Ask A Recruiter: How To Professionally Answer Common Interview Questions
Jun 15, 2021
Ever since COVID-19 hit the globe, there have been changes in terms of interviewing practices and methods. Regardless if interviews are done in person or remote, the most commonly asked interview question, “Tell me About Yourself” or “Why do you want to work here?” have not changed one bit and remain the same. While these core questions are asked frequently in an interview, job seekers still tend to have difficulty answering them “right” to impress the interviewer. Let’s break down these commonly asked interview questions and find some knowledge nuggets you can take with you for your next interview.
Answering STMAY (So Tell Me About Yourself)
There is a 99.9% chance that this will likely be the first question your interviewer asks you right out of the gate. The first rule in formulating an answer is never to go too personal. I’ve interviewed many candidates and while I understand the approach of trying to be personable, talking about your kids, family, pets (and even medical/health issues) is NOT the way to go. The key elements of your response need to center around why you’re even interviewing - which is this: to demonstrate how you’re the best fit for the role based on your qualifications and experiences.
So instead of going personal, go professional while being authentic to who you are. Use this golden opportunity to get the interview off on the right foot by giving an overview of your qualifications. What makes you stand out from the other candidates? Give enough of an overview (a tease, if you will) that allows you to go deeper into your qualifications and experience as the interview progresses.
Need some help in framing out a professional approach to STMAY? Try this handy formula:
Professional History + Background + Certification + Degrees = 45 Seconds Elevator Pitch
“Hi, my name is ____. After graduating from [college/university] with my Bachelor’s degree in [major], I have spent the last couple of years building professional experience as a [previous role]. I have managed to learn and generate a strong background in [job position], such as [skills required in the job you are interviewing for]. I was excited to learn about this opportunity in [company name], as I have always been passionate and fascinated about its growth and mission. I would love the opportunity to bring my professional experience with leadership abilities and my passion to this position at [company name] to gain more knowledge in this industry.”
Each element of this formula allows you to showcase your professional experiences in your interview. Be sure to also touch on how your specific hard skills meet the needs of the role. This can be subjective based on the position you are interviewing for. But overall, make the point of incorporating hard skills in your answer, which will allow you to go into deeper detail throughout the entire interview.
Communication styles (Expanders vs Condensers)
As humans, we have different interpersonal communication styles that we’re wired with. Two common communication styles can best be explained as Expanders and Condensers. Let’s talk about these differences within an interview environment.
Generally, Expanders can be known as those who have a tendency to over-elaborate, be prone to “going off on a tangent”, and can repeat previously stated information. On the other hand, Condensers can be known to provide minimal information (typically only the things they think you need to know or are relevant in a conversation), have a tendency to “under-elaborate” with super short answers, and can sometimes be misinterpreted or misunderstood to come off as short with people. Their condensed communication style can be perceived as arrogant or standoff-ish. Maybe as you’re reading this, you're already thinking of people in your life (friends, family, co-workers, etc) that fit the description of one of these styles.
It’s important to note that there is NOT a “right or wrong” between these two styles. One is not better or more important than the other. Personally, I know that I am an Expander - and over the years I’ve had to adapt and apply Condenser traits in certain life scenarios (like job interviews, for instance). The point in bringing up Expander and Condenser communication styles is self-awareness. If you know you’re more of an Expander, be mindful of how you’re communicating and where you’re verbally taking your interviewer. Turn on your “information filter” and be careful not to transport your interviewer to “Tangentville” (everyone gets lost there).
If you know you’re more of a Condenser, you’ll need to open up and loosen that same information filter to give your interviewer more than just 2 or 3-word answers. Don’t be afraid to expand where you need to in order to give the interviewer as complete a picture of your background, skills, and experience as possible. For years, I used to wrongly believe that people were either wired one way or the other and that a person can’t be a hybrid mix of both styles. Trust me, it’s possible. In the end, the overall goal with respect to communication in an interview is to be consistently clear and effectively convey how your skills meet the employer’s needs. Ask yourself this question, what would this company be missing out on if they didn’t hire you?
Asking employer-based questions
“Do you have any questions for us at all?” There is a 99.9% chance that this will likely be the last question you’ll be asked in the interview. And the first rule is to never say “No”. This is a golden opportunity to turn the tables in a positive way with the employer. Do your employer research and be sure to have questions prepared in advance.
But what kind of questions, you ask? Ideas will come to you from your in-depth company research. Look for commonalities between your interests in the organization and how their values align with you. Possible topics or questions to cover can include company goals, community involvement or partnerships, staffing growth goals, product objectives, any specific areas of improvement they’re processing or working on (either with the internal team you’re interviewing for or the overall organization), barriers/obstacles they’re facing and how they approach challenges, etc. Essentially, you’re taking the personalized questions that are asked of the applicant and turning those around to the employer.
Review the company’s LinkedIn and Glassdoor pages and of course, their website and social media are good resources to help shape ideas of questions to ask. JobSeer may help you conduct these interviewing questions, as well as learn more about your target company in JobSeer’s Company Insights Tab about its revenue, size, competitors, and visa sponsorship history.
In case you missed it, check out our blog about what type of questions you should ask towards the end of an interview.
Having a successful interview comes with a lot of patience, practice, resources, and guidance. There is not a “one size fits all” perfect answer for everyone on answering commonly asked questions. However, the interviewee should definitely showcase and emphasize their top strengths and experiences strategically. Utilizing these tips and best practices can help you be more effective in your interviewing capabilities. Good luck on your next interview, folks!
If you would like to learn more about this blog, connect with David Nicola on LinkedIn!