And How To Answer These Interview Questions Like The Perfect Choice You Are
When you’ve been invited to an interview (congratulations, by the way!), the first thing you’ll ask yourself is ‘what interview questions am I likely to be asked?’ The truth is, you don’t know, and regular followers of me and my blog will know that I’m not an advocate of memorising answers anyway. The correct approach is to internalise the answers to these common questions, and use them as a guide to how you should approach any other question you’ll get about yourself. I’m really referring to the Behavioural Interview in this post, which is what most people think of as the ‘normal’ interview. You can find out about the other types here.
But, hang on, what do I mean by ‘internalise’ the answers? Well, to internalise the answers means to really, deeply understand them, and how they relate to reality, rather than just memorising words. When you internalise an answer, it means that:
- You really believe it
- You can say it in lots of different ways, and in various contexts
- You can back it up with a range of evidence
Learning answers is, in comparison, much flimsier. That’s one reason you often feel nervous when you learn answers; you know that they only work when you are asked a certain question in a certain way. Also, humans don’t remember exact phrases very well, but we do, on the other hand, remember complete ideas—once we truly understand them. So here are the most common behavioural interview questions and how you should approach internalising great answers to them.
Tell us a bit about yourself
Only narcissists like this one, and they totally screw it up by going on at length about everything they feel you should love about them. But, really, this question is a doddle if you know how to handle it.
You need to think of the part of you that is extremely good at this job and really loves doing it. If you’re already fully conscious of this aspect of you, great, you just need to back it up with evidence. If not, you need to do a little preparatory work first.
What are the key responsibilities in the role? We’ll call these ‘Requirements’. Think of times throughout you career in which you’ve excelled at this kind of task. We’re going to call these examples ‘Stepping Stone 1’. Next think of times in which you’ve come to realise how much you love doing these things. We’ll call these ‘Stepping Stone 2’. I’m calling them ‘stepping stones’ because they punctuate your answer and guide you through it.
So, to be super clear:
Stepping Stone 1: Example of you doing a core task in this job well
Stepping Stone 2: Time you realised you really love doing this thing (may be the same as Stepping Stone 1)
Write these examples down. Now when they ask you this question, you need to answer it like this:
Your whole career has been preparing you for this exact role. The time has come for you to apply for it and everything about it is perfect for you, and you believe you are a great fit for the job.
You would describe yourself as a natural leader (or any other Requirement) as evidenced by (Stepping Stone 1). You also realised how much you enjoy this kind of responsibility during ‘Stepping Stone 2’.
Do this again twice, so you are describing yourself as having three Requirements. Easy, isn’t it? Practise a few times using different wording and you’ll start to truly internalise the answer and say it in a really natural way.
The Stepping Stones are there to help you cross the river of uncertainty towards the bank of awesome. If you’re answering this question and you’re not on a Stepping Stone, you’re in the rapids of confusion. It’s time to put this thoroughly exhausted analogy to bed and move on to the next of our common interview questions.
Why do you want this job?
You should see this as an opportunity to talk in more detail about examples of Stepping Stone 2 (Turns out the analogy is back and fighting fit, dear lord. That’s because it’s resilient just like you were that time when you did x, y and z.)
You can add detail, and you can add examples, just don’t go on for longer than about 30 seconds.
‘This particular job appeals to me because it really encapsulates everything I love doing. I realised that when I did (Stepping Stone 2) and it became clear to me that this is the direction my career needs to be going in.
‘I’ve always been a natural (Requirement), and even as a child, I was doing (more Stepping Stones 1 & 2) whenever I could get the chance. It’s also clear from my CV that (Requirements) are when I’m delivering the most value. I am this job and this job is me, as far as I’m concerned.’
The more you internalise this answer, the more you’ll feel it, and you’ll start looking forward to the question.
Why do you want to work here?
This is easy. When you look at the company’s website, they’ll basically just bang on about how brilliant they are. You simply absorb that message, with the cynical part of you neatly in it’s box in the cupboard.
Again, it’s all about finding ways to talk about how everything you’ve done has prepared for this wonderful company and its commitment to x, y and z. Use more Stepping Stones to prevent you getting lost.
You finalise the answer by discussing ideas you have for furthering the company’s agenda (from the website) and that you’d love the opportunity to discuss them further. Don’t overthink these answers; until you’re in the company you don’t have enough information for them to be fully fleshed out. It doesn’t even matter if they wouldn’t actually work, as long as they’re plausible.
What are your greatest strengths?
In relation to this job, that is. All the answers should directly relate to the job but this is one where people really get lost. That’s because their greatest accomplishments are their babies, and they’ve been waiting to talk about the time they won man-of-the-match or completed a half-marathon wearing some sort of hilarious costume or that they’re really good at baking. Stop it. This isn’t about you. Well, ok… it is about you, but it’s about a very specific version of you; the bit that will be doing this job.
So, again, refer to the Stepping Stones. The ones that describe you doing this job very well are your greatest strengths. Internalise this. Again, it’s just so easy!
And then something terrifying happens… (seriously, play Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor as you read the next bit)
What are your greatest weaknesses?
I’ve gone through how to answer this question at length here: https://medium.com/@contact_32090/how-to-answer-the-most-difficult-interview-question-like-a-boss-8fda913d6c6b
Have a look at that and come back.
Wow, I didn’t think you’d actually come back; thanks for that. You really are working on your inability to finish things, aren’t you?
Anyway, do you see what I mean about internalising these answers? This process covers all the important aspects of your dream job and helps you to answer these particular questions, but also pretty much any other question you might get about your ability and desire to do this job. The point is that you will start to really get to know the version of yourself that was born to take this role, and then you’ll be able to tackle any question about that person.
Come and talk to me on LinkedIn for more info and advice about interview questions and anything else in the terrifying world of job-hunting. It’s not really terrifying though; you just need an expert in your corner.
Also, don’t go away without checking this out: