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The 4 Most Common Interview Questions And How To Answer Like A Pro

Written by Debra Olshan Cooper,
President and Founder of Your Career Design lab

Going on job interviews can be extremely stressful. You won’t know what the questions are and worse how to answer them. Chances are you will be asked one of these four questions. How you answer them will make or break your interview.

What separates a typical answer from a winning answer?

Telling your story!

Each question is an opportunity to share yourself and create a strong impression. To make your interviews memorable you have to evoke emotions in others. When the interviewer can FEEL you and can picture your story, you are as good as gold in getting hired.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget the way you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

Learn the difference between how people typically answer these proverbial questions and how responding in a storied way will have your listener all ears. Having a compelling story is the key that separates you from the pack and unlocks your dream career.

Here Are The 4 Most Common Job Interview Questions

Questions 1: Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Probably the most common and ‘casual’ question, typically used to get the ball rolling. I invite you to stop reading and take a moment to think about how you’d answer that question. If you are like most people, you’ll probably give some biographical data…. YAWN!

Typical Answer:

I go to University of Florida and I study hospitality. I am most recently working at the front desk at The Four Seasons which I really like. When I meet customers I try and help in any way I can and am able to upsell some the rooms if they are available. I love working with people and think I would be a good fit for this position.

Story Answer:

Thank you for asking. I guess I knew I was good at sales when I was around 5 years old. One day my mom opened my Dora Explorer backpack and out flew $20 bills.

My mom asked me how the hell did I get this money. I had to confess, that because she never let me buy food in the cafeteria and made me salami sandwiches every day, I began to sell each salami slice for $5. I convinced the kids that it was too bad they had to eat hot dogs, hamburgers, and pizza. I was eating salami from Italy and it was delicious.

I soon had kids lined up to eat my salami slices which were 5 pieces in my sandwich. Soon I had enough money to buy food in the cafeteria. I guess you could say sales is in my DNA!

Who do you think has a higher chance of getting hired? This technique is so powerful that this particular client went to 5 job interviews and she was offered all five!

Question 2: What Are Your Strengths?

Take for instance Chelsea who wanted to be a comedy writer for television and was looking for a career as an assistant to an agent at one of the large entertainment firms. 

Typical Answer:

I am really good at organization, talking to people, and team building.

Story Answer.

When babies are born and they cry it is a signal that the baby is alive. I came out laughing so my parents were concerned. My strength is laughter. It is my secret weapon and had many successes using it throughout my life. I make people laugh a lot through being myself. I have a funny disposition.

I remember being pretty young in late elementary school and I had papers to hand out. I remember when teachers licked their fingers when handing out papers so I mimicked the teacher. At that moment getting laughter from my school friends was the ultimate strength. Humor became a weapon in my young arsenal.

When I was writing for United Citizens Brigade founded by Amy Poehler and Pat Besser, I worked on “Late Night Show,” a live show in a theatre once a month with changing celebrity host every month. We would build an entire show around. When Brooke Shields was on, I did a rap, the premise was that she was sweet and then do a filthy rap in front of people.

Questions 3: What Are Your Weaknesses?

This is a question meant to measure your self-awareness. Interviewers want to know if you can see your foibles and what you have done to work on them.

Here is a story from Eric a young man who is looking to get into a hospital to continue his practice of Vascular Surgery. 

Typical Answer:

I am a perfectionist or I have imposter syndrome.

Story Answer:

I have imposter syndrome. I put quality in and I never want to lose it. I am proud of what I accomplished and it is what drives me every day to become the Vascular surgeon that I know I am and can become in a facility like yours. Having imposter syndrome drives me to show up as my authentic self-everyday at work and when I am with my patients. I want them to know that I am there for them through and through. I am there for them long after they leave the hospital. I pride myself in that my colleagues recommend me to do surgery on their family members and that is something I find so fulfilling. I have really been able to turn my weakness into a strength and wear it as a badge of honor and valor to those I serve. 

Questions 4: What Do You Know About This Industry?

Here is the case of a young woman who wanted to work in the music industry.

Typical Answer:

I know it is a 24/7 job with lots of different people.

Story Answer:

For over 5 years now, my background as a fine arts performer has translated into an experienced and highly skilled artist management, marketing, and branding specialist. Since 2017, I have worked with artists throughout various genres in both New York and Miami. From small independent artists to Billboard Top 10 artists, I have led projects to increase artists’ audience engagement, solidify artists’ image/brand, and increase artist exposure.

I strive to increase the connection between the artist and the audience through digital and social experiences. With an extensive imagination and the ability to predict which new content will become viral, I currently work in Artist Management at an Independent label in Miami where I oversee 42 artists. My knowledge is steeped in Gen-Z and Millennial pop culture which allows me to bring fresh and new ideas to the table. 

There are over 38 questions everyone in every type of business arena will ask you, without a story, you will not be remembered. Are you going to be in your head and answer in a stoic way or are you going to allow people into your world and tell them a story about you and your life that will leave an indelible impression that will leave them asking for more? I have had clients who right on the spot after telling their story were offered the job. 

If you can see and read the difference then you may want to join me on April 28th for my free 10 Steps To Finding Your Dream Career. Learn how to tell your unique story. Everyone has one, what is yours?

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