Biz Bits: 5 job interview questions you must be prepared to answer
Tip of the Week
It’s a competitive market for all types of jobs, from entry level on up. If you have an interview scheduled, make certain you’re prepared for the questions you’ll be asked.
The first step is to do your homework, which includes researching the company, the industry and the job position you’re applying for, says Jodi Berkshire, assistant director of Career Services at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. No one can be prepared for every question an employer might ask, but you should be prepared with ways to gracefully answer categories of questions. Here are Berkshire’s top five job interview questions to anticipate:
1. “Tell me about yourself.” Don’t mistake this one for an easy question. If you don’t carefully prepare your answer prior to the interview, it will show. Craft a short response that gives a thumbnail sketch of you professionally. This is a great place to insert some of your sterling qualities and accomplishments, and you should make sure that they dovetail with the requirements of the position for which you are interviewing. Be positive and enthusiastic, and whatever you do, don’t ramble.
2. “What are your strengths?” “Why should we hire you?” Here’s a simple way to prepare. Take a sheet of paper and fold it in half vertically. On one side list all the specific technical qualities that you possess. Look at the job description and consider each skill that is mentioned. For example, if the job description mentions software skills that are required and you have those skills, go ahead and list them. In the other column, list the personal qualities that you bring to the job. These could be things like punctuality, reliability, enthusiasm, work ethic, professionalism, etc. Again, take another look at the job description and anticipate what qualities that hiring manager would be looking for. Here is your chance to sell yourself. Don’t be afraid to let them know what a great addition you’ll be to their company.
3. “What is your greatest weakness?” “How have you overcome it?” You have two good choices here. You can either choose a weakness that is really a strength to an employer (you become so engrossed in your work that you find it hard to take a break until the project is completed), or choose something that you had to master at the beginning of your career that would be an expected learning curve for any entry-level recent college grad (you didn’t really grasp project management in your first job and you had to make a deliberate effort to learn about time lines and time management). If you choose the second example, make sure that you stress how your performance increased once you mastered the missing skill.
4. “What do you know about our company?” “How did you hear about us?” Or, “Why do you want to work for us?” These are all variations on the same theme. The real question is: Did you do your homework? Any interviewer will expect that you have researched the company. That means that you should know their website inside and out. Have you Googled the company? Have you read any recent articles about them? If the only information you have to offer is what any person off the street who isn’t applying for the position knows, it shows that you don’t care enough and you’re not very thorough.
5. “What would your past employer tell me about you?” Again, tread carefully. Do not under any circumstances say anything negative about any past employer. Settle on a few of your strongest qualities and concentrate on those that reflect your strong work ethic and professionalism. Here is another perfect opportunity to sell yourself, but once again, be careful not to ramble.
Once you’ve done your research, practiced answers to commonly asked questions and become comfortable with the idea of selling yourself, remember to smile. In most interview situations, the candidate who appears to be relaxed, confident (not arrogant) and enthusiastic usually has the best chance of being hired.