The interview process can be a nerve-wracking experience. For some, it’s tough to be the center of attention answering rapid fire questions for 30 minutes. Others lack the confidence and organization to make sure they hit all the points they want to emphasize.
But, undoubtedly, the most stressful part of interviews is the standard questions that seem to have no good answer, the ones that have plagued every job seeker before, and often during, the actual interview. No need to worry though: there’s a way to answer those questions in a manner that’ll satisfy the interviewer and portray you in a positive light. (Click here to tweet this bit of hope.)
1. Why are you leaving your current job?
Whatever your feelings about your current employer may be, you never want to speak poorly of the company — and you don’t want to paint yourself in a negative light either. Make it simple: you and the company are no longer a good fit.
Of course, you’ll have to go into a bit of detail, but make it about your long term goals and how they don’t align with what your company can offer you. During this part of the interview, strike a balance between offering some detail without rambling on. The worst thing you can do is throw your current employer under the bus, so make it a no-fault conversation.
2. Where do you see yourself in five years?
One of the cardinal rules of an interview is to remember that you’re interviewing for a specific job, not for the one you want in the future. That being said, it’s almost a certainty that interviewers will ask about your goals and aspirations. When answering this question, tie it back to the position you’re actually interviewing for.
A good answer is to say that you want to grow within the organization, using the position you’re interviewing for as a basis to learn. Make sure to keep it within the same industry though. If you’re interviewing for a position in HR, don’t say your five-year goal is to work in finance — that won’t sit well.
Employers like to know you see a job in their company as a stepping stone to more senior roles within their company — certainly not within an entirely different industry
3. What is your biggest weakness?
This is one where interviewers will look for the most honesty, so avoid the standard “I work too hard” answer; it’s a safe one and comes across as such. Instead, be honest about the things you need to work on — whether it’s overseeing a team or managing budgets.
As long as you remember to bring it back to how you’d like to learn more, you’ll have the interviewer’s respect.
4. Can you explain the gap in your employment history?
Given the recent recession, it’s not uncommon to have some holes in your resume. Yet, interviewers want to hear how you used that time off to still progress your career in the long run.
Perhaps you went back to school to get a degree, took a specific course to improve your skill set, or even volunteered or interned at an organization to keep your skills fresh. Either way, employers want to see an effort to learn transferable skills, no matter how you do so.
5. Why are you the right person for this job?
This is the time to sell yourself, but too many people are afraid of sounding boastful. Don’t be. Use this opportunity to show how your skills align with those that the position requires.
You might say, “What I’ve heard from you is that this position requires XYZ, and my prior experience doing ABC has prepared me to do that very well.” Ask questions so you can clarify and amplify your qualifications. This question allows you to put your best foot forward and make your case for the job, so take advantage of it.
Sure, it can be anxiety inducing, but at the end of the day, an interview is an exciting first step in the process of finding a job that meets your needs and allows you to reach your goals. Once you have the confidence to answer the toughest questions, you’ll be able to go far in your career.
Jennifer Kochilaris is a Regional Vice President for the South Florida region of Adecco Staffing, US. She manages 27 colleagues within her organizational structure and is proud to work with them to support hundreds of clients within a variety of industries in the South Florida market.