We’ve all been there. The interview has been going well, you’ve built a great rapport with your line-manager-to-be. Next thing you know, they’ve dropped a bombshell of a question; the sort of classic interview question that’s just simply impossible to answer without sounding generic. Here’s a quick-fire guide on how to answer four typical interview questions.
1. “Why should we hire you?”
This is age-old, and a particularly un-creative question to ask at a job interview. Many common answers will include generic statements such as “I’m proactive”, “I work well both on my own, and in a team”, “I’m punctual” etc. These are all answers that the interviewer will have heard before, and quite frankly, don’t hold much weight.
The real question being asked is, “What skills and experience, expertise and evidence do you have, that would work well for the role?”. Your answer for this needs to be based on facts, and your experience to date. In court, no-one is ever convicted just by saying “I did it”. Convictions are made based on evidence and fact. The same scenario can be applied to interviews, and employment.
“In my previous role, I exceeded the existing company record for sales generated over the course of the year. Given that my previous clients and experience focused on a similar client-base to yours, I feel that I’d be perfectly placed within the role”.
The above offers, evidence, facts, and opinion. The three key factors to giving a great answer to an albeit generic question.
2. “What’s your greatest weakness?”
Another classic, and slightly irritating question. Weaknesses are very much subjective. Someone could struggle with a classic education system, but be an awesome business person. Tell an artist to create website code from scratch, and they’d probably be pretty weak. With this in mind, you can only state your previous experience and evidence. Again, generic answers to avoid will include the likes of “I’m too honest”, “I work too hard” and “I always stay late after work”.
There are, however some constructive ways to manipulate this question.
“In my previous role I didn’t request support as much as I should have, however it seems like there’s a much greater support structure within this company, and I don’t feel like this would be a problem at all”.
“I was never really encouraged to look at a work-life balance beforehand, which left me drained and burnt out. From looking at your company ethics and the encouragement to balance both work and personal life, I feel this would be a perfect way to manage this previous weakness”
Start with your negative, and end with the positive, that the company provides. It works in two ways. You provide the interviewer with some negatives that you’ve experienced before, and show honesty for admitting them. But you also provide an insight into how you know this will be addressed, and that you’ve researched the company too. A much better answer than:
“Well Steve, in all honesty I’m never on time, I savagely underperform without fail and I struggle with problem solving. When do I start?”
3. “Where do you see yourself five years from now?”
Another tricky, commonly asked question pulled from the “Interview Questions just to fill time” rulebook. The real question being asked is: “Are you ambitious?”. Again, another closed question that quite simply no one will answer ‘no’ to.
There are a few ways to answer this question. Again, referring back to where you were five years ago is a good idea. It’ll give the interviewer an understanding of how much progress you’ve made in the previous five years, and you could state your desire to continue with that process.
“Five years ago, I was working as a Junior Lead Generator. Currently, sat as a Senior Sales Executive, I’d like to see my progression continued through the organisation, and within five years, I’d aim to be at Sales Management/Directorship level, depending on the internal positions available.”
Past and present. Showing previous work history, and your career goals for your future movements. Referring to the company directly installs some confidence that you’re there for the long term, and not just using the job as a stepping stone. You can then follow this with a counter-question:
“That being said, how often do you see internal promotions/positions becoming available?”
Showing interest, enthusiasm, and ambition is always a great trait. Many people will simply say that they’re enthusiastic and ambitious. Not many people will show it.
4. “What are your salary expectations?”
On the surface, a simple question. Underneath, some psychology going on. Obviously, there’s a possible match between your expected salary, and the salary range that the organisation is looking to pay, otherwise you wouldn’t be sat in the chair, in the interview.
You’re at the negotiation stage, and this is where psychological selling occurs. If you’re in a position with high competition, and large numbers of applicants, there are some great ways to show flexibility. In this scenario, let’s use an example of £25k as your expected salary.
“In all honesty, I’m looking at a basic salary of £27k, which I know is slightly higher than what you were looking to offer. However, I’d be happy to work for the first three months, at £25k, just to prove to you the value that the slight increase in salary could return for you, and give you some added security.”
This method ensures that you understand that employing you is a risk. It shows initiative and thinking outside of the box, and offers you a great chance of being either employed, or trialled. Feel free to manipulate the figures above to fit your own scenario. The basic principles you’re showing are understanding, initiative, and perception of the current scenario. If you’re not in a high-competition role, and your position is very much specialised, and you know that you’ve come from a very similar role, the chances are, you’re already in a good position.
“In all honesty, my previous salary was £24k, but with this position, I’d be holding a greater level of responsibility for accounts, training new employees, and decision-making involvement. For this level, I’d be looking at a minimum salary of £27k.”
Again, you’re not only showing understanding, but you’re justifying why you’re looking for an increase in salary, and that you’re not just looking to be greedy or inflexible. Justification is a large part of the interview process, with many questions surrounding ‘How’, ‘Show me’ and ‘What’. Justification involves perception, evidence, fact and opinion.
If you’re unsure of what kind of salary the company is looking to offer, be sure to check the original job description.
Bringing it all together
The chances are, if you’re heading into a dynamic, adaptive organisation, you may not have answered some of these common interview questions. However, the same principles can be used, and manipulated to solidify your position as one of the top candidates on their list. Be well prepared for your interview, show understanding, show you’ve researched, show you know your worth, and be confident. Interviews are a discussion about a contract, rather than a grilling – remember that!
If you’re not quite at the point where you’re having these discussions, take a look at these 4 Tips for Interview Preparation: an absolute must for getting ready for the big day. Fancy getting an edge on the competition? Here’s 1 Interview Secret to Beat Your Competition
About the Author
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