Tag Archives: how to interview

The Zen of Interviewing

No matter how perfect your résumé is, you won’t land the job without also nailing an interview. Experts offer advice about how to answer some of the most common interview questions you’re likely to encounter.

Tell me about yourself. This interview favorite is open-ended by design to test the interviewee’s ability to communicate well. Career coach Donald Walsh cautions job candidates to avoid the typical answer, I am a hard worker, noting that no organization would want to hire a lazy worker. Nor should you interpret the open-ended question as an invitation to tell your life story or to rehash your résumé. Walsh advises going beyond buzzwords and clichéd answers to instead summarize talents and skills without delving too deeply into your personal life. He suggests using a “listicle” that melds skills related to the job with witty responses: I was the fourth of four children, so I learned early how solve problems.

What are your weaknesses? Experts call this tricky question a landmine. To say you have no weaknesses is ridiculous; to offer up deal-killers (I’m massively disorganized) is also unwise. Still, honesty is the best policy. For example, if you have trouble organizing yourself, talk about the ways you compensate for the issue (adhering to your Google calendar or the like.) However, if you are indeed massively disorganized and a key component of the position requires organizational skills, why are you wasting your time and the interviewer’s? Finally, know that you won’t fool a hiring manager if you take a strength and try to masquerade it as a weakness (I work too hard.)

Where do you see yourself in five years? Job search mavens suggest approaching this question by preparing well thought-out answers while offering up some responses to avoid. Think twice about the wisdom of telling a hiring manager that you want her job. Why would someone hire you to unseat her? In the same vein, no company wants new-hires who just want to learn on the company’s time before starting their own businesses. The best approach, experts suggest, is to use your past experiences to tie into your future with the company: My past jobs have allowed me to progress and grow, and I hope my next role will allow me to do that over the next five years.

Why this company? This one is easy. Discuss the company’s values (which you’ve researched ahead of time!) and how your skill set will add to the organization’s mission. Don’t talk about money, perks, prestige, or the ability to bring your dog to the workplace. Similarly, if you tell a hiring manager you’re unclear about your future want and this job because it caught your eye, you will have killed any chance you had with the firm.

Curveball questions. Sometimes, you’ll get an oddball question such as, Is it better to turn in a project that’s perfect and late, or one that’s good and on time? There’s no wrong answer, says Obed Louissant, the VP of HR for IBM Watson. An organization looking for a team member would need both types of people.

Discussion

  1. Why do experts tell job seekers to not complain about past jobs or managers?
  2. How could you describe your accomplishments without appearing arrogant?
  3. What can inappropriate attire—either too casual or too formal—say about you to a hiring manager?