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Dealing with Standard Interview Questions


Robby

Job interviews are a pretty dumb idea. Instead of asking you to do some work, employers ask you to talk about doing work. We shouldn’t call them “job interviews.” We should call them “self-promotion sessions.”

What’s worse is that these experiences are filled with a bunch of tired questions like “where do you see yourself in five years” and “what is your greatest weakness.” How should you answer questions you don’t want to answer during an interview you don’t want to have?

Interview / Meeting
© Flickr User VVBAD

Here are a few approaches you can use. The value in these is not that these are the best possible answers, but that in some situations you might want to draw upon them. And, you can see what matches your personality and the sense of what’s happening in the interview room.

The Straight, No-Nonsense, Factual Answer

This strategy is simple. Answer the question as asked:

  • Where do you see yourself in five years? – “Honestly, I don’t know. If you asked me that five years ago, I might have predicted something but it wouldn’t have been this. So while I do try to make plans for my career and my life, I understand that anything can happen.”
  • What is your greatest weakness? – “I am pretty easy to get along with, but I have trouble when situations get emotionally tense. I tend to retract and not speak out if other people are screaming.”
  • “Tell me a little about yourself.” – “I’m a CPA and I enjoy accounting and bookkeeping. I am married with two school age children. On the weekends we like camping and hiking. I’m also active in the choir at my church.”

The Best-Possible Version of Me Answer

Another way to answer questions to try and guess what the interviewer wants you to say.

  • Where do you see yourself in five years? – “I’m hopeful that I’ll be with your firm, and at the five year mark, possibly in line for a promotion. I really want to contribute to a place like this over the long term.”
  • What is your greatest weakness? – “I really like to get the details right, which can sometimes delay a project and frustrate others. But, I think it’s important to make sure we don’t make avoidable mistakes.”
  • “Tell me a little about yourself.” – “I think of myself as a professional first. I am customer-focused and results-oriented. I do try to lead a balanced life, but my career is my priority.”

The Snappy Comeback Answer

If you’re feeling the interview needs a little edge, you might consider something a little snarky.

  • Where do you see yourself in five years? – “I have no idea. If I could see the future, I’d probably be placing bets at the track. But seriously, I hope I am healthy and happy.”
  • What is your greatest weakness? – “Well, if I was aware of a weakness, I would fix it. So if you want know my greatest weakness, you’d probably have to ask my friends. I guess you might say my greatest weakness is that don’t have a much patience for questions that don’t have reasonable answers.”
  • “Tell me a little about yourself.” – “I am a human. But seriously, I am not sure what you’re looking for. I have a personal life, I have a professional career. Can you be more specific?”

The “Why Are We Even Here” Answer

Sometimes the best answer to the question is to answer the question you wish was asked.

  • Where do you see yourself in five years? – “That’s a great question. The industry is really changing. I think we’ll see automation and business intelligence completely dominate the sector in five years. And I think that the downsides of outsourcing will create some negative consequences. What do you think will happen in the next five years?”
  • What is your greatest weakness? – “You’re right. Weaknesses are human nature. But a weakness in a team is a management failure. I am curious to see where I can help cover gaps you might have today.”
  • “Tell me a little about yourself.” – “I think I’m the among the best candidates for your position. I have the skills, the experience, and the drive to make a difference.”

Interviews are pretty much useless. But, you are likely to have to do them anyway. Being prepared to answer questions in the way you want is a great idea. And while not all of these answers are right for every situation, they are all worth considering.

Good luck!

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About the Blogger: Robby Slaughter is a productivity speaker and expert. He is a principal with a AccelaWork, an Indianapolis consulting firm.

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Tue, June 20 2017 » Career Planning and Goal Setting, Corporate Culture

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