What 5 Questions Should Your Student Answer for a Strong Job Interview?
Gale Dunlap is president of Standout Strategies, a company that works with job seekers and entrepreneurs to help them more effectively market themselves. Gale’s work is based on her career in marketing strategy for companies like McDonalds, U.S. Army, Gulf Oil, as well as start-ups and nonprofits. She works with clients in person or via Skype and particularly enjoys working with students.
President, Standout Strategies
A client recently asked me, “What questions do I really need to have answers to for my job interview?” I hadn’t thought about it in those exact terms, but I think it’s a terrific question. Here are five questions your student needs to be able to answer to have a successful job interview.
Why should we hire you?
This may not be the exact question posed to your student, but it will likely be asked in some form. It’s a scary question but a good one, and it’s important for your student to be able to answer it clearly, concisely and confidently. To do this, she must understand what the employer is looking for and the specific skills, qualifications and experience she has that fit the employer’s need.
Tell me about… (fill in your student’s dreaded topic).
This is the topic or topics we wish the interviewer would not bring up. We all have them. Your student’s dreaded topic could be that she has very little employment experience or she’s too young. Have her identify the topics she wants to avoid and encourage her to prepare a response. When she knows what she’s going to say it diffuses her fear of that topic. In fact, her preparation will make her more confident throughout the interview because she’s no longer trying to avoid that topic.
If the employer doesn’t bring it up, I recommend that your student does. Why? Because if it’s a concern for her, it’s likely a concern for the interviewer as well. If she brings it up, she will be viewed as someone willing to tackle a tough subject; she’s prepared and not afraid. That is the kind of employee the employer wants to hire.
Tell me about yourself…
This is a legitimate question to ask, but it is so open-ended it can leave people speechless. Employers want to see how well your student thinks on his feet and how he weaves some of his life story into what makes him a strong candidate for the job. Employers do not want to hear about his childhood or how many siblings he has. They also don’t want him to go on for more than two minutes. Encourage him to think about his response and then practice saying it out loud before his interview.
Give me some examples of your work…
If your student is applying say, for a customer service job, it’s reasonable for the interviewer to ask him about his customer service experience. He needs to come prepared with examples that highlight his competence and experience in this area. Encourage him to come up with these examples before the interview.
What are you passionate about?
If your student hasn’t thought about this and her response is a blank stare, that doesn’t look great. Have her think about her interests, her community involvement or volunteer work. Passion may seem like a strong word – and it is – but it’s important for her to be able to speak about her interests whether those are white water kayaking, volunteering in an orphanage, or participating in triathlons. Employers want to know a little about the person they are interviewing. Encourage her to show who she is and to be enthusiastic.
You may notice that preparation is a key element in answering the above questions well. Your student’s responses will be stronger and he’ll be more confident if he has thought about his answers before the interview.
Winging an interview is a waste of everyone’s time – and it’s unlikely your student will be hired if he does. However, when your student prepares, even if he doesn’t get hired that first time, he is more likely to be the one chosen in the future because he will be clear, concise and confident in his interviews.