Posted on July 1, 2014 by Heather R. Huhman
When preparing for job interviews, many job seekers focus on crafting answers to hard questions.
“What is your greatest weakness?”
“If you were an emoji, which one would you be?”
Although preparing for these tough questions is good practice, it can be easy to overlook some of the more tricky interview questions hiring managers ask.
The following three questions might seem very simple to answer; but they often catch job seekers off guard:
1. Tell me about yourself.
What they’re really asking: Who are you? Interviewers want to learn about your professional experience, as well as your personality. This question helps hiring managers gauge whether or not a candidate will be a good cultural fit.
Why it’s tricky: Although this seems like a simple question, it’s one that often stumps candidates. For most people, it’s difficult to talk about oneself and share information about interests, strengths, and weaknesses.
How to answer: You’ve already explained your experience and hard skills through your resume and cover letter. The job interview is your opportunity to share real-life stories from your experience that illustrate your best qualities.
When the interviewer asks you to introduce yourself, talk about some of your past experience, your unique interests relevant to your career, and even some of your interests outside of work.
For instance, let’s say you’re applying for a teaching position. You can talk about your passion for teaching and mention that, in your free time, you enjoy blogging about the experiences you gain in the classroom. This gives you something unique to talk about during the interview, yet keeps the discussion relevant to the position you’re applying for.
2. What do you have to offer?
What they’re really asking: What makes you the ideal candidate for this position? Again, this is another question interviewers ask to discover whether or not your skills, experience, and personality make a good match for their organization.
Why it’s tricky: This is a tricky question because it challenges candidates to think about their best qualities and illustrate them as an accomplishment story for the interviewer.
How to answer: To successfully answer this question, you need to understand the position you’re applying for. Hopefully, before the interview, you spent time studying the job description.
Once you understand the qualifications and responsibilities for the position, explain how your experience and skills make you the best candidate for the position. Touch upon some of your soft skills, such as communication or leadership, to show the employer what you have to offer outside of your hard skills and experience.
3. Where do you see yourself in five years?
What they’re really asking: What are you looking to gain from this job? Employers want to know if you’re solely applying for the position for personal gain or if you’re truly passionate about the organization.
Why it’s tricky: A huge challenge employers face is finding talent who will stay with their organization. Employers often ask this question to learn what the candidate expects to gain from the job and whether or not they plan to create a career with their organization.
How to answer: A good way to answer this question is to express the types of skills and experience you hope the job will provide you with. You might also want to add some of your goals, if you were to be hired for the position, and how you’d help the employer be successful.
Keep in mind that the best way to answer these three questions is to be confident, honest, and concise. The key to a successful job interview is to be yourself and allow the interviewer to see your best attributes.
How would you answer these three interview questions?
About Heather R. Huhman
Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.