Cameron School of Business at UNCW

How to Answer Common Interview Questions with Finesse

Posted by Cameron School of Business on Oct 26, 2018 9:50:00 AM

man in suit jacket and red tie conducting an interview

By Mel Beasley, CSB Marketing Assistant

The symptoms are clear. Sweaty palms. Swollen tongue. Fidgety legs. You’ve been diagnosed as a horrible job interviewee. But don’t worry because Linda Raynier, online career strategist and coach, has some remedies to build your interview confidence.  

Here’s how you can answer some common interview questions, and why employers ask them. 

“Tell me about yourself.” 

Okay, so not really a question, but it’s still used as a way to determine your employability. Sometimes interviewees confuse this hidden question as small talk, but hiring managers are looking to hear the high points of professional history. Beginning with your first work experience, give a historic overview that includes the company name, job title, years within that role, and major responsibilities,” says Raynier in her YouTube lecture. 

Avoid placing subjective labels on yourself like, “While at that company, I was a hard worker who displayed determination.” This could mean anything. Instead, give the hiring manager specific examples of your accomplishments; i.e. did you implement a new sales technique that increased revenue? Acknowledge that you have researched the role and understand how to fulfil company goals. Tie it all in by telling the interviewer why you are the perfect person for the job. 

“What are your weaknesses?” 

You should never answer this question with personality traits like, “I tend to be very impatient.” The problem with personality traits is that you cannot change your personality, so if the hiring manager doesn’t like your personality, you don’t get the job. At the same time, you should not name a weakness that is actually a strength in disguise. “My greatest weakness is that I tend to work way too hard.” It’s obvious to the interviewer what you’re trying to do with that response, and it will make you appear disingenuous.  

Instead, frame your weakness around something positive, and show the interviewer how you’ve made steps to improve yourself in this area. “In situations where deadlines are closing in, I’ve been known to ask team members for updates multiple times per day. This can sometimes make me appear impatient, so I’ve implemented weekly progress meetings instead to avoid appearing impatient to my coworkers.” 

Here is Linda Raynier’s response formula for this question: 

“In situations where __________ I have tended or tend to _______. This has made me appear ____________. As a result, I’ve learned to be cognizant of this fact and no longer ________. Instead, I now ______________. This has resulted in _______________. 

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” 

The interviewer is trying to gauge whether or not you are interested in this line of work long term or just looking for a paycheck until the next thing comes along. You don’t want to tell a bank manager that you want to be a famous chef because that makes no sense. At the same time, you don’t want to go overboard and tell him how you plan to own the bank. Eager works. Cocky is annoying.  

It’s fine if you want to express plans to move up the corporate chain after you’re hired, but you don’t want to share that in the interview, according to Raynier. The company may not have plans to hire for other positions any time soon, so saying this may cause them to look elsewhere for fear that you will lose interest in the position. It could also seem as if you aren’t truly interested in the position you’re interviewing for, which may also cause the hiring manager to pass on you. 

 It’s a good idea to answer the question by focusing only on the potential opportunities within the position being discussed. “In the next 5 years, I hope to become the best sales manager in the company, implementing programs that increase lead generation and customer satisfaction.” 

Check out Linda Raynier’s video discussion on this question, or visit Cameron School of Business's Career Resources site for more helpful information on internships.

Topics: interviewing, internships, professional development

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Cameron School of Business at UNCW

UNCW was established as Wilmington College in 1947. The Department of Business and Economics became the Cameron School of Business in 1979. Focused on the transformation of today’s business world from the industrial age into the information age, business education at the Cameron School of Business is focused on the technical, analytical and interpersonal skills students will need to lead this fundamental change in the business world through the 21st century.

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