After receiving a call from an employer inviting you in for an interview, it’s common to feel simultaneously ecstatic, relieved and nervous. One of the best ways to calm those nerves is to be prepared for the interview. To do so, try and anticipate what questions the employer might ask. While at times questions can get tricky, for the most part employers ask straightforward questions that help them get to know your personality as well as your ability to think on your feet.
Yet even if a job seeker is prepared, nerves can still cause stumbles. To help, here are four of the most common interview questions and tips on how you should — and shouldn’t — answer them.
1. “So, tell me a little about yourself.”
When answering this question, don’t go off on a tangent. Prepare your two to three minute career summary and rehearse it out loud. “Make sure that whatever you share is relevant and makes sense given the job you’re interviewing for,” says career counsellor and author Roy Cohen. “Too much information will be lost in translation and your interviewer will tune you out.”
2. “Why do you want to leave your current job?”
This question can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, if you say you’re looking for a new opportunity, the interviewer may take that to mean you were bored at your current job and wanted out. Instead, you could be more specific: There were changes in management; the company’s direction didn’t align with your personal goals; or recent changes made you concerned about the stability of the company and your role. “It’s better to have more reasons for making a move than just one. It suggests that the decision is multilayered and, hopefully, some of what you say will resonate with the interviewer,” Cohen says.
3. “What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses? “
Stop saying, “I’m a perfectionist.” It’s trite and overdone. Name a strength that makes you stand out for the position to which you are applying. When naming a weakness, pick something that’s realistic, and acknowledge that you’re constantly working on improving in that area. Ensure that your weakness isn’t directly associated with one of the prospective job responsibilities, but do be honest.
4. “Let’s talk about salary. What are your expectations?”
If possible, avoid addressing compensation until toward the end of the hiring process. When it comes time to discuss, provide a range with which you’re comfortable. Going into the conversation, decide what the lowest acceptable salary is that will allow you to enjoy the lifestyle with which you’re most comfortable. From there, incrementally increase that salary by 5, 10 or 15 per cent. Once you get to the negotiation process, you’ll be in a better position to give and take on salary and other benefits.
Justin Thompson, CareerBuilder Writer