If you’ve gotten to the interview stage of the recruiting process, you’ve done well, but you’re not in the clear. You still have to sit in the room with the people who are hiring, answer their questions, and impress them. And while the relationship isn’t adversarial, there are still standard interview questions that are hard to answer.
What are your weaknesses?
This one is hard. You don’t want to say that you’re terrible, and disqualify yourself from the position. You also don’t want to say that you’re perfect, because it’s clearly not true. This is a good question to help the interviewer get an idea about your self awareness. We all have flaws; if you can identify yours, you’re more likely to be able to work around it. If you know you can’t spell very well, you’re more likely to ask for someone to proofread your work, for instance.
So, by all means, cop to your (relevant) flaws. But say what steps you take to mitigate it. “Well, I’m kind of a terrible speller, so I always get someone to proofread my emails and stuff before I send it.” Or, “English is my second language, so I often make grammatical errors. I’m still practising constantly, and I’m getting much better.”
Tell me about a conflict you’ve had, preferably at work, and how you resolved it.
It’s a very rare job that doesn’t involve working with other people. May there are ascetics out there who never see another soul, but you’re going to have colleagues. And you’re going to disagree with them. Can you handle it?
Have an example ready for this question. It can be a disagreement at work, at school, or while you were volunteering. Make sure you can tell the story clearly and fairly. There’s a good chance you contributed to the misunderstanding. Own it (more self awareness). And make sure you highlight what steps you and the other parties took to get past it. It shouldn’t be a game of rock, paper, scissors, either. Make sure it was a time you talked it out.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
This is hard because, as Yoda said, hard to see, the future is. But take a guess. What is your current path? Are you in marketing? Do you want to head the department? Do you want to study part time? Do you want to run your own business? You need to balance your plans for the future with the plans of those hiring, too. How long do they expect you to stay?
Answer with as much honesty as you can, but you don’t need to reveal all. Say that you want to be the manager of a marketing department in five years. It may not be where you’re interviewing now; this could be a stepping stone to something else. Most employers will understand that, but you don’t need to be too blunt.
Why is there a gap in your employment?
This is only hard if you don’t have an answer. Did you go to school? Travel to another country (back home, perhaps)? Did your student or wrok visa expire and you were forced to go back home? Those are easy to explain. Other options would be taking survival work and putting it on the resume. If you were waiting tables or doing manual labour, and you’re applying for a management position, you may have left that off. You can simply say that you were working, but didn’t feel the position was relevant.
Another option is just to say that it doesn’t matter. “I had to take some time off for personal reasons, but I’m now ready to get back into the workforce and put my skills and experience to use.”
Do you have any questions for us?
This one is always hard for me, anyway. I know it’s coming, but I have occasionally forgotten to prepare for it. So prepare. Here are a couple good questions to ask.
- What does a typical day look like?
- What are the biggest challenges that someone in this position would face?
- What’s your favorite part about working here?
- I’ve read about the company; can you tell me more about _____? (A new product or service, maybe, or a new market, or a bit of the company’s history. Use this as a chance to show that you’ve done your research.)
- What is the company and team culture like?
You can find a lot more examples at The Muse.
There you go. Good luck on your interview. If you find you need some coaching, come see us at WIL, and we can help you practice.