Job interviews are stressful, because every company conducts them a little differently. You never know what type of personalities you’re going to face, or what expectations a company has for you.
There are things you can do, however, to better prepare yourself. Most hiring managers ask similar questions, and one of the biggest advantages you can gain is by studying up on the most difficult ones and thinking about your answers in advance.
Here are five of the toughest questions you’ll hear, and the easy answers that go with them.
1. Tell me about yourself.
Nobody knows you better than you. That’s what makes this question so difficult to answer. Where do you start? What do you say? How do you stop yourself from rambling?
The solution is simple – talk about yourself in a way that highlights your compatibility with the role you’re applying for. If the job calls for someone who excels at multi-tasking and organization, tell a quick story about how those particular skills led you here, to this interview, ready to capitalize on the opportunity.
2. Why should we hire you? Why do you want to work here?
In an ideal situation, you would send out your resume to a dozen different companies, and your credentials would earn you a dozen different interviews with companies of all shapes and sizes. That isn’t a typical experience, however, and oftentimes, the company you’re interviewing with is your only option.
Unfortunately, “You’re the only company to call me back,” isn’t an effective response to this question. Instead, it’s much better to research the organization’s values prior to the interview, and then address this question by expressing how aligned you are with the company’s mission.
3. What is your biggest weakness?
Contrary to the obvious, this question isn’t actually about your weaknesses. It’s about your self-awareness. Everybody has weaknesses, of course, but a hiring manager isn’t interested in hearing about how your perfectionism is going to sabotage your productivity, or about how your busy home life doesn’t interplay well with your business goals.
The best solution is to acknowledge a weakness that you’re currently striving to improve. Use this answer as a chance to emphasize how you’re using your strengths – resilience, critical thinking, etc. – to consistently better yourself.
4. What are your salary requirements?
This question is uncomfortable for both you and the hiring manager, but it’s going to be asked eventually. If the company likes you, they need to know they can afford you. So what’s the best recourse here?
First, make sure you know the market salary for the role you’re applying for. Depending on the position, you can easily find that information online.
Second, don’t answer the question with a number. Instead, during the interview, say something like, “Before discussing salary, I’d like to make sure the job is a fit for me, and I’m a fit for your company.” It shows that you’re invested in more than a paycheck, and you’ve come to be a meaningful contributor to the organization.
5. Why did you (or why do you want to) leave your most recent position?
This question makes it easy to badmouth your current (or previous) employer, but the best course of action is to focus the answer on yourself instead of the roles or companies you previously occupied.
For example, “My last company was great, but I outgrew my role, and I felt my contributions would be more valuable in a place/position like this.” Take full responsibility for your departure from past roles and never talk badly about a former employer.