Often, it’s the simple questions that people dread. You’ve heard them all before, but you still dread them. And many of you answer them wrongly, without even realising… Are you?
1. What is your biggest weakness?
This question has recently been dubbed as the worst to be asked during an interview in terms of tripping up candidates. Don’t say you’re a ‘perfectionist’ or ‘too nice’. Dressing up a positive doesn’t answer the question or reveal anything about you. Instead, explain a legitimate weakness that you overcame or improved through a specific experience and/or a proactive effort to address it.
2. What would your current colleagues say about you?
Your potential employer would be investing in you as a real person – not as a list of skills, achievements, and qualifications. So, don’t just reply with a cliché: I can’t imagine any of my colleagues would say: “Team player”. Back up the cliché and make it stronger with an example; when have you demonstrated this characteristic, and what was the effect?
3. Why should we hire you?
This is your big moment – when it’s easy to run away with your words and blow it. This is a question to test your research and understanding of the specific role and company. Demonstrate how your skills and experience align with their specific needs. Give precise examples and actual accomplishments. Avoid drifting into a bad sales pitch by trying too hard or claiming you’re perfect. You need an answer that presents yourself as a logical and a strong choice that’s relatively risk-free.
4. Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking a burning desire for promotion will come across positively; conversely, it will imply that you’ll get itchy feet after five months, let alone five years. You need to have prepared and be able to present a career plan that’s realistic and in line with the business and industry. Avoid arrogance. Don’t drift into clichés. Make the role for which you’re applying the focus of your answer. Explain how, from growing and performing this position to a high standard, you will gain the skills and experience to support your career aspirations. First and foremost, show your passion for learning and developing within the specific role and company; this way, you’ll appear a loyal and committed prospect for the next five years.
5. Tell me about when you’ve had a bad experience with an employer/boss/colleague
Most people have had a bad experience at some point in their careers, so this question often sparks a negative answer that can be costly to your chances. No matter what happened, or how you were treated, you will incriminate yourself if you appear as someone who’s negative and gets into conflict. Recall a professional problem/issue, not a personal one, and explain how you tackled it proactively and diplomatically, what was achieved by your input, and how this highlights your potential.