If you're job searching, you've probably experienced several interviews by now that follow the same, bland format and ask the same questions. Tell me a little bit about yourself. What's your best quality? Your worst? Where do you see yourself in five years?
These questions are asked at virtually every interview, and while it may seem like a standard question should elicit a standard response, this is far from the case.
According to U.S. News and World Report, interviewers, too, can quickly become bored when asking the same questions day after day. Keep in mind how many candidates they hear from over the course of a few months. They know when an answer is honest and when it was rehearsed so many times it felt robotic and planned. It's a slippery slope once you've lost the employer's attention, and they may not hear the good things you do have to say.
So instead, take these questions, and use them as an opportunity to become a memorable, exciting candidate. This can be achieved by weaving the standard, expected responses in with a unique anecdote or other exchange of information that will show your potential employer that you are not just a dime a dozen.
We'll start with the most common, and what is likely the first phrase you'll hear during an interview.
So, tell me about yourself
This is a perfect opportunity to show the interviewer that you are well prepared for the interview and you know how to handle yourself, but to also surprise them by showing poise and confidence. Start with a quick few sentences that tell exactly who you are. State your title and the experience you have tersely. But then, without much of a pause, try posing a different question. Something along the lines of "May I tell you about what really gets me excited at work?"
This will allow you to answer the question at hand, but also actively engages the interviewer. What's more, these questions allow you to tell something truly unique about yourself. It's a great opportunity to let your personality break out, which can also prove that you have what it takes to fit in with the employer's work culture - an increasingly important aspect in the minds of hiring managers.
The next common question is also a great space to show ambition. When an employer asks you to explain where you think you'll be in five years, it may be tempting to say "Well, with your company, of course. " However, this could be perceived as a lack of drive by your interviewer. Conversely, you also don't want to look like a job hopper who will leave too shortly after signing on.
"Rather than buy into a dangerous premise, you can creatively pivot by saying, "I'm not certain how far along my career path I'll be in five years. But can I give you my longer term goal?" Pause… wait for an affirmative response, and then go on: "When I retire, I'd like my last job title to be [fill in the blank], and I'd like to look back on my success in the areas of A, B, and C," writes Arnie Fertig, founder of JobHunterSearch.com
These tips can be used to turn any of the most common questions around, and spice them up to make you more memorable. Other commonly asked questions include "why did you leave your last job?," "tell me about your strengths" and "what salary range are you looking for?"