Here’s something different for you all: how many times have you gone into an interview and the interviewer asked that one horrible question that you always get stuck on, no matter how much you prepare? I’m guessing almost all of them. I’ve had so many interviews since leaving Portugal that it makes my head spin, and despite being praised for being a fantastic interviewee, there’s always ‘someone better’, so I’m still on the hunt for that elusive role.
This is in no way saying that these interview questions can’t be used because they all have their own purposes. However, I will not be focusing on illegal questions, asking questions that outline a protected characteristic in the UK. Laws may be different in other countries though.
If you have to look online at how to answer a question, chances are it’s not a good question and needs to be reworked.
So here I am, putting my two cents in!
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
This is usually the starting question for an interview. This does usually stump candidates at the first hurdle, which then sets the tone for the rest of the interview. My option here is to tailor the answer to the question itself, and always have this sort of question in mind going into the interview. Research the company and go through the job description, and tell your story in a way that connects with why you want to work there. So if I was going for a Customer Service Advisor role, I’d bring up that I was a Customer Service Representative for a large hotel chain while in Portugal, and that I’d love to be in a similar position now, just a lot closer to home. This last part also shares my objective.
Just don’t overshare, or discuss hobbies, but be passionate about the answer.
Why should we hire you?
This is a common question for the simple reason that it’s a pure opportunity to sell yourself. However, it puts candidates on the spot and it’s more of an aggressive question. Asking instead how the candidate’s skills and experience would be a fit for the company would be a better way because it narrows it down, and isn’t as intimidating. Discuss how you can do the work and deliver the exceptional results that they’re looking for, that you will fit in beautifully with the rest of the team, and maybe add a few points that relate to the role itself.
Not only that, the way this question is handled depends on how many more interviews the candidate has been through. They may be desperate for a job, desperate for income, desperate to be able to prove themselves. They may, inversely, be self-deprecating if they’ve been rejected time and time again. Conversely, we should not be having to (for lack of better words) beg for a job.
Why do you want this job?
Almost all of the time, the answer would simply be that you need a job in order to have a basic income to survive. It’s a great question if you’re passionate about the company, or if you really want that promotion, but most people are only passionate about the company as a customer, rather than a supportive role. Definitely do some research into the company, and take that in with you. So, discuss your findings, and then align your skills and experience in this role, so “I was happy to find a role not too dissimilar from my role at Teleperformance, especially at an organisation that I’m very passionate about.” Perhaps highlight the areas of the corporate social responsibility that align with your beliefs.
What’s your biggest weakness?
On paper, it’s a terrible question to ask a candidate, as they would either reveal a weakness that raises red flags such as “I have trouble getting to places on time”, or even refusing to answer the question. The best way to answer the question is to state the weakness, and how you are already working on it. For example, I would answer with “I often have difficulty delegating tasks when I’m in a leadership position, as I like to take on everything myself. I always felt that I was better at a lot of different aspects than my peers that I worked with at university, and so I just wanted to do everything myself. However I have learned over the past few years that more hands make light work, and more often than not the work has improved. It also results in my peers being able to learn and improve, especially if I’m also able to mentor them along the way.”.
Who would you say has inspired you?
This is a tricky one because people fall into the same trap of going with a celebrity or historical figure (at least there are some red flags if they mention Hitler or Stalin), or even their friend. However, there is a simple way of answering this question, and you can use mentors, teachers or researchers. I would answer this one like “I’d say that my Management tutor, Opal White, has inspired me so much. She was very enthusiastic with the entire group, and especially so when I wanted to do entrepreneurial ventures. She made me believe in myself, that I could do anything. She made me feel more confident in myself, and that I would be a great asset to any company.” I personally don’t feel this is a horrible question to ask, more like it’s a horrible question to answer, as not many candidates expect this to come up.