Interview Questions

A reader writes…

Why are certain questions asked during interviews?
Some of them seem so random and vague!
Dear, “Random,”

It’s true, there are certain interview questions that seem a little off the wall, and you wish you could jump inside the hiring manager’s head to figure out exactly what he or she wants to hear!

Well, lucky for you, I am fluent in “interview speak,” and I can translate the words being asked… and what they really mean. Here are 3 examples:

Question: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Translation: Do you really understand this position and are your career goals in alignment with the company? The interviewer is NOT necessarily interested in your family and travel plans at this stage of the game.
My advice: Think of a reply that shows you have done your homework on the company (their size, the number of employees, their company culture, etc.) but that also expresses your clear understanding of the job at hand. For instance, if you’re applying for a job as the receptionist – just to get your foot in the door (hoping to later become a sales rep), don’t bring that up. The last thing a hiring manager wants to worry about is that you’re going to jump around the minute you get in. Say something like, “I hope to be in a position where I will be able to contribute to company goals and make a difference.” Then to really wow ’em, add something like, “I was able to expand my responsibilities and enhance my skills at my previous organization by…” This type of answer will show your interest, understanding, and commitment to the position you are seeking (yet will also convey your intentions of staying with the company long-term).

Question: What is your weakness?
Translation: Even though you’re sharing a lot of great qualities about yourself, we all know that nobody is perfect. The real question is, can you admit to your faults or shortcomings and convince us that they will not be a problem, should we decide to hire you?
My advice: If you’re going into a position or industry that is new to you, bring up any potential obstacles or concerns at the beginning of the interview. It’s better to be honest about these things upfront than to pretend you have all the answers while being grilled by the interviewer (they’ll see right through you!). The key is, however, to be able to share how you would go about overcoming these challenges by giving examples from your previous job. Always turn your weakness into a positive. And please, people… keep you answers professional and work-related. Nobody wants to hear about your fear of bees or your insecurities about relationships.

Question: What have you been doing since your last position ended?
Translation: Why have you been out of work for so long?
My advice: Discuss any volunteer work you may have had during your time “off.” Or let them know that you have been actively interviewing, but either haven’t found the right fit and/or have not received any offers yet. I think businesses have become more understanding these days due to the current job market. You can also talk about the fact that you’ve been using the time to brush up on your software skills, refine your résumé, and network. For Pete’s sake… whatever you do, keep it related to your job search. Revealing that you’ve mastered bowling on WII or caught up on re-runs of Lost, probably won’t go over well.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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