Interviews can be hard, often nerve-racking experiences. Your qualifications look good on paper, but now you need to convince the prospective employer of this in-person. How you answer a few questions will decide whether or not you get the job. So how do you maximize your chances of success?
It's important to understand what the interviewer is looking for so you can position yourself as the ideal candidate.
First Impressions Are Lasting
It may be cliché, but a person will begin forming assumptions about you the moment they see you. It's important to ensure these assumptions are positive ones. This is why you want to look presentable: nicely dressed and well-groomed. You should smile, make eye contact, introduce yourself, and shake hands. You want to carry an energy that suggests you want to work for this employer.
If you look like you're just going through the motions, you're likely to be passed on.
"Tell Me About Yourself"
This is a common interview opener. The interviewer isn't looking for your life story or your hobbies with this question. Instead, use this as an opportunity to take them on a journey through your professional career and education.
The main purpose of the interview is simply to hear the candidate speak and that is even more true with this invitation. The employer wants to witness your demeanor. Often times, what you say is less important than how you say it. Still, make sure to keep your answers on-point to the question and deliver information that would be valuable.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Most people can tell someone what their greatest strength is easily enough. You are confident in what you do well and can present this in an appealing manner. Speaking on your weaknesses can be more challenging, however. You never want to paint yourself in a negative light, so you want to frame this one carefully.
One strategy is to speak on a weakness that isn't relevant to the job in question. Maybe you're a construction laborer but aren't great when it comes to computers. As long as using them isn't a focus for the position, admitting this won't hurt you.
Another method is to frame something as a weakness that can also be used as a strength in a different light. For example, you could say that you have a tendency to take it especially hard when you fail. This could be perceived as being a passionate worker who strives for success.
Regardless of what you say, you should express the desire to improve. You may have this weakness now, but the willingness to work on it will impress your employer. Having the drive to better oneself is far more appealing than someone who is content to stagnate.
Whatever you do, make sure not to imply you have no weaknesses. You will just come across as someone who is arrogant and unable to realize your own mistakes.
Where You See Yourself in the Future
It can be tricky to honestly answer the question of where you see yourself in 5 or 10 years. Life can change fast, and no one can predict the future. When an interviewer asks this, they're testing your ambition. Are you trying to move up within the company? This is also a chance to get a read on whether you intend to stay with them long-term or if they will need to replace you in a year or two.
You don't have to name a specific position within the company's organization to answer the question. Leaving things open to saying you foresee yourself in a lead/managerial role suggests a desire to work hard. It also lets your employer know that if they like you, they need to create advancement opportunities for you if they want to keep you.
At the end of the interview, you will be asked if you have any questions. Always make the most of this opportunity. Having nothing to say at the end can potentially tank an otherwise good interview. If you ask what your next steps are, this affirms your interest in moving forward. If you ask questions about working at the company, this shows an investment. This may also be the chance to show off any research you did on the company ahead of time if you haven't already done so earlier in the interview.
We advise starting with 1 or 2 "softball" questions. These are easy to answer, standard questions that the interviewer likely already has the answer for. Examples include: asking when to follow-up, about the salary range, or benefits. After this, end on a "hardball" question. This is one that may not be anticipated and requires some thought. These can be a way to connect with the interviewer on a more human level. You can ask what they like about working there or even if there's anything they dislike.
You can approach your interview more intelligently if you understand the mindset of the employer. They want to get a feel for you as a person. How do you carry yourself? Are you friendly and presentable? Do you feel like a good fit for the company's culture? Do you even seem to want this job? These are all things the employer is trying to guess when they interview you, so make sure to give them the best answers possible.