We’ve all been there. Sitting in a waiting room. Waiting to be called in for an interview. It could be a moment that will change your life. But, before you get a chance at your dream job, there’s going to be roadblocks ahead of you. One of those roadblocks includes the interview. More specifically, certain interview questions.
The “question phase” of an interview can always be tricky. How honest should you be? How much should you pander? How much should I pop my collar? Many of these answers are going to vary from person-to-person and company-to-company. But, like many things in life, there are consistencies that can be addressed and rehearsed. Below are some classic interview questions, along with consistent answers that will surely increase your chances with a future employer.
Keep in mind, to get an interview we are going to have to first submit a résumé. I’ve compiled a list of résumé designs here for you to emulate.
Question #1 Tell us about yourself?
Most people think this question pertains to your job history. And the advice you hear from other websites is all going to sound similar, saying something like “provide a brief summary of your recent employment experiences and how it pertains to this new position.”
The truth is that employers do not want to hear about your work history. Employers want to know about your life story. They want to know how you began – all the way back to conception. Give it to them…and give them a story they will never forget.
Question #2 What are some examples of when you were in a leadership position?
If you are a couple of years into your career, this is straightforward. Employers are going to want to know about a time when you were in charge of other people.
If you are entry-level, this is a much more difficult question. By virtue of you being entry-level, you have never been in a true leadership position. Any “leadership” you have is just cleverly-labeled BS from when you were treasurer of the college frisbee club. The work involved in these positions usually just means collecting $5 from each member every semester. Not exactly a character-defining instance of responsibility. Furthermore, if you had any internships, you were probably not given much leadership by virtue of you being an intern. No company is going to hire an intern to be in charge of industry professionals? If you are struggling for leadership examples, that is okay. Let the hiring manager know that. They appreciate honesty. Tell them that you have been a “follower” your entire life. Maybe try going for a joke and say, “I follow people on Twitter. Maybe one day I’ll lead them.” Trust me, this joke will go well.
The good part about discussing leadership positions is that they are very difficult to fact-check. Is a company really going to call your college and ask if you were in charge of the frisbee club? What this means is that we can embellish a little bit. To more accurately describe it — we are going to lie. Mention that you were in charge of organizing a multi-college frisbee league. Explain that you financed and coordinated with ambassadors from multiple higher education institutions. This is the type of answer that uses unnecessarily large words and overcomplicates your previous job. In other words, it is exactly the kind of answer that will work in a job interview. Take this example of a frisbee club and find a way to apply it to yourself.
In the meantime, you should research quality leadership. This can give you a benchmark to compare your leadership against. For starters, just take historical examples and think of creative ways to apply them to the modern workforce. Take Julius Caesar for instance. Julius Caesar was not only a great leader, but he also witnessed many acts of courage. And he was astute enough to learn from his enemies. One example of this was when Caesar was conquering modern-day France. He studied the Gaulic tribes and took note on the practices they employed to recruit soldiers in their fight against Rome. Caesar explains their methods in a passage from his book, The Conquest of Gaul:
In one direction were the [Gaulic tribes], incited to revolt by their consciousness of guilt, while on another side [more tribes] were preparing to attack the Romans. So [their leader] gave notice of a muster in arms. This is the customary method of opening hostilities in Gaul. A law, common to all the tribes alike, requires all adult males to arm and attend the muster, and the last to arrive is cruelly tortured and put to death in the presence of the assembled host.
So, to reiterate: the Gauls would call out for soldiers, and the last to arrive would be punished by death. Can you think of a world where this would not motivate you? Of course, modern laws make these types of acts illegal. But it doesn’t mean you can’t use the spirit of it to talk about your leadership ideals for your career.
Be creative. It is your duty to yourself and your employer that you implement creative ideas to power the workforce of the 21st-century.
Question #3 What are your dreams/long-term goals?
Understand — do not tell them your dreams and goals. Tell them their dreams and goals. Nearly every person wants to strike it out on their own. Conversely, every company wants you to work for them as long as possible. Every man’s nature is to pursue his own destiny, and every boss’s nature is to have you help him pursue his own destiny. It is one of life’s unreconcilable forces.
You have to avoid telling them that you eventually do not want to work for them. Instead, tell employers that your dream is to serve; to serve is your dream. Use those exact words. The hiring manager will know that you are sure to be a fantastic investment for the company.
Question #4 What are your strengths?
This is always a tough one. Do you be honest? Do you brag? Oversell? Undersell? Ugh…. A cliché response would be to say, “I work very hard” or “I work well with others.”
I recommend that you note more alternative forms of strength. Mention your physical strength, emotional strength, and spiritual strength.
Question #5 What are your weaknesses?
Easily the worst question that you will inevitably be asked. Mentioning an actual vulnerability can hurt your chances. Is it better just to lie and show no weakness? We’ll never truly know and the right answer is highly contingent on the person you are talking with.
The once certainty: never talk about personal problems. For an example of this, just look at what happened to Harry Potter in his fifth year at Hogwarts. Specifically, when Harry tried to become House Prefect. For those that don’t know, Harry Potter is a book about wizards and witches attending a boarding school. All witches and wizards start attending at ten years old. When they are fifteen, students are selected to become what are essentially hall monitors, known in the book as a “House Prefect.” Yes, that is right. The school selects fifteen-year-olds and gives them the responsibility to enforce a curfew on their friends. And Harry Potter, the protagonist who’s destiny is to fight the most evil wizard of all, Lord Voldemort, attends this school. Burdened by his responsibility, Harry still wishes to live a normal life. So, not only does Harry still give a shit about his education while preparing to fight the world’s greatest evil, he even wants to become a House Prefect.
Even though Harry had recently escaped death from the most dangerous wizard in the world, he still wanted to be a hall monitor. And guess what?! Harry didn’t get the job. Albus Dumbledore, the school’s headmaster, instead gave the job to Harry’s two best friends. Do you know why Harry didn’t get the job? Because Dumbledore did not want to give Harry more responsibility.
Harry Potter approached Albus Dumbledore asking for a job. Dumbledore, who had a close relationship with Harry, knew his weaknesses. Because of this, Dumbledore did not feel that Harry was up to the challenge and so he chose not to give him the role of House Prefect.
This is exactly the problem with being honest towards people. You might create a deeper connection with others, but that deeper connection will give them the evidence they need not to hire you. You can’t be shot if your opponent doesn’t have any bullets.
If Harry had bottled his emotions, kept his stories to himself, Dumbledore instead may have thought, “Hey, this guy just keeps handling every ounce of responsibility. Let’s give him more.” Instead, Dumbledore said to himself, “This poor boy, I must not overload him with this small but heavy burden.”
Was it better for Harry’s mental health to be honest with Dumbledore? Maybe.
Would have keeping his mouth shut led to Harry getting the job as House Prefect? Most definitely.
Questions to ask the hiring manager?
This is usually the last part of the interview. Here, they’ll flip the tables and ask you if there is anything more you’d like to ask. During my stint with my previous company, I had interviewed many people and oversaw the hiring process of many applicants. Here are some questions that I had hoped to be asked during my interview, and I advise you to use them in yours.
- Why do you sleep alone?
- Are you racist?
- Are you not racist?
- Do you think talk-show hosts really find EVERYTHING that funny?
Anyway, there’s a multitude of hurdles to overcome when getting a job — this is just one of them. I’m always trying to help. Hopefully, this advice can get you in a place to kickstart your career.