How To Use the 5 Most Common Interview Questions To Your Advantage

Forbes published a blog post detailing the 50 most common interview questions and how to ace them all, but while it’s great to have a plan for every possible question, you can’t know for certain what the interviewer will ask you. Generally speaking, you can guarantee 5 questions that will be asked at every interview you ever have. They’re often uncomfortable questions as they seem to pick at your flaws, but here are a few tricks to making those questions work to your advantage:

1) What are your weaknesses?

Take something that others view positively, but causes you problems. “For me, it’s saying yes. I try to be a team player and help out where it’s needed, but sometimes it gets me buried in more work than I can handle.”

2)What’s one thing your former manager would like you to improve on?

This is similar to describing your weaknesses; you want to find something that isn’t earth shattering, but still implies you’re growing professionally. “I need to work on following up with non-ROI based work. I tend to put more emphasis on pieces of the business that create ROI and it causes me to neglect other parts of my job.”

3) Tell me about an accomplishment you are most proud of.

You should have this answer memorized like the back of your hand. Even if you don’t get asked this exact question, your answer to it is versatile and can be used for other parts of the interview.

4) Tell me about a time you made a mistake.

Again, emphasize growth through a mistake. “I once sent an email to a client without attaching the necessary documents. It reflected poorly on the company, and me but I reached out to the client and apologized, making sure they got the attachments and assured them it wouldn’t happen again. Now I always check the attachments before sending an email." This not only emphasizes your ability to learn from a mistake, but it also demonstrates your ability to work with unhappy clients/customers.

5) Give a time when you went above and beyond the requirements for a project.

This is a repeat question of #3. They’ll ask this same question in 5 different ways, so make sure you have 5 different accomplishments that demonstrate you going above and beyond ready to go.

There’s no magic answer to these interview questions; hiring managers are simply looking to see how well you can think on your feet – invest some time framing the “sound bites” that you feel are most critical in answering these questions so that you feel prepared going into an interview. These answers will be slightly different for each company that you interview with, however the basic answers should apply to most situations. They know you’re not perfect, so don’t pretend to be. When they ask about your weaknesses, mistakes and flaws, tell them and explain how they’ve helped you learn and grow professionally. The most successful people will tell you that they were a failure a thousand times before they were a success.

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