Zareen Wajid, Talent Acquisition Specialist
Connect with me via. LinkedIn
Congratulations, Graduate! You have the interview of your dreams lined-up. Just thinking about the prospect gives you first-love butterflies and a warm, cozy feeling in your heart and soul. There’s nothing more you want, no job more worthy of your four-year Bachelor’s degree, and no position more appealing than this opportunity you just landed. Well, except maybe getting paid for vacationing, but there’s a term for that… PTO. Alas, I digress.
So, now what? How are you going to entice your future employer? How will you sweep your interviewer off his/her feet? The answer is a simple scheming technique I like to call acting. Essentially, you have to be able to predict what the interviewer will ask you, and rehearse how to answer those questions. Not a conniving technique exactly, but more like a planning and practicing process you must perfect
Let’s discuss the questions first, then we shall delve into your acting skills.
Common Questions Interviewers Ask & How to Answer them
Before I begin, I would like to digress again. It’s not enough to know how not to answer common interview questions. You must also be able to answer them thoughtfully and thoroughly. Hopefully, with this post, I can help you do that.
Back to our friend, the interviewer, and the questions you will be asked.
- Tell me about yourself. This is a fun question. It’s vague, and comes off as nonchalant, a breaking-the-ice type of question. However, since it will be one of the first questions asked, that is exactly what it is not. With this question, the interviewer doesn’t want to know your life story (a common misconception), nor does the interviewer want to hear a step-by-step monologue of your work history (your resume should do that).
The interviewer wants to hear a summarization of your life, mainly career-related accomplishments. Your answer should comprise of three factors: your expertise, two or three characteristics about yourself, and your potential contribution to your future employer. Disclaimer: I know, as a recent graduate, you may not be able to pinpoint your “expertise” in years. You can, however, use your upper-level classes and organizations as evidence of you gaining expertise.
Interviewer: Tell me about yourself.
Interviewee: I have 2 years of experience in research methodology, and I am passionate about improving health and preventing disease. My colleagues will tell you I’m insert adjective, as evidenced by my x project leading to y results. My clients will tell you I’m insert adjective, as evidenced by my p project yielding q results. I have a thorough understanding of this and that, and I can bring ____ to your organization, as I know you are focused on ____.
- Can you walk me through your resume? This question may sound like your interviewer wants to hear a step-by-step monologue of your work history. Don’t be fooled… no one wants to hear that. What the interviewer wants is to gauge your accomplishments, to learn about your KSAs (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities) and to see your projects’ ROI. You can answer this question by chronologically going through your jobs/projects, by descending from major to minor accomplishments, etc. Regardless of the method you choose, make sure to highlight the project, the challenge/situation, your contribution to the project, and the yielded results.
Interviewer: Can you walk me through your resume?
Interviewee: I graduated May 2014 with insert degree. I decided to pursue further studies because… (if applicable). While at insert school name, I worked in PR at x organization and was responsible for y and z. As a PR specialist, I insert accomplishments. Think of two other instances such as this, spread throughout your resume, to discuss.
- Why should we hire you? Why indeed. Common responses to avoid:
• Because I need a job. No kidding, Sherlock! Interviewer needs a hire, but he/she will not be interested in a selfish, non-innovative person like you.
• Because I am perfect for this position. No, no you are not. No one is “perfect” for the position because if you are doing it correctly, it will evolve and interviewers hope, you can evolve with it.
• Because it’s my dream job. Almost there! Why is it your dream job? Even if it is, what exactly are you bringing to the table?
This question is meant to answer why you, as opposed to another applicant/interviewee, should be hired for the said position.
Interviewer: Why should we hire you?
Interviewee: Well, it sounds like you are looking for someone to come in and accomplish ________. As depicted from my experience and background, I can do x, y, z. I know your company is facing this and that challenge, and I believe with my skills in p and q, I can yield ___ results. I am confident I would be a great addition to your insert department team.
- What are your strengths/weaknesses? This is probably one of the easiest common questions. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to answer it methodically though. Let’s focus on strengths first, the easier of the two. As you answer this question in a list format, be sure to include the reasons for your strengths and why that strength is important for said job.
Interviewer: What are your strengths?
Interviewee: One of my biggest strengths is my ability to be thorough. When I worked on project w, thoroughness allowed me to be capture x, y, z, eliminating ___ costs. In this role, I believe I can use this strength to do this and that.
Now, your weaknesses. Yes, you have weakness. No, you shouldn’t hide them or cover them up or manipulate their existence. Try to be honest (notice I didn’t say brutally honest). Try to self-critique. And most importantly, think about your weaknesses you will share before you walk into that interview. As you answer this question, make sure to include how you are improving on your weaknesses (note: I didn’t say how you are planning to… but how you are actually doing it as of now).
Interviewer: What are your weaknesses?
Interviewee: My biggest weakness is that I am very innovative, which is great, but it means I have trouble following through. I tend to start a project with great enthusiasm, but as the project gets rolling, I tend to focus my attention to resolving other immediate needs. I have been working on this though by going through my calendar and setting up follow-up times throughout the week/month to go through the projects activities. That helps me follow-through on the project in all of its stages.
Not too bad, huh?
Well, let’s discuss the acting part. These common questions are so common, for a lack of a better word, that it’s best to write out the answers to these questions, memorize them, and then, practice answering the questions in a conversational tone. If you are good, you may even be able to incorporate jokes and subtle laughs. Avoid knock-knock jokes though.
Interviewee: Knock Knock
Interviewer: Who’s there?
Interviewee: Your new hire.
Interviewer: I don’t see him/her.
OUCH. BURN. So yeah, avoid Knock Knock jokes.
Before concluding, I do have some final pearls of wisdom to share. In order to answer these questions, you will need to do research on the company and the position. There are two positives to this. First, it means that you will be learning so much without realizing it, and inherently, you will be paving the way to answer the not-so-common questions as well. This is not to say that I discourage practicing for all interview questions… but that’s a post for another time. Anyway, secondly, researching and practicing for the common questions will boost your confidence like no other. You surely will be sitting at the interview, proudly thinking, “I knew you’d ask me that!” Now, that’s a great feeling on top of that stuff-your-dreams-are-made-of-job. Confidence comes with practice and preparation, and it will surely help you market yourself at the interview!