The Five Most Important Questions to Prepare For Your Interview
A native San Franciscan, Michele Lando is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and founder of writestylesonline.com. She has a passion for helping others present the best version of themselves, both on paper and in person, and works to polish individuals' application package and personal style. Aiming to help create a perfect personal branding package, Write Styles presents tips to enhance your resume, professional appearance, and boost your confidence.
Check out her previous post for SIMPLY here.
According to data released in the 2013 Job Interview Anxiety Survey, 92% of employed Americans get stressed out about job interviews. This comes as no surprise, because while interview skills come easy to some, they can be terribly difficult for others. Regardless of the statistics, you can learn the skills to become a pro at interviews.
As a certified professional resume writer who started out in recruiting, I have put a lot of practice and hard work into honing in my interview skill set. I’ve been both the interviewer and interviewee, so I wanted to share the 5 most important questions to prepare for your interview.
Keep reading to learn what they are and how to answer them!
1. Tell me about yourself.
This isn’t a questions per se, but this comes up in some shape or form in every single interview. I have interviewed with numerous companies and interviewed people more times than I can count, and right off the bat, this question gives me a lot of answers about the person sitting in front of me.
The key to answering this question is giving a snapshot of who you are and why you want to be there. Think of it like your elevator pitch. You don’t want it to be so long that the interviewer gets bored, but want it long enough that they are intrigued and get a good idea of who you are.
If I were answering this question, my answer would go something like this:
“I grew up in San Francisco and have always been drawn to both business and fashion. After studying business management economics at UC Santa Cruz, I entered the world of recruiting, where I discovered my true passion for helping people present the best version of themselves. This led me to get certified as a professional resume writer and start Write Styles.”
In my case, I am explaining why I started my business, but if you are interviewing for a position, try ending with how you became interested in the position or the subject matter of the position.
2. Tell me about a time you failed.
Again, not technically a question, but a great way to show your true colors. It’s important to be honest because it’s never a good idea to lie in an interview, but the key to answering this question is to either spin your failure into a positive light, or to show how this failure lead you to something bigger or better.
My answer would be:
“A few years ago I applied for a position that I thought would be perfect for me. I had all of the qualifications, loved the company, and felt I meshed well with the interviewers. I ended up not getting the position and felt like a total failure. However, I decided to take matters into my own hands to get into a role similar to the one I had applied to. This is what led me to get certified as a resume writer and start Write Styles. If I would have gotten that job, I probably wouldn’t have pushed myself to get certified and start my own business.”
If your failure was that you made a huge mistake at work and oversaw a flaw which cost you the project, discuss how this made you more attentive to detail and discuss what you learned from the situation. No one is perfect, and showing that you can learn and grow from your mistakes is more valuable than someone lying and saying that they never make mistakes in the first place.
Shop interview outfits:
3. Sell me this pen.
This is only applicable if you’re applying for a sales position, but every sales job I have ever applied to and interviewed for has asked me to do this. The key to nailing this comes down to your observation skills. If you’re going into sales, you (hopefully) know by now that the key to selling someone an item is to hone in on their individual wants and needs.
For instance, if someone is wearing a shirt with a pocket, explain that you noticed the pocket, and the pen is perfect to keep handy in that pocket so they always have something to write with. Similarly, if you notice someone has a pencil in hand, mention that you see the pencil, but this pen will be more beneficial because of x, y, and z.
I can’t teach you how to be a good salesperson in one blog post, but I can tell you that if you’re going into sales, you should practice selling a pen or another random object to different people before heading into your interview.
4. Why do you want this position and/or why do you want to work at this company?
This question is where your research and effort spent prior to the interview shows through. This is where you express all of the little details that excite you and what company aspects or mission statements mean to you.
Take the time and research the company and position. This answer has to come from within you, but do yourself a favor and really put thought into it. A few extra minutes of thought and research could ultimately be the deciding factor in landing you the job. If it comes to two identically qualified candidates, the candidate who cares more, wants it more, and fits in best with company culture will always get the position.
5. Why should we hire you?
This is where you show the interviewer how you can benefit them. I had a great marketing teacher in college who told me: “You need to be the solution to their problem.” If you can show the interviewer that you are the solution to a problem they have, you will be able to land the job. Show them that not hiring you is riskier than hiring you. If you are the solution to their problems, it is a very risky move to turn the solution away. You want to show them that you will meet and exceed their needs, and show them what a great business opportunity it is to hire you.
This is not to say you should be cocky, but you need to show prospective employers how you can help them and take some strain or weight off of their shoulders. Provide specific metrics and achievements which highlight what you’ve accomplished and what you can bring to the company.
Before any job interview, take the time to study the company and prep for these common interview questions. You'll be able to go into your next interview with confidence knowing that you'll be able to ace these answers!