People who succeed at job interviews do two things very well:
First, they prepare their answers in advance and
Second, they know the difference between a "meh" answer and a GREAT answer
Now, you're probably wondering:
How do I...answer interview questions about salary?"
How do I...answer interview questions about my strengths and/or weaknesses?
How do I...answer those other common, but difficult interview questions?
What...interview questions are illegal?
How do I....turn my answers from "meh" to GREAT?
If you have a job interview coming up you won't want to leave your answers to chance. You'll want to blow those interviewers out of the water with your amazing responses.
Here's the bottom line:
You DON'T NEED tall tales or sleight of hand to keep their interest.
You DO NEED a list of the most popular interview questions and a few tips on how to answer them.
Don't worry, here's your definitive guide on how to answer those top 5 interview questions!
Tell us about yourself.
This oldie but goodie is what interviewers ask to give you free reign to hang yourself. Most of the time this question comes up people nervously start going off onto strange tangents. Often talking about things the interviewer isn’t all that interested in.
But here's the kicker: The main goal of this question is to just to introduce yourself. Look at it as your chance to set the stage, so to speak, and significantly boost your chances of leaving a good first impression.
Your answer should start out with 2-4 highlights you think would impress the interviewer.
Maybe you have an impressive educational background or have worked on high profile projects that would leave their jaws on the ground.
Start out with your grade a prime material and then segue into how these experiences and traits make you an ideal candidate for the position. Show them you’re a perfect fit (as well as a go-getter) before they get to any of the "juicy" questions.
“Well, I’m currently a sales executive at Smith Enterprise. I’m responsible for one of our largest clients - netting about $1.7 million in revenue for the last two quarters. Before that, I worked at another medical supply company, Bernadt Inc, where I directly worked with the VP of Sales. I really enjoy being at Smith Enterprise, but I’d really love to have more responsibility and a chance to advance at a larger company in medical supplies. That’s why I’m so excited about this opportunity with Thompson Medical Supplies.”
What are your strengths?
Here's the deal:
This question is GOLD. You'll want to list your actual professional strengths. The one rule, above everything else: BE HONEST!
Pick strengths that shine a light on you in such a way that makes you seem perfectly suited to the job.
That’s why you should practice this one in far in advance.
Don't even THINK about setting foot in the building before you've put your strengths into buckets:
- Knowledge-based Skills - Skills based on experience and education (Ex: Specialized skills, Degree/certifications, technical training, etc)
- Soft Skills - Also referred to as ‘Transferable Skills’ (Ex: relationship building, creative problem solving skills, persuasive communication, etc)
- Unique Traits - Personal qualities that make you stand out (Ex: Being a team player, being punctual, or working well under pressure, flexible, etc)
Make sure your answers are specific and relevant and, if possible, immediately follow them with examples from previous positions.
- Knowledge Based: “I have 13 years of experience with Salesforce and received my Salesforce Administrator Certification 6 months ago”
- Transferrable: “I’m excellent with relationship building. The client I mentioned earlier specifically requested that I be lead on his account. They refuse to work with anyone else.”
- Personal Qualities: “I haven’t had to take a sick day in 3 years.”
What are your weaknesses?
Similar to your strengths, you really want to make an inventory of your actual weaknesses. Make sure the kid gloves come off, and be almost painfully honest when you write out this list. Don’t worry, this isn't what you're going to tell the interviewer when the question inevitably pops up.
What's the bottom line?
You’ll want to pick out a handful of these weaknesses and figure out how to minimize the unappealing side and play up the good side. Whatever you do, DO NOT pick anything trite, stale, and played out like:
- “I don’t have any weaknesses”
- “I’m a perfectionist”
- “I’m a workaholic”
- I’m afraid of public speaking”
Give them something MORE. Pick 3 weaknesses and turn them around on their head.
Here's the deal: The intent behind this question is to make sure you're SELF-AWARE and HONEST.
"People say I worry too much, but this has really helped me be a more conscientious worker.”
See what I did there? Now you give it a try.
What makes you a good fit for this job?
In more direct terms:
“Why should we hire you?”
Our gut reaction is typically to do a replay of the answers we gave to the question “What are your strengths?” but the interviewer will be expecting more than that.
The best way to come up with a GREAT answer is to imagine yourself already working at the job and giving an answer based on what you would say if you already knew about it and what you’d be doing.
What part of the daydream calls out to you, your personality, and your best skills?
Write out an answer that puts this in the spotlight, and be as specific as possible.
Do you love connecting with people? Then you’d be great in that sales or customer service position.
Does the idea of crunching numbers all day actually get you excited enough to jump out of bed in the morning?
Then you’d probably be amazing at filling the finance associate position.
Sales have always come easily to me but I’m not really being challenged at Smith Enterprise. At this stage in my life I really want an opportunity to use the product knowledge I accumulated at Bernadt with more responsibility and potential for growth.
What’s your expected salary?
Giving a straightforward answer to this seemingly simple question is probably the best way to go… right?
Sure, if your actual goal is to not get the salary you deserve!
This is crazy!
The trick is to treat this question as the baseline, or foundation, for negotiations. You’ll likely remember that, in negotiations, experts say,
"The first to reveal a figure usually loses."
If you don’t want to be the loser, lead with telling them you need to know more about the position and their expectations before you can come up with a number.
Then, immediately turn it around and ask for their projected salary range.
Remember, as a rule of thumb, never negotiate until you’ve received an offer.
Things They Can't Legally Ask You
There are several questions that it's completely illegal for an interviewer to ask because they're considered discriminatory. Here's a link to a Monster.com article which breaks it down nicely: Common Interview Questions: What You Can Ask and When It Is Legal
If you're considered "disabled" the interviewer can't directly ask if you're disabled, but it may be in your best interest to disclose your disability during the interview process. An employer can ask "Are you able to carry out the necessary job assignments and perform them well and safely?"
You can just say yes to this and not expound or you can check out this article from the EEOC that specifically addresses disability concerns for job applicants: Job Applicants and the Americans with Disabilities Act
Age discrimination exists and is very prevalent. If you're over the age of 40 this article from Forbes magazine gives you some great tips on how to fight it by speaking to the pain points that your years of experience can address. They can't afford to blow you off as a viable candidate if you have the expertise to quickly address deeply rooted process issues that have been plaguing them for years.
Have You Been Discriminated Against?
If you feel that you've been discriminated against this EEOC link gives definitions and descriptions of the various forms of discrimination that you're legally protected against. Once you're sure that your rights have been violated you can click here to file an official Charge of Discrimination.