Springtime means interview time for soon-to-be college graduates and many other people trying to enter the job market. You may sit through countless interviews, often answering the same questions for multiple openings.
The key to the perfect interview is to be prepared for a variety of questions, but since many recruiters ask the same questions, it’s much easier to tailor your answers ahead of time. We’ve compiled advice for how to answer the top three hardest interview questions. Take the time to reflect on your own answers to these questions and you’ll be on your way to a second interview.
Tell me about yourself.
Despite this being the first, warm-up question in an interview, it stumps many people. Where do you start? Forbes advises that you cover four topics: early years, education, work history and recent career experience. Your answer should be concise, no more than two minutes. This is the perfect opportunity to use your personal “elevator pitch.”
Highlight a few points of experience and your best skills to start the conversation moving in the right direction. Direct it towards the position you’re applying, bringing up the most recent and relevant experience. The recruiter will usually follow up with an appropriate response to something you said and from there the conversation can flow naturally. Those with a bad pitch will prompt the recruiter to simply change the subject entirely.
Why should I hire you?
This is the time to show what makes you unique. Don’t just regurgitate your resume or tell them what you want. You need to prove that you’re not just qualified for the job, but that you’re going to be a better fit than anyone else. They are basically asking what you can do for this company. So tell them directly how great your potential is.
Summarize your accomplishments by offering an example of how you’ve benefitted a company in the past and present something new. What skill do you have that will allow you to stand out in a crowd of applicants? What ideas do you have that help the company grow?
Now is the time to leave an impression and show what you’re worth.
What is your biggest weakness?
Don Masura is the owner and director of The Threshold Group, a staff development firm that specializes in creating programs and solving problems in the area of employee development and career management. He often counsels young professionals in mock interviews. Masura says that most recruiters don’t really care what the weakness is, so long as you can identify it.
“You want to be able to name a weakness, then say ‘But it’s never been an issue in the workplace and I’m getting better at it,’” says Masura.
It’s dangerous to hire applicants who are ignorant to their own weaknesses. There is always something to be improved upon.
Masura also advises not to use perfectionism as a weakness. It sounds fake, and suggests you aren’t aware of your own shortcomings.
Think of a situation where you’ve genuinely struggled, whether it’s an interpersonal issue within the workplace, or a skill set you may be lacking. Then explain how you’re working to improve upon it.
Always conduct research about the company, get a good night’s sleep and think through answers to these tough questions before a job interview. Hopefully you’ll be on to the next round in no time.
Annie Johnson is a senior at Wake Forest University from Topsfield, Mass. She is a communications major with minors in journalism and film studies. She aspires to be a writer and editor at a niche media outlet, particularly in pop culture or entertainment. When she’s not writing or watching movies, she enjoys traveling, running and taking long naps.