Congratulations! You’ve just been called for an interview. You tell all your friends and spend time figuring out what to wear on your first day. Then the panic starts to set in. What’s the interviewer going to ask me? What if I don’t know the answer? How can I convince the interviewer that I’m capable, competent and the best person for the job?
Relax. There are some simple things that you can do to help you answer even the toughest interview question. Do your research, identify the key messages you most want to get across and practise in advance. Here are six typical questions you may be asked with some suggestions as to how to answer:
Tell me about yourself
On the surface, this seems straightforward enough. It’s usually asked at the beginning of an interview to start the conversation. The hiring manager doesn’t want your life history. What they really want is a quick 2-3 minute snapshot of who you are and why you’re the best candidate for this position.
Use examples to back things up. Then ask if they would like more details. Always point back to an example when you have the opportunity. ‘Tell me about yourself’ doesn’t mean tell me everything. Just tell me what makes you the best.
Why should I hire you?
The easy answer is that you’re the best person for the job. The key to answering successfully is to back up with what specifically differentiates you, for example:
I believe I’m the best person for the job because of my unique combination of my skills, experience and knowledge which would enable me to do XYZ.
Brian Krueger, former VP Global Talent Acquisition at Amazon.com, suggests you should then add:
I also bring an additional quality that makes me the best person for the job – my passion for excellence. I am passionately committed to producing outstanding results. For example…
Are you the best person for the job? Show it by your passionate examples.
Why do you want to work for us?
This is your chance to demonstrate the research you’ve done on the organisation, and to make specific reference to how it matches with your own skills, strengths, experience and background. Come up with two or three reasons you want to work for them in particular. Often, you’ll already have answered this question in your cover letter. Now bring your examples to life by going in to greater detail. For example:
Based on the research I’ve done, your position as a market leader is very attractive to me. Through my conversations with LSE alumni working for you, I learned more about future projects you have planned [reference these]. I was also impressed with the founders’ backgrounds and the current financial statements. My goal is to find an organisation where my background, experience and skills [you can be more specific] can be put to use and make things happen.
What is your greatest weakness?
The key to answering this question is to be honest rather than trying to sneakily highlight a strength instead (‘I’m such a perfectionist’ anyone?) Select a true weakness that you recognise and have been actively working to overcome. For example:
In the past I’ve had difficulty with time management and planning. However, I’ve recognised this and am now taking steps to correct it. I’m using a planning app to better plan and prioritise and as a result, I’ve handed in my essays two days in advance of the deadline.
Just be sure that the example you select isn’t going to be a ‘deal-breaker’ for the role.
Where do you want to be in three, five, or 10 years’ time?
Focus on your achievable objectives and what you’re doing to reach them. Set out a vision that demonstrates you’re motivated and keen to develop, but at the same time, stress your primary focus is to ace the job that’s on offer. For example:
Within five years, I would like to have established my reputation as as leading policy analyst in your organisation in my specialist field [state which field]. I want to build my expertise that I can share with others. And in doing so, I’ll be fully prepared to take on any greater responsibilities which might be presented in the long term. For example, here is what I’m presently doing to prepare myself…
Then go on to show by your examples what you are doing to reach your goals and objectives.
How has your education prepared you for your career?
This is a broad question and you need to focus on the behavioural examples in your educational background which specifically align to the required competencies for the career. Brian Krueger gives an excellent example:
My education has focused on not only the learning the fundamentals, but also on the practical application of the information learned within those classes. For example, I played a lead role in a group project where we gathered and analysed best practice data from this industry. Let me tell you more about the results…
Support from LSE Careers
There are lots of further interview tips and resources to help you on LSE Careers website. If you’d like to practise these and other questions when you have an interview confirmed, why not book yourself a 30-minute practice interview?