Sunday, 24 February 2013

Interview Preparation: Don’t be caught out

Countless times I’ve written blog posts on how preparation is the key to success at any interview. I’ve written before about creating interview answer packs and preparing STAR answers. However, sometimes the less complex the question is, the easier it is to fall short on making a positive impression – a positive impression should be the outcome of any interview. Therefore, ensure that your preparation covers all the basics as some simple questions may be overlooked. Have a read of the below and make sure these questions don’t catch you out.

Talk to me about yourself
You’re probably tempted to tell the interviewer all about your interests in terms of hobbies and the things that you do in your spare time. I’ve always interpreted this question as more along the lines of ‘give me a snapshot of the person you are according to your CV?’, e.g. ‘I’m an enthusiastic graduate who has always wanted a career in publishing and started work experience during my time at University...’ and so on. A minute answering this question will suffice.

How would your friends describe you?
If you haven’t thought much about interview questions before, then just know that this question can open up a variety of answers at an interview. However, there are no tricks involved when answering these type of questions, all you need to know is that you should give positive answers e.g. ‘I’m friendly, personable and funny’ - avoiding answers such as annoying, silly and immature. This may sound really obvious to some of you but interviewees do answer these questions without thinking about the impression they’re making. A basic question requires a basic answer that makes a positive impression.

What would your previous boss say about you?
Again, this is another version of the above question and unless you’ve thought about it before, your instinctual answer may not be an answer that puts you a positive light. As with the above, the right answers consist around talking about your strengths e.g. ‘my previous boss would say I’m organised, punctual and committed’.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Be careful of this question as it requires some thought beforehand. Firstly, think about the role you’re applying for, e.g. is it a role that has a clear progression? Can your potential employer offer that progression? If there is progression, you can talk about this in your answer if not, keep the answer generic and state how you see yourself in an office job working hard with new skills and achievements.

What’s your weakness?
This question should be answered with a weakness that is truthful but again, you should try to keep yourself in a positive light. For instance, ‘I think I need to work on feeling more confident when expressing my ideas’, this is a much better answer than stating ‘I find it difficult to get along with people- that’s why I left my previous company’. Hopefully you can see the stark contrast between these two answers as well.

And if they ask again...
Some interviewers can really probe you on certain questions, which is also a big giveaway on how much preparation you’ve done. Make sure you prepare at least two weaknesses and if they still ask for more weaknesses simply tell them you don’t have any more. 

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