Interviewing is often compared to dating. Both involve a conversation between two parties that are in search of “the one," the initial focus is the CV or dating profile, and the two-way decision is determined by both intangible and tangible factors. While chemistry is sometimes outside of our control, having the right strategy can help advance you to the next stage.
From the hundreds of interview processes that I’ve been involved in, there are a few questions that I get asked the most with regard to interviewing. Below, I have shed some light on these four most frequently asked questions, highlighting insights that I’ve gained from my work with talent teams and recruiters over the years in hopes of moving you to the next round.
1. “Tell me about yourself,” is one of the most common opening interview questions, and a candidate’s response sets the tone for what’s to come. What is the most effective approach to take when answering this question?
Most candidates feel lost with how to respond to this particular ask. They feel unsure about where to start and find it difficult to determine what information is most relevant. In preparing for this question, first, conduct an audit of the personality traits and skills that match the job description. I like to print out my resume and the job description to draw lines between corresponding characteristics to help me find the parallels. If you’re interested in the position and are a good fit for the role, there will be connections. It is also important to research the company ahead of time. Review the company’s LinkedIn profile and website to consider its culture, values, and mission statement, so that you can demonstrate alignment in your response.
2. What is the best way to respond when asked about the reason for leaving your last company?
With this question, an employer wants to see that you have sound reasoning behind your decisions. If your last situation was a negative situation, they want to see that you handled it well. To the employer, this question will reveal whether you are career-focused or a job hopper. The focus of this response should be on the value that you bring, the specifics of your work, and your interest in the company that you’re interviewing with. If you quit or were fired from your last role, your response will need to address the reasoning behind this (there’s no way around it), but should primarily focus on the positive outcomes and the dimensions of the role that were missing for you that will hopefully be met with your new role.
3. What is the recommended approach to the “What’s your greatest weakness?” question?
Candidates often wonder how honest they should be with this particular response, and in my opinion, honesty is always the best approach. The employer is looking for you to have a realistic view of your competencies and assessment of your performance. I recommend focusing on the aspects of the job that you have the least amount of experience with. Given that the bullets in the job description are often listed in order of importance, I would not recommend that your response include the top three listed requirements, as that could be a red flag in the eyes of the employer. Instead, review the last two or three bullet points to see if these are responsibilities that you could highlight as areas that you’re looking to improve. It is also helpful to consider other easy-to-learn responsibilities that are included in the posting. This approach will allow you to be honest and will demonstrate to the employer that you’re able to improve quickly.
4. What are some helpful questions to ask the hiring manager at the end of the interview?
My two favorite questions to ask employers in an interview are:
1. What does success look like for this role in the first three months?
2. What is the salary and performance review process?
The first question will allow you to put a plan in place should you be hired. The employer’s response to this question will give you a clear understanding of what will be expected of you and what you will need to stand out. From their response, you will be able to determine whether their metrics are realistic or not. Will you need to stay late? Will you need to do your own extra research in order to set yourself up for success? Having a clear set of expectations ahead of time is always best.
The second question will determine whether or not there are systems in place for feedback, as you look to be supported in your growth with a raise and/or a promotion later down the line. As a potential new hire, it is important to ensure that there are mechanisms that will support your professional trajectory in the long run.
The employer’s decision in an interview process is critical, of course; but remember that your thoughts on the employer are just as valuable.