A job interview is nerve-wracking enough. Add in an unexpected interview questions and the experience can be downright terrifying. After, all you’ve spent hours crafting your resume and thinking about how you’ll explain why you’re a perfect candidate for the position. Then, a weird or unusual question throws you off your game.
Acing the job interview is even harder for recent college grads, since they usually haven’t had as much experience applying for jobs and selling themselves as other candidates. Many employers report that recent grads are flubbing interviews. Roughly a third of employers reported these job seekers were unprepared or had a bad attitude when interviewing, a 2014 survey by Beyond.com and Millennial Branding found.
New graduates can set themselves apart from the competition by coming prepared to the job interview. These are the five interview questions that every job applicant needs to be prepared to answer, but often isn’t.
1. What is your biggest weakness?
Hiring managers love to ask this question, yet too many candidates don’t have a ready answer. Whatever you do, don’t say you don’t know, or worse, that you don’t have any weaknesses (or name a “weakness” that’s intended to make you look good, like being a perfectionist).
“Interviewees show up thinking they should just be talking about what they’re great at, but I’m more interested in where the gaps are and if they are self-critical,” Mel Carson of Delightful Communications, a social media consultancy company, told U.S. News & World Report.
2. What do you know about our company?
This question can come in several forms. The interviewer may ask you about your familiarity with the company or industry, or even the name of the firm’s CEO. The latter is one of the 50 most common interview questions, according to Glassdoor.
Yet many candidates apparently don’t do their research before heading to the interview, a mistake that could cost them the position. When Careerbuilder surveyed employers about the biggest mistakes they saw in interviews, 39% said appearing uninformed about the company or position they were applying for was a frequent problem.
3. The oddball question
Some interviewers like the throw you for a loop with a weird interview question, like asking you what animal you think you’re most like or how you’d describe the color yellow to a blind person (a real question asked by an interviewer at Spirit Airlines).
These questions may seem random, but usually the interviewer is likely trying to learn more about your personality, gauge your problem-solving skills, or evaluate your ability to think creatively.
“Strange or oddball questions are not primarily asked to trick a person, but to uncover qualities about a candidate that can’t be determined from a resume or two-minute drill,” Susan Ruhl, a managing partner at OI Partners – Innovative Career Consulting in Denver, told Glassdoor. “They are designed to uncover how you think, handle unexpected problems and situations, whether you are a good fit for their culture, and how creative you are.”
4. The personal question
Job interviews are supposed to focus on your professional skills. But interviewers are also looking for someone who will fit in well with their team and who they’d enjoy working with. To get a sense of what kind of person you are, they may ask you about books you’ve read, hobbies, favorite movies or TV shows, or other outside interests.
“By learning more about your outside interests, they can glean more about your personality, and even draw some conclusions about how you may thrive in the organization,” Lynn Taylor, the author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant, said in an interview with Business Insider.
So, come to the interview ready to mention that you play on a softball team, write fiction in your spare time, volunteer at an animal shelter, or that your favorite TV show is Game of Thrones. Just make sure to keep your answers professional.
5. Do you have any questions?
Hiring managers often end interviews by asking if the candidate has any questions for them. Not taking advantage of this opportunity to get more information about the position and demonstrate your interest in the job is a big mistake, say experts.
“I’m astounded when candidates don’t ask any questions at all. Failure to ask questions during the interview suggests the candidate is unprepared, uninterested or unintelligent — or simply willing to take any old job,” wrote Michael Travis, the author of Mastering the Art of Recruiting: How to Hire the Right Candidate for the Job, in Time magazine.
Travis suggests that anyone looking for a job come to the interview with a list of questions they want to ask the interviewer. Another option is to take notes during the job interview so you can clarify anything that was unclear. Note taking can also make you seem more engaged in the interview process. Just remember to ask permission to take notes before doing so.
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