“Tell me about yourself.”
The purpose of this question is less for the interviewer to get to know you, they can do this from your resume, and more for him or her to see how you respond in unstructured situations. The ability to handle yourself in these situations reflects how you would come across to people you will encounter in your new position, as well as showcases your confidence and how articulate you are. Additionally, this question gives the recruiter a sense of your career trajectory, and what has caused you to perform well in the past, so he or she can determine if the job is a good fit for your path.
Most candidates find that this is the most difficult of interview questions to answer, because it is so open-ended. However, this should be viewed as an opportunity. It gives you the chance to describe yourself and your strengths in a positive light, and to highlight your most important accomplishments for the interviewer. Develop a great answer to this question and practice, so that you are able to deliver with poise and confidence in an interview.
The key to having a successful interview is to match your qualifications to those that the job requires, make sure you prove to the interviewer that you will be the best fit for the position by relating past experiences and successes to job requirements.
“How long have you been with your current (or former) employer?”
This question is particularly important if your resume reflects job-hopping. Even if companies were acquired, moved, closed, etc., your resume will still appear as that of a job-hopper. Interviewers are looking for people who have been in their jobs for at least three years, because this reflects a successful track record and performance. If your resume does show a significant amount of job-hopping, be prepared to explain why, all while highlighting why you would be a great fit for the job.
Additionally, take advantage of events where hiring authorities are found. Network with recruiters so that, when your resume is tagged as a job-hopper, these authorities can get past this issue because they know you.
“What is your greatest weakness?”
Many people are tempted to use a positive personality trait posed as a negative here, such as “I never leave things unfinished, meaning sometimes I work too much.” However, what the interviewer is really looking for is that you have done some serious self-reflection, and can take responsibility ad accept constructive criticism for your faults. Admitting a weakness does not make you less of a great candidate, and you can actually turn this question to show you positively. After explaining your weakness, show how you are working on it and relate these efforts to the job you are interviewing for. This will show the recruiter that you can not only accept responsibility, but can take initiative to solve the problem.
“Tell me about a situation where you did not get along with a superior.”
This question is a make-or-break question for many interviewees. Under no circumstances should you bad-mouth a previous employer. This reflects very poorly on you. Additionally, do not say that you have never had a disagreement with a superior. It is natural for people to have differing opinions and to disagree. Telling a recruiter that you have never had a disagreement with an employer reflects that you are inexperienced, and may not be able to deal with confrontation.
Instead, highlight a situation where you and your superior disagreed, and you were able to explain your side so as to benefit the company. This will show that you have the ability to defend your ideas, and add value to any business you work for.
“Describe a situation where you were part of a failed project.”
Similarly to the previous question, if you cannot discuss a mistake, the recruiter may determine that you don’t have the experience necessary to be the best fit for the job. The recruiter is looking to understand your decision-making process, as well as evaluate your ability to determine where a mistake was made, if you can take responsibility, and what you learned from it.
Explain how you decided to conduct the project the way that you did. Pinpoint where in the process a mistake was made, and what you will do to avoid mistakes like it on future products. You should conclude this question with what you learned, and how it benefitted the company in the long run.
“What are your strengths?”
Highlight two or three of your skills that are highly relevant to the job. Give the recruiter specific evidence of why you count this as your skill, and why it is crucial to the success of the position.
“How do you explain your job success?”
You should frame your answer from the point-of-view of someone else. For example, mention observations that others have made about your work strengths or talents to avoid sounding arrogant and conceited.
“What do you do when you are not working?”
This question is highly important for senior positions, not as much for lower-level positions. The recruiter is trying to determine if your qualities or lifestyle will impact your work performance. Discuss hobbies that interest you, but avoid discussing controversial activities that may create tension.
“Why did you leave your last position?”
Again, do not, under any circumstances, bad mouth a previous employer. The recruiter is looking for potential personality issues that would lead to conflict at a new position. Additionally, they are looking to ensure you would be a good fit with the new company.
Be honest about why you left, but do not dwell on conflicts that may have contributed to your departure. Instead, focus on the positives that came from leaving. This could be anything from accepting a new challenge, to learning an important lesson that will help you perform better at your new position.
“Why do you want to work in this industry?”
Tell a story about your interest in the industry. Throughout the story, draw connections between your current job and the position you’re interviewing for. Make sure the interviewer knows that you have a passion for the job and are not simply shopping around for any position that will take you. Make your passion for the position and intermittent theme throughout your interview.