You’ve applied for a position at a reputable company, which pays well and has amazing employee benefits. Lucky you are invited to the company for a job interview. During the interview, everything is going well until the interviewer asks the dreaded ‘tell me about yourself’ question. You start to stammer. Tension starts to build and, in the end, you lose the only shot you had at getting your dream job.
1. Tell me about yourself
When you are with your friends, talking about yourself is the easiest thing to do. No one knows you better than you. However, most interviewers will agree that a majority of applicants fail to give a good answer to the question ‘tell me about yourself’ during a job interview. This is the toughest and most stressful question in an interview
There are two main reasons why interviewers ask this question. They want to understand what you see as important. They also want to see how you react when a question is asked that requires you to think. You must make sure to be interesting and descriptive so that the interviewer can picture your story, this also helps to break the ice as this question is often asked early on in the interview.
This challenging interview question is the one that is meant to throw you off your game. No more memorized answers. Any good interview candidate prepares well before going for an interview. Such a candidate will run through hundreds of practice interview questions and refines the answers up to the point where they are perfect, precise and tailored. Unfortunately, interviewers know this and this is why they use questions such as ‘tell me about yourself.’
Also, by leaving the question open ended, the interviewer wants to get a sense of whether or not you really understand which skills, abilities and experiences are relevant to the position you are applying for. If you focus on the things that the company puts a lot of value in, you’ll pass the test.
The tell me about yourself is not an invitation for you to just list your past accomplishments or to regurgitating what’s already in your resume and cover letter. It’s okay to highlight the moments in your past that were successful but the secret lies at highlighting accomplishments that are most relevant to that specific position. Most people make this mistake because it’s the easiest way to answer this question. Sharing your personality with others is great but save it for after you get the job.
When asked the ‘tell me about yourself’ question, keep the answer short. Don’t go for more than 90 seconds. There are more questions coming down the pipe that will allow you to elaborate on your skills, accomplishments and experiences. As mentioned earlier, the interviewer wants to see how fast you can think when faced with a challenge. The biggest mistake that most applicants make is stalling, fumbling and pausing at the onset of their answer. This demonstrates a lack of self-esteem and self-awareness.
In most cases, the interviewer cares less about how you describe yourself and more about the passion, confidence and enthusiasm with which you answer it. Be honest, smile, take your time, be positive, be creative. Say something that doesn’t sound like a cliché. This is your future boss. He just wants to get to know you a bit.
2. How much would you like to get paid
When the interviewer inevitably asks you how much money you would want to be paid if you get the job. They are laying a trap for you right in front of your eyes and to avoid it you need to be prepared. First, you should never state an exact figure. You can instead answer by asking what the normal salary for a person in your position with your experience is. Or what the company has allocated for the individual who will fill the position. If pressed, you should provide a wide salary range and state that expected compensation depends on job duties.
If they push you to come up with a number then you must avoid the temptation to ask for a small amount. You must consider various things when valuing the position. First you must find the minimum amount that you need to put a roof above your head and feed yourself and family. Then assess the salary of someone you know who works in this position for a stable company and say this is what you expect, if they seem taken aback by this estimation you can easily back it up by stating your friends pay who does the same job is as much.
If you have no friends, in the position that you are interviewing for, then you can search the internet for a salary report or salary calculator to find out what you should be earning based on other people’s pay for a similar position. Obviously don’t try to give a ridiculous figure or say something flippant as this is the time to be serious and honest.
When answering this question you should come to a decision before hand of whether you value money or the experience more, if you truly do not mind how much you are to be paid then you can oversell this point by saying something like “I would be happy with any reasonable amount you have to offer as I would take a pay cut to work for you as I value your company so much.” Only say this if you really do not care about the money.
3. Why should we hire you
You do not want to come across as desperate, and whiny, and you also do not want to appear arrogant when answering this question which is hard as you have to sell yourself. Many candidates flop when they are asked this question, and that comes down to various reasons which are all preventable. In most cases, it is because the candidate has not researched the company and doesn’t understand what qualities they are looking for in answer to this question.
You must, must, must tailor your response to the company you are being interviewed for. Every company has a set of qualities they look for in their employees, and many will have a set of qualities they want to see in a candidate for the position they are offering. Finding out what qualities they desire is easy. You can look at their website and if they don’t have a slogan in their header they will have an ‘about’ or ‘about us’ page which is where you can extract the values that the company holds and use them in your answer.
Research the companies competitors and what they have over the company you are applying for, it may be something like their social media presence is 10x more than your potential employer’s social media presence. With this information, you can then offer an insight into a solution you have this will interest the interviewers as they will already know about their companies problems and if you can provide a credible solution, then they will look at you in an envious light.
Practice what you are going to say, of course, this is important for all your answers, but it is essential for this answer. As it is so easy to determine when an interviewee is using fillers as they will use cliché like ‘I will give 110% all the time’ there is no point saying this, (it is worse than saying nothing). Most of the other candidates will say this, and it will seem like you are using it to fill in for your lack of confidence or credible answer.
4. What are your weaknesses?
Yes, you do have at least one weakness! Everyone does, and by answering ‘I don’t have any weaknesses really’ this you are pretty much guaranteeing that you will not receive the job offer. This question can firstly establish whether you are capable of humility and understanding of your actions. So you must admit to a weakness of yours in order to pass the first stage of this question. You must also offer a weakness that does not destroy your chance of obtaining the job, your weakness.
A method of answering this question is to use ‘strength in disguise’ this is where you suggest a weakness that can also be interpreted as a strength. An example of this ‘strength in disguise’ answer is to say that you are a ‘people pleaser’ you should follow this up in more detail with an explanation along the lines of ‘I try to keep everyone happy, all the time, and this sometimes means that I spread myself a bit thin.’ Then you should suggest how you are trying to deal with this problem and conclude your answer by saying ‘I am however trying to work on this weakness and although I still regularly help all my colleagues, I now occasionally turn colleagues down when they ask for my help if I need to finish a work project myself.’ This style is called the confession and recovery.
You can also use the ‘irrelevant weakness,’ method which is fairly self-explanatory and entails that you offer a weakness that will not apply in any way to your work. An example of this type of weakness is to say ‘sometimes I watch TV, especially football, too much, and thus I ignore my family’ although it is a weakness it doesn’t really apply to work, and your interviewers quite frankly won’t care about your personal issues.
They only care about how you will fit into their company. The only issue with this method is that some interviewers will not be satisfied with this answer and then you may be asked for a weakness that applies to your work. This is why the ‘strength in disguise’ method is the best method to choose when answering the ‘what are your weaknesses’ questions.
When selecting your weakness you will offer, you must select a weakness that will not worry your interviewers whilst also being a relevant weakness, which doesn’t come across as a lie.
5. Why are you interested in working for us?
This question is asked as a way to gauge your career goals, your enthusiasm and how important the job is to you and whether you will be giving their company your all or whether you are just taking the job for the money. You must adequately satisfy all these queries when answering this question.
Many people make the mistake of not doing any research when answering this question and therefore their answers are too general, uninformed, or overly enthusiastic; these are the examples of responses that fall under these categories:
‘I want to work for your company because I have heard good stuff about it and I would love to work here.’
‘I need a job, and I am qualified and unemployed, It is a good time for me, and you obviously need someone to fill in your position.’
‘uh, I really like the look of your workplace.’
These replies will turn off your potential employers. The solution to make sure your answers aren’t like this is to conduct simple research on their company; this will help you provide a more favorable answer. The perfect answer must reference the company’s history and should show an understanding of where they are heading in the future. You have to woo your interviewers and big up their company, mentioning a public decision they have taken which you like is a sure way to win over the interviewers. As with all answers, you must make sure you do not sound disingenuous by being too complimentary.
This is the time to share the knowledge you have accumulated on their company and by expressing your positive views on their history, they will then be able to picture you fitting in with their company, as you will appear to fit in with their values. You could also comment on how you for a while have wanted to contribute to their brand and public reputation. As a member of the public, you can express some constructive opinions on how they could improve their public image and you would love to contribute to their success in the future.
6. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
This question is asked by the interviewer to determine whether you are committed to their company for the next few years. Plus to see what your personal and professional goals are and whether they will fit in the company’s ethos. Another reason for this question is that the company that hires you will probably be spending thousands in recruitment, and they do not want to go through this process again because you don’t like the workload or time demands.
When answering this tricky interview question you should avoid a variety of answers. One topic you should avoid is putting a tangible figure on when you expect to be promoted an example of this answer is: ‘Within five years I would expect to be in a general manager role or even the CEO of your company.’
Although this answer shows ambition and that you want to work with the company for many years it will annoy the interviewers. As they may be insecure about the job position they have. They have probably been in the company for longer than five years if they are conducting interviews and this sort of answer will play on their insecurities, that they have not been promoted as much as they wanted. Is it a sure way to get the interviewer to dislike you.
Your answer should focus on your core strengths, your professional and personal goals and also how their company ties in with these things. You should straight away calm their concerns about your commitment to their company by stating that you definitely see yourself working for them for the next five years at least. This will then keep them listening to every word you now say as their main qualm has been answered. If you save this reply till the end of your answer, they will be nervously waiting to cross it off their criteria sheet. Subsequently, they will not be paying full attention to what you are saying. So by confronting this concern head on will put you in good stead for the rest of your answer.
The rest of the answer should go something like this ‘I am looking forward to developing my skills in this sector, and I hope to gain respect and friendship from my colleagues within the first year of working for you. In the next few years, I would hope to venture into new territories in your company and take on new challenges developing year on year. I see that your company offers opportunities to those who work hard and by five years I believe I will have enough knowledge and experience to be considered for new opportunities in your company. I look forward to working for you within the next five years and possible longer. Personally, I would hope to be in a financially secure situation and become a valued and active member of my local community. In five years time, I would expect to be able to beat my brother in a tennis game something which I have failed to do so thus far in my life!
This answer shows that you are prepared to work hard for their company and that you are ambitious, note that the answer doesn’t mention a particular job title though. This answer then moves onto the later stage of your five-year plan and states that you would be looking for new ‘opportunities’ this is a polite way of saying you expect to be recognized and given a promotion. It also references the company’s history in a positive light, which is music to the interviewer’s ears. You should end your answer with a relatively general statement about your life and social position. Your last sentence should be light-hearted, and it will round off your answer in a humorous way which shows that there is more to you than promotions.
An answer like this will satisfy the interviewer and their criteria; you will probably receive an informal follow-up question on your personal story which is easy to answer and should help you in developing a repour with the interviewer.