Cliche Job Interview Questions and How to Answer Them
Congratulations, you finally landed an interview for that coveted position you’ve spent your entire career working towards! Now all that’s left to do is answer every question perfectly, dress to the nines, smile, avoid sweating, be on time, have an impeccable list of reliable references, and impress a room full of important people. No pressure, right?!
You’ve heard the term ‘fake it till you make it’, well we are here to teach you how to play the game, so you can fake it AND make it confidently. These are 5 cliche job interview questions that trip up most would-be employees…but not you, because now you’ll be able to answer them.
Cliche Job Interview Questions
Number 1: What is your greatest weakness?
Try not to roll your eyes too hard on this one. Employers use this trick question as a way to evaluate how you will perform. Never identify a present weakness. Use this question as an opportunity to discuss a past scenario in which you recognized or were presented with a deficiency. Then, focus on the steps you took to overcome that obstacle. Don’t forget to include the end result of your initiative.
Example: “When I accepted the position with my last organization, I realized just a few days into the job that I was not as strong as the other members of my team when it came to cold calling. Obviously, this was going to be an important function of my job, so I took it upon myself to improve as quickly as possible. I immediately enrolled myself in Dale Carnegie night classes and bought several books geared towards cold calling. I studied up after hours and on the weekends.
Not only was I able to bring this deficiency up to speed, but I evolved that weakness into one of my greatest strengths. Within the first quarter alone I became the 2nd best cold caller, per statistics, on my team. By the end of the year I was our top sales performer.”
Number 2: What is up with the gap in your employment?
Tell the truth with a grain of salt. Be adamite about the fact that you aren’t just looking for a job. You’re looking for a career and for the best fit. If you know what you’re good at and have a specific path in mind, it is ok to hold out for the opportunity that best aligns with your ‘Big Picture’ objective. Don’t get caught back peddling and defending your time away from the field, instead, focus on explaining why now is the right time for you to get back to work. (Side note: If you had a child it is ok to use that at face value.)
Example: “When XYZ Company closed its doors last year it resulted in a loss of over 100 jobs in several departments. Unfortunately, one of those departments happen to be mine. During my time at XYZ I specialized in the management of both the sales and production teams. While I have received several opportunities since then to manage only one side or the other. I really enjoyed overseeing both teams and I am good at it.
I have invested the last 10 years of my professional career sharpening and refining my skillset. I believe I provide a great deal of value in this capacity. I have maintained my intention in holding off for the right opportunity. I’ve stayed current in my field during this sabbatical by going to meet ups; I’ve continued to strengthen my ties within the professional community and have read countless books on management within my niche. In short, I have used my time between positions wisely and believe I now possess an even broader perspective at my professional apex.”
Number 3: Why should we choose you?
Bluntly put, “You shouldn’t”, is the correct answer here. Stay with me…
There are so many hard-working individuals with technical know-how pertaining to virtually every position up for grabs. What you really need is someone who can match the culture of the company and has similar values. So, in theory, the company can literally choose anyone, but they need a good fit to ensure the long-term success they’re after.
Example: “That’s a great question. I believe that we should mutually choose each other. While it’s true you can teach anyone the technicalities of how to do a job, you can’t teach motivation, mind set or cultural alikeness.
I am certainly a great fit technically. Your organization is, without question, one of the industry’s best. I believe we should look at this as an opportunity to examine whether or not we’ll be able to provide mutual benefit. I don’t want to work for an organization. I want to join and be part of an enterprise focuses on continuous development and evolution.”
Number 4: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
WATCH OUT! Just like the greatest weakness, this too is a trick question. Don’t answer based on your ideal rank, position or salary goals. Instead, base your answer on value. Employers want someone beneficial to them. As selfish as it may seem, they don’t particularly care about your life goals. While no one is irreplaceable, that is how you should paint yourself. Think about your personal goals and align them with the core initiatives of the company you’re interviewing with. Tell them how you will further develop their company within the next 5 years.
Example: “Within the next 5 years I see myself as an integral cog in the wheel that drives this company. I want to be seen as a proven expert within my field. I realize that I’ll be starting out as a consultant and Im excited to be able to earn my stripes.
I’ve done quite a bit of research on your organization and I know that your quarterly earning are among the best in the industry for the past 3 years. Those steadily growing, consistent earnings suggest to me that you’ve got a great culture in place. I believe I’ll provide the additional talent, experience, and dedication you desire to ensure the continued growth of this enterprise.”
Number 5: What is your expected salary?
For the love of all things good do NOT answer this question. At least not in the 1st or 2nd round of interviews. If you put a number out there, that number will then become the focus. It will be attached to your profile right at the top. In short, all that the average hiring manager will remember about you is your name and your salary expectations. Not the value of your skill set or what you can bring to the organization. Generally, the first interview will be a technical one. Do you know the job? Furthermore, the second interview is an analysis of culture. Does your personality match the existing infrastructure? If you and the company both decide this is a good fit, then there should be a separate conversation focused on salary
Example: “While money is an important part of the equation it isn’t the most important. At this point in time I am more interested in determining whether your position and environment proves to be a good match for my skillset, personality and mindset. If, after discussing your needs versus my qualifications, we conclude that this opportunity will prove mutually beneficial for both parties, I trust that you’ll make me a fair offer.”