I have some interview tips for you today, although my own interview experience has not always been brilliant. For the most part, my stories involving interviews are tales of woe. I’m am known to be bad at interviews! Even with confidence before going in I still suddenly have issues when answering questions. A change in the tone or pitch of my voice or abrupt memory loss is a common problem I have. Luckily it isn’t normally an issue that goes past the first interview question once I’ve settled in.
Still, first impressions and all that.
My Experience with Interviews
Whilst I have yet to meet someone who declares they are good at interviews those people are out there. Meanwhile, I’m towards the bottom of the list when it comes to how articulate people are during interviews.
Planned answers often go astray for me, as I will accidentally skip ahead, panic, and then mess up the weird loop back I try to make to clear up the holes in my storied examples. That’s if I even remember the planned answer.
I’m sure you’ve had it too where you have sudden onset amnesia after being asked a question. Often times making it look like you have nothing to say whilst you sit there, sipping on the glass of water provided in an attempt to buy some time, and the interviewers stare on.
Sometimes the interviewers themselves might be the problem. People you know? You become too comfortable and skip saying the bits they need to hear! People you don’t know? Those people are scary.
On the subject of interviewers, I will interject with a tip/statement on them: they often don’t really know what to expect and they are interviewing you because they have a vacancy to fill. They need someone. They are also human. It’s easy to forget they are flawed beings when they sit opposite you whilst you’re being interviewed. I probably wouldn’t tell them that though!
Recently I attended an interview and in my preparation for it, I looked at a lot of information on answering questions. The best ways to do it, tips and tricks, even example answers.
With all this knowledge still swirling around in my brain, I thought it would be a good opportunity to share it with you! I have a few posts planned but this will be the first which will look at what I found in my experience to be the 4 most commonly asked (in some variation or another) questions.
Tips to answer 4 interview questions
1) Tell me about yourself?
This is almost a trick question. They don’t want to know about you as such, just about your life at work. Most importantly they want to know about your work-related skills which can be transferred into the role you’re applying for.
Make sure you study the skills and requirements of the role and talk about your job history whilst highlighting the same skills. Remember to use those cheesy words which interviewers eat up, such as loyal, flexible, adaptable, hard-working, etc.
Remember you must positively reflect on your working life even if that time in your life was not a positive one. Being negative in an interview is a sure way to not get the job. Companies are looking for happy people!
2) Why do you want to work here?
We all know what the real answer to this question is in 9 out of 10 situations: it pays better than my current job and is a step up. However, you already know you shouldn’t say that.
This is actually an ideal time to make them aware of how much preparation you have done for the interview. Link why you want to work for them to things you know about them, such as their excellent customer service. Praising them at this stage can pay dividends. If you know some big changes are coming up then use that as a reason too.
Don’t forget to focus on the skills and requirements of the role, the job description, and anything you have learnt about the company. If you manage to speak to anyone who works at the company that’s even better! Just don’t mention their names.
Also, if they mention in the job description that there are opportunities for training or progression within the role then citing these can be a boon.
3) What are your strengths?
It’s always good to throw out the usual buzzwords at this stage. Start by saying you have many positive qualities and list a few. End on one you can cite an example for. Better yet, give two examples!
With any interview question, you really need to crank out the examples if you want to “score the big marks” and actually get the job. In my experience of interviewing people, those who failed to give good examples did not get the job.
A great example of the strengths question would involve firstly a challenge – ideally set by a manager perhaps during an appraisal – a learning process, and lastly a resolution.
For example: “I feel I stand out particularly due to my strong innovative skills. For example, in an appraisal I had last year my line manager asked me to look at ways that the company could appeal to a larger audience.
I went away from this and gave the topic some deep consideration. I realised an easy way to expand the appeal of the company, as a tourist attraction, would be to make as much as possible available in other languages.
Using my own foreign language skills, as well as those of my teammates, I produced a series of documents, such as price lists and fact sheets about what was on display, which I made available to our international visitors.
Once completed I felt a personal satisfaction from completing such a task but, also, both myself and my line manager noticed improved feedback from international visitors and even some correlating sales in our shop.”
See what I did there? It’s a journey that you need to take your interviewers on!
4) What are your weaknesses?
First and foremost you do have weaknesses so don’t dare go telling anyone you don’t. Especially the interviewers, they won’t be impressed.
The trick here is to provide a weakness that is framed in such a way as to show a learning curve and an attempt to turn the weakness into something positive. Becoming irritated by a certain thing that is out of your control is a good example to give.
This can be framed to suggest you firstly got over it by focusing on your own job/working around the problem. Then you can go on to state that you are actively trying to improve the irritating thing, perhaps by assisting a colleague, taking matters into your own hands to fix something, etc.
Don’t forget to say how that benefits the company too!
Pro-tip: having too much of a positive trait is not a weakness. i.e. your weakness is not that you work too hard or always arrive too early.
I’ll probably revisit interview questions in the future. There is always more to learn and better ways to do things and that is reflected in interview techniques as much as it is in any field. For now, I hope you found some good tips here.
As a final tip I must urge you to always do your research and properly prepare for interviews. I know you are because you are reading this, but make sure you are doing all you can do so you can have a strong foundation to rest on for all of your job interviews. I write about this more in this article, so check it out!
I’m interested to know what tips you have that you want to share with us? Any valuable insights you can provide for those getting ready for a big interview? Share it in the comments!