5 Common Questions Interviewers Ask (and what they really want to know)
By Grace McMeekin, Account Executive
Whether you’re applying for an internship, entry-level or high-level position in the field of communications, you can expect to be asked a multitude of behavioral questions. Hiring managers ask these questions to determine if you can effectively convey your ideas, collaborate with people from all different backgrounds, meet deadlines and adapt to new situations. Here are five common interview questions (and how you should be answering them).
1. Tell me about yourself.
You’re practically guaranteed to be asked this in some form or another at the beginning of an interview. Although vague, there are specific things that employers want to learn about you when they ask this question. It is important that you structure your answer in a way that places the most important points of emphasis first. For example, your education, career history, and career interests come before the topic of your senior thesis or the fact that you volunteer at an animal shelter.
It is also important to be brief. You want to reveal enough about yourself that they can get a sense of your background, your goals and what motivates you, but not so much that they know your whole life story. Before the interview, write down a list of key points you want to emphasize and practice going over them in a concise manner.
2. Tell me about a time you overcame an obstacle.
Employers want to see that you are motivated, innovative and persistent. What they really want to know is your problem-solving process and your work ethic. Think about a time when you worked really hard to achieve a difficult goal, completed a challenging project, or when you persisted when you could have given up. What did you do to overcome the obstacle and what was the outcome?
3. What’s your biggest weakness?
For this one, make sure you’re being honest and humble. No one wants to hear that your greatest weakness is being a perfectionist. Employers not only want to see that you can recognize your flaws, but also that you are making a conscious effort to improve yourself. Provide them with what you believe to be a weakness of yours and then state the steps you are taking to turn it into a strength.
4. Talk about a time when you had to work closely with someone whose personality was very different from yours.
How well do you work with people? As strategic communicators, working with and communicating effectively with different types of people is absolutely essential. You will have to collaborate with team members, co-workers and clients who might be different from you, so they want to see that you have experience working with different personalities and overcoming communications challenges.
This question also gives you the opportunity to share something about your personality that you want the employer to know. Maybe you’re a detail-oriented person who likes to triple check their work and you worked with a person who was hurried and made careless errors. Or maybe you like to take charge of a project and hear everyone’s ideas, but the person you worked with barely spoke at all. How did you succeed and make it work despite your differences?
5. Tell me about a time you failed.
Failure is a necessary aspect of growth, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. If an employer asks you this question, they don’t just want to know what you failed at, but also how you dealt with that failure. What did you learn from this particular failure? How did you use what you learned to either try again and succeed or change your course of action? This question is another opportunity for you to demonstrate that you have a strong work ethic as well as resilience.
Whether it’s your first phone screening interview or a final interview, these are several common behavioral questions that you can expect to be asked, each of which requires self-reflection and preparation. There are a multitude of ways to answer each one, but each provides an opportunity to show the employer why they should hire you.