Good news! The economy has recovered enough that it’s actually reasonable to believe that if you’re job hunting, you’re likely to have a couple interviews in the near future if you haven’t already.
Here’s the bad news: You might be ruining your chances of landing the job after the first or second question because you’re not recognizing what the interviewer is actually asking. Here are a few common questions and how to answer.
“Tell me about yourself.”
Ah yes, the common first question that helps to break the ice, establish comfort and build trust, but there’s more to the question than you think. The interviewer is listening to how you communicate. Are you well spoken? Are you confident? Are you somebody that has the poise to speak on behalf of the company?
Don’t tell your life story. Hit some highlights that apply to the job.
“What do you know about us?”
This is a test of your initiative and your “go the extra mile” mentality. If you didn’t research the company before the interview, don’t expect to get the job. The interviewer wants to know that you’ll meet with clients and arrive at meetings armed with the information you need to be effective.
“What is your greatest strength?”
A classic, “what sets you apart” question, be careful how you answer. First, it asks for a single strength but more important, the interviewer doesn’t want to hear that you’re good with people or you have a can-do attitude.
Get away from the clichés and give an example. If you’re a “problem-solver” tell a short story of how you implemented change in your last position. The key to a great answer with this question is to be unique and practical.
“What are you expecting to get paid?”
This is a question to gauge your expectations. First, communicate that you’re enjoying getting to know the person and the company and look forward to hearing more about the job and the complete compensation package in the next interview before answering, in order to be as fair and realistic as possible. Sometimes, however, you’ll have to answer the question directly. Be ready.
Most important, be honest. Presumably, you know the average salary of people with similar experience in your industry and that information has brought you to a realistic salary expectation. Communicate that as briefly as possible before providing a number. Provide a salary range instead of a single number, if possible.
Don’t low-ball the range and ask for substantially more at the next interview, but don’t answer with a number so high that you price yourself out of a job you would love to have.
Remember that you’re interviewing the company as much as they’re interviewing you. Once you provide the number or range, ask them for feedback. If they seem turned off, you may want to look elsewhere or reexamine your expectations.
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