Some interview questions are impossible to predict, and there's no way of knowing in advance if an employer plans to throw some curveballs or highly specific technical questions your way. But others are perfectly predictable aspects of a standard interview script, and you should actually be surprised if you DON'T face a few of these during your session. Prepare for these basic interview building blocks ahead of time and you'll increase your chances of making a great impression. One of the most common questions on this list might sound like any of the following:
- "Why don't you tell me a little bit about yourself?"
- "What's your story?"
- "Why don't you start us off? Just tell me something about you. Anything. Go."
- Here are a few moves that can help you ace this common question and gain maximum leverage with your answers.
Don't Avoid Answering the Question.
When job seekers expect concrete questions with clear right or wrong answers, this one sometimes catches them off guard. They get flustered and they respond by squirming in their chairs uncomfortably and demanding more structure. (For example: "What do you mean?", "Um………", "I don't really like talking about myself, ha ha", or "I don't understand the question. What exactly would you like to know?"). Don't do this. Take the floor with confidence and recognize that your answer should be pertinent to the job and not a recap of your personal life.
Help your interviewer to help you.
Your interviewer has several goals in mind: they want to see how well you step up when you're asked to speak freely. They'd also like to see how well you speak and think at the same time. And of course, they'd simply like to know how your personality, background and past experience have led you to apply to this position. Provide what they're looking for. Sit up straight, be articulate, make eye contact, and deliver your pitch. You may be lots of things (a great friend, an athlete, a parent, etc.), but most importantly, you're the perfect candidate for this job. Explain why.
Find a way in.
The trickiest part of your response may be finding a way to start. You might feel like a person studying a big sandwich, not sure how to take the first bite. Here are a few possibilities: 1) Go back to the distant past and describe the moment you first found your passion for this type of work. 2) Walk your interviewer through your job history, from your first entry-level role to your most recent position. 3) Explain why you decided to leave your last position and what you're looking for in a new role. 4) Discuss how you found out about this job and explain the reasons why you decided to apply.
Tell a story.
To give your response a sense of structure, answer in the form of a narrative. Tell the story of how you've grown from a green sprout into the competent expert you are today. Or tell the story of a recent learning experience that pushed your career in its current direction. You can even tell the story of how your last job couldn't support your ambitions, so you decided to set out in search of new goals and new adventures.
The best way to beat this question is to prepare ahead of time, and that means practice and rehearsal. It may feel silly, but deliver your response aloud at least a few times to a friend or your bathroom mirror so you can keep your presentation lean, on point, and interesting.
—Before you can ace your interview, you'll need to create a great resume. Rely on the resume and cover letter creation tools at MyPerfectResume, and you'll be on your way to job search success.