What's Your Weakness? Answering Common Interview Questions

No matter what type of job you're looking for, the interview process is always a nerve-wracking experience. Since preparation is key to helping you feel comfortable and confident when you're interviewing, review these common interview questions and advice on how to answer them.

Why Are You Leaving Your Current Job?

Two men sitting at table

Image via Flickr by GVAHIM

Whether you're currently employed or unemployed, your interviewer wants to know why you're looking for a new job. If you're moving or your job is being eliminated, it's perfectly acceptable to explain this. However, your interviewer doesn't want to hear how you didn't get along with your boss or your coworkers. Instead, it's better to say that you're looking for new challenges. Don't leave it at that vague answer though. You should expand on why you think this job will give you the opportunity to meet those challenges.

If you were fired from your last job, it's best not to lie about it in case the interviewer contacts your former employer. Instead, be completely honest about the situation. Then, explain what you learned from the experience and how you will apply it to your future job. Just remember that being fired from your last job isn't necessarily a deal breaker for getting a new job. Employers are more interested in how you've grown from this experience.

Tell Me About Yourself

While this seems like a simple interview question, it's also one that can stump a lot of people. You don't want to go over your complete employment history, and the interviewer isn't interested in your hobbies or your family life. Instead, focus on two or three experiences or accomplishments from your previous jobs that best relate to the job for which you're currently interviewing. This response should take just a few minutes and give the interviewer a broad idea of your accomplishments before you delve deeper into your work history and skills.

What Salary Are You Looking For?

Even though this is a common question in interviews, many candidates fail to do any research in this category. You must do your research before the interview to make sure you give the right response. You don't want to give a low number and risk leaving money on the table, but you also don't want to give a number that's too high and take yourself out of the running.

Instead, you need to use websites that compare salaries to get a range based on your location, prior experience, and education. Once you get that range, take the highest number but also let the interviewer know that you are flexible and willing to negotiate.

What Is Your Greatest Weakness?

Perhaps the hardest and most-dreaded interview question is about our weaknesses. Interviewers ask this question to see how honest you are about your skills and where you need to grow. They also want to see if there are any major issues that would make you unfit for the job. Therefore, while saying that you're perfect and you don't have a weakness isn't an acceptable answer for any job, saying that you're incredibly shy and have a hard time talking to strangers is also not a good idea if you're interviewing for a sales position.

It's better to think of a skill or characteristic where you honestly do struggle and what you're doing to overcome that weakness. For example, you could say that you've struggled with public speaking, but at your last job you volunteered to lead meetings so that you can practice and become more comfortable at it.

What Is Your Greatest Strength?

While it's certainly easier to talk about where we excel than where we struggle, this is still a difficult question to answer because you don't want to spend so much time on it that you seem to brag. Instead, it's a good idea to focus on one to three characteristics that you want to discuss.

Make sure these are characteristics that are truly your strengths and not just what you think the interviewer wants to hear. However, you also want to make sure these characteristics are relevant to the job. Then, give an example of how you used these characteristics to help your former company.

Why Should We Hire You?

This question gives you a chance to make a case for yourself and really show why you would be a perfect fit for the job. To really nail this question, break it down into three parts. First, focus on a certain aspect of the job where you think you would excel. For example, if you're applying for an administrative assistant job, mention that you love keeping things organized and running smoothly.

Next, focus on why you would be a good fit for the company. In this case, it helps to do some research on the culture of the company and what makes the company popular. Finally, you need to show why you would do the job better than anyone else. This is the perfect time to use an example from your past job where you really shined.

Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?

There are a few reasons why interviewers will ask this question. First of all, the interviewer wants to make sure that the position you're seeking aligns with the goals you have for your career. Next, they want to make sure that you have ambition and that you've actively thought about the question before today. Finally, they need to see that you have realistic goals for your career.

When you're answering this question, it's important to be honest about where you see yourself in the future. If the job you're interviewing for is only a stepping stone on your career path, it's acceptable to say that you're not sure but you know the experience you gain here will help you along the way.

If you're looking to get a leg up on the competition, make sure you're ready to answer these interview questions so you can show why you're the perfect candidate for the job.

Contributed to jobs.net by Kim Hale

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