We know that interviewers can't get too personal, but they do want to find out what kind of person you really are. It's not that they don’t believe you are qualified for the position, but rather that they want to get to know you a little better as a person. And because they can't ask your husband (thank goodness!), they rely on open-ended questions that help them probe your psyche without you even noticing. Pretty smart. Show the interviewer that you're just as smart by anticipating questions, then preparing and practicing your answers prior to the interrogation, er, interview.
Tell Me About Yourself
Your answers to "Tell me about yourself" can set the tone for the entire conversation. Prepare a one- to two-minute reply -- make it rehearsed by not scripted -- to this open-ended question that says why you are the best candidate for the job. Just leave out the personal stuff, like your favorite romantic comedy of all time or where you and your husband met. Don’t rehash your resume either. Work in a few words about your background and how you’ve leveraged your experience to get to where you are today. Tie it all together with a short anecdote that highlights your passion for the work you do. This isn’t the time to talk about your love of scrapbooking -- unless you’re applying for a job at a scrapbook store.
What Is Your Greatest Strength?
This is no time for modesty. You are your own cheerleader here, and you’ve got to have those cheers memorized. Develop a few examples that illustrate what makes you so great and just the perfect candidate for the job. When tagged with this question, tap into your list of prepared answers to find the one most appropriate to the job at hand, then give an example of how this strength served you in the past. For example, you could say, “I pride myself in my close attention to details. It’s because of that strength that I was able to catch an error in the year-end balance sheet at my previous company that influenced the entire budget for the following year.”
What Is Your Greatest Weakness?
Be careful with this one. You don’t want to talk about a defect in your character or a weakness that would make you totally unsuitable for the job -- or any job, for that matter. Answers like “I’m always late,” or “I really hate taking orders” will only land you raised eyebrows, a quick end to the interview and directions to the door. Instead, focus on an area that you’re working to improve or turn an asset into a weakness. “My intensity about making sure details are correct can also be my weak point, because I sometimes have trouble releasing work until I’ve checked it over and over and over,” is one option. If you go with another example, talk about the solutions you’re pursuing through continuing education, self-improvement books and practice.
Why Should I Hire You?
To answer, "Why Should I Hire You?" put your confidence in overdrive and give the recruiter your best pitch. Describe your qualifications and skills in relation to the job to give the interviewer valid reasons to give it to you instead of another candidate. Talk about how your past experiences have prepared you to tackle this next exciting step in your career path and how the company is ideally matched with your own vision and goals. Throw in a few of your outstanding character traits, such as hard-working, dependable, quick learner, loyal and dedicated. Then ask for the job.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."