We’ve all been there. Your coveted interview begins, and just as you think things are going well, the hiring manager throws you a curveball. They ask one of your least favorite interview questions, one of those questions that should be easy to answer, but completely throws you off your game.
Everyone has that one question that we just dread, the one that makes you break out in a cold sweat the second you hear the interviewer ask it. During a recent episode of “Talk About It Tuesday,” we asked the audience to share their least favorite interview questions, and today we’re going to help you answer the top three on that list.
1. “What is your biggest weakness?”
Far and away, questions about your weaknesses topped the list. Some folks paired it with describing your strengths, as well, but being asked to describe your weaknesses was a clear winner (or loser) for most of us.
When this question comes up, it feels like you’re being asked to give the interviewer a reason not to hire you, which seems completely contrary to the whole point of the interview. The real subtext behind this question, though, is a bit more strategic.
When asking about your weaknesses, hiring managers are often testing your self-awareness, checking to see if you’re willing to be honest about where you need to improve.
And that’s the key to answering the question. When you’re asked about a weakness (or three), be honest, but frame your answer in a way that shows you’re committed to improving.
For example, if you struggle with time management, tell the interviewer that you try to make lists and schedules for yourself to keep on track. If you don’t like public speaking, explain that you aren’t always comfortable talking in front of a group, but you welcome opportunities to share your expertise with the team.
2. “Tell me about yourself.”
A close second on our list of least favorite questions from your interviews was this gem, which seems deceptively simple, but often leaves us stumped. Is the interviewer genuinely interested? Is this just an icebreaker? Should you answer on a more personal level, or keep it professional?
Before you answer, one thing to keep in mind is that this question allows you to set the tone for the interview. It’s an early chance to get comfortable with your interviewer, and a great opportunity to let your personality shine. They’ve opened the floor to you, so take advantage of it.
That said, keep your answers on the professional level. Much like you use a cover letter to tell the story that isn’t in your resume, use this question to dig into the things you want to highlight. Tell the interviewer about the career accomplishments you’re most proud of, your current work and what you’re looking for in your career.
As you frame your response, think of your answer like it’s running along a timeline: share something from your past, address the present and speak to your plans for the future.
3. “Why do you want to work here?”
Rounding out our top three least favorite questions is one that seems almost redundant when you hear it. Why would you be applying to a job if you didn’t want to work at the company? Is this a trick question?
Once again, there’s a subtext here that isn’t immediately apparent. Hiring managers often use this question as a roundabout way of seeing what you know about the job and the company. Make your response a one-two punch that shows interest in the company, followed by the value you bring to the position.
If you were applying at VA, for example, you could talk about how serving Veterans is the greatest mission in all of health care, or the appeal of our benefits, before explaining how your skills and background will prove valuable to your team.
Work at VA
Don’t get flustered by your least favorite questions. Think about what the interviewer is really asking, and then knock it out of the park with your answer.