hiring manager at this point of the interview not only demonstrates your interest in the position but also may shed additional light on the intricacies of the job.
Before the interview, think of 10 things you’d like to know about the company. These could range from “Who will my manager be?” to “What are your thoughts about the acquisition of Company X by your firm’s largest competitor?” Though some of your questions are likely to be answered during the course of the interview, chances are you’ll have a few left over at the end.
One note of caution: Don’t inquire about salary, benefits, vacation days unless a job offer has been extended to you. Asking about these details in an initial interview could make the hiring manager think you care only about compensation and perks.
Interviews are a necessary step in the hiring process, but they don’t have to be intimidating. Prepare for some common brainteasers in advance and ask for a minute to consider your answers when faced with particularly challenging topics. Displaying grace under pressure will highlight your professionalism and help you stand out as a candidate.