Most people hate interviews because they don’t like answering the questions which is weird. How else do you get a job? The recruiter has no way of getting to know you except through a Q & A. They haven’t worked with you before. And they’re not having fun interviewing you, either.
Consider that when a recruiter interviews any number of people, from a few to 50, she is lucky to hire even one qualified candidate. If you go into an interview without knowing how to answer interview questions you can be sure you won’t be the candidate who lands the job.
Recruiter: Tell me about yourself.
You: I was born 28 years ago in a small but industrious town……
That’s not what the recruiter wants to hear. Tell me about yourself is the chance to give an elevator pitch. You have about 1 – 2 minutes to get this one right.
Recruiter: Why should we hire you?
You: I’m the best candidate.
Well that was lame. If you were the best candidate the recruiter wouldn’t have asked you why she should hire you. Try this instead.
Recruiter: Why are you leaving your current job?
You: I don’t make enough money, or the classic, my boss is an asshole.
Wow. Well done. No one wants to hear you’re in it for the money or that you hate your boss. A better response would be: “I have had made many achievements at my current company and I am grateful to them for giving me these opportunities. However I feel I have learned skills I can develop further by moving on to a new position (or company). I also believe I have a lot to offer you.”
Recruiter: Why do you want to work for us?
You: Because you’re hiring and you’re a short commute.
My work here is done. This question is the same as “why should we hire you?” A good answer would be “you have an outstanding reputation in your field (if it’s true) and I have the work ethic and attitude to maintain that reputation.”
Recruiter: What is your greatest weakness?
You: I’m a perfectionist.
Oh, brother. That old tried and untrue. What the recruiter hears is “I am a liar and as lazy as the next person.” A better response is to tell the truth but temper it with a solution you have been working on. For instance:
“I’m not very strong with numbers. However I’ve taken additional courses outside of school to improve my business math and get better in this area.” Of course if you’re applying to become an accountant this may not be the best answer.
Recruiter: How much overtime can you devote to us?
You: As little as possible. I have a life, you know.
Ah, the position has been filled. You know you have to put in overtime at work whether you want to or not. It isn’t an option. On the other hand, you aren’t going to devote your life to your work either.
A better answer in this situation would be: “I expect to be putting in overtime hours at this level of work. I seldom complete a major task without putting in some overtime. Depending on my team’s progress and my own progress, that will help determine the number of overtime hours I can offer you.”
Recruiter: What are your greatest strengths?
You: I can burp the alphabet.
They probably don’t even want to know your weaknesses. Avoid tired catchphrases like “team-player“, “motivated”, “inspired”, or “hard-working.” Be as genuine as possible and offer a concrete example. If you are naturally sociable and well-like among your colleagues, say so.
To wit: “I really enjoy working with other people. I find building rapport with people very natural.” Then offer an example of how this skill has helped you to work well on a successful project in your current company.
Probably the most valuable advice about answering interview questions is to always offer concrete, honest examples. It’s too abstract to say things like “I’m a people person,” or “I have a flexible schedule for putting in overtime hours.” If you are going to make such statements, back them up with positive, real examples whenever possible. Put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes; you wouldn’t want vague answers from a potential employee so don’t give them. That won’t get you a job. This book might help. Or not.