How to Navigate Job Interview Q&A
A Guide to Answering the Most Common Interview Questions
Most people haven’t been formally taught how to conduct a successful interview. Extensive training isn’t a part of most curriculums and it’s up to you to seek resources that will teach you one of the most important skills you’ll learn in your professional career. Here’s how to stand out and put your best foot forward when answering some of the most common interview questions:
What do you know about our company/organization?
This question is not about your company knowledge, it’s about your investment in the opportunity you’re seeking. It’s not uncommon for people run a quick google search to brush up on a few facts to bring into the interview. However, to set yourself apart you need to familiarize yourself with 1) the leadership, 2) the product, and 3) the mission to fully understand the company/organization you are looking to be a part of. To put it simply, this prompt is assessing how much you care. Ensure you align what you’ve learned with your goals and principles. If you find issues with the company that compromise your values or that indicate poor leadership, then maybe it’s not the place for you. Preparing for this question in advance will not only show you care, but also help you to avoid job dissatisfaction down the road.
What are your strengths?
This question requires a balance of confidence and humbleness to avoid coming across as arrogant. You need to believe in your abilities to fill the role you’re applying for, but not so much that you prove yourself incapable of learning from others. Unlike weaknesses, most people won’t take your word for self-proclaimed strengths. Structure your answer with either 1) a strength applicable to the job, 2) a strength you’ve applied in a previous experience, or 3) a personality-related strength. A strength applicable to the job provides the potential to fill hiring gaps, while a previously applied strength allows you to reference other people who gave you related positive feedback. Finally, personality traits such as the ability to persevere or adapt are a perfect opportunity to pull from your personal “story” and times where you’ve experienced personal growth. This type of well-rounded answer will back-up your answer, prove you’ll be valuable in the role, and demonstrate humble, personal reflection.
Tell me about yourself
This is an opportunity to present your own personal pitch and an answer you should practice and commit to memory. This prompt may appear easy at first, but it’s important to have reasoning behind your response and avoid listing off the details already on your resume. It’s a perfect mix of who you are and why you’re valuable to the role you’re applying to. First, think about something you do that promotes an active and healthy lifestyle and make sure you give a reason why you do it. Next, mention volunteer work/instances of giving back and what it’s taught you. You should show that you do more than just work and that what you do is important to who you are. This demonstrates initiative. Finally, mention industry applicable experience, how it has added to your skillset, and why you found value in the work. It’s imperative that every answer has a reason to be there and there’s a “because.” This structure will allow you to efficiently convey personal and professional aspects about yourself as well as your involvement with your community. The number one thing to remember is presenting what you do as valuable with concrete, confident answers.
What’s your biggest weakness?
This is one of the most uncomfortable questions to be asked during an interview. Instinct may tell you to deny all weaknesses because it’s easy to assume that the interviewer is trying to find something that may disqualify you from the job. However, this question can be one of your greatest strengths if you give a well-structured answer. The interviewer isn’t evaluating your self-proclaimed weakness as much as they are focusing on how you answer the question. People who are unable to see their own flaws are often difficult to train and work with. It’s not about the weakness, it’s about demonstrating self-awareness and an ability to act upon improvement areas. Avoid stating that you don’t have any faults or taking too long to think about your answer. It gives the impression you’ve never self-evaluated your weak points before. A weakness that you are actively improving is something to be admired because it demonstrates self-awareness, reflection, and discipline. There are three types of weaknesses you can have in an interview 1) a weakness you are correcting, 2) a weakness that doesn’t interfere with the job, and 3) a weakness with a lighthearted response. You should always begin with a weakness you are correcting and continue with the list if multiple answers are requested. It’s important to think about the who, what, where, when, and why of a specific scenario and avoid general answers. This opens up the opportunity for you to reflect on what you’ve learned and the actions being taken to improve. The next two types of weaknesses will ensure that any further examples won’t detract from the impact of your first response.
Tell me about a time when you’ve took on a leadership role
The number one thing to focus on is how you have resolved conflict. Leaders have a difficult job, because they are responsible for their team’s success and culture. This is a great opportunity to highlight your abilities in a hostile or stressful situation. Focus on 1) how you’ll address those involved and 2) what actions you’ll take if you don’t have the answer. Think of a conflict in the past that you’ve resolved and highlight the skills you exhibited to find a solution. Admitting that sometimes you don’t have the answer can show that you’re not afraid of asking for help. When speaking about your leadership, be sure to highlight the accomplishments of the team as a whole over personal accomplishments. It is easy to think that in an interview the goal is to assign as much credit to yourself as possible, but the best leaders are true team players that recognize the role that the team as a whole played in the orchestration of positive outcomes. By highlighting the team’s accomplishments, and even personal accomplishments for other team members that you helped facilitate, you appear to be a stronger leader than if you only highlighted your own personal accomplishments. If you’ve never held a leadership role, think of a time where you’ve solved a problem that had a positive impact on a larger group of people, or how you’ll build upon your experience as a team member to be a good leader.
So, you didn’t get the job…
No matter how prepared you are, sometimes things just don’t work out. Your attitude after the interview is what determines your success in the next one. The best thing to do is to kindly thank your interviewers and ask them for feedback. Most people don’t take an interview “class” and those who are best are the ones who have had the most practice (this is often those who have been rejected multiple times). Practice makes perfect and understanding where you could improve is key to opening up even better opportunities in the future.