Preparing for a job interview can be an overwhelming task for many job seekers.
I mean, where do you even start? How can you anticipate what questions the interviewers will ask?
How do you answer questions?
The anxiety of thinking about the job interview causes many candidates to panic and make one of the biggest mistakes a job seeker can make – that is ramble on and on.
One great way to prevent this during your interview is to follow a structure of answering questions.
One popular strategy to use is the STAR Technique:
Situation OR Task: Describe a situation you were in or a task that you were required to undertake that prepared you (is relevant) to tackle this problem.
For instance, “In my old company, I was challenged with the task of _______ that had similar problems”
Action: Describe the action you took to solve the situation.
Results: Describe the outcome. And how you can bring what you learned to the company and their challenges.
So now that you know how to answer questions, what are the questions you should prepare for?
Here is our list of the 10 most common interview questions and what they mean:
1. Tell Us About Yourself
The interviewer is not asking about your personal life, family and hobbies. Instead, they want a summary of your career; how did you get here and where would you like to go.
For this, prepare a short (30 second) pitch about your professional journey (not every job you’ve had, but the ones relevant to this job) and how what your experiences have prepared you for this opportunity.
Bonus tip: Be a storyteller. Don’t be boring and provide dry answers like:
“In 1999 I went to Smith University to study marketing. In 2004 I got my first job…”
Instead, say something like,
“My love for marketing really started at the age of 12 when I saw the Coca Cola ad for the world cup. I knew then that I wanted to spend my life telling stories that connected people with brands, and so I attended Smith University – which has one of the best marketing degrees in the U.S, and moved on to work for…After years of working, I wanted a new challenge and that’s why I’m here today.”
2. Why Should We Hire You?
If you want to stand out, don’t simply tell them your list of qualifications and skills – the interviewer already knows them. Instead, tell them how you can help them solve their problems and challenges. To ace this question, make it about what you can do for them and not what they can do for you.
For example, if you are being interviewed for a Social Media Manager position at a company that hasn’t seen any monetary benefits to their business by having an online presence, say:
” I understand that your business has yet to see any tangible financial benefits to having a social media presence. Well, I’m here to tell you that in addition to brand awareness, generating revenue online is possible. I’ve done it at my past company, and I’ll do it here. To start off, I’ll change your Instagram strategy…….”
3. What is Your Greatest Strength?
This is your opportunity to highlight a strength that you know is important to the company and the position you want. But don’t make the mistake of just saying “I’m a great communicator”, instead, tell a story and use the STAR method to guide you.
One of my greatest strengths is my communication skills and this was proven when:
(Past situation): I was tasked to effectively demonstrate ____ brand values to a new market….
(Action you took): I did this by first conducting market research on the needs and values of the local population and creating radio ads that emphasized those values and how they related to the brand.
(Results): This resulted in a 27% increase in _____ in the first year. And it was mostly because I was able to merge and effectively communicate the message in a localized setting.
4. What is Your Greatest Weakness?
What employers are looking for is to see if you are self-aware and willing to admit shortcomings, and more importantly work on them.
So think of a weakness that isn’t too important to the job, and talk about the steps you have taken to improve on it.
For example, ” I’m used to working on projects from start to finish on my own. So when it comes time to collaborate and work with others, I struggle to let go of control and not do everything myself. Though with time, I’ve learned that this isn’t the most effective way to work. I’ve greatly benefited from the different perspectives that other team members bring to a task, and also, the reduced stress and time a project takes when I work well with others (rather than try to do everything myself).”
Never say, “I have no weaknesses, I’m perfect.” No one is.
5. Why do you want to work for us?
Once again, this is not about what the company can do for you, but instead what you can do for them.
Your research on the company while writing your CV and cover letter will really help here. Think deeply about how your role can help the company, and why you would be interested in working there.
Employers are looking for people who genuinely want the job for more reasons than to just have a job; they are looking for people with passion and ideas. So this is your chance to demonstrate yours.
“I want to work with you because I realize that the market is in a transition, and I want to help you make it effectively and even grow further. I know it will be hard work, but a challenge is what I’m looking for at this point in my career.”
6. Why did you leave the last job?
Don’t badmouth your former employer or coworkers. Instead just say that you are ‘seeking new challenges’, but go a step further and explain how this job will give you challenges that your previous one didn’t.
Say something like,
” I’ve outgrown the position I have in my current company, and I’m seeking to be challenged more. I handled accounts for a small business and learned a lot from it, but now I’m ready to deal with bigger numbers at a bigger company like yours.”
7. What do you hope to get from this experience?
Talk about what you hope to achieve, but be realistic. Don’t be too broad, pick a specific goal that is important to the company and set a target. Nevertheless, acknowledge that it will take time for you to learn more about the company and where best to set your focus.
“As the English teacher, my goal is to increase the percentage of students that pass the English national exam to 85% of my class. While it will take some time to learn the particular challenges of the students at this school, I’m confident that I’ll be successful.”
8. Describe a difficult work situation and what you did to overcome it
This is a pretty straightforward question, but not preparing for it may cause you to ramble.
Pick an example that demonstrates a key skill required for the job. Then utilize the STAR technique to structure your answer.
A quick example:
” (Situation) I was assigned as the project lead for a television and radio advertising campaign for our company, however, the budget was very small and my research showed that the likelihood for the campaign to reach our target audience was slim. (Action) So I proposed an alternative, shoot an ad and spread it to our target audience via paid online advertising, social media, and email marketing. This made more sense for our budget and our target audience. (Results) The result was increased visits to our e-commerce website, and sales for our latest products increased by 15%. ”
9. What salary range are you looking for?
Make sure you research the market rates for the job and you go into the interview with a salary range you want. The lower number should be the price you are willing to accept and the high number should be your best (realistic) outcome.
If you don’t prepare and just guess, you may end up underselling yourself to the employer. And while you may think that being ‘cheap’ will get you the job (and it may), every professional should not settle for less than what they deserve – especially if the company can afford to pay more.
10. Do you have any questions for us?
At the end of the job interview, you will usually be asked if you have any questions. Don’t ask about salary and benefits. Instead ask general questions about:
- Office culture.
- Your supervisor’s leadership style.
- The team you’ll be working with.
- Clear up concerns or confusions with the job role.
- The next steps in the hiring process, like when you expect to hear from them.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
This is a trick question that reveals whether you just need a job, or it actually plays your career goals. The interviewer wants to see if you will be happy in the role and if it aligns with your long term plans.
So, while many of us aren’t sure where we would like to be, just brainstorm a couple of options and demonstrate how the position will help you get there.
“In 5 years I hope to be the lead researcher at a major development think tank, and I believe that working as a data analyst for you will not only hone my research skills but teach me about the Tanzanian population…etc.
The best cure for interview stress is preparation
Although interviews can appear to be nerve-wracking and stressful, if you plan for them just like other things in your life, you would be surprised by how well you do.
The interview is your last chance to dazzle your employer, following the tips above should help you in doing so and bring you very close to your dream job. Just by being called in for one means you are halfway there, use the tips above to make it a done deal.
Remember, just like entering an exam hall in university, there is no reason to panic if you are prepared.