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Tips for Answering Common Interview Questions

Tips for Answering Common Interview Questions
By Brittney Zumbach –

If you have never interviewed for a professional position, or you haven’t done it in a while, it can be intimidating walking into an interview with your potential employer. However, there are a few questions that come up in nearly all interviews, and by knowing how to answer these questions, it can help calm nerves and make the interview end successfully.

“So, why don’t you tell me about yourself?”
This is the most frequently asked interview question, and usually the first to be asked. This is the time to describe your relevant history, and connect it to how it will help you succeed in the position for which you are applying. Do not give your whole life story or discuss hobbies and interests – those things won’t affect your job performance, so employers really don’t need to know, nor do they care. Discuss your education, previous job experience, and how you heard about the position. This is also a time to make any network connections with your interviewers. If someone referred you to the position or you know someone already working in the company, be sure to make those connections with your interviewers.

“What is your greatest strength?”
Here is where you show an employer why they should hire you. You have been presented with the opportunity to tell them why you are a great employee, so don’t hold back and stay positive. Connect every strength to how it will help you in this job. You really want to show employers why hiring you will help their company advance and succeed.

“What is your greatest weakness?”
Everyone has a weakness, so don’t answer this question with “I don’t have any.” It won’t impress employers; in fact, it will probably do the opposite. Instead, always connect your weaknesses to how you work around them, or how they taught you a lesson. Examples could be taking classes to improve skills, becoming more organized, or talking to others and asking for help. Keep everything positive.

“Why do you want to work for this company?”
This question is why it’s important to do your homework before the interview. It doesn’t matter if you’re applying for Vice President of Marketing or Mailroom Clerk; you want to have a good grasp on what the company does and who you will be working for. The majority of this information can be found on the company’s website. By doing the background work, it will make you stand out as someone who comes prepared and is genuinely interested in the company and the job. Doing the research should lead to the conclusion why you want to work at the company. When answering this question, be sure to include career goals and how you think you can help the company succeed. Let them know you’re interested because of positive things they have done, and give examples.

“Do you have any questions for me?”
The vast majority of interviews will end with this open ended question, and you should always draft a few prepared questions so you’re not left without anything to say. If it hasn’t been brought up during the interview, this would be the time to discuss benefits and a possible starting date. It’s likely during the interview you will come up with a few questions, but if not, a good generic question would be asking your interviewers how they got started in the company and how they like it there. Asking questions of your interviewers shows you were prepared for the interview, as well as showing interest in the company.

How to answer an odd question
Some interviewers may use odd questions to either throw your off, or to make the interview more lighthearted and help make everyone more comfortable. If an odd question arises, answer exactly what they ask (keeping your answer appropriate), and move on. An example of a question like this could be “If you were a type of farm machinery, what would you be and why?” Again, always try to tie everything back to why you are a good fit for the position, “I would be a tractor because I am a natural leader and I tend to pull others along with me.” If an interviewer ever asks about something personal or you don’t feel comfortable answering the question, simply state that you would rather not share or talk about that particular information, and you would like to continue with the interview. Stay professional and positive.

What to do when you don’t know the answer
If a question is ever asked you don’t know how to answer, it’s best to admit you don’t know right away. Guessing or rambling are not good options. Sometimes an interviewer may ask a question they don’t expect you to be able to answer just to see how you will handle it. Tell the employer you don’t know the answer, but you could offer an educated guess or how you would go about finding the answer. Not knowing is okay, but making something up or pretending to know is not.

Being prepared is the best way to calm nerves and turn the interview into a job. By knowing how to answer these common interview questions, your job search is sure to end successfully!