A job interview is your first and only opportunity to make a positive face-to-face impression. So, it’s important that you’re prepared to answer whatever questions come your way.
However, not all questions are going to have simple yes or no answers or require you to rattle off your work experience and skills. Employers may simply want to gauge your ability to think critically or assess how you’ll fit into the company culture.
You might be wondering: Where do I begin to answer the question? How much detail is too much detail and what are employers looking for in my answers?
So, here are 4 commonly-asked, interview questions and what employers really want to know:
- What can you tell me about yourself? Employers typically ask this question so they can learn about your previous work experience and gauge your skills. Kathryn Minshew, a writer for The Muse.com, a website that offers career advice to job seekers, suggests that to answer this question, job candidates should use the Present-Past-Future Formula.
This formula prompts job candidates to guide their answer by talking about present and past job positions they’ve held, the skills they acquired through their past positions and how their experiences and skills pertain to the position they’re applying for.
2. What is your greatest weakness? It may seem counterintuitive to go into a job interview and explain in detail your greatest weakness to a potential employer. However, it’s important to realize that they’ll simply want to ensure you’re aware of your weaknesses and have taken steps to improve.
So to answer this question, you might want to share an anecdote about a time one of your weaknesses e.g. an inability to delegate tasks, threatened your work efficiency and explain how you overcame that challenge e.g. by learning to delegate tasks.
Monster.com says that when choosing a weakness to discuss, make sure it’s not directly related to the job you’re applying for e.g. if the job required you to keep track of and file documents, it would be unwise to mention that you have a problem with organization.
Instead, mention that you tend to take on more work than you can handle. So essentially, don’t place doubt in your employers mind that you are unable to handle critical components of the job.
3. What is your greatest strength? When asking this question, employers typically want to confirm that you have the credentials listed on your resumé. So, don’t be vague when giving your answer.
Detail concrete examples of situations where you exhibited a strength in order to complete a task e.g. being detail-oriented helped you to identify a mistake in a client logo that no one else had noticed and was due to be printed on 100+ shirts.
4. Where do you see yourself in five years? According to Dayvon Goddard from LinkedIn, employers want to know that their potential investment in you is going to be a valuable one. Do not place doubt in their minds by suggesting that your potential investment in them is not a long-term one.
Instead, suggest that you are interested in growing with the company and that the position is pertinent to your long-term career goals.
Begin preparing answers to these questions now so you’re not thrown off guard during a job interview. Make sure that you’re confident in your answers so that a potential employer is confident in your abilities.
Need some practice?
The USF Career Success Center conducts mock interviews.
Visit Tower Hall N204
8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Adams, S. (6 February, 2014). 4 ways to use facebook to find a job. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2014/02/06/4-ways-to-use-facebook-to-find-a-job/#16480f0f1fab
Doyle, A. (18 January 2017). Best way to answer interview questions about your weaknesses. Retrieved from https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-your-greatest-weakness-2061288
Goddard, D. (15 July 2014). Where do you see YOURSELF in 5 years? (how to answer). Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140715181346-135125319-where-do-you-see-yourself-in-5-years-how-to-answer
Martin, C. (2017). List of strength & weaknesses: What to say in your interview. Retrieved from https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/greatest-strengths-and-weaknesses
Minshew, K. (2017). A simple formula for answering “tell me about yourself”.. Retrieved from https://www.themuse.com/advice/a-simple-formula-for-answering-tell-me-about-yourself