Even for the most qualified applicants, interviews can be a daunting experience. At SkyWater, we advise all of our candidates to research the company, understand the role and rehearse their answers to the most common interview questions.
Here are our tips for handling some of the most difficult:
Tell me about yourself
It’s the moment when candidates metaphorically sink into their chair. What exactly does the hiring manager want to hear? Analyse the job description and prepare a brief presentation of your career history and accomplishments relating to the vacancy. Focus on specific examples of where you exceeded your targets or objectives. If you lack the experience in similar jobs, emphasize the transferable skills that can make a real difference to the employer. Be enthusiastic and make your answer
Tell me about a time when you failed
Everybody makes mistakes but it’s how you learn from and respond to those errors that your prospective employer is interested in. Don’t claim to be the one perfect human being in existence. Describe the situations where you have made the wrong decision or adopted the wrong approach and how you resolved it. For example, if you were involved in conflict with a colleague, explain how you calmed the situation down, apologized for any mistake on your part and how you took steps to avoid repeating your actions in the future. Hiring managers respect people who are honest enough to reflect on their failures and make a change for the better.
Please clarify the gap in your resume
Regardless of the fact that we have emerged from a long recession in the last year, employers still query gaps on resumes. The only way to respond to this question is with complete honesty but emphasize the positive. For example, if you were unemployed for a while, how did you keep your skills up-to-date? What efforts did you make to secure a new job? Did you attend relevant industry events to expand your network? Did you take part in any voluntary work? If you needed to take time out for personal reasons, due to illness or family problems, explain what actions you have since taken to brush up on any skills or experience you may have lost during that time. If in doubt, speak with your recruiter about the best way of responding to this question.
Have you ever been fired?
It happens. What matters in your next interview is how you handle it without seeming bitter or failing to take responsibility for your actions. Explain what went wrong, and put it into context. If your overall career history is one of progression and success, this helps to promote your suitability for your next employer. You’ll find more advice on how to handle the "so why were you fired" question in our previous article.
What’s your biggest weakness?
Again, it’s essential to respond to this question directly and candidly. Show the hiring manager that you recognize your weakness, for example, impatience or short-temperedness and the steps you are taking to deal with this trait. Address job specific weaknesses at this stage too. If you don’t possess relevant experience in sales, give examples of persistence in customer service, a skill which can be transferred into a sales based role. The key to interview success is understanding how to handle these difficult questions and address them with confidence.