Any job interview you go to will have some of the same classic questions, but are you answering them correctly?
Our favorite questions are "What are your weaknesses?" and "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" These are two classic job questions you have probably been asked and you thought you answered them just fine. Or did you?
We talked with Christi Hegstad, certified business and leadership coach, to find out how we should really be answering the classic questions during job interviews.
Classic Job Interview Questions Explained
"What Are Your Greatest Strengths and What Are Your Weaknesses?"
"Your prospective employer wants to know how you can increase revenue or save them time or in some way benefit the business. Stay away from common responses like 'I’m a hard worker' or 'I’m a people person,'" says Hegstad. "You want to identify and continually highlight what sets you apart from the rest, and everyone thinks they’re a hard-working people-person!"
She suggests that you support your strength with an example. For example, “One of my strengths is my ability to work calmly and effectively under tight deadlines. In my last position...” and then complete the statement with an example.
In terms of your weaknesses, Hegstad say that this can be a tricky question because you don’t want to sound anything less than ideal, but at the same time employers grow weary of answers like “I work too hard” or “I’m a perfectionist.” "Keep your weaknesses skill-related and in the past-tense; for example, 'In my previous position, I found that many of our clients wanted to communicate solely by email, which I wasn’t expecting. I enrolled in a business writing course and have really honed my skills so that I communicate concisely and effectively by email,'" she says.
"Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?"
"Provide a clear response that shows you are visionary, think strategically, and have already begun the necessary steps towards your vision. Perhaps you are working towards a certification in your field – mention that and how you see this as part of your overall career strategy," says Hegstad.
You can include a personal goal because this can demonstrate that you engage in goal-setting personally, not just when a company dictates, she adds.
"Why Do You Want This Position?"
"Show that you’ve done your homework," says Hegstad. "This question provides a great opportunity to share your knowledge of the company and industry, as well as how your skills and expertise match the position perfectly."
"Do You Have Any Questions For Me?"
They ask this at the end of interviews and Hegstad says to always have a couple of questions ready!
"This is a crucial time in the interview. Many people will dismiss this with, 'No, I think you’ve answered all my questions.' But, by asking intelligent questions that show you’ve done your research, you’ll leave a lasting impression of quality and exponentially increase your chances of moving to the next phase of the process," she says.
Write down a few questions (typically 3-5 is adequate) about what you’d like to know.
- “What do you consider the primary strengths needed for a person to successfully fill this position?”
- “From my research, I learned about the company mission and values. How would you describe the culture here?”
The Salary Question
Do you give a number or say that it's negotiable?
"Steer clear of the salary conversation until you’ve received an offer. Ask for more details about the position before getting into a conversation about salary. That being said, sometimes an interviewer will insist on a number. Give a range rather than a specific number," she says.
Hegstad says to look at salary.com to see what the average range is for the position in your area.
- Research the company before your interview
- Complaining, bad-mouthing a previous employer, or acting like a victim will not be viewed upon favorably by a potential employer
- Wear clothes that make you feel spectacular
- Listen to uplifting music
- Always follow up with a thank-you note
Hegstad has a Master’s degree in Human Resource Management and a PhD in Human Resource Development and lives in the Midwest with her husband and 3 children.
To learn more about Hegstad and how to be the best at interviews and at work, check out her website at Meaning and Purpose. .