Congratulations should be in order when you have been invited for a job interview. The recruiter has seen something special in your job application and deemed you worthy for the all-important first interview. You have grounded the ball and safely made it to first base. Celebrate this small victory because your attention will now shift to a tougher challenge: how to answer job interview questions in the best way possible?
Tips on How To Answer Job Interview Questions
The job interview has four purposes:
- Assess the competency and right-fit qualification of the candidates.
- Prevent good, pre-qualified candidates from being unfairly assessed.
- Present the company as a formal, professional organization with standards and guidelines.
- Determine the career-goal aspirations of the candidate.
Job interviewers have different approaches in conducting a job interview but essentially the purposes remain the same.
You have to prepare yourself for any and every eventuality during the interview. Preparation should start the moment you receive notice of the schedule for an interview. You must adapt a different mindset now that the stakes are higher.
- Acknowledge the fact that you were qualified and invited. On a piece of paper write down your greatest accomplishments so far and list the skills and competencies you used to achieve them. This is a great way of building your confidence as you are about to embark on another great challenge.
- Write down a list of questions that you believe will be asked during the job interview. Under each question, write down strong keywords you will use in your answers. Practice your answers over and over again until these become more natural and less rehearsed. Get assistance from a trusted friend or family member.
- Visualize the interview as if it is happening right now. Visualize the room, the setting, and try to capture the overall mood and atmosphere of the moment. Listen to the interviewer ask you these questions and answer in a manner that best approximates reality. Do this exercise over and over again until the day of the interview.
- Analyze the job opening. Assess your strengths and weakness in relation to the job requirements. Anticipate the elements of the job that may be cross- referenced with your skills and experience. Be prepared for intense questioning on weaknesses or perceived short comings.
- Research the company. Find out as much information as you can about the company by conducting research. Job interviewers will surely ask you questions on what they do as a way of determining your level of interest. Research will also help you formulate the right questions to ask the interviewer.
- Listen intently and articulate your answers clearly. It is very important that you understand the interviewer’s questions clearly before giving a response. If you are not sure you understood the question, respectfully ask the interviewer to repeat it. It is also equally important to articulate your answers before composing them as your response. Don’t rush your response.
Here are five of the most common questions asked during a job interview:
“Why Do You Want to Work Here?”
This is where conducting research presents its true value. By learning more about the company, you will be able to reference its accomplishments in the industry. You may share your thoughts and ideas of its culture and how its value system is strongly aligned with yours. Then reference episodes in your life that validate these values as guiding points in your decision-making process.
“What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?”
Interviewers ask this question as a way of self- assessment. This is similar to a technique employed by author and management consultant Peter Drucker to evaluate executives. A self-assessment of strengths and weaknesses gives the interviewer a good perspective to where the candidate thinks he or she is at now in terms of competencies and proficiency.
Identifying faults or weaknesses is a great way to show humility and acceptance of accountability. Be honest when articulating your strengths and weaknesses. Interviewers have the experience to know when you are using hyperbole or being forthcoming.
“What Is Your Greatest Accomplishment?”
Specifically target an accomplishment which you feel strongly defines who you are and why you are the best fit candidate for the job. Always give details and identify personalities, dates, and relevant figures.
For example, if you are applying for the job of Business Development Manager you can say:
In January 2008, I was the Lead Project Manager for XYZ Company. One of our subsidiaries had been generating business losses for the company the past five years. The company had hired many experts to address the problem from a technical and fundamental standpoint but no one looked at the behavioral aspect of working within an organization. I focused on the business culture and uncovered unproductive behavioral patterns which were initiated by unsound work policies.
Within the first year of correcting these policies, the subsidiary had a 200% turnaround by the 2nd quarter.
“What Are Your Salary Expectations?”
This question can be a tricky slope to navigate. Most job openings will not state the salary. You would not want to price yourself out of the picture neither should you commoditize your value by under-pricing your salary expectation.
The best approach would be to research on the average salary in the industry for the position you are applying for. Then based on your experience and qualification, add a premium. Phrase the answer in such a way that you are not presumptuous.
For example, you can answer this way:
“My annual salary from my previous employer was $120,000 which is in line with the industry standard for the position. Would this number conform to the position with the company?”
“Of All The Talented People We Have Interviewed, Why Should We Hire You?”
This question is usually the final question in the interview. The purpose is to give you an opportunity to present your value proposition in a single package.
One of the worst things you can do is to put down the other applicants. Instead focus on your biggest strength or most significant value; one which you feel will contribute greatly to the success of the corporation. A good answer would be:
My approach to work is viewed from the perspective of a shared interest; a strategic partnership if you will. When I work, my purpose is to contribute to the success of the company. This means adapting an unrelenting work ethic to surpass expectations daily. Based on my understanding of your company and my experience in today’s interview; I am confident that we have aligned values which will forge a solid, stable and strong relationship.
At the end of the interview, always extend courtesy to the interviewer for the opportunity and for his or her time. It will not hurt to send the interviewer an e-mail afterwards reiterating your appreciation for being considered for the job.
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