It can seem strange to think of job interviews as “boring” when your nerves are often on high alert, and you’re stressing about whether or not you’ll land the job.
But let’s face it, oftentimes, job interviews can be a bit tedious. You’ve heard (and answered) many of the same questions on numerous occasions.
Rather than sleepwalk through the most common interview questions and wait for the more challenging ones, stepping up to the plate with creative answers to common questions could be just the thing that really makes you stand out.
Put a creative, personal touch on common interview questions.
Answering a common question with a genuine, unique answer will likely surprise and even delight interviewers. Most interviewers hear the same “correct" and rehearsed answers to their questions over and over, so your creativity is likely to spark their interest.
Here are three of the most common interview questions, along with some suggestions for spicing up your responses to stand out and make a positive impression:
1. Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
This question may seem like a pleasant way to break the ice; however, there is tremendous potential here to start the interview off well and even help control its direction.
Because the question is so simple, many job seekers even neglect to think about their response before of the interview. Oftentimes, candidates will use this opportunity to repeat their resumes or talk about their personal backgrounds.
Skip the small talk and unnecessary resume regurgitation and instead, think of this question as an opportunity to deliver your “elevator pitch” — a 30- or 60-second statement that clearly and concisely demonstrates the principle reason you feel you’re a great fit for the job. Back up that statement with a few of your most impressive career highlights and how they tie directly into this role, and you’re sure to stand out from the pack.
2. What are your biggest weaknesses?
Interviewers are asking this question to look for any obvious red flags that would indicate you’re not a fit for the company or role. But primarily, they are hoping for insight into your self awareness and your desire to grow.
Some of the worst answers to this question would be "Nothing" or "I struggle with perfectionism."
Regardless of where we fall on the career spectrum, we can all stand to improve in key areas. Honesty is critical throughout a job interview, but it’s especially easy for interviewers to peg a fib when it comes as an answer to this question.
Rather than dwell on tasks that frustrate you endlessly (ex. “I just can’t get out of bed when my alarm goes off!”), think about some developmental areas where you could improve, and explain how you’re working on them.
For example, let's say the interviewer asks, "Does the thought of presenting at a team meeting make you sweat?" You shouldn't be afraid to candidly respond that it does, but follow that statement up with the fact that you're working through a queue of public speaking podcasts on your phone to help you combat that fear. This type of response checks all the boxes: It's honest, self-aware, and growth-oriented.
3. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Resist the urge to try and read the interviewer’s mind to understand what he or she is looking for in response to this question. Reading minds is an exercise in futility, and your delay or apprehension while trying to figure out intent could leave a negative impression on the interviewer.
For the most part, interviewers ask this question to gauge:
if you’ve taken the time to set attainable goals in your career,
if you have hopes and plans for career advancement, and
if the position (and career path for the position) align with your goals.
When thinking through this question, consider what you believe to be a logical path that would leap from this position. Does this align with your goals? It’s important to note that a position doesn’t have to 100% align with your intended path. To make a positive impression on an interviewer, there should be some clear alignment. Acknowledge if you feel that the role may not directly relate to your path, but that you believe strongly it (and the organization) offers tremendous value along your desired path.
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