1. “Can you walk me through what a typical day in this job would look like?”
You are interviewing the company just as much as they are interviewing you. Although you’ve likely gone in with a basic foundation of knowledge about the company and the job, asking what day-to-day tasks and duties are required of the position shows that you actually care to see if you are the perfect fit for the job, and desire a deep understanding of what responsibilities you will have if you accept an offer from them. You need to know exactly what it is they’re looking for, and exactly what the functions of the role are — you can only learn so much from the ad on Indeed, or the job description on the company’s website. My biggest interview mistake in my younger days was not asking enough job-specific questions, and later finding myself wondering exactly what I would be doing if I got the job, and if I’d even be capable of it.
2. “What is the office/organizational culture like?”
A lot of people are just as qualified for the job as you, and they’re all interviewing, too. If the job always went to the most qualified person, it would often be damn near impossible to decide who to hire.
What interviewers are looking at just as much as (or possibly more than) your ability to perform the day-to-day tasks of the job is someone who they will be able to work with every single day, trust with company responsibilities, rely on through all challenges, and ultimately get along with from 9-to-5 every day. Asking about the culture of the organization shows that you have respect and appreciation for the company as a whole, and aren’t laser-focused on humblebragging about yourself until you get hired. It shows that you are interested in understanding the organization holistically and trying to place yourself in it the same way your interview is trying to place a new team member into it. It definitely doesn’t hurt to add something here along the lines of, “I read an article about how your company has this unique tradition and I think it is so interesting — can you tell me a little bit more about how that contributes to morale/productivity?” People are always looking for jobs, but you need to show your interviewer that you care deeply about the job they’re offering, and not just the salary you’re hoping to score.
3. “I know that your company faced x-challenge last year. I believe that this particular skill I possess will be a great asset in helping the company to overcome that challenge.”
Aside from just wanting to know who you are, an interviewer also really wants to know that you at least know something about the company. You should really have the basics down (and you probably already know that) — things like what the company does, who is in charge, who they are affiliated with, etc. should be second nature to you before you go on your interview. But doing a little research about challenges they are facing or competitors that they might be up against may put you at a great advantage. Being able to say “my work at x-job over the past five years and extensive coursework in x-subject makes me the perfect person to help you guys overcome x-challenge” puts you in a great position by showing that you are knowledgeable, prepared, and could be a great asset to their team.
4. “My greatest weakness is *insert genuine weakness here*.”
Almost everyone is asked this question in interviews, but not everyone knows how to properly answer it. The gut instinct would be to spew some slightly-passable “weakness” that is actually a thinly-veiled humblebrag, like “My biggest weakness is that I am too hardworking!” But that simply isn’t true — you have real weaknesses, and you’re probably aware of them. In fact, they are the things you usually wish to hide from potential employers.
But they’re asking you these questions for a reason. They want to hear a weakness. But they don’t want you to say “I suck at working, that’s my weakness” because they value honesty. What they do value, and do want to hear is that you have self-awareness and are someone who is actively working to build towards goals and work on your weak spots. The best way to respond to this would be by following the honest, genuine weakness with a few things you’ve been doing to work on it and strengthen it. I will often say something like, “My biggest weakness is probably that I have trouble delegating tasks because I feel like no one can do things the same way I can. I work on this a lot by actively reminding myself that everyone on the team I’m working with is strong in their own ways and would not be there if they were not up to the task, so I step aside and let them work without trying to micromanage,” or “My biggest weakness may be that I can get scattered and disorganized when it comes to my physical workspace, but I’ve been working over the past few months to put a system in place so that I have all of my paperwork easily sorted and all of my calendars marked and up-to-date so I don’t let anything important slip through the cracks.”
Employers know that not everyone is perfect, but more than anything, they want to know that the slightly-imperfect person they may be hiring is willing to acknowledge flaws and work to make them better. Problems come up all the time, and people who are willing to work hard on fixing them are indispensable.
5. “My greatest strength is *insert genuine strength here*.”
This is a difficult one for me, and I know a lot of people have difficulty with it too. I’ve always been a little meek and humble, and I am often one to make jokes at my own expense rather than brag in any way about how great I am. But in trying to stray away from being braggy in interview situations, you may unintentionally be really underselling yourself.
Your interview is your time — your only time — to show your potential employer how great you are. They can compare résumés all day, but the interview is the time to show them the big picture of who you are, and how you can positively contribute to their company. When they ask you what your strength is, don’t shy away and give some meek response like “I haven’t thought about it!” or “I’m just a really hard worker.” Give them something real. If possible, give them numbers and hard data to show how great you are (i.e. “After I became the social media intern, the Twitter account went from 100 followers to 15,000!”). Tell them how the team you managed was the best-performing one last year. Tell them how you wrote your thesis on the very thing you will be doing if you get this job, and how confident you feel with the material. Tell them how great you are at collaborating and working with teams, and how you’ve only gotten positive feedback from people who you have worked for and with. Tell them what you’re really good at. Trust me — they want to hear it.
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