Dear Job Nerd
I have been at the same company for ages now and considering a move. What are the trickiest interview questions being asked of potential employees right now and how can I prepare for them?
Frank, Open Source Programmer
Everyone’s heard that first impressions are very important; this can’t be truer than in a job interview. But before we go in to some of the trickiest questions you may encounter let’s review some basics.
Every prospective employer will be looking for an employee with confidence – even in IT. Remember to keep eye contact, give a firm handshake when you first meet the interviewer and try not to be too nervous. The real person you need to be afraid of is in HR who already cleared you to be interviewed, so just relax. That said don’t over do it, confident and cocky are two completely different things.
If you encounter a question that you are unsure of how to respond to don’t be afraid to just give an honest answer. There is a fair chance that looking like a great person could be just as compelling as a great candidate. Remember that when you are being interviewed by HR it’s likely that he or she is going to have to work with you every day, so be open and friendly.
Question #1: What is your greatest weakness?
This common question is one that everyone one day will run into. Before you break into your “sometimes I just work too hard” speech, there are a few other options that will definitely go over better. Use something that you actually struggle with in your working life. That said, leave out any major issues that you may have, pick problem number 3 or 4 down the list and work with that. Stay away from major problem words such as ‘lazy’ or ‘unreliable’. The trick to answering this well is after saying the minor thing you struggle with. Talk about how you have been working to improve this problem and have virtually eliminated the problem.
Questions #2 What do you know about our organisation?
This is another question that comes up more often than expected. No matter how great a candidate you seem to be, if you don’t know the company, then you appear uninterested which could be a deal-breaker for them. Always read the company’s website entirely before an interview and do a quick Google search to see if they have been in the news for anything. Not only will this prepare you for this question but give you a ton of great talking points to bring up with your interviewer. Remember to stay away from any negative press they may have received.
Question #3 Why did you leave your previous job?
This can be a difficult question but it is important to stay honest in your response. If you were laid off because of cut backs to the company say just that – there is no shame in it. If you were fired, be as honest as you can bring yourself to be but try not to dig your self into any holes and avoid mentioning any personality conflicts. It’s important to remember they will likely check your references so explain honestly what happened, but from your perspective. Remain positive even when explaining possibly negative aspects. Put emphasis on your excitement to explore a new opportunity in the future in a different type of company.
Question 4# Where do you see yourself in five years?
While it’s important to show that you are motivated and looking to succeed, stability is very important to companies who will need to rely on you long term. Always mention that you see yourself in a similar company or industry as the one you interviewing for. You can say that the company can provide great opportunities for you long term and you see your self as a loyal team player. As long as you don’t go over the top, this question could be a good opportunity to mention your strengths, for example, “Well I’d ideally like to use my leadership skills and step up to a management position. But, of course, I’d be keen to prove myself as a team player first!”
Question 5# Why should we hire you?
A bit like the ‘why shouldn’t we vote you out?’ question on reality shows, isn’t it? Luckily this question normally occurs toward the end of the interview. The previous interview questions will help you to figure out what characteristics are important to them. If there were a considerable amount of questions about leadership in an organisation, for example, then focus your response around that aspect. It always helps to respond that you feel that you can make an immediate effect on the organization and then review your past achievements by giving examples of areas you improved in previous roles. This question will be your last ditch good chance to shine so don’t pass it up.
You’ve heard the old adage “practise makes perfect”, so rehearse these five key questions before going in cold to an interview and you’ll be sure to make a great impression. Good luck with the job search!