It doesn’t matter how long you spend practicing answers to all possible interview questions, there are some common interview questions that trip up even the most prepared job hunter. According to Vicky Oliver, the author of 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions- “Jobseekers need to treat interviews like a final exam, because it’s ”rigorous” and “psychologically draining.” Sometimes recruiters ask tricky and creative questions at the initial stage of the interview in order to judge your creative ability.
Here are the top 5 common interview questions and answers that employers commonly ask at job interviews and more importantly: what they want to hear in response. These questions seem straightforward, but actually answering just one question poorly may put you on the spot during the interview. Don’t think that you have to memorize an answer, but do think about what you’re going to say beforehand so that you may put your best foot forward.
1. “Tell me about yourself.”
In professional speaking, the employer wants you to give an overview of your educational background, work experience, and professional objectives. Because it is such a common question, it’s quite strange that most candidates drop their guard and don’t spend time to plan exactly how to answer it.
How to answer: You must understand that the interviewer does not want here a long dissertation on your family and hobbies. Be ready with a sharp-edged reply in one or two sentences, but make sure that it doesn’t sound rehearsed. Keep your answer concise and limit it to your past jobs as well as work experience, unless specifically asked about your personal biography. It will not only set the stage for further discussion, but will also separate you from your competitors.
2. “Why do you want this job?”
This is one of the most predicable and important questions yet it catches you off guard. By asking such question, hiring manager wants to know why you think this job is suitable for you or why you want to work there. Obviously, the first answer that will come to your mind is, “Because you have an opening, and I need a job.” While this is true, you won’t make any points in a job interview with this answer.
How to answer: For answering this question, you need to show that you have researched and have found this position is a good match for your skills, background, and work experiences. You can also add the positive image of the company by specifying some of the good reasons you want to work for the company.
3. “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
The interviewer asks this question to filter those employees who have a clear mindset about their career goals and objectives.
How to answer: Do not say that you don’t think of your plans (even if you don’t) and do not give general answers like “I would expect to develop my skills as far as I am able and to grow with the responsibility I am offered.” This question permits you to show that you have researched job paths and that your professional objectives align with the job opening. You can check the employer’s hiring literature to get an idea of the career routes followed by past graduates.
4. “Tell me about your weakness?”
The hiring manager really wants to ask you about how much you know about yourself and are you proactive about getting better. The interviewer can also ask this question in other way like “How would your enemy describe you?”
How to answer: Try to avoid saying, “I am a perfectionist.” This answer has been used more than a dozen times so even if this answer really is true for you, it sounds clichéd. Also, interviewers are aware about this trick. According to Miriam Salpeter, the career coach and blogger, this answer is not practical because no one wants to do work with a perfectionist. The better strategy to answer this is with real-life experience that you faced in the past or by stating a weakness that you have worked on to improve. Everyone has weakness and if you have then don’t refuse to admit. And if you deny it, an employer will mark you down as egotistical and untruthful. Be sure to describe what action(s) you are taking to proactively improve upon the weakness.
5. “What are your salary requirements?”
The question about salary makes many interviewees uncomfortable during the interview. Moreover, this can be difficult especially when you are switching to another company or relocating to a new city.
How to answer: Don’t panic. Respond gracefully when the interviewer asks this question because it will have an effect on your future compensation package. Remember that the employer has probably already had the salary discussion and decided what the salary for this post should be; only some will be in a condition to negotiate. The best way is to tell the recruiter that you are searching for a best-fit job wise and not necessarily focused on the money. However, you can negotiate a higher amount if you don’t get a proper salary according to your work experience.
These are common yet important questions along with suggested answers. If you have additional ideas about how to answer such questions, please share them in the comments below.
Gloria Tesch is a Career Counselor and a passionate blogger who loves to share her ideas on topics related to money, academic and women’s interest. When she is not writing, she spends her time reading books.