Many companies incorporate a strategy while interviewing employees that aims to disarm or otherwise unnerve potential employees who often think that they couldn’t have prepared any better, only to be disappointed and even shocked at the end of an interview. They just can’t handle some of the questions as well as they ought to.
These kinds of questions help employers eliminate bad hires, and make sure that the candidates can hold their own, think fast and perform gracefully under pressure. However, while the notion of answering these questions can appear daunting, with a little practice applicants can turn them to their advantage and use them to stand out from the crowd.
No matter how smart you are, or think you are, the truth is that preparation is key, and rehearsing tricky questions is the only proven way to answering confidently.
Here are a few of these questions and the strategies to adopt while answering them.
1. Could you tell me a little about yourself?
Most interviewers use this question to assess your poise, style of delivery and communication ability, as well as to gain information. Don’t give a speech about your entire life history. Instead, briefly cite recent personal and professional work experiences that relate to the position you're seeking and that support your credentials. Even better, prepare a personal branding statement that quickly describes who you are and what you can bring to the company.
2. What are your greatest strengths?
Focus on four specific skills that employers hold in high regard: self-motivation, initiative, the ability to work in a team and the willingness to work long hours.
Briefly summarize your work experience and your strongest qualities and achievements that are directly related to the responsibilities of the job you are applying for.
3. What are your weaknesses?
Most interviewers don't expect you to be perfect or reveal your true weaknesses. The best thing to do is to turn this question around and present a personal weakness as a professional strength. Let's assume that you're a workaholic who tends to neglect family and friends when working on important projects. You can turn this around by saying that you're result-oriented, meticulous and remain involved in projects until you've worked out all the kinks, even if it means working extra hours or even on the weekend.
4. What can you tell me about our company and/or industry?
Don’t skimp on your research. Check out the company website, especially their "About Us" section.. Write down key points that you can mention when asked. Interviewers want to know that you're interested in them, and even view the opportunity as more than just a job.
5. Aren't you overqualified for this position?
No one, or hardly anyone expects you to say "yes" to this question in today's job market. If you do, the interviewer may think you'll grow disgruntled and leave the company. Instead focus on the experience and the skill set you'll bring as well as the value they'll receive by hiring you.
6. What sets you apart from other applicants?
The interviewer who asks you this is actually probing your readiness for the job, and the willingness to work as hard as required. Describe how your experience, qualities and achievements are going to make you an asset.
7. Where do you hope to be in three years?
The absolute worst answer to this is to say that you want to be president of the company or have the position the interviewer currently holds. Instead, talk about your motivations; especially what will motivate you on this job and what you hope to have accomplished.
8. Do you have any questions? Can you think of anything else you'd like to add?
Don't say "no," or imply that everything has already been thoroughly discussed. If you think the interviewer has any doubts, now's the time to make him see why choosing you is the most logical course of action he can undertake. Show your interest in the company: prepare some key questions in advance. Asking about the company’s corporate culture or what the interviewer likes best about the company will give you insight and let the interviewers know that you're interviewing them as well.
Calmness under fire will demonstrate that you can handle crises on the job just as easily. Remember, interviewers are looking for a candidate who is both competent and confident, someone who not only wants the job, but also recognizes its requirements and can quickly hit the ground running. Answering these questions with self-assurance and conviction can help you outshine other applicants, and put you in prime position to land the job you seek.