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The 5 Job Interview Questions Every Candidate Should Plan For

Winging a job interview is NEVER a good idea. No matter how well you know the decision makers and how much of a “shoe-in” you think you are, you have to plan ahead. The good news is just a little preparation can help you ace it! Here’s the secret to success: All interviews are made up of five basic questions that can easily and strategically be prepared for. So what are we waiting for?!

1. The Value Question

“Why should I hire you?” When you’re asked this straightforward, open-ended question, start with your brand. Showcase what you’re known for in the workplace and what you’re passionate about. Include the specific patterns that outline how you work and the value you bring – the things that ultimately set you apart. Explain that when you use these patterns, you always bring value to the organization.

2. The Ability Question

“Can you give me a specific example of how you multitasked while in your last job?” Specific ability questions like this are based around your skills and are meant to probe to see if you can do the job. I recommend you answer these questions with this three-part formula: what you did, how you did it and the result. But the trick is identifying those three aspects of the formula and having them at the ready before you walk into the interview!

3. The Fit Question

“Why do you want to work here?” This may surprise you based on the culture section earlier in the book, but the way to answer this is by stating that you don’t fully know yet. Why? Because unless you’ve worked there, how can you really know?! But don’t stop there. Continue with a transition along the lines of, “Here’s what I do know from your web site, contacts who work here…” etc. Finish by asking, “How accurate am I?” That way you’ll show how you fit without looking presumptuous. Now, if you’re an internal candidate, the way you answer this question needs to be more about how you will fit naturally with the current team, management and dynamics. Leverage the fact that you have this insider information through a personal, insightful point of view.

4. The Weakness Question

“What’s your biggest weakness?” This one always trips people up. The key is not reinforcing a “weakness,” but rather something you’ve learned. A simple transitional phrase is, “Here’s what I’ve learned… ” This way, you’re turning a negative into a positive! Then tell your “learning” story using positive information, followed up with something to the effect of, “Would knowing something like this from experience be valuable in this position?”

5. The Negotiation Question

“What are your salary requirements?” If you’re an internal candidate, most likely your organization has posted the grade or salary range internally. But one thing to keep in mind is that HR usually has policies around internal promotions and how much you can earn. Since the hiring manager often already knows how much you make, it’s quite possible this question won’t even be a factor. This allows you to focus on the benefits you can bring to the new opportunity. If you are an external candidate, this question leads us to the golden rule of negotiating during the job interview process: Postpone salary talk until the position has been offered to you! When asked about your salary expectations, ask what range they are working within. No matter what they say, it’s always a good practice to respond, “I’ll consider it.” That gives you some time to go away and think about it without taking yourself out of the running.

Outside of tip #5, remember that your main goal in answering these questions is to get a second interview. Too many people psych themselves out because they think they have to get hired in their first meeting.