(Almost) Stress-free Interviews

The biggest obstacle between you and the job you’ve been hoping for is usually the interview—or a series of them. Some advice from IU’s Erin Erwin on some common interview requests/questions and how to field them effectively:

Tell me about yourself. In some form or another, this one starts most interviews. Candidates should be prepared to provide a BRIEF overview of their professional background, highlighting the most recent or salient experiences. Follow the brief overview by telling why you’re excited about interviewing for the available position.

What are your greatest strengths? Interviewees should expect a lot of ‘Tell me about a time when’ and ‘What would you do if?’ questions. These questions are trying to uncover your skill set, your approach to problem-solving, and your professional personality. Rather than trying to predict what will be asked, look at the job description and be prepared to tell how and when you developed the desired skills/strengths. Job candidates should come prepared to share specific examples of how they have developed each of the desired skills. For any particular skill, tell about the Situation where it came into play, the Obstacle that had to be overcome, the Action you took, and the Result of your action. This is known as the SOAR method of interviewing.

What is your greatest weakness? Focus on a skill-based weakness—something that can be improved with proper training or practice. Tell about your action plan for improvement or even consider showing how you are already working on this weakness.

What questions do you have for us? Don’t  worry about asking the ‘right’ questions. Ask the questions that need to be answered for you to determine if this position is a good fit. Of course, there are some off limit questions (about salary and other benefits), but the interview is a two-way street. A job applicant needs to understand the workplace culture and expectations, as well as the details of the position, to make an informed decision.