It’s tempting to think that there’s a “right” way to answer job interview questions. A reader recently wrote to say that he has trouble with three questions and believes that’s the reason he is still looking. He wanted me to tell him how to answer them correctly.
It’s true that you can do a lot to help yourself by taking time to think about your answers ahead of time — and look at articles that might give you some ideas about how to frame your answers. But there’s so much more to a successful job interview!
This interview fact is not a myth
You may have heard that your resume gets about 8 seconds (on average) of a screener’s attention when first seen. Having done that job for many years as part of my interview-hiring work, I can tell you that it’s true. In fact, some get only about 3 seconds. Impressions are made quickly.
Well, the same is true about a job interview. From the first moment they see you walk into the room — or even before that such as when you’re waiting (be nice to receptionists) — impressions begin to form. It’s not like an interviewer switches on their brain only after you start answering questions.
In fact, impressions begin to form much earlier, starting with your resume and going on to the phone interview (if there is one), as well as any contact (phone, email, snail mail) you have with any of them. Every bit of info matters, since it helps give them a feeling about who you really are and what you might be like to work with on a daily basis.
Why does any of this matter?
It matters because first impressions are powerful and lasting. And while I strongly suggest you take time to prepare a general approach for how you’ll answer your interview questions, I want you to go beyond that to prepare yourself for the interview. Each moment of your contact should project a knowledge of the company, job, and yourself.
This is not to say that great answers can’t change an initial so-so impression. They can. To help, you want them to sound natural — and reflect who you are and how well you match the job. And whatever you do, please don’t just use some canned answer you found somewhere. (For tips to help you answer in your own way, see: 12 Often Asked Job Interview Questions.)
But it’s also about the kind of person they see, since hiring a person is like adding to your family. A lot of people can probably do the job. But who will you be when things go wrong or if you’re needed to support someone else on the team? A few quick tips to help with that:
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