Answering Interview Questions: Part Two

We’re wrapping up the conversation about answering interview questions! There’s a lot more to talk about than we have time for on this blog, so we encourage you to get in touch with your Employment Consultant (EC) and sign up for OFE’s job search workshops.

Head over here if you missed part one.

How do you highlight what you’re good at without sounding arrogant? 

You can talk about how the skill(s) was used to positively impact a situation, or you can discuss how it will positively impact the job/company if you’re hired.

Example: “My greatest strength is my strong leadership skills. In my last job at Starbucks, my manager praised me for my ability to take charge of situations and support my team, which resulted in getting promoted to Assistant Store Manager. I hope to use this skill to continue being a good mentor and support those I work with.”

How do you highlight what you’re good at when you don’t feel comfortable talking about yourself?

It takes practice and self-awareness to gain the confidence to market yourself to employers. I suggest talking to someone you trust (family member, friend, co-worker, mentor) and ask them to answer the following questions as honestly as they can.

What are the things I’m good at? Why?
What are the things I’m not good at? Why?
What are three words to describe my personality? Why? 

By viewing yourself through someone else’s lens, you’ll be able to understand yourself better and gain the confidence to tell other people what makes you unique.

What are some things participants should never share during an interview?

The main thing to avoid is sharing personal identifiers that are not relevant to the job.  

Example: Sharing your religious views is okay when you know the company is founded on something similar, and if it allows you to connect with the employer and showcase your fit for their company culture. However, your religious views won’t have a big impact when applying for, say, a Barista position with Starbucks, to use our previous example.

As much as we want to be viewed without judgement, it’s sometimes unavoidable that as soon as a personal identifier is shared, the tone of the interview shifts and creates potential red flags for the employer. Remember that your first goal is to convince an employer you have the ability and motivation to do the job. It’s best not to include anything in your responses that doesn’t directly support that goal.

This is a tricky topic. If you need more clarification or guidance, reach out to your Employment Consultant.

How do you answer questions when you don’t have much experience or have been out of work for a while? 

In part one, I mentioned it’s your responsibility to highlight connections between your experiences and personality to what’s written on paper, in this case job description, in a clear and easy-to-understand way. This is why that matters.

You have skills gained from everyday life that can be transferred to the workplace – aptly called “transferrable skills” – that are hard to teach in a classroom, or even in a work setting. That’s a huge strength, and you should be conscious about making those connections in your answers.

Example 1: A parent who has decided to stay home for many years to care for young children can emphasize his or her ability to multitask, to calmly handle high stress situations, or the ability to accomplish tasks quickly and efficiently.

Example 2: A student just entering the workforce can talk about his or her ability to meet deadlines, learn quickly or his or her high-achieving nature (with an example of a situation where this trait has paid off, of course).

What kind of questions should you ask at the end of the interview?

Ask questions that will help you learn about the internal workings of the company so that you can make an informed decision to continue pursuing the job or not. Remember that interviews go both ways, not only is the employer confirming your skills and abilities, you are also confirming whether that company is the right place for you, your working style, and your long-term goals.

I like the question “You asked me ___________. I would like to hear your answer to that question.” This lets me see if my answer was in line with their current practices and values, or if I’ll need to adapt in the future. 

At the end of your list, make sure to ask what the next steps are for the interview process (especially if they haven’t said anything before allowing you to ask questions).

What key take away do you share with your participants at the end of class?

Interviewers are people too, so your personality is equally as important as your experiences and technical skills.

Keep job searching even when you have secured an interview to continue the momentum.

Don’t be shy to ask for help and be open to helping others.

Even interview experts fumble, we’re all human!

For more interview tips, talk to your Employment Consultant. They can recommend OFE workshops for you to attend or set up practice interviews.