Forget the lucky charms on interview day; success should not be left to fate. Lynn Williams explains that the key to winning the battle of the best is to make thorough preparations
When it comes to answering questions in the interview room, there is never a straightforward easy method. However, these examples of potential questions will help you along the way.
Answering closed questions
“What do you like about your current job?”
“How do you get on with your colleagues?”
“What would you say are the key skills for a manager?”
“Do you get on with your colleagues?”
“Is leadership a key skill for a manager?”
As you can see, it’s perfectly possible to respond to closed questions with a simple “yes” or “no” and leave it at that. If you do, however, you severely limit your chances. Treat any closed questions as if they were open ones. Say “yes” or “no” as appropriate, and then follow up with a relevant example or anecdote.
Q “Do you think attention to detail is important in this sort of job?”
“I would say attention to detail was very important in this type of job. If I may give an example, in my last position [give an example of how checking details was part of the job and, if possible, how your particular eye for detail saved time, inconvenience and/or money for your previous employer].”
Note how the applicant softens the answer very slightly by saying “If I may give an example…”
Dealing with negative questions
If you’re supposed to remain positive and upbeat during your interview, showing interest and enthusiasm throughout, what do you do when the interviewer asks you a question that seems to invite a negative answer? This section looks at how you can deal with these questions without: criticising your job and other people; or criticising yourself.
Criticising your job and other people
Sometimes, interviewers seem to want you to be negative about your job or people you’ve worked with, asking questions like:
“What do you dislike about your current job?”
“What did you dislike about your last boss?”
“What are the sorts of things colleagues do that really irritate you?”
They’re not actually interested in what you disliked; what they really want to know is if you’re going to be a moaner or complainer. Are you going to criticise the company outside work? Don’t take the bait. Smile, and give a neutral answer. This is the one time you don’t give examples or anecdotes.
Q “What do you dislike about your current job?”
Q “What appeals to you least about this job?”
‘I find that [a routine task that everyone dislikes, such as form filling, filing, record keeping, etc] is probably the least demanding part of my work. However, it’s one of my responsibilities and important to the job as a whole, so I get it done as quickly and efficiently as I can, which allows me to attend to the more rewarding aspects of the job.”
Another sort of negative question appears to invite you to criticise yourself:
“What is your greatest weakness?”
“What do you find most difficult to deal with in yourself?”
“What would you change about yourself if you could?”
As before, the interviewer isn’t really concerned with your weaknesses as such; what they’re more interested in is how you react to implied criticism and your degree of self-awareness. All these factors are keys to how well you will take direction, or how you will be able to manage in the future.
The problem is that you are caught between two difficulties. Either you give an answer that reveal damaging flaws in your character, or you claim, improbably, to know of no imperfections in yourself. How do you give an answer that steers a path between the two? You could try one of the following:
- A ‘flaw’ that most people would see as a strength;
- A humorous flaw that most people would sympathise with;
- A former flaw that you’ve overcome;
- A flaw that will have no impact on the job you’re applying for.
A ‘flaw’ that most people would see as a strength
Q “What is your greatest weakness?”
“I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I won’t rest if I know something isn’t right.”
“My family would probably accuse me of being a workaholic because I can’t relax while there’s something that needs doing.”
A humorous flaw with which most people would sympathise
Q “What do you find most difficult to deal with in yourself?”
“My passion for chocolate…”
“Still expecting to wake up and find I’m a millionaire/rock star/Booker prize winner.”
A former flaw you’ve overcome
Q “What sort of things do you find difficult?”
“I would once have said speaking in public and giving presentations was a bit of a problem, but since I went on a course last year to improve my skills I find that it’s no longer a problem.”
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