There’s no doubt about it — interviews are tough. With so much on the line, job seekers often psych themselves out or majorly overthink things, resulting in a sub-par performance.
The good news, though, is that this is largely avoidable. If you can thoroughly practice beforehand, you’ll be able to get the jitters out, refine your responses and identify the key points you want to mention. With so many different questions asked in interviews, though, you can’t realistically rehearse all of them.
So where should you focus your efforts? We chatted with Candace Bracher, a Recruiting Manager for the Information Technology division at staffing agency Addison Group. Bracher has spoken to thousands of candidates throughout her career, and identified three questions as the ones that candidates most frequently flub.
Below, Bracher expanded on what these questions are, what makes them so tough and how you can give answers bound to impress recruiters.
Question #1: Walk me through your resume.
A successful response to this request is key, as it is frequently one of the first things your interviewer will say, if not the first. It may seem pretty straightforward — you just need to describe what’s on your resume, right? But according to Bracher, running through your resume line by line is a big mistake. Besides eliciting an overly verbose response, this information is redundant.
“Interviewers do not want you to tell them your responsibilities in all of your positions; they have already read that on your resume. They want to hear about what you’ve accomplished, and how you’ve added value to the organization,” Bracher explains. “Interviewers want to hear what added value you can bring. So it is important to use this question as an opportunity to demonstrate prior examples of success.”
To do this, “find specific details, responsibilities and accomplishments you’ve had in your background that are applicable to what the job is looking for, and spend time illustrating those examples,” Bracher suggests.
Spend some time searching your resume beforehand to identify specific examples related to the bullet points in your work experience section, and try to choose ones that are as relevant as possible.
“Be mindful of the position you are applying for, and make sure when noting prior accomplishments, that you are focusing on ones that can be pertinent to the position,” Bracher says.
Question #2: What is your greatest weakness?
This question has stumped many a job seeker before due to its deceptive nature.
“Many think they should highlight their strengths [in the] form of a weakness (e.g. ‘My greatest weakness is that I work too hard’),” Bracher shares. “Another common mistake is denial” — after all, who wants to highlight one of their shortcomings when they’re trying to convince their interviewer to give them a job?
But interviewers don’t expect candidates to be infallible, Bracher says.
“Prospective employers ask this question to gauge both a candidate’s honesty, and self-awareness. A better way to answer this question is by being honest, but mindful not to overshare,” she explains. “For example, maybe your weakness is that you struggle with collaboration, and prefer to do projects by yourself. Instead of saying ‘I do not like teamwork,’ you could say something like ‘I struggle with sharing projects, or tasks with others, because I think I can manage the project on my own.’”
Regardless of which growth area you share, you should make it clear that it’s not so severe that it will interfere with your ability to do the job.
“Prospective employers want to be reassured that despite these weaknesses, your productivity will not be in question. Remember – you want to be mindful of your weaknesses, but also demonstrate the capability of overcoming them to prevent them from interfering with your productivity,” Bracher says.
Question #3: Do you have any questions for us?
When I was still new to the workforce, I viewed this question as being purely for my own benefit. If I felt I had gotten sufficient information from the person I was speaking with, I would let them know that I didn’t have anything I wanted to ask. But this question isn’t just an opportunity for you to learn more about the position at hand — it’s an opportunity for your interviewers to gauge how thoughtful and passionate you are about the job.
“By far one of the biggest, and most common mistakes a candidate can make, is saying no to this question. If you have not prepared any questions for the interviewers, they may interpret this as a lack of interest or engagement in the prospective position,” Bracher explains.
The simple fix? Draft a few questions beforehand!
“Make sure you have prepared a list of questions for the interviewer. These may be questions about the role, or the work environment. Preferably, the questions you are asking will demonstrate an interest in both the role and the company,” Bracher says. “For example, it is a good idea to ask questions that surround specifics about the responsibilities and expectations, while avoiding questions that are overly self-serving, such as salary-related questions.”
A few questions you might want to ask in particular include:
- If I got the position, how would we work together?
- What do you most enjoy about working here?
- What is the biggest challenge your company/department is facing today?
- How do you define success?
- Is there anything about my background or resume that makes you question whether I am a good fit for this role?
Is there a question you’re struggling with that you don’t see above? Don’t worry. Bracher had some additional tips for job seekers, regardless of which question they face.
“Be concise and consider timing when answering questions. You want to avoid rambling [during] interview questions. Interviewers want to know you can directly answer questions without dancing around an answer, so be concise,” Bracher says. “Give a direct response and support it by drawing upon examples with prior success, but be careful not to dance around the answer.”
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