Preparing your resume for a new job is difficult, but not impossible. You have the benefit of time — no one is going to burst into the room and demand to look at your CV before you send it — and the comfort of multiple edits to help you feel alright about the part of your history you’re showing to the world.
Interviews are an entirely different beast. You only get one shot one opportunity to look great and whether or not you do is entirely based on your ability to improvise around an interviewer’s pet questions.
Here’s a sampling of a few odd questions I’ve personally been asked:
- Can you fold a fitted sheet?
- How do you feel about your name?
- What kind of animal would you want to reincarnate as?
- Thoughts on karaoke?
- (In a windowless room) Which way is north?
These questions are meant to startle, to get you thinking creatively or to get a sense of your priorities without asking about them directly. And because they are so rare they can be hard to prepare for, leading to the dreaded moment of actually having to sit and think about your words before you say them (a big no-no in the job hunting world and nowhere else).
But you can smooth over any potential speed bumps by preparing yourself with a few solid answers to questions you know are going to be asked. I know we just said that interviewers are trying to rattle you with let-field queries, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few questions that almost every recruiter is going to ask.
Tell Me About Yourself
This is the opener for 99% of interviews for obvious reasons. It’s a good, open-ended way to get started talking about the subject at hand, allowing multiple jumping-off points for the interviewer to move forward with the conversation. Or, at least, it will if you don’t completely bungle it.
Knowing that this question is coming is half the battle, as a long-forgotten war hero said. And since you can almost guarantee that this question will kick off any interview, there’s no excuse for flubbing it.
The interviewer wants you to recap your experience in your own words, hopefully leading up to the point that you’re clearly qualified for this gig and ending in an explanation of why you decided to apply.
Job Search Tip: Write out your response, going through your history chronologically and run through it a few times until it feels natural.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
This question is truly tough. It flies in the face of a lifetime of home training, asking you to talk bluntly about things you’re good at. It’s akin to straight-up bragging, but within limits.
Both knowing how to brag on yourself and knowing when to stop are difficult, but that can be fixed if you think of it in terms of resume bullet points. What they want to hear is your most relevant skill backed by an example of you using that skill in the past. “I’m really good at X and I got that way doing Y.” Keep this formulation in mind when practicing for your next interview.
Weaknesses can be even trickier. You don’t want to share anything that might disqualify you, but you don’t want to give a non-answer that will leave the interviewer rolling their eyes. Be honest here and share something that you have struggled with in the past, but follow that up with an explanation of the steps you took or are taking to change that. They want to know that you’re self-aware and adaptable.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
This is a great one for all the dungeon masters out there, because it’s plotting out a bit of a fantasy. Imagine a magical land where job security is assured and you’ve found a job you like doing. Might as well throw in some orcs at that point, right?
What the interviewer wants to hear from you here is how you plan to grow at the company. What do you see yourself doing when you outgrow the position they have offered? What skills will you have honed by that time? And what passions will the job be fulfilling for you? You need to show that there’s something about the job that interests you and that you’ll be willing to grab that part of the gig and run with it.
Job Search Tip: Plot out several trajectories based on the requirements of the job at hand and try and use the one that you feel will resonate the best with the interviewer. If you need to know which skills they are looking for, look out for the points where they ask follow-up questions.
To even get to these questions, though, you have to leap some pretty big hurdles. That’s where we can help. Allow us to optimize your resume and automate your job search to ensure that you’re sweating over interview questions quicker. For just $10, we guarantee that we can land you the interviews you’ve been after.