Sticky solutions to your everyday business challenges
Question: My college internship at an investment firm turned into a full-time job where I worked for the past seven years. Late last year, I decided to make a career change. I’ve found some promising opportunities and have two interviews scheduled later this month. I don’t have a lot of experience answering interview questions. Can you give me some tips on how to answer questions that may come up?
Answer: While we don’t recommend having a canned response for every interview question (in fact, please don’t), we do recommend spending some time getting comfortable with what you might be asked, what hiring managers are really looking for in your responses, and what it takes to show that you’re the right person for the job.
Typically, you can expect interview questions to fall into one of these five categories:
“Tell me about yourself.” This question seems simple, so many people fail to prepare for it, but it’s crucial. Don’t give your complete employment (or personal) history. Instead, use a present, past, and future. Talk a little bit about your most recent role (including the scope and perhaps one big accomplishment), then give some background as to how you got there and experience you have that’s relevant. Finally, segue into why you want—and would be perfect for—this role.
“Tell me about a challenge or conflict you’ve faced at work, and how you dealt with it.” This question will give you the opportunity to share that you’re willing to face conflicts and make a sincere attempt at coming to a resolution. Stay calm and professional as you tell the story (and answer any follow-up questions). Spend more time talking about the resolution than the conflict, and mention what you’d do differently next time to show that you’re open to learning from tough experiences.
“What do you consider to be your weaknesses?” What your interviewer is really trying to do with this question—beyond identifying any major red flags—is to gauge your self-awareness and honesty. So, “I can’t meet a deadline to save my life” is not an option—but neither is “Nothing! I’m perfect!” Strike a balance by thinking of something that you struggle with but that you’re working to improve. For example, maybe you’ve never been strong at public speaking, but you’ve recently volunteered to run meetings to help you get more comfortable when addressing a crowd.
“If you were an animal, which one would you want to be?” Seemingly random personality-test type questions like these come up in interviews because hiring managers want to see how you can think on your feet. There’s no wrong answer here, but you’ll immediately gain bonus points if your answer helps you share your strengths or personality or connect with the hiring manager. Pro tip: Come up with a stalling tactic to buy yourself some thinking time, such as saying, “Now, that is a great question. I think I would have to say…”
“Do you have any questions for us?” Yes. You do. You’ll always want to have a few questions for your interviewer to show your genuine curiosity about them and your potential future employer. Here are a few examples: What’s your favorite part about working here? How did the company handle the Covid crisis? What are some of the greatest challenges facing the company in the next 12-18 months?
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