Wouldn’t it be great if you know exactly what a hiring manager would be asking you in your next job interview ?
How would you like to walk out of the interview room with a sense of assurance that you have secure the job you came in for.?
while we unfortunately can’t read mind, i will give you the next best thing.
A list of some most commonly asked interview questions and their answers.
I don’t recommend having a canned response for every interview question, i truly recommend spending some time getting comfortable with what you might be asked, what hiring managers are looking for in your responses and what it takes to show them that you’re the right man or woman for the job.
Consider this list of interview questions and answers.
“Tell Me About Yourself”
So, the first question you’re probably going to get in an interview is, “Tell me about yourself.” Now, this is not an invitation to recite your entire life story or even to go bullet by bullet through your resume. Instead, it’s probably your first and best chance to pitch the hiring manager on why you’re the right one for the job.
A formula I really like to use is called the Present-Past-Future formula. So, first you start with the present—where you are right now. Then, segue into the past—a little bit about the experiences you’ve had and the skills you gained at the previous position. Finally, finish with the future—why you are really excited for this particular opportunity.
Let me give you an example:
If someone asked, “tell me about yourself,” you could say:
“Well, I’m currently an account executive at Smith, where I handle our top performing client. Before that, I worked at an agency where I was on three different major national healthcare brands. And while I really enjoyed the work that I did, I’d love the chance to dig in much deeper with one specific healthcare company, which is why I’m so excited about this opportunity with Metro Health Center.”
Remember throughout your answer to focus on the experiences and skills that are going to be most relevant for the hiring manager when they’re thinking about this particular position and this company. And ultimately, don’t be afraid to relax a little bit, tell stories and anecdotes—the hiring manager already has your resume, so they also want to know a little more about you.
To further highlight my point I’m going to list the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” and also with the common mistakes people make.
- Keep your answer succinct and to the point.
- Be work specific and tell the hiring manager about where you are now professionally, what you have learned from your past work experiences and then talk about what makes you excited about this specific opportunity.
- Do your company research and find out exactly what strengths andqualities this specific company is looking for and in your answer try and show the hiring manager you possess them (You can discover these strengths or qualities in the job description or on their website.)
- Don’t dive into your life story.
- The hiring manager doesn’t want to hear about you “growing up on 28th avenue down the road from the Trader Joe’s and how it was a coincidence because you had a brother named Joe! (etc…)”.
- Don’t go on about experience you may have that isn’t related to the job you’re interviewing for.
So like you already know,this is one of the Job Interview questions that most people get wrong. So in order to ensure you don’t end up as one of these people, let’s take a quick look at the most common mistakes people make.
- Regurgitate your Cover letter/Resume.
This is an invitation for you to simply list your past accomplishments. Yes, it’s important for you to highlight moments in your past when you were successful, but the real power lies in highlighting the accomplishments that are most relevant to this specific position (more on this in a minute).
- Telling Your Life StoryThis is probably the most common mistake that people make. Why? Because it’s the easiest way to answer this question.
“Well, I’m from Little Rock, Arkansas. I was born in 1983 and spent most of my childhood hunched over a piano, striving to become a concert pianist (which I now am). I love the outdoors – I’m and avid skier and mountain biker. I really love working with my hands and spent a lot of my time in the woodwork shop.”
Look. It’s great to share your personality with others. But save it for after you get hired.
“Well, What Do You Want To Know?”
Congratulations. You just lost the job.
Because an answer like this tells an interviewer that you’re unprepared (yes, unprepared for an unstructured question. It’s not fair…but then again, neither is life…).
The 10-Minute Monologue
Speaking of unfair…don’t go off on a ten minute monologue all about you.
Keep it short. A minute. 90 seconds at most.
There are going to be a lot more questions coming down the pipe that will allow you to elaborate on your various experiences, skills and accomplishments. Don’t feel like you have to answer all of them at once.
The last thing I probably want to talk about is
Why Do Hiring Managers Ask The Tell Me About Yourself Interview Question Anyway?
So why do hiring managers ask this question?
Do they really want to get to know you better?
Are their lives really so boring and wrapped up in work that they’re forced to ask these questions in order to live vicariously through their prospective employees?
Unless you’re a former race car driver who jet sets all across the globe and only dates blindingly attractive people and spends your weekends curing cancer and saving babies, I’m going to have to say no…
…they’re probably not vicariously living your life through your answer.
In fact, there are two much more practical reasons why hiring managers ask this question:
- They want to see how you react to a question asked casually and without structure
- They want to get a feel for what you deem to be “important”
How To Answer An “Unstructured” Interview Question
Here’s the deal.
She runs through hundreds if not thousands of practice interview questionsand refines her answers until they’re tailored, precise, and perfect…and interviewers know this.
They’re not stupid…that’s why they’re the ones doing the interviews!
Their job is to find the perfect candidate and weed out the less than ideal matches…and it’s a tough job, especially when faced with hundreds of candidates who have all worked equally hard.
So a “casual” or unstructured question is one that’s meant to throw you off your game and break you free from the memorized answers.
Rather than simply parroting back something you’ve studied for hours, you’re being called on to speak freely and off the cuff.
But why would they want to throw you off your game?
Well, chances are the position they are hiring for is going to require the candidate to make some decisions and think on his/her feet.
Anyone can prepare for a situation that they know is coming, much like anyone can prepare for an interview question that they know is coming.
By asking an unstructured question like this the hiring manager is able to get a good idea of your ability to think and adapt on the fly.
What Do You Think Is Important?
So we’ve established that thinking on the fly is important.
But even more importantly, by asking this question the hiring manager alsowants to see which information you think is important to offer up relative to the position you are interviewing for.
In leaving the question somewhat opened and unstructured, the hiring manager is trying to get a sense of whether or not you truly understand which experiences, skills and abilities are relevant for the position you are interviewing for. (This is key!)
If you focus on things that the company puts a lot of value in, BINGO!
You pass the test.
But if you just regurgitate the stuff you’ve already mentioned in your cover letter and resume, chances are the interview will be over before it has even started.
How you answer this question can reveal more about who you really are than you can ever possibly imagine…which means it’s a potential land mine…or a potential springboard to success.
So how does one answer this question?
Here is another way of asking the “Tell Me About Yourself” Question
Okay, so now that you have an idea of what you shouldn’t do, let’s dig a little deeper into exactly how you should answer this tough job interview question.
So what is the most important thing to remember?
Well, according to research conducted by Marc Cenedella over at the Ladders, the consensus of career coaches that he asked about how best to respond this question begins with one specific point:
“Focus on what most interests the interviewer.”
Does that make sense? You don’t want to focus on what is best about you, you want to focus on what you are going to do to fulfill the needs of the company you are interviewing with.
We here at The Interview Guys Headquarters would have to strongly agree! Which is why we are always harping on our catchphrase:
“It’s not about you, it’s about them.”
What does this mean? You need to customize (or tailor) your response to the question to the needs of the organization.
So now you have to find a way to do this clearly and concisely.
Use The “Tailoring Method”
Now we won’t get into the real meat and potatoes of the Tailoring Method in this article (but you should definitely read the in-depth discussion of this over in our articleJob Interview Questions and Answers 101).
But here’s the Cliff Notes for the Tailoring Method:
Your company has a specific (and predetermined) set of skills and abilities that the candidate they are going to hire needs to have in order to do the job to their standards. We like to call these Qualities.
So in terms of Tell Me About Yourself, while it is important to talk about all of the Qualities that you think you have, what’s actually much more important is that you show that you possess the Qualities that they want.
But how do you find the Qualities they want and how do you incorporate them into your answers? (Again, we break it all down in the article linked to above, so go check it out and then come back to see how it applies to Tell Me About Yourself answer examples).
How To Structure Your Answer
Okay, so you understand that you need to “tailor” your response to the company and position you are interviewing for by emphasizing the Qualities that they desire in their perfect candidate.
But how exactly do you do that for Tell Me About Yourself?
The best way to do it is to provide a Success Story that highlights the Quality that you are trying to demonstrate.
A Success Story is an example from your past work experience that clearly demonstrates you succeeding in some way.
For example, a time that you solved a problem, excelled in a difficult situation or used a certain skill to get the job done.
Tell Me About Yourself Sample Answer
For the purposes of this answer, let’s say that you’d done your company research and found out that the Quality the company puts a lot of value in iselevated customer service.
Okay so let’s get into an example answer:
“Tell Me About Yourself…”
Well. I’ve been working for the past six years as a systems analyst and data manager. During that time I’ve been trained and certified on a number of different software platforms and systems.
Nice. You’re starting by answering the question directly, and keeping the answer business focused as well as targeted…and you’ve slipped in there that you’re trained on a variety of different programs which, depending on what they are, can make you an even more valuable candidate.
I’d really describe myself as a person with a versatile skill-set, a lot of integrity and a willingness to go the extra mile to satisfy a customer. Perhaps the best way to let you know what I’m about is to share with you a quick experience I had.
Recently while working at a location with a client, they mentioned that they had just purchased some software that I was familiar with but that their computer systems were having some difficulty integrating the program. I offered to take a look at the install and found that there was a step that had somehow been forgotten. I told him I would be happy to wipe the system and reinstall the software correctly. At first the client refused and when I asked him why, he told me that it was too expensive and that they were just going to learn to work around the problem. When I asked him further, he told me a different analyst had been in, looked at the problem, and told them that the files had corrupted their system overall and that it would take at least $25,000 to fix. When I told him it was a simple matter of wiping the previous version and reinstalling it, he was stunned. I did the whole project for a fraction of the cost the other “analyst” had quoted. My client was so happy he referred me to his friends and I’ve done similar work for several other companies in town as a result.
Excellent. You’ve highlighted the Quality (underlined) that the company puts a lot of value in, and used a Success Story from your past to support your claim that you have the quality. Time to bring it home…
Now I’m looking to take my career to the next level and move out of contract work into a full time employee for a company where I can be a part of a team, but also allows me to focus my energy on my best strength, working directly with customers. I’d like to build a long term career that lets me focus on professional growth.
And there you have it…the perfect wrap up. You’ve brought your little story back around to where you are now and what you hope to accomplish with this job. You’ve kept your stories not only professional, but focused and tailored to help reinforce what you’re ultimately trying to do.
But What If I Don’t Have Any Experience!?
But what if I don’t have a super awesome story like that? What if I’m still new-ish at this whole job thing and my stories aren’t as impressive?
Just because you don’t have a super awesome story like the one above doesn’t mean you aren’t still a super awesome individual able to bring both professional and personal skills to the table that would make any employer sit up and take notice.
Here’s the deal…
More often than not, the company cares more about your ability to fulfill their needs than it does about what you did for another company.
Sure, it helps that your Success Story refers to practical on-job experience, but if you don’t have that option you can draw from a different place.
For example, if you are a new graduate you can reference your academic achievements, athletic endeavors, charity and volunteer work.
If you had to work in any kind of group for any activity you can use these experiences as an example.
The fact of the matter is, the hiring manager has seen your resume and would not have brought you in if they didn’t think you had at least some potential to do the job.
So reach back into your past and find some Success Stories to help answer the question.