How you answer interview questions is more important than experience
The most nerve-wracking thing about the job interview is not knowing what questions you’ll be asked. So, to help you avoid been caught off-guard and panicking, here is how you can answer some of the most common and toughest interview questions.
Tell us about yourself?
The interviewer doesn’t want to know when you were born and what year you had your first kiss, instead, they want a brief yet compelling narrative about your professional career.
Let’s say you are being interviewed for a Marketing Manager position for a bank. You can say something like,
“Well, in university I took a part time job as a social media manager for a new restaurant near my college campus. I quickly fell in love with the whole process of creating a brand voice and connecting with clients online. So I changed my major from Business Administration to Marketing and Communication – with a minor in IT. I’m a millennial, so I’ve grown up in the digital era and my focus has mainly been figuring out ways to attract online audiences – which are the fastest growing market right now. So after school, I worked as an account manager for a digital marketing agency, and many of our clients were in the hospitality industry. And then I moved on to strategy. Now I’m at a point where I’m ready to lead a team.”
Why do you want to work for us?
Generic answers like, “you are the best in the industry” are not what the interviewer is looking for. Instead what they really want to find out is:
- What do you know about the company? (Have you done your research)
- What can you do for them?
Continuing with the first example, you can say:
“When I was working as an account manager one of our clients was a hotel similar in rating to yours. This was my introduction to the hospitality industry, and I really enjoyed managing the brand voice for both online and offline marketing projects for all their branches. I learnt about the unique challenges 5-star hotels have in attracting day visitors to use their different amenities and would love the opportunity to help your hotel find solutions to this problem.”
What are your greatest strengths?
This is an opportunity for you to talk about a moment in your professional career that demonstrates a quality that they are looking for. Simply put, don’t tell them what you think is your greatest strength, instead show them that you are good at an important skill needed for the job.
They don’t want to know whether or not you are a great cook, or friendly, they want to see if you have the character that’s required for the job.
So for instance, a hotel manager needs to be good at delegating tasks and supervising people. So you can say,
“3 months after being promoted to the strategist position at my former company, our team lead had to leave the company suddenly due to a medical condition. I then was appointed interim lead strategist until they found a person to replace him. As a result, I had to now manage 10 employees, and the Managing Director was so impressed that I was able to do so with such ease that he offered me the job. I accepted and within 3 months, every team members performance had increased from an average of 30% reach of their KPIs to 60% reach. Most of them wrote in a survey that it was because of my leadership style.”
What are your greatest weaknesses?
This isn’t a trick question, employers want to see if you are capable of being self-reflective and if you can learn from your shortcomings. However, don’t pick a weakness that will disqualify you from the job like “I have a drinking problem?” or “I’m addicted to Instagram” (unless that’s part of your job role). A better response would be something like,
“My mind is always thinking of new ideas to accomplish an objective, and sometimes I can get carried away and set goals that are impossible to reach within a timeframe. So over the years, I’ve had to train myself to make SMART goals. And every new idea I have, I ask myself – is it specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and timed?”
Tell us about a time you failed?
Once again, this is an opportunity to show how you overcame and learnt from a professional mishap.
“I was tasked with coming up with the marketing strategy for a popular beer brand. Once again, I was filled with ideas and ended up creating a plan that everybody loved, but when it came to budgeting – was impossible to implement. I learned from that experience that I need to pair my creativity with practical thinking. Luckily, I had an opportunity to revise the plan, and ended up with an equally exciting yet feasible marketing strategy.”
Why did you leave your last job?
This is not your opportunity to bash your previous employer and talk about how much you hated them, even if the interviewer prompts you to by saying things like, “Your boss is known in the industry for being an unreasonable jerk….”
Instead, always be courteous and diplomatic:
“I’ve been in the company for 3 years, and I’m ready to expand and push myself professionally elsewhere. I learned and achieved a lot with my old company, but I’ve simply outgrown my position there and need a new challenge.”
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Now this is a tricky question because you don’t want to indicate that your ambition is to have your potential boss’s job or even have your own business. Interviewers ask this question to see if you are interested in being at their company for a long time, or if it’s just a ‘for-right-now’ gig. So your safest bet would be to tell them the type of work you would want to be doing in 5 years, rather than an actual job role/position.
“I want to be working with international partners from other industries like airlines, booking agencies, travel planners, to promote this hotel brand to more people abroad. I really want to be doing marketing at that level, across industries and borders.”
What do you expect from the experience?
They want to see if you have the right perception of the job, and what types of responsibilities you are looking forward to.
“I’m expecting to learn a lot about leadership; that’s what I’m most excited about and will also be my biggest challenge. I’ve had my experiences and training managing a team, so I’m confident I’ll be good at it, but at the same time, I’ll have to adjust to a new industry – and I’m looking forward to that. Also, I’ll be bringing a lot of knowledge about digital marketing from my agency background, and I’m eager to see how some of my ideas will help improve your brand’s visibility online.”
What base salary do you expect?
You should’ve already calculated what base salary to ask for beforehand. Present it with confidence – you know what your value is. Even if the employer tells you that they have a fixed salary below the amount you stated, simply say,
“Given my years of experience in marketing, and the network of first tier clients I’ll be bringing to your business. I still believe that I’m worth TZS 4,000,000 as my base net salary.”
Do you have any questions for us?
You may be eager for the interview to end and may be compelled to just say ‘no’, but it is actually really important to ask some questions of your own. This can include:
- What is the supervisor’s leadership style?
- How many people will you be directly working with? What is the current dynamic like?
- What is the office environment like?
- Can you work from home on some occasions?
- When should you expect to hear from them?
You are also an interviewer
While you may really want to get the job, you should know that you are also interviewing the company. You need to use the interview to figure out if this is the right job and work environment for you – so don’t be afraid to ask questions and observe the dynamic and tell-tale signs around you.