Answering the Top 5 Interview Questions

There’s not too many job seekers which actually look forward to interviews. Many fear or anticipate “trick questions,” but there are often sound, logical explanations as to why certain questions are asked.

When it comes to the least favorite interview questions, “What is your greatest weakness?” is job seekers’ top pick. Although it’s a common question, only a few know REALLY what to say. If you’re too honest, you’ve just told the interviewer why you shouldn’t be hired. If you pretend you’re flawless, you look arrogant and still don’t get the job.  Many candidates don’t know what to say.

“What employers don’t want is a lot of baloney”, says Tim Moore, President of Tim Moore Associates. “Employers are looking for a realistic and accurate picture of a candidate.  They want to see someone who thinks, not someone who is rehearsed. But mostly, they want the truth.”

To help you think critically about your answers so you can respond honestly and thoughtfully, here are five common (but tough) interview questions which candidates dislike most and how to respond to them.

Worst Interview Question #5: “What is your greatest weakness?”

Don’t say: “I’m such a perfectionist” or “I work too hard.”

Instead: Think about areas where you can improve and figure out how they can be assets.

Why: If you try to conceal your past and refuse to admit to a mistake, you’re sending a red flag to the interviewer that you’re stubborn or that you don’t have the capacity to recognize your own flaws. Pick some areas where you have room for improvement and make them reasons you should be hired. Also, point out how you’ve dealt with a past weakness. For example, if speaking in front of large groups or doing management presentations once terrified you, mention the public speaking course you took to help you through it. This answer demonstrates your problem-solving skills and your willingness to learn. 

Worst Interview Question #4: “Tell me about yourself.”

Don’t say: “Well, my first memory was getting a guitar when I was four years old…”

Instead: Give a brief overview of your career and qualifications in a few sentences.

Why: The interviewer doesn’t want to know about your first grade teacher or your first kiss. Your answers should be a quick rundown of your qualifications and experience. Focus on your strongest skills and traits so that you make a good first impression. This question often prompts follow-up questions, so if you cite creativity as one of your best traits, be prepared to give examples of how you have demonstrated it in the past.

Worst Interview Question #3: “Why do you want to work here?”

Don’t say: “I’ve maxed out three credit cards and need a paycheque ASAP.”

Instead: Articulate why you want the job and why you’re a good fit for the company.

Why: A chief mistake job seekers make is focusing on selling themselves to the company and failing to prove why the job is right for them.  Explain why the job is right for you and why are you right for the job.  If you’ve researched the Company and the job available, it should be relatively easy.  The question helps you give the right answer because you prove that you’re in this for more than the paycheque.

Worst Interview Question #2: “How would others describe you?”

Don’t say: “They would say I’m the best you’ll meet and you’d be stupid not to hire me.”

Instead: Answer honestly.

Why: With regard to what others say about you, this gives a lens for the interviewer to use to see characteristics and attributes that the individual being interviewed may not be aware of.  You should always be asking for feedback from your colleagues and supervisors in order to gauge your performance. Then when you are job hunting, you can honestly answer the question knowing you’ve improved your performance based on the feedback. If you haven’t asked co-workers for their opinions, start now with past and present colleagues so you can answer this question honestly. It might also help you discover what your strengths and weaknesses are.

Worst Interview Question #1: “Why did you leave your last job?”

Don’t say: “Gee, there were so many reasons I got out of that hellhole.”

Instead: Take your time to answer this question. If the interviewer thinks you are rushing through it, or you’re being smart, there’s a problem.

Why: This is your chance to talk about your experience and your career goals. Don’t badmouth a former boss or explain why you were just too good to stay at such a menial job. Instead, focus on what experiences or skills you’ve learned in your previous position and how you are ready to use those skills in a new position with their firm. Detail the path you want your career to follow while illustrating how this job is right for you and how you’re right for the company.  Don’t be afraid to mention in the meeting (or on your resume for that matter), layoffs, downsizing, reorganizations, and other reasons beyond your immediate control.  Some candidates actually hide these reasons, thinking that in some way it reflects badly on them…which it does not.