Ace your next interview

People shaking hands at a job interview

You’ve done it, you’ve landed an interview for a great job. Not only do you have the education and experience you need for the position, but you are certain that you’re a great fit for the organization. There’s just one remaining obstacle between you and your dream job, the all-important interview.

Interviews are stressful, but they are also one of the most critical parts of your job search. They provide you the opportunity to learn things you can’t tell from a job description and can provide a glimpse of company culture. Depending on how the interview is conducted, you may also get insight into the personalities of potential future co-workers and even see what the commute it like.

During an interview you also have the opportunity to showcase your knowledge in a way that your resume cannot. You can more fully explain your past experiences, discuss the skills you’ve gained and offer insight into what you can offer them as an employee. Most of the time you also have the chance to ask questions, which allows you to more fully understand the role and the company.

With so much riding on a single event, it’s important to really make an impression. But exactly how can you ace your next interview? Dr. Dharmendra Singh, an NCU professor in the School of Business, has this advice:

“In order to succeed in an interview, we need to inculcate confidence in our knowledge, skills, abilities, and competencies. We need to anticipate the likely questions and activities during the interview process.” 

Since being prepared can improve your confidence as well as your ability to make a great impression, we’ve created this list of common questions you might face.

 

Tell me about yourself.

Most people find it difficult to talk about themselves, especially when prompted to do so by such an open-ended question. In an interview, this can be particularly challenging because you don’t really know what type of answer they’re expecting. If faced with this question, keep it professional and focus on your education, recent experience and goals. Keep it brief and avoid discussing personal interests unless specifically asked.
 

Tell me about your experience.

It can be difficult to know where to start, when to end, and what the interviewer is really looking for when they ask this question. Your best bet is to be very familiar with the job description and talk about your past experience that applies to the new role. Feel free to throw in some skills that are above and beyond the role, just don’t make that your focus. It’s good for the interviewer to know that you can do more, but you don’t want them to think you’re overqualified either.

 

What can you bring to this role that others cannot?

You might feel like you are the best candidate for the job, but how do you express that? This question is designed to help the interviewer see how you’re uniquely qualified. This is a great opportunity to stand out, but it does take a little preparation. Carefully consider the role and think of ways you can elevate it. Be sure to keep your answer action focused and results-driven. Perhaps you’ve had successful initiatives in the past or have ambitious ideas about how to streamline process or boost results.

 

What is one thing you would change about your last job?


There’s no way around it, this question can really trip you up by leading you into negative territory. It’s important, however, that you avoid talking negatively about your former managers or coworkers. Your best bet is to focus on your duties, process and overall environment. Some safe answers might be:
 

  • “There were limited opportunities for professional development, and that’s important to me.”
     
  • “I would have liked to change the way we managed projects, I feel that things could be done a bit more efficiently.”
     
  • “I think it would have been beneficial if we had alignment meetings more regularly to make sure the team was all headed in the right direction.”
     
  • “We didn’t always use available technology that could have helped improve our outcomes.”
     

What are your weaknesses?  

This classic interview question comes in several versions, but regardless of how it’s phrased, it can be difficult to answer. After all, you want the interviewer to focus on what makes you great, not on your flaws! One way to handle this question is to offer a weakness as well as steps you’ve taken to overcome it. This shows that not only are you self-aware, you’re pro-active and open to change. Another approach is to pick a weakness that isn’t related to the skills you will need for the job you’re seeking. Be prepared to offer more than one though, as it’s common to be asked for both a couple weaknesses and a couple strengths.
 

What are your strengths?

This age-old interview question is more about finding out what you think your strong points are, not just about the skills listed on your resume. Consider some of your personal strengths as an employee and professional in your industry instead of focusing on role-specific answers. For instance, being a critical thinker, curious and solution-driven are all valuable strengths that apply to any role.

To help you further prepare, try answering these questions out loud. This can help you think through your answers and feel comfortable with your responses. And of course, it’s a good idea to brainstorm additional questions as well. If your interview was arranged through a recruiter, they may have some insight into the types of questions are being asked.

Do you have some sure-fire interview tips? We’d love to hear them - just head over to our Facebook, Twitter or Linked In and share them with our community.

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