Here’s what employers are hoping to glean from these simple questions—and how you can prepare to answer them with confidence.
Common interview questions such as “Tell me about yourself” may not make you panic as much as a bizarre question like “How do you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?” But they can still wreak havoc on your responses if you aren’t prepared.Don’t be fooled by these deceptively simple questions. Experienced recruiters use questions like the ones below to trick you into divulging details you hadn’t planned on sharing during the interview. Here’s what employers are hoping to glean from these common yet tricky questions—and how you can prepare to answer them with confidence.
Tell me about yourselfTranslation: Why are you a good fit?
This common interview question seems straightforward, yet it trips up many job seekers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched a candidate go off the rails and share personal details that have nothing to do with the job. When employers ask this question, they’re not interested in hearing your autobiography. Instead, they want you to share a tailored version of your career story. Based on what you know about the job requirements and company, succinctly explain how your previous experiences have led you to this opportunity, as well as how they’ve qualified you for this particular role.
Tell me about a time when . . .
Translation: Prove it. Give me an example.
Many employers like to use this line of questioning—a technique called behavior-based interviewing—to assess a candidate’s potential. A recent TopResume study revealed this to be the single-most-important factor to employers when evaluating a potential hire. These open-ended questions encourage the candidate to share a story that illustrates how they’ve handled a previous situation that is likely to occur in this new role.
When faced with this interview question, stick to the STAR Method (Situation, Task, Actions, Results). Describe a situation or task you handled. Explain the actions you took to resolve the issue or overcome the challenge and summarize the results of your actions. While you might be unable to guess every behavior-based question a recruiter might throw at you, the job posting will offer some clues. Use the job requirements to brainstorm relevant behavioral questions and succinct stories from your work history you can share to demonstrate your abilities.
See all 5 questions and the complete Fast Company article
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