Great answers during an interview develop when you offer a genuine and accurate response that reflects your talents and the research you have done to learn about the company and the position. Your challenge in a job interview is to sell your skills and abilities as the best fit for the position. By researching and going after positions that match your skills and interests, you can prepare more thoughtful and strategic responses to tough questions.
Though hard to imagine, one of the first and toughest questions, or requests, you face during a job interview is "Tell me about yourself." On the surface, this question sounds harmless enough since no one knows you better than you. However, your response requires skill and craftsmanship for positive effect. The biggest mistake interviewees make is to see this as an opening to share their life history. However, this is not what the interviewer wants. Instead, he wants a concise reply that demonstrates how your major life events, including education and other work experiences, have led you to apply for the position. Example: "I developed a passion for business early in life and went to business school to prepare myself. While there, I focused in on the financial side and quickly pursued opportunities in corporate finance to grow my skills. Now, I am looking for opportunities in corporate financial management."
Identifying your strengths is not the challenge in responding to the almost guaranteed questioned "What are your greatest strengths?" Instead, the key is matching them to the needs of the position. Picking your three best skills that apply to a particular job is generally the best approach. Name the skill and give one concise example for each that proves it.
Example: (For a job requiring strong organizational skills) "I have a strong organizational skill set, which has really helped me in my accounting career to manage my clients and their records effectively and efficiently and to deliver a high rate of accuracy in my work."
Even tougher than selling your strengths is selling your weaknesses in response to the questions "What are your weaknesses?" With this question, you want to select one weakness that is not as pertinent to the job and, if possible, use it to establish another strength. Do not say you have none as this lacks humility. Do not offer up a laundry list as this scares the interviewer. Example: "When I first started in this career, I used to get absorbed in a particular case and get overwhelmed by the number of cases coming in. However, after taking several courses on time management, I am much more equipped now to multi-task and manage multiple ongoing cases at once."
The Carnegie Mellon Career Center shared the questions "We're considering two other candidates for this position. Why should we hire you rather than someone else?" in its overview of "The Best Answers to Tough Interview Questions." Though this question is not as common as some others, it does have a high risk to reward. In fact, some interviewers may use this as a trap to see whether you focus on selling yourself and your abilities, or seize the opportunity knock down other candidates you do not know. Carnegie Mellon suggests focusing on your competence, professionalism, enthusiasm, and likability. Example: "Without knowing the other candidates, I cannot say specifically why you should not hire them. What I do know is that my strengths, as noted, are a great fit for your needs in this position, and my passion and enthusiasm for this career and job are hard to match."