You can never predict all questions you could be asked in a job interview, but there are 2 that very often come up:
- “What are your strengths” or “Why should we hire you?”
- “What is your greatest weakness?”
Without trying to provide you with scripted answers to each question that everyone is already using, I think it is more valuable to discuss how to structure your answer to each question based on your specific situation and to understand why employers tend to ask these questions.
What can you do for our company?/What are your strengths/Why should we hire you?
The questions might be slightly different but the answer should be the same and it should focus on what you can offer the company.
When a company hires a strong candidate, they are making it harder for their competitors to compete with them. Basically, you want to try to answer this question by letting the interviewer know what you can do, that other candidates can’t. Companies hire people to solve problems so let the interviewer know what problems you’ve solved and how your employers benefited as a result.
Focus on specific tasks in the job description that are critical to the position and tell the interviewer why you are the person to handle them.
To demonstrate why you are the best person for the job, focus on answering the question by describing your experience, skills, problem-solving accomplishments and how the company will benefit by hiring you. Tell them why you are the answer to their problem(s).
Back your answers up with examples. Anyone can say that they have good organizational skills for example, but if you say something specific e.g. “I have excellent organizational skills and in the past 12 months I have personally organized and supervised 10 corporate events with up to 300 participants on each one”, you are definitely going to make a better impression than someone giving a generic answer.
What is your biggest weakness?
This question is a bit tricky. On one hand, you don’t want to make yourself look bad by admitting a weakness, but at the same time the interviewer will not look at you favourably if you mention a ‘fake’ weakness that really isn’t a weakness and then simply brush it off. Instead, you could structure your answer by mentioning a weakness that you have or used to have and following up with how you are working/have worked to improve upon it.
If you are taking training courses to improve your lack of computer skills for example, this would illustrate that you are a proactive person who understands the need for self-improvement and that this weakness is under control.
Everyone has a weakness, that’s natural. The interviewer really wants to see how you answer this question and may not be as interested in the specific weakness that you mention, unless it is a big one of course.
What the interviewer most likely does not want to hear is you using what is known as ‘strength as weakness’ answer. Listing a clichéd weakness such as “I work too hard” or “I’m a perfectionist” and things of that nature are answers they’ve probably heard hundreds of times already.
There is a great article on The Ladders’s website which explains how to answer this question using STAR format. They’re also a good source of general career advice so check them out if you’re job searching!
If you’d like to learn more information about interviewing with confidence, marketing yourself effectively to potential employers as well as creating winning resumes and covering letters, I’d encourage you to check out my very comprehensive e-Guide “Land That Job!” which will help you make the best out of every interview. You’ll also find sample answers to some of the most common interview questions.
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Margaret Buj is an interview coach who specializes in helping professionals get hired, promoted and paid more. If you want to find out how recruiters read resumes, why you’re not getting hired, how to sell yourself successfully in a job interview and how to negotiate your best salary yet, you can download her free “You’re HIRED!” video course.