Just when you thought I said all I had to say, I share this – now get out there!
IN THE QUEST to find great employees to build their companies, hiring managers are continuously looking for perfect questions to ask that will predict whether someone will be a superstar or a comet of doom to the organization. Although there is a multimillion dollar industry built around predictive tests and as many interviewing theories as there are hiring managers, there is still an almost ubiquitous comfort around some old standbys regardless of their actual predictive validity that virtually guarantees you will encounter them sooner or later. So, here are five questions you will likely be asked and the best answers for them:
What are your greatest strengths?
Many interviewers feel that candidates are accurately able to identify and articulate their strengths and that the interviewer can then determine whether the candidate’s strengths are a good match for the requirements of the position. The reality is you have a lot of strengths that you can draw upon in any given situation. The best answer here is the strength (that you actually possess of course) that best corresponds to the need of the position. For example, if you are both a skilled communicator and meticulously good at follow through, and you are interviewing as research scientist, guess which strength you should mention?
What are your weaknesses?
Although many experts question the predictive validity of this question, interviewers still tend to feel that it provides valuable information. Although unlikely to be answered one hundred percent candidly, it does actually serve you in the long run to be honest about this. For example, if you are not a good micro-manager, it’s a good idea to admit it. It will either go in your favor, or save you from getting a job you’d hate.
Where do you want to be in five years?
Traditionally, the purpose of this question is to make sure candidates have just the right amount of motivation. If you are applying for an entry level position and state that you want to own the company in five years, you’ll reveal yourself to be potentially delusional. On the other hand, if you are applying as a senior manager, it may not be in the company’s best interest to invest in you if you are planning on launching a start up in two years.
What makes you the best candidate for the job?
This question is usually asked near the conclusion of the interview and while it’s impossible to literally answer this question, considering you likely don’t know a thing about the other candidates, you should have a sense by now whether you are in fact a good fit or not. Revisit the needs of the organization and why you are uniquely suited to solve their problems.
And yes, you will soon be asked this question, too!
Why did you leave your last position?
Another potential hot issue here, depending on the reason. If you moved, or were part of a massive restructure, this is fairly simple to explain, but quitting without having another job, or being released can be potential red flags for future employers. Avoid the cardinal sin of speaking ill of your former employer, but make it clear you are a valuable employee. “We mutually agreed to part ways,” or “I decided it was time to find a position with a company whose values more closely reflect my own”, are about the safest ways to communicate a less than amicable parting.
So in conclusion, be prepared for the old standbys with answers that clearly and concisely reflect the great catch that you are!