- Instead of just naming your weakness, share how you’re working to improve it
- Think about what the interviewer wants to get out of the question
- Answer “Tell me about yourself” with a past, present, and future structure
Interviews are something we all go through, for better or for worse. Whether you’re looking for your first job or your next gig as a seasoned professional, interview preparation is crucial.
According to Career Sidekick, the average online job posting receives around 250 applications, but only 2-3% of those applicants are called for an interview. If you are part of this small percentage, give yourself a pat on the back. You made it through the first barrier. Now it’s time to put your best foot forward for the interview.
Here’s your guide to answering tricky questions like a pro.
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What is my greatest weakness?
Film director and content creator Erin McGoff says the key to answering any interview question is to think about what your interviewer is trying to get out of the answer.
With over two million followers waiting for her next video, McGoff began creating TikToks to set the stage for career advice, which she says is often elitist because people who need it most don’t have access to it .
When it comes to answering your greatest weakness, McGoff advises against naming a “quasi-weakness” such as: B. Being a perfectionist.
“They don’t really care or expect you to say your greatest weakness,” McGoff told USA TODAY. “They want to hear you talk about your mistakes because that says a lot about your character.”
She recommends sharing a genuine weakness that might not affect your ability to get the job done. For example, if you’re applying to be a paramedic, you don’t want to say you don’t work well under pressure.
“The key to answering this question is that you spend about 10% of it explaining the weakness and 90% of it explaining how you work on the weakness,” says McGoff. “So instead of saying I’m bad at computers, you would say, ‘Something I’m working on right now is my Excel skills, I’m taking an online class right now. It helps me learn how to navigate Excel and use the software more efficiently.’”
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What is my greatest strength?
You can just as easily flip the script to answer what your greatest strength is.
“They want to see you talk about yourself in a positive light. They want to see how comfortable you are talking about yourself,” says McGoff.
The key is to go into the interview knowing that you have a strength that is important to the particular company. Pay close attention to the job description and see where your assets fit in.
If you’re concerned about seeming conceited, frame the question in a way that conveys what others have told you as strengths in the past.
“You might want to say … ‘Something I’ve gotten compliments on in the past is how cooperative I am. I’m always willing to listen to other people, maybe that comes from my childhood growing up in a big family, I had to be cooperative,'” says McGoff. “Joke about it.”
How to Respond to Tell Me About Yourself
McGoff uses a time-tested past-present-future model in answering this question. If you think about the anatomy of the question, they’re really asking you to set the tone for the interview, she says.
“What they’re really asking is, ‘Describe to me that you’re the perfect person for this job,'” says McGoff.
The past section could be about where you grew up, went to school, or where your passion began. When it comes to the present, talk about the skills and assets you bring to your current company. McGoff says to “stay current” when talking about the future and not get bogged down in sharing current job woes. It’s generally not a good idea to turn this question into a rant about how much you don’t like your current job. Using the word pivot can put your future goals in a positive light.
Consider this example of a “past, present, future” statement:
I grew up in upstate New York and attended New York University where I really honed my passion for marketing and communications. I currently work as a Growth Marketing Manager where I manage campaign strategy and growth. I would like to move to a boutique agency where I can take on new and exciting campaigns.
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Common mistakes to avoid in job interviews
Talking too much about yourself
While you’re certainly the star of the interview, don’t forget to balance sharing your personal story with talking about the company itself. Share how your skills and experience make you the best candidate for the job.
“They interview a dozen ‘you’,” says McGoff. “They want to know what you can do for the company.”
Don’t read the job description
It may seem obvious, but perusing the job description is essential when preparing for an interview. Maybe there’s a tidbit about working with customers—something your customer service experience lends itself to. You may notice one detail about working with the company’s social media platforms. Now is a good time to mention that you have a small following on TikTok.
“I think people go into an interview thinking, ‘How can I get this job?’ Instead of thinking, ‘How can I be the solution to this company’s current problem of not having an employee for this position?’” says McGoff.
let intimidation take over
Remember that the person on the other end of the conversation is also human. Not only will this calm your nerves, but it will also help you navigate the interview. You are a person with good days and bad days, just like you. You are a person who once applied for jobs and ended up sitting exactly where you are now.
At the end of the day, McGoff says, they want the interview to go as well as you did.
“They are committed to the company, so it’s important to remember that. They don’t necessarily advocate for you,” says McGoff. “But they pray that you’re the perfect person for the role because if you are, their job is done and they can go home earlier.”