True Meanings of Job Interview Questions

The job interview is where most job seekers are working towards, but are least prepared for. A good job interview is where both the job seeker and the employer are able to learn about each other and ultimately a match is made and an offer is presented for the position. For this to happen, it is important for the job seeker to know how to answer the interview questions that are presented.

While there are no real right or wrong answers to job interview questions, unless you are not being truthful or are disclosing information that will impact negatively on yourself, it is important to understand what employers are really asking with certain interview questions.

Understanding what the hiring manager is really asking you, puts you in a better position to perform well during your interview. That will bring you closer to showing the hiring manager why you are the best candidate for the position.

Here are some popular interview questions, and how you should answer them:

Tell Me About Yourself

What the employer really is asking is about is a short introduction into who you are what you offer and why you are the best fit for the job. The employer does NOT want a rambling discussion of your personal life and details of your coin collection.

Why Should We Hire You?

What the employer really is asking is about is why the employer should hire you above the other candidates. You have to know your competitive advantage stressing your accomplishments qualifications and fit.

Why Do You Want To Work Here?

What the hiring manager is really asking: Are you genuinely interested in the job? Are you a good fit for the company?

Your goal for this response is to demonstrate why you and the company are a great match in terms of philosophy and skill. Discuss what you’ve learned about them, noting how you align with their mission, company culture, and reputation.

Next, highlight how you would benefit professionally from the job and how the company would benefit professionally from you.

Are You A Team Player?

What the employer really is asking is about is whether you get along with others — and can succeed in a team setting. The key here is to discuss a specific example of a good team experience providing details of the team’s accomplishments and your role within the team.

Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years?

What the employer really is asking about is whether you set goals for yourself. You want to show ambition but not so much that the employer worries that you will not be satisfied in the job.

Obviously if you plan to not be working at the organization in five years you do NOT want to say that.

What’s Your Biggest Weakness?

What the employer really is asking about is whether you are constantly trying to improve yourself. Do not respond with a generic response such as I’m too much of a perfectionist.

It’s much better to discuss a real past flaw/weakness and the steps you took to turn it around.

What Motivates You To Perform?

What the hiring manager is really asking: Are you a hard worker? Am I going to have to force you to produce quality work?

Ideal employees are motivated internally, so tell the hiring manager that you find motivation when working toward a goal, contributing to a team effort, and/or developing your skills. Provide a specific example that supports your response.

Finally, even if it’s true, do not tell an employer that you’re motivated by bragging rights, material things, or the fear of being disciplined.

Tell Me About A Time That You Failed

What the hiring manager is trying to find out is how you handle failure. Are you able to learn from your mistakes and whether or not, you are resilient.

Similar to the “greatest weakness” question, you need to demonstrate how you’ve turned a negative experience into a learning experience.

To do this, acknowledge one of your failures, take responsibility for it, and explain how you improved as a result. Don’t say you’ve never failed (Delusional, much?), don’t play the blame game, and don’t bring up something that’s a deal breaker (“I failed a drug test once…”)

Tell Me About A Time You Went Above And Beyond What Was Required In Your Job

What the employer really is asking about is the degree to which you are an average worker versus someone who will be a top performer within the organization.

Provide specific details about such a time; if you don’t have one from a previous job, especially for younger job-seekers, you can choose one from a volunteering/community service project.

How Many Sofas Are There In America?

Here, the hiring manager want to see if you can think on your feet. If you can handle pressure. If you can think critically.

When faced with a seemingly absurd question like this (there are many variations, it’s important you not be caught off guard.)

Resist your urge to tell the interviewer the question is stupid and irrelevant, and instead walk him through your problem-solving thought process. For this particular question, you would talk about how many people are in the U.S., where sofas are found (private homes, hotels, furniture stores), etc.

As with other parts of the job application process, it’s a good idea to solicit feedback from family, friends, and former colleagues. Try out your answers to each of these questions on at least two people, then revise based on their feedback.

The important thing to remember is get plenty of sleep the night before, relax, and be friendly and polite during your interview. Take your time to listen to the question before answering. If you're not sure about what is being asked, its ok to ask your interviewer to rephrase the question. If you make a mistake with your answer, simply say something like What I meant to say is, then give your answer. Remember to breathe, as this is something that that we forget to do when nervous and under stress. Take a couple of deep breaths (don't make it obvious) before you answer. It will help you to relax and gather your thoughts.

Try to imagine the interview as a conversation between two school mates who have not seen each other in some time and are catching up on life.

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