You’ve spent the last hour bringing your résumé to life; you’ve got this in the bag.
But then you’re hit with that one question that leaves you scatterbrained and tongue-tied.
Five minutes left. That interview you’d been prepping for all week — practice questions, piles of flashcards, and LinkedIn stalking — is coming to a close. You’ve nailed it thus far, pulling out your proudest stories one by one. You’ve spent the last hour bringing your résumé to life; you’ve got this in the bag.
But then you’re hit with that one question that leaves you scatterbrained and tongue-tied. “Tell us about a time you were being chased by wolves and had to save a kitten from a burning building. How did you handle it?”
Not only do you not have an answer prepared, but your mind is blank; all you can picture is a stack of completely blank flashcards and the deli breakfast sandwich you ate that morning.
These are called behavioral questions, and while interviewers probably aren’t going to ask us about a time we were chased by wolves,* we all have that one question that gets us mumbling; whether we’re embarrassed by our answer or just simply don’t have one.
Luckily, there are some ways you can prepare for as many of these behavioral interview questions as possible so that you’re not left speechless in the moment.
*You might get asked about being chased by wolves if you’re applying to be a caretaker for a mystical beast in a castle in a small French town.
“What is your biggest weakness?”
Sometimes this one simply feels like a trap; isn’t the whole purpose of an interview to show our best self? Well, interviewers ask this question for a reason.
Sharing an honest answer isn’t going to give the interviewer a reason to shove your résumé to the bottom of the pile; rather, it might work in your favor. A good answer can show that you’re self-aware. Adding some examples of when you’ve received feedback shows that you know the impact of the “weakness” and want to improve it. After all, interviewers love hearing how you’ve grown.
“Why do you want to work for us, versus another company?”
This is a tough one…while it’s a great chance to show that you know exactly where you’re signing up to work, you don’t want to get caught trash-talking your future competitors.
Research, research, research; pick out a couple of key qualities that really set this company apart, and align them with your experience and desires to really show why this is where you want to work…not just a box you ticked on a job application.
For example, have a look at the company’s mission statement or values. Identify a few elements that really speak to you, and drive those home during the interview.
“Tell me about how you overcame an obstacle.”
Every employer loves a problem solver, and this question can be your perfect chance to brag. It doesn’t matter so much what the obstacle is, but showing how you took charge, tied on your Superman cape, and overcame it is what’s really important.
The one thing you need to be careful about is trying not to frame the difficult situation negatively. Instead, think of this question as a chance to highlight your skills and show how you can go the extra mile.
“Why are you leaving your current job?”
IMPORTANT: DO NOT paint your current company in a bad light. Even if it’s the world’s most toxic environment, do not show that you’re carrying ill will or resentment. Instead, show that you care about your career goals enough not to settle somewhere that isn’t making you completely happy. It’s the perfect chance to show your optimism and drive.
But whether you’re looking for higher pay or just growth, be completely honest. No one really cares about the details, they just want to know how you got here.
“What makes you unique?”
At the end of the day, an employer needs to know what makes you, you. Use this opportunity to emphasize experiences someone else may not have had.
What are your superpowers? What do you do better than anyone else in the world?
You can tailor your answers to emphasize qualities in the job description. But stay authentic; if you sound rehearsed, it’s going to come across as cheesy.
And no matter which Q you’re answering, here are some final tips to have in your pocket:
- Avoid rambling
- Use a range of examples from your story bank
- Make sure to highlight both what you want to gain and what you believe you add
You can’t plan for every question, but if you have some idea of what to expect and prepare accordingly, you can stay calm, poised, and far, far, away from scatterbrained.
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