The Best Answers You Can Give During a Job Interview

If you’ve been in the job market for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with the standard approach that prospective employers take when it comes to delving into a candidate’s worthiness for an open position.  The interrogation…sorry, we mean interview, starts off with a review of your qualifications, the job description and a discussion of essential background topics.

After the initial “get to know you” introductions are completed, things take a turn way south with the introduction of THE questions.  Anyone who’s seen the inside of a conference room knows what we mean here.  The dreaded, open-ended intellectual proddings that were designed by someone, way back when, who thought that leaving things open-ended was the best way to pry into the depths of a candidate’s personality.  

Yeah, we’re not exactly big fans of these types of interview tactics, but your next employer most likely will be which means you should be prepared to answer in order to have the best shot of landing that job offer.  Don’t worry, though, we’ve got strategies and tips for tackling the answers like a pro.

Tell Me About Yourself

This tricky little query will most likely inject itself during the early part of your interview, possibly as an icebreaker.  While you may be tempted to talk about your penchant for knitting or overshare the fact that you’ve broken 15 bones and had your appendix out, don’t be fooled by the casual nature of the question.  

Interviewers are looking for character traits that make you the perfect candidate for the job both from an experience and personality perspective.  Think about what traits you may have that achieve this end.  For example, if the position calls for management experience, discuss your role leading the local boy scouts or the fact that you’re the head of your local HOA.  

Another perfectly acceptable trait is to be straightforward and mention your qualifications, background, and skillset in a non-illustrative way.  Read the situation and your potential interviewer to decide which tact to take.

Tell Me About a Time…

This is one that can hang up even the most seasoned of interviewees.  When your prospective employer is asking for a specific time you demonstrated x, y or z skill or had to accomplish a specific task, be sure to use this as an opportunity to match up your prior experience with the job description at hand.

You most likely have plenty of answers you could roll out if you’ve been in the career world for any length of time.  Our biggest tip here is to prepare by reading and then re-reading the traits called for in the position you are applying for and identify several disclosable situations that best reflect these qualities.

Greatest Strengths

We hope you like talking about yourself because this is the awkward interview question that will have you dolling out self-congratulations like a well-seasoned pro.  While this may seem like a no-brainer of a question, there are a few important points to remember.  

First, the traits your interviewer is after have less to do with your windsurfing hobby and more to do with those financial reports you’re going to need to review.  Keep this in mind and keep your strengths relevant to the job description. Additionally, be prepared to back up any descriptors with an example, in case of the inevitable “tell me more” follow-on.  If you claim to have incredible attention to detail, line up an example to follow or, better yet, insert a brief one into your initial answer.

Biggest Weaknesses

We saved a real humdinger for last.  The “tell me about your biggest weaknesses” is the inevitable partner in crime to the request to outline your strengths.  Potential employers often view this as an area to trip you up, but with a little preparation, you can actually turn this into a golden opportunity to illustrate your skills.

When choosing weaknesses to speak to, aim for qualities that you possess in spades but are better in moderation.  For example, having the ability to problem solve is a great thing but wasting too much time looking for a solution isn’t the best use of time.  Try explaining that you often find yourself too tenacious in wanting to see things through to the end but that you’ve worked on recognizing when it’s best to bring in back-up in the form of your manager or co-worker’s opinion in order to compensate and help you problem solve.  

While open-ended job questions can be a tough subject to tackle for many interviewees, with a little preparation savvy candidates will have nothing to fear.  Remember that questions throw the ball back into your court and provide opportunities to promote your best qualities.  Use this to your advantage and you’ll be landing that job of your dreams in no time.

Article Updated from the Original on October 5, 2017