How To Answer These 10 Common Interview Questions

'Tell me about yourself.' UGH.
PHOTO: Noel J.Federizo

1. “Tell me about yourself.”

This is the elevator pitch—a succinct but impressive summary of your experiences, enough to keep the employer interested. Because this sounds so casual, most people make the mistake of rambling on about where they’re from, where they went to school, what their hobbies are. That’s not what they’re asking here. The idea behind it is that when you only have 60 seconds, you better make them count. A good strategy is to break it down into three parts: what you’ve done, what you’re currently doing, what you want to be doing. 

2. “Tell me something about yourself that isn’t in your resume.”

This is a wonderful opportunity for when you’re applying for a job in an industry that you have zero experience in. How can you use this to your advantage? You can talk about hobbies or interests that will help you perform well. This is also the perfect time to explain any employment gaps in your resume. Trust us, your interviewer is thinking about it so you might as well be upfront about it.

3. “What are your strengths?”

Self-promotion is really tricky. You don’t want to seem overly confident, but you also don’t want to appear insecure. The best strategy here is to go through your accomplishments and the positive feedback you’ve gotten in the past, list down three values, and back them up with stories. Don’t just say, "I’m really organized." and expect that to sell. Anecdotes and numbers never hurt.

4. “What are your weaknesses?”

Please remember that nobody is perfect and the interviewer doesn’t expect you to be. This question is always asked for a reason—they want to know if you’re self-aware, mature, and willing to grow. Be honest.

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A good example: "I’m an introvert so working with people who have big personalities can be daunting for me, but I never let that affect the quality of my work."

5. “Why do you want this job?”

A lot of people get stuck whenever they’re asked this question during an interview, especially if they’re applying for a job out of necessity and not passion. If you’re going to accept an interview, regardless of being thrilled about the job or not, do not waste anybody’s time by going there unprepared. Your answer should reflect that you’ve done your research and that you respect them enough to understand the responsibilities of the position. That’s the bare minimum. Of course, if it’s your dream job, you won’t need any help expressing your enthusiasm for the opportunity. 

6. “Why should we hire you?”
Question #5 is all about why you love the company. This question is all about why the company should love you. How are you a good fit? What can you offer them? If you have no experience, you can talk about your strengths. One secret is that most companies really value loyalty. Make them believe that you’re in it for the long haul, that this isn’t just a transition job until something better comes along.
 

7. “Why should we not hire you?”
Ooohhh! Bet you didn’t see that coming! This is sort of like when you’re asked about your weaknesses.
 

Here’s how you can answer this question: "A disadvantage I have right now is that I lack professional experience, but I make up for that with my unparalleled work ethic." And then hit them with leadership or org stories! Also, being a fresh grad can be advantageous in that you’re like a blank slate, a sponge! In theory, it'll be easier for you to adapt to their work culture because you aren’t used to another company’s. 

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8. “Tell me about a time you had conflict with your boss or with a coworker.”

NEVER TALK ABOUT ANYTHING PERSONAL. Focus on that one time you disagreed on how to approach a project. Recall that time you had conflicting schedules so there was a lot of miscommunication before a deadline. Stick to stories with clear resolutions. Do NOT throw anyone under the bus. Do NOT play the blame game. You may think you’re being clever but your interviewer will see right through that and find it unprofessional.

9. “Tell me about a time you failed.”

They aren’t asking about your grades, although you can certainly bring that up as well. They mostly want to know how you recovered from it. The first thing you have to do is define what failure is to you and then go through the stages of a story. 

For example: “I define failure as not meeting a goal with the resources I’m given. During my last quarter in college, I failed a class mostly because my family was going through a rough time and I dropped the ball by not asking for help. I thought that they’d see my inability to catch up while going through something at home as an excuse. I now know that there is no shame in needing a little support and that people can empathize more than I thought.”

10. “What would make you leave a company?”

There’s no trick to this. Think about what you would absolutely hate about a company and say it. If you don’t work well in a hyper competitive environment, say it. If you don’t respond to money as a motivator, say it. There’s no wrong answer. Remember: this is also your time get to know the company. You need to know if it works for you and if it’s a place that fosters professional growth. 

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Got any more questions you need help with? Let us know in the comments section! 

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