Having been on both sides of more interviews than I care to admit, I’ve compiled a list of the eight most common interview questions I’ve asked and been asked, along with guidance on how to answer them. Note the word “guidance.” There is no right or wrong answer. Rather, I aim to provide insight into why someone may ask these questions and what they’re trying to learn about you.
Tell Me a Little About Yourself
Translation: I don’t know how to start this interview, so I’ll make you work at it.
Guidance: Give them a 2-to-3-minute “elevator speech” that starts with insight into you as a person, then moves into a brief chronological synopsis of your education and professional career.
What Did You Do in the Military?
Translation: How does being a helicopter mechanic train you to sell IT systems?
Guidance: Tell the interviewer how your military training translates into a civilian job (leadership, teamwork, work ethic, etc.). Sprinkle in some interesting stories from the military. Your interviewer may remember only a few other details from the session, but he or she will recall your stories of teeing off at midnight in Keflavik, Iceland.
Why are You Leaving the Military?
Translation: Are you a job-hopper?
Guidance: The interviewer really wants to know. Were you a poor performer? Were you a disgruntled employee or did you get out because you didn’t want to leave your family for 12 months at a time? The latter is perfectly understandable. The former indicates someone they don’t want to hire.
Are You Willing to Relocate?
Translation: Do you plan to grow roots, or will you give us the flexibility to move you where your skills will benefit the company?
Guidance: It’s probably worth finding out in advance if the company requires relocation to promote. Be honest. If you aren’t willing to relocate, not saying so in an interview will cause grief for you and the company down the road.
What is Your Biggest Strength?
Translation: Are you confident or cocky? Are you a team player? (And I’m setting you up for No. 6, too.)
Guidance: You have many strengths and the interviewer isn’t looking for a laundry list. Pick the one that would most help the company and illustrate it with an example of how it would help. Make it a “we” answer, not a “me” answer. No one person can affect the stock price, and those that are most successful make people around them better.
What is your Biggest Weakness?
Translation: An intelligent person knows what they don’t know. Are you intelligent?
Guidance: This is the mother of all interview questions. Everybody has weaknesses. Be self-effacing. It shows honesty, humor and confidence. Pick a negative trait and show how you’ve overcome it.
Why Should we Hire You?
Translation: I’m feeling pretty good about hiring you. Just give me one last reason to close the deal and send you an offer letter.
Guidance: If you get this question, you’re probably on good footing with the interviewer. Sum up your skills and how they translate into value for the company. Reinforce your reasons for wanting to work for them. Portray yourself as an excited employee who will add value.
Do you Have any Questions for Me?
Translation: If you don’t ask any, you may not have a pulse.
Guidance: You should ask more questions than you’re asked. If this is a first interview, ask questions about the company, the market, the culture, the work, etc. Save the WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) questions for later or final interviews.