When it comes to interview questions, sometimes you have to read between the lines.  Regardless of what you are asked during an interview, you would be wise to take a second to think about the reasoning behind each question. With the current competitive job market, employers must refine their interview techniques in order to efficiently sift through the applicant pool.

These five seemingly simple questions may be a bit trickier than you think.

What is your biggest weakness?

We all know that everyone has a weakness or two, but most people don’t like talking about them. Use this opportunity to share a weakness which can be improved upon.  For example, if the idea of public speaking makes you sweat, then a good response might be “I would really love to improve my public speaking skills in the next position I take.”  This shows your willingness to take on a challenge and to improve as a person and an employee.

Tell me about yourself.

Brevity is key here.  You’ve had a long life and this question is very broad.  Focus on your education, experience and anything relevant to the position you are applying for. It’s ok to get personal but only if it pertains to the job at hand.  For example, if you are applying for a position in IT, it’s not a bad idea to state your life-long love for anything technology related.

Why did you leave your last job?

This is not the time to complain about your previous boss or to badmouth the company you used to work for. An employer may interpret this as a sign that you have an attitude problem, an issue with authority, or a lack of flexibility in the workplace. Instead, focus on the positive. Perhaps you would like to take on more responsibilities, explore new challenges or become familiar with a different industry.

Why should we hire you?

You should prepare for this common question before every interview. Make sure to research the company and find places where your specific skill set and background can be an asset. Make sure you have a thorough understanding of the job description you have applied for, and think of specific ways to highlight your strengths within the stated job requirements.

Why is a manhole cover round?

Any seemingly bizarre question that comes out of left field is often intended to test your creativity, ability to think on your feet, and your ability to stay calm under pressure. This particular question, famously asked in Microsoft interviews has several “correct” answers. Most importantly, the interviewer wants to see how you get to your answer, not the answer itself.  Think the question through before answering and be creative!

If you would like assistance with interview techniques, resume writing, or help searching for a job, contact Career Services. They are there to help!

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