It is not easy for an interviewer to interview candidates. They are forced to sit across the table from a total stranger and ask incredibly personal questions. The hiring manager then has to dig deep into the applicant’s knowledge—or lack thereof—of the job they are interviewing for. It is easy for the interviewer to fall back on cliché questions such as:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- Who was your favorite manager and why?
- What kind of personality do you work best with and why?
- Why do you want this job?
- Where would you like to be in your career five years from now?
- Tell me about your proudest achievement.
- These—and dozens of other similar, banal questions—are safe and easy for the interviewer to ask. It’s similar to someone saying, “How you are today?”, “How’s the family?”, “What do you think of this weather? Crazy, right?” Nobody can blame you for asking these boring—yet socially acceptable—questions.Here is the key to answering almost all of the cliché interview questions.
First, you need to know why these types of questions are asked. Let’s break down what the questions all have in common:
- The interviewer wants to know what you do/did in your current and previous jobs. Is your background, education, experience and skill set appropriate and suitable for this open position?
- The interviewer wants to know how you think, analyze and act under a little stress and duress.
- The interviewer wants to get to know you as a person and whether or not you will fit in socially within the company, its employees and its culture.
- The interviewer needs to make sure that you are a good, corporate citizen, will work and play well with others, follow directions, not cause trouble, make the hiring manager look good and not steal their thunder or outshine them.
- The interviewer wants to avoid—at all costs—hiring a person who will potentially make them look bad.
- If you look and act the part, sound reasonably intelligent, come across as someone cool to be around, act nice, polite, non-confrontational, no-issues or drama, friendly and make the hiring manager think they will receive praise for hiring you, then you win.
Keep the above in mind at all times when answering the questions. Also, here is a cheat sheet of what to say in response to the interview questions.
Don’t let yourself go off on tangents. Answer questions by selling your experience, background, interpersonal skills, educational background and other softer skills that you offer—which directly addresses the requirements of the job and shows how you can make their lives easier.
You also want to demonstrate that you are a caring, hardworking and empathetic person who they would love to hire and work alongside. Additionally, you are comfortable in your own skin and can handle stress.
For questions that are obviously trying to probe you as a person, just think of yourself as normal and answer the questions. They really just want to know that they are not hiring a weird, psycho killer.
If the interviewer asks what websites you visit, don’t blurt out “Pornhub!” because it is the honest answer. Think of what a good, corporate citizen would say. For instance, you should say, “I like to be well-rounded, so I tend to frequent sites that offer a variety of opinions, viewpoints and thoughts– even if they conflict with my own. I read the New York Times, as well as the Wall Street Journal.”
For inane questions that make you want to stick a pencil in the interviewer’s eye, just smile, offer a light chuckle and give an answer that an average, corporate robot would just to make them happy. Maybe add, “That was a great question; it really made me think.”
When asked the “How many windows are there in New York City and how much would it cost to wash them” type question, start by nodding your head knowingly, along with a look that shows you are a deep thinker, contemplating the question and running numbers and calculations in your head. If you wear glasses, you can take them off with one hand and use the free hand to stroke your chin, which gives a wondrous, serious-minded effect. Then, give any answer you can think of, but say it with the utmost confidence, sincerity and seriousness, while looking them directly in their eyes. Remember, it’s not a “2+2” question that has an unequivocal, numerical answer. Almost all of these questions are open to interpretation. All you have to do is act like you know what you are talking about and charmingly sell the answer. Chances are they really don’t care about the answer, but just wanted to torture you and watch you squirm.
Remember, your former co-workers were nice and you had a great rapport with them. Your boss was wonderful and supportive. You weren’t actively looking, but when you saw this particular job, researched the company and its people, you realized that your experience, skills and background are a perfect fit to add value to the company and enable you to also grow professionally. You would like to plant roots for the long haul and greatly appreciate the chance to join the team.
Here are some other canned responses:
- I’ve learned from my failures and am glad that they happened, since it made me a better person and corporate professional;
- I spend my free time with family and volunteering at a local homeless shelter for veterans;
- I’m cool under pressure;
- I love working with all types of people and personalities;
- I am open to travel when required; my former associates and managers would say that I am hard-working, productive, smart and would gladly recommended me or work with me again;
- my boss would be sad to see me leave, but happy to see me succeed;
- my hero is my dad who served in the war, came home, worked full-time and earned a degree at night to take care of his family;
- also, Martin Luther King Jr. is a hero of mine too;
- I’m a big fan of historical non-fiction;
- if I watch television, it is usually a series from the BBC in England;
- my weekends revolve around my children’s ballet and athletic events, which I coach;
- you haven’t asked me why I would be a solid addition to the team and how I could make your life easier;
- how did you achieve such great success so early in your career?
Yes, it’s that simple. Good luck!