A job interview is always a daunting prospect, and in today’s economic downturn, companies are being more selective about who they hire. One of the ways they can filter out the unwanted applicants is to ask difficult questions.
Very often how these questions are answered makes the difference between success and failure. This tactic helps the employer find the right applicants, but also difficult questions provide an opportunity for those who are prepared with the right answers.
So, here are some of the tough questions you are likely to come across in a job interview, along with strategies to help you answer them.
1) What do you consider to be your weaknesses?
This is a tough one because it is asking you to be specific about things that are not your strong points. The trick here is to turn the negative into a positive. This can be achieved by turning a negative personal trait into a positive professional one. For example, you could mention that you tend to neglect family and friends when working on an important project, highlighting your high level of responsibility and determination to see the task through to ultimate success.
2) What are your strengths?
The important thing here is to highlight qualities and achievements that are directly related to the position you are applying for. One sure fire way to impress is to include the following skills,
- Willingness to work long hours
- Ability to work well in a team
- Initiative and creativity
3) Could you tell me a little about yourself?
This is a classic way for the interviewer to see how you carry yourself, as well as to assess your poise, style and ability to communicate. Don’t talk about childhood experiences, likes and dislikes, but rather recent personal and professional experiences that relate to the position you are applying for. A good idea is to prepare a short statement that describes who you are and what you can bring into the company.
4) What can you tell me about this company?
This question reveals whether you have done your research. If you want to make a serious impression on the interviewer, you must do your homework on the company background. All businesses have a web presence, so check out their web site thoroughly. Look for certain buzzwords that they use, and get a feel of what they are about. If they have a mission statement, make sure you understand it. Look for the following information,
- When the company was established
- What products and services they provide
- What are their markets
- Number of employees and branches
5) What is it that sets you apart from other candidates?
This really probes into your reasons for wanting this job. Show your readiness by describing how your career experience, personal qualities and achievements will be an asset for the company. Keep things on a professional level and focus on the benefits you will bring to the organisation.
6) Why did you leave your previous job?
This question might be rephrased if you are currently employed, yet the answer is still important. The current economic climate has pushed many talented people into the job market place, so don’t be ashamed to say you were part of a downsizing operation. If you left your previous job, it is better to merely say you “parted on good terms”, citing a lack of advancement opportunities within the company, or perhaps you felt the position wasn’t challenging enough.
7) Where do you see yourself in three years?
This question tells the interviewer about your ambitions. It isn’t a good idea to go overboard by saying you will be the next CEO, or be on the Board of Directors. On the other hand, you shouldn’t focus on just having a steady income either. Something balanced that highlights your desire to grow within the company, and to develop yourself professionally, while being a positive team player.
8) Are you a team player?
This is a question that requires more of an answer than a simple “yes”. Give behavioural examples of team involvement, focusing on the overall result rather than your role. Having an open mind and being able to work well in a diverse range of environments is always a good thing to mention at this stage. This question will often lead to a further one concerning how you would deal with conflicts within the team, so be prepared.
9) What didn’t you like about your last job?
This is a loaded question that will attempt to reveal your weaknesses. Don’t complain about low salary or long hours, rather say something like you felt your responsibilities weren’t challenging enough.
10) Are there any questions you would like to ask?
All interviewees should be given the opportunity to ask questions, and it is a golden rule to do so. Prepare some relevant questions about your prospective employer; perhaps ask if there will be opportunities for professional development within the company. You could ask the interviewer what he or she likes about the company or perhaps enquire about the organisation’s long-term goals, which shows you have ambition.
Practicing these answers with a friend or colleague will go a long way towards arming you with the self-confidence necessary to carry yourself in a calm professional manner. This not only shows that you have prepared well, but also that you are someone who really wants the position, and has all the qualities to enhance the company. One final tip is to have piece of paper in front of you, with notes to be used as a prompt. This will add to your self-confidence, after all, it is a lot to remember. By following these pointers, you should shine above the competition, and the interviewer will notice your ability to remain calm under fire, while demonstrating a high level of competency.