Top Tips for Answering Job Interviews

By Paula Delos Reyes, Contributor

#InterviewTips #JobInterview #CandidateGuide

Going for your interview can be, admittedly, nerve wracking. Especially if it’s the first one, we think of the questions the HR interviewer would ask, different scenarios, and how it would feel like—all with the goal of acing it and securing the job you’ve applied for.

I personally know a physician who, when asked what her specialization was, answered “suman sa latik” instead of Internal Medicine! At the back of her head, she was thinking she really wanted to just manage their family restaurant. (Don’t worry about her—she’s now one of the top doctors in their hospital!)

If you got to this page because you’re scheduled for an interview, congratulations! Let’s now shake the jitters off and help you prepare for your interview. Here are five of the most common interview questions and some tips on how you can answer them.

Top 5 job interview questions

1. Tell me something about yourself.

Usually the first (and if we may say, “gasgas”) question in job interviews. The intention being for HR recruiters to get to know you and your personal and professional background in a few sentences.

Now, just because it sounds like an open-ended, strike-at-any-angle question, doesn’t mean you should go off-tangent! Don’t mention unrelated things, such as your zodiac sign or dream car, unless you can cleverly connect that to why you’re applying. You’re there to land the job. Keep your eyes on the prize. Chances are, recruiters want to get a feel of how you’ll be fit for the job vacancy.

If you are a fresh graduate, start with a personal introduction, followed by your school/course, and your academic achievements.

Hi, my name is Paula. I just graduated this March from [Name of University], with a degree in Biology. I took my internship here and having gotten to know the work environment, I’m very interested to be part of your research team.

If you already have work experience, elaborate on your skills and strengths, and your work achievements.

Hi, my name is Paula. I’ve been working as a writer for more than a decade now. I’ve worked with XXX newspaper, XXX magazine, and XXX ad agency, to name a few. I like features writing and working on campaigns because I can be fully creative. Maybe you’re familiar with *example/popular ad,* I was part of the creative team to work on that ad. It gained XXX views, which translated to XXX revenue. Our team also won *XXX prestigious award*.

Relax—remember that there is no wrong answer about yourself. But also keep in mind this is your first bullet in selling yourself. Highlight your achievements and strengths, which leads us to the next question...

2. What are your strengths?

Answer directly and relate it to the job you’re applying for.

I am strategic, deliberative, and analytical. I am happy when I absorb information and analyze it to develop concrete solutions. I love numbers and making sense out of data.

This way, the recruiter can assess if your skills and personality fit the role that you are applying for. It would help if you have taken a reliable personality test before (such as the DISC assessment test from Profiles Asia, which you can access from your Workbank dashboard). Taking assessment tests can help you know yourself better and, in turn, give you talking points for job interviews.

3. What do you consider as your weakness?

Tip: Answer honestly without damaging your reputation.

While it may be hard to answer this when you are trying to be on the good side of the employer (IKR), we are all but human and there should be balance in our personalities. When you share your weakness, make sure you have a remedy for it - not to be defensive, but to show that you don’t let your weaknesses hamper your growth. This way, you can show that you are honest, admit that you have areas for improvement, and have a concrete plan on how you can still be reliable and productive.

I can get too fixated on details, so sometimes it takes me longer to move from one project to another until I get things right. As a work-around, I allot more time or start earlier on deliverables that are more urgent.

4. Describe a situation when...

Think quickly! While this interview question can be anything under the sun, it will most likely give a glimpse of how you will respond to certain situations. Give a short recount of the scenario, how you solved it, and end with the outcome/how it was beneficial for all parties.

For this question, some of the most common situations include:

  • When you were caught in a difficult scenario
  • Needed to work with someone who was not cooperative
  • Gained recognition at work
  • Handled heavy workload
  • Worked with a top client

Here’s a quick example.

Question: Describe a situation when you were overly criticized by a workmate.

Answer: I once had this co-worker who thought he knew better than I did in doing my job simply because he held my position before. Admittedly, I initially felt attacked and became defensive. But I didn’t want to have a toxic work environment, so I approached him, and we talked. That’s when we both understood each other’s viewpoints after he explained what he was doing before, and I respectfully replied that it wasn’t applicable anymore to my revamped role. We began seeing eye to eye, and we entertained each other’s input. We became a better team.

5. Why should we hire you?

Reiterate your strengths, highlight what you can contribute to the company, and how the company culture aligns with what you believe in.

The company’s vision of creating opportunities for more people resonates with me. I used to be someone who had no job prospects, so I understand how that feels. That’s why I’m a hard worker and a focused individual, and I think that’s a valuable virtue to have in the team. My drive is the same as that of the organization, and I would love to be part of the force that extends a helping hand to those in need.

In general, keep your answers short but sweet. Look within you so you come across as authentic and, therefore, relatable. Most importantly, practice, practice, practice! Go into as many interviews as you can so you can get to know different interview styles of recruiters and become more adept at dealing with them all. The surest way to do that is to start applying for jobs. Why stop at one interview? Sometimes the more applications you have, the higher your chances for winning the career lottery. Good luck!

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