Interview skills come easy to some, and are terribly difficult to master for others. However, the good news is that these skills can be learned. I know this from personal experience: I have put a lot of practice and hard work into honing in my interview skill set.
Today, I want to share a few questions you should practice answering before any interview. They are seemingly simply questions on the surface, but how you answer them and how you handle yourself when responding to each one will show employers a lot about your character.
1. ‘Tell Me About Yourself’
This isn’t a question per se, but it comes up in some shape or form in almost every interview. I have interviewed more people than I can count, and right off the bat, this question gives me a lot of information about the person sitting in front of me.
The key to answering this questions is to prepare a response that gives the interviewer a snapshot of who you are and why you want to be there. Your answer should be long enough to intrigue the interviewer and give them a good introduction to who you are, but not so long that the interviewer grows bored.
If I were answering this question, my answer would go something like this:
“I grew up in San Francisco and have always been drawn to both business and fashion. After studying business management economics at UC Santa Cruz, I entered the world of retail, where I discovered my true passion for helping people present the best version of themselves. This led me to get certified as a professional resume writer and start Write Styles.”
In my case, I am explaining why I started my business, but if you are interviewing for a position, try ending with how you became interested in the position, company, or industry.
2. ‘Tell Me About a Time You Failed’
Again, not a question, but definitely a request you’ll run into – and a great way to show off your true colors.
It’s important to be honest with both yourself and the interviewer, because it’s never a good idea to lie in an interview. The key to answering this question is to either spin your failure into a positive thing or to show how this failure lead you to something bigger or better.
My answer would go something like this:
“A couple of years ago, I applied for a position that I thought would be perfect for me. I had all of the qualifications, loved the company, and felt I meshed well with the interviewers. For whatever reason, I ended up not getting the position. I felt like a total failure. I decided to take matters into my own hands and get a role similar to the one I had applied to, so I got certified as a resume writer. I spent all of my time cultivating an idea for a business and thinking about how I could use my skills to help others feel good about themselves both on paper and in person. If I would have gotten that job, I probably wouldn’t have pushed myself to get certified and start my own business.”
If your failure was that you made a huge mistake at work in some way, discuss how this made you more attentive to detail and share what you learned from the situation. No one is perfect, and employers prefer people who can learn and grow from their mistakes to those who lie and say they never make mistakes in the first place.
3. ‘Sell Me This Pen’
You’ll run into this oldie-but-goodie if you’re going for a sales job. The key to answering this question lies in your observational prowess.
If you’re going into sales, you (hopefully) know by now that the key to selling someone an item is to hone in on their individual wants and needs. For instance, if the interviewer is wearing a shirt with a pocket, explain that you noticed the pocket and that the pen is perfect to that pocket. That way, they’ll always have something to write with.
Similarly, if you notice the interviewer has a pencil in hand, mention that you see the pencil, but this pen will be more beneficial because of x, y, and z.
I can’t teach you how to be a good salesperson in one blog post, but I can tell you that if you’re going into sales, you should practice selling a pen or another random object to different people before heading into your next interview.
4. ‘Why Do You Want This Position?’ / ‘Why Do You Want to Work at This Company?’
This question is your chance to show off all the research and preparation you conducted prior to the interview. This is when you can talk about all the little details of the company that excite you and why the company’s mission statement and values are meaningful to you.
Before any interview, you should always take the time to research the company and position. I can’t tell you why you want this job – that answer has to come from you. But do yourself a favor and really put some thought into it. A few extra minutes of thought and research could ultimately be the deciding factor in your interview. If it comes to two identically qualified candidates, the candidate who cares more, wants it more, and fits in best with the company culture will always get the position.
5. ‘Why Should We Hire You?’
This is where you show the interviewer how you can be of value to the organization.
I had a great marketing professor in college who once told me, “You need to be the solution to their problem.” If you can show the interviewer that you are the solution to a problem they have, you will be able to land the job. You want to show them that you will meet and exceed their needs. Prove to them that hiring you is a great business opportunity.
This is not to say you should be arrogant, but you need to show the interviewer how you can help them and take some sort of weight off the company’s shoulders.
Before any and every interview, you should practice answering these five question. You most definitely do not want to wing any part of the interviewer, but these queries are particularly important. Practice, practice, practice, and you’ll have a much easier time wowing the next interviewer you speak with.