Nobody likes interviewing, on either side of the equation. For the interviewer, we’re trying to determine if you’d be a good fit—for skills, for culture, and a host of other criteria. When you’re interviewing, you want to communicate what you’re good at while simultaneously deciding if the job is right for you.
Ideally, both sides have done their homework to know that this might be a good fit. Interviewing should be a confirmation of the match rather than a cold meeting. Yet, despite all of this, interviewing is a stressful, painful situation.
There are some standard questions asked by our consultants to nearly every candidate that are almost universally struggled with. By understanding the questions, and what the interviewer is trying to determine, the questions might be easier to understand.
- What makes you different? – Whitney Hayes
Despite what our mothers told us, we are not all unique flowers. When a hiring manager is asking you this question, they want to know what value you are going to bring to the business compared to someone else.
Great answers, in this case, speak to specific past examples where you were a problem solver, instances when you’ve distinguished yourself from your peers, and times when you brought novel solutions to your organisation.
One thing that we’ll come back to is a need to be specific.
- What are your strengths? – Ellie Kostopoulos
We know your resume: it’s in front of us. What we’re looking for is an honest assessment of yourself. If you’re good at something, we’re asking you to highlight it. If you’re a developer who rocks at C++, let us know.
- What are your weaknesses?
This isn’t a trap; you were invited for an interview because we think you might be a great fit for our company or our clients. When we ask for your weaknesses, we’re looking for honesty. Are you self-aware enough to know where you need to improve? What have you done to better yourself?
Employers are looking for people who are able to grow. Hiring and firing are expensive, taxing processes. We want to make sure we’ve got someone who is able to continue to evolve as a worker. Sure, some big companies treat you like a cog in a complex project however, generally, we want people who are looking for the next step.
- What’s the last mistake you made? – Ellie Kostopoulos
Again, we’re not looking for a gotcha moment. The best employees are the ones that are able to reflect on their performance, find flaws, and fix them.
- What is your understanding of successful stakeholder management? (And: if you notice suspicious activity by your cyber security manager, what do you do?)
Practical experience is highly regarded, as is a record of making tough ethical decisions. Some companies choose to use Byzantine rating systems to determine if you’re trustworthy or show leadership. Others prefer to judge you by your past achievements.
From a recruiter perspective, we are selling you and, thus, need to know as much as possible to anticipate and overcome objections.
What can you do to prepare for “offbeat” questions like this?
- Learn as much as you can about the company and, more particularly, the job responsibilities of the position.
- Be inquisitive and ask questions if you’re stuck. Many people try to bluff their way through an interview. We can see through that. Don’t be afraid to look stupid by asking a question: it’s better than looking stupid because you didn’t.
- Be as honest and forthcoming as possible. Talk about your history, share times you struggled, tell us about how you overcame that adversity. We’re going to look you up, and lies are going to get called out quickly.
What questions have you struggled with? Hiring managers, why do you think people trip up on questions like these? Sound off in the comments below.