No matter how much you think you might know interview dynamics, you always need to refresh your knowledge. Plus trends tend to drastically or marginally change over time. That is why you always need a refresher or even primer, depending on your situation. That is something I usually do on wide-ranging subjects. As for today, I am going to discuss with you how to handle common interview questions. There are a considerable number of talking points to cover so I am breaking it down into two parts. I will cover the other common interview questions in another article (i.e. part 2).

Why Us Or Why This Company?

This is one of the most definite ones you will be asked. The grave you must avoid here is to give a generalized answer (i.e. one that can apply to any employer). You must tailor your response with the respective employer in mind and focus. You must have about 3 different talking points regarding that company. These are talking points of things about it that attracted you or impressed you.

Tell Me About Yourself

This is yet another question that you will always find in interviews. Most people get it wrong in that they simply regurgitate their CV in response to this question. That is not what is needed, after all, why repeat your resume when they already have it? You see, your response should be something else. Your response must be a sweet and short yet detailed overview of where you are coming from, where you currently are, and where you are headed. Focus on key information, details, or insights that will comprehensively really tell who you are.

Why You Or Why Should We Hire You?

It can never be a complete interview without this one being asked. The core issue here is, can you convincingly sell yourself to the company? This is almost like a sales pitch where you are the product. You must provide a compelling response comprising your skills, experience, and drive (passion or desire). This all has to be about the job post you are applying for.

How Did You Hear About Us Or This Role?

To be honest, you might think this is a silly or unimportant question but it is a great opportunity to distinguish yourself. There are 3 possible ways through which we can know about job vacancies. It can be through your network, through industry research (or just any research), or job listings. If it was via your network or research tailor your response in a way that makes you stand out. You will, in the process, demonstrate that you value networking and research. If it was through a job listing, emphasise on why that particular role drew your attention. Now you know, this question presents you an opportunity to shine and appeal more to the company.

What Are Your Strengths?

Do not just be generic in your response here. Mention 2 key strengths you possess that are tied to the role you are applying for. Your answer must demonstrate you did your homework on grasping what the role entails and what the company is all about. Figure out a way to highlight your key strengths using storytelling. It becomes even more compelling if you use anecdotes. By the way, an anecdote is a short account of a real incident or person, often humorous or interesting.

What Are Your Weaknesses?

This can usually come as a follow-up question to the previous one. Here is what many people tend to do here; they give disguised strengths as ‘weaknesses’. For example, someone can say they are a workaholic or they are too particular (or overly big on finer details). They think that will make them stand out but that is not so. This question needs you to give actual weaknesses. Not only that, but you must also include what you are doing to work on those weaknesses.

Tell Me About A Time You Failed

You might not always get asked this question; some employers never ask this question. However, it is becoming a common question as more and more employers now include it. This question seeks to determine whether you have failed before. That might seem obvious but some people do not admit to having failed before. The question also seeks to know how dynamic you are, especially during a challenging time. This question also seeks to see how you evolved from that failure i.e. whether or not it helped you become better or grow. When responding you must bear those 3 aspects in mind. It is wise to give 2 accounts of personal experiences of failure you once had. Ensure that you highlight more of what you learned from those failures.

Why Are You Or Did You Leave Your Previous Job?

This of course will apply to someone who was employed prior. Typically we leave jobs with or based on negative experiences or circumstances. It is not always the case but mostly when you leave a job you will have something negative to say. This question can trick you into badmouthing your former employer. Be careful to not do that because that can comprise your appeal to the employer. Endeavour to speak positively. The best response to this question is to point out your need to grow and develop your career. Indicate that you left because you now wanted a place that feeds into your career goals. This will tell the employer that they are the best place for you to soar higher than before.

This concludes the first part of how to handle common interview questions. Be sure to not miss part 2 where I will discuss some more common interview questions. Always remember that interviews are the equivalent of auditioning for a movie role. The trick is to rehearse and rehearse till your performance is both credible and believable. It is not enough to have a great resume, sell yourself.