Route to Relief Blog

Job Seeker Series: 5 Common Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

There are so many questions to prepare when you’re prepping for an interview, so how do you know which ones to rehearse?

In our last Job Seeker Series article, we mentioned several questions you need to rehearse before your next in-person interview. But with a variety of questions a recruiter could ask, how should you answer them with honesty and positivity? We put together this article to help you prepare for the 5 most common interview questions. You’ll be ready for your next interview in no time!

What are your strengths?

Hiring managers want to hear your honest answer here, so don’t make up the answer, and don’t simply tell them what they want to hear. If you have many strengths, it’s okay to highlight the ones that will help you succeed most in this role, but the main point here is to be honest.

Strengths could include teamwork, collaboration, project management, storytelling, detail-oriented, creativity, leadership, and more. Recruiters typically ask you to list three strengths, and you’ll need to be ready to provide specific examples of how you use those strengths in your work. Here’s an example:

One of my strengths is teamwork. I really enjoy working with others and collaborating on various projects. In fact, my favorite teamwork moment in my last job was when our various departments really only communicated through email, and it was hard to sense everyone’s involvement in the project. To overcome this, I worked hard to implement weekly, working meetings that allowed everyone to share their updates, ask questions, and collaborate on specific solutions to any problems that arose.

In this example, the candidate listed the strength, provided some background information, and shared a story about how their strength specifically helped them in their previous role.

What are your weaknesses? 

I worked as a recruiter and hiring director for many years, and my least favorite answers for this question were, “I care too much,” “I work too much,” or – the absolute worst – “I don’t have any.” Everyone has weaknesses, and when recruiters are asking you this question, they’re not necessarily asking for a heads up on what might be the most challenging barrier for you. They want to see that you have the ability to self-reflect, recognize where you struggle, and how you have worked to overcome those weaknesses. Here’s an example:

One of my weaknesses is that I’m not always the most patient person. I care very much about the work I do, and it’s important to me that things are done in a timely and efficient manner. However, I recognize that impatience can sometimes cause others to feel stress, so I consistently work on my patience and remind myself that, ultimately, it’s important to get projects done and meet our organizational goals, even if a task doesn’t get done the moment I want it to.

In this example, the candidate was honest about their weakness and showed that they can be self-reflective, even when the answer isn’t as positive as they would like it to be. The candidate also provided concrete examples, and they even managed to work in “the goals of the organization.”

Why do you want to work here?

This is a tough question to answer, especially if you haven’t done your research and don’t know a lot about the organization. The first step to successfully answering this question is to do your research and draw upon concrete examples. Here’s what a positive answer might look like:

I would love to work for this team because I believe in the mission and values of the organization. I noticed that you listed ‘sustainability’ as a value, and that really spoke to me. I work hard to be sustainable every day, and I even began a recycling program at my last position. I would love to have the opportunity to work with a great team of individuals that care about the values of their organization.

In this example, the candidate gave specific examples about the organization and used this to appeal to the hiring team. Other topics you could discuss are any major projects the company has managed, community service they have performed, donations they have collected, ways they have made a difference in your life, etc. It can even be as simple as, “Everyone here is extremely nice and helpful.” The main goals here are to do your research and be specific. You also want to avoid answers like, “I want to work here because I need a job” or “Because the pay is good” because this doesn’t show that you are thinking about the organization. Stay positive and work on appealing to the intrinsic values of the team.

Tell us about a time you faced a conflict or challenge at work. How did you handle the situation?

The trick with this question is to tell the entire story without getting bogged down in the details or dragging the story on. Set the stage of the conflict, explain how you were a key player in providing a solution, and describe the outcome. Here’s an example:

Last year, my team was planning a fundraising event for the homeless children in our community, and it was my team’s job to ensure that we had plenty of people in attendance. I had two team members who each had a different way we could approach this situation, and they disagreed on the solution pretty heavily. When I learned about the disagreement, I brought our team together to meet about the two options. When we all had the opportunity to collaborate and discuss these options together, we ended up deciding to use both. In fact, that meeting was one of the best we ever had. We create an Outreach Sub-Committee, and the two people who initially disagreed both headed the sub-committee and provided weekly reports about their outreach efforts. We ended up exceeding our attendance goals for that event!

This is a great example because the story itself isn’t too long. The candidate does not get into the details about how frustrating it was to deal with two team members who couldn’t get along. The candidate, instead, focused on the most important details, explained how they helped provide a solution, referred back to one of their strengths, and even provided the outcome of the situation and how the organization was better for it.

Why are you leaving your current job?

This is one of the most difficult questions recruiters will ask you, and it’s important to be honest without being negative. Do not throw your current employer under the bus, and do not say rude things about a colleague. While the stories you share may be true, recruiters will hear negative answers and think, “Will this person say the same thing about me and my team someday?” Focus, instead, on positivity. Here’s an example:

I am leaving my current job because I want to learn more. There aren’t as many opportunities for growth at the organization I work for, and I would love to expand my knowledge, learn from other experts in the field, and be part of an organization that I can grow with. I want to stay at my next job for a long time, and I love knowing that your organization provides a plan for growth and professional development to its employees.

This is a great example because it shows how the candidate is thinking about their future, professional goals, and their desire for lifelong learning. The candidate did not say anything negative about their current workplace; in fact, the candidate managed to squeeze in a positive statement about the organization they’re interviewing with.

Want to expand your professional skill set? Check out our blog article on the Top In-Demand Workplace Skills and How to Develop Them!

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