Why are manhole covers round? This is an actual question that was asked to a friend of mine who was attempting to ace the interview for a finance manager position at Google in 2015. I am not sure if this particular interview question is either masterfully brilliant or completely idiotic, but I do know that it has no relevance whatsoever for a finance manager.
Did you know that 7 out of 10 job applicants wish they were better at knowing what to say in an interview? Whether an interviewer asks you an obtuse question like, “why are manhole covers round,” or a more direct interview question such as, “what is your biggest weakness,” a little preparation can go a long way in teaching you how to ace the interview.
Step 1 – Ace The Phone Interview
You will not even be afforded the opportunity to be asked the most common interview questions during an in-person interview if you don’t first ace the phone interview. Plain and simple, the aim of the phone interview is to decide whether you will be invited to come in for an in-person interview.
First, the employer will set the stage of the phone interview by talking about the company, as well as the challenges and expectations of the position. Then, they will most likely ask you some common job interview questions, such as, “tell me about yourself.”
The goal of this particular job interview question, “tell me about yourself,” is to assess your communication skills and get a feel for you as a potential candidate. There are a lot of effective ways to answer this question. What you say is actually less important than you don’t say. Let me explain.
You could speak briefly about your work experience, your qualifications, or even why you love what you do. What you shouldn’t talk about is your personal life, religion, political affiliations, or your problems. Does it make sense? It is also important to communicate your thoughts clearly. Avoid using verbal viruses such as “um” and “like” when speaking. Not sure if this is you? Ask a friend if you have the virus… because you probably do.
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- Listen first. Then talk.
- Speak clearly and concisely.
- Speak with confidence
- Don’t rush. Take your time.
- Before hanging up, ask about the next step of the interview process.
Step 2: Learn How To Ace A Job Interview
There is more than just knowing what to say in an interview to be able to successfully ace a job interview (although I will get to the list of common questions and answers later in the article). Here are some tips to ace an interview.
Make a Good Impression
I once interviewed a young man for a video editor position at my video production company. He was 15 minutes late. When he finally arrived, he was unapologetic for his tardiness. I may have also forgotten to tell you that he was dressed in jeans and a tee-shirt. This may seem acceptable today with the new generation of job seekers entering the market. However, as a single dad over 40, I take pride in the way I present myself. This includes arriving on time and being properly groomed & well-dressed.
If you want to ace a job interview, try showing up on time, or better yet, five minutes early. Also, once you’ve shown up on time, be sure to smile, maintain eye contact, and avoid using a wet noodle handshake. It truly sets the tone of your interview and benefits you in making a good impression.
Yes, it is important to prepare if you want to know what to say in an interview and if you want to ace the interview. But, this does not mean to be someone you are not. Interviewers will know if you are being inauthentic or putting on an act. With that said, it can be a valuable tool to match the style of the interviewer (pace, tone, and energy) so they can imagine you on their team.
Popular Job Interview Questions and Answers
There are hundreds of good job interview questions that may be thrown at you. I want to focus on the most common interview questions and how to answer them. Let’s get started.
1. Tell me about yourself (does this one look familiar? Let’s dive deeper for this interview question).
How to Answer This Interview Question: As mentioned when we discussed how to ace your phone interview, employers will often ask this question to get a better sense of who you are as a person and assess your overall communication skills. Attempt to answer the question without divulging too much about yourself, but don’t say too little that the employer is left wanting more. This is your opportunity to deliver your best elevator pitch. If you want to ace the interview, you will need to answer this question properly. Speak briefly about your work experience, your qualifications, and why you love what you do.
2. What is your greatest strength?
How to Answer This Interview Question: Answering this common interview question affords you the opportunity to brag a little (without overdoing it). Ensure that you are linking your greatest strength to the position in which you are applying. If you are interviewing for an IT position, don’t use this opportunity to share how much you like working with people. Instead, focus on something related to the job. So, using the IT position as an example, you may say something like…
“My greatest strength is my ability to work independently. I am extremely self-motivated, and I make use of a diligent work ethic, which has allowed me to perform above and beyond to what’s been expected of me.”
3. Why do you want this job?
How to Answer This Interview Question: You know damn right why you want the job. They know it too. But you are trying to ace the interview, not bomb the interview. You can’t say, “sir, I want this job because of the money.” So, tell them something else that is sort of true. Tell them you want the job because you want to work for a company that values their employees and offers a good opportunity for advancement, and that is what you know to be true about their company. Also, make sure to review the company mission statement prior to the interview. Weave in aspects that show how it aligns with your personal values, and what contributions you will be able to make to complement their goals.
4. What is your greatest weakness?
How to Answer This Interview Question: The key here is to pick something that is traditionally a negative attribute, and turn it into a positive. When I am asked this question, I answer like this…
“My greatest weakness is that I sometimes speak too quickly. The reason is that I am extremely passionate and energetic about life. I bring 100% to every task that I take on, and sometimes I need to slow down and be more mindful. This is something that I am aware of, and I work on improving each day.”
5. Where do you see yourself in five years?
How to Answer This Interview Question: They want to know if you are going to use this job as a stepping stone, or if you intend on sticking around for a while. An interview is a conversation, not a one-way street. Instead of a direct answer, you can pose a question that reveals your interest in being a long-term member of the team. Ask them about the typical progression for advancement within the company. This will tell them everything they need to know.
6. Tell me about a time where you (insert situational based question here, i.e. worked successfully as a part of a team, had a deadline to meet, had to confront a supervisor who you disagreed with, etc.).
How to Answer This Interview Question: Situational based questions are among the most difficult interview questions to answer. The interviewer wants to see that you are quick on your feet. They want to see how you respond to the pressure of a question like this. Be prepared to share a specific example and not just a generic answer about what you would do in that situation. Have some examples prepared prior to the interview on some typical situational based questions (working under pressure, conflict resolution, working as part of a team). This method is often referred to as the S.T.A.R. Method (situation, task, action, result). Even if the question is not exactly as you prepared, if you have a similar narrative, you will be able to adjust your story as needed. Check out this quick example of how to use the S.T.A.R. method.
Step 3: Learn What Not To Say In An Interview
There are some things that you can say during your interview that can hurt your chances of landing the job. Here are some tips on what NOT to say to ace your interview.
- Do NOT say anything negative about your previous employer. In general, avoid all negativity.
- Do NOT discuss personal information about yourself, including your age, race, political affiliations, hobbies, family life, etc.
- Do NOT use inappropriate language. This seems obvious, but to some people, it isn’t.
- Do NOT admit to being nervous. Act cool. Fake it until you make it.
- Do NOT say “it’s on my resume.” Just answer the question. They want to communicate with you, not read your resume again.
- Do NOT forget to ask questions. They want to see that you are interested in the position, so ask away.
- Do NOT ask about vacation time or salary. At least not until they offer you the job.
Step 4: Be Prepared to Negotiate
There will be times where you will be offered the position right on the spot. What do you do? Do you accept it? If you want to ace the interview then I believe it is perfectly acceptable and even expected, to negotiate. Here are two informative videos on negotiating salary which should bring you up to speed.
Step 5: Download The Job Interview Questions And Answers PDF
I have created a special document of the most common job interview questions and answers PDF that you can download here.
How is all of this information relevant to single dads over 40? As a grown man over 40, you will be expected to have some somewhat interesting experiences and accomplishments that will set you apart from other Millennial candidates. Don’t be the same as a Millennial. Be 40.
Be sure to practice ahead of your job interview. Whether you practice with a friend, by yourself in front of the mirror, or you record yourself on a smartphone to watch and evaluate, practice allows you to sound more refined, confident, and natural. I love the idea of role-playing with a friend and recording myself so I can make improvements for the real deal.
Ok, gentlemen, that’s it. If you want to keep up with my musings on interviewing tips, networking, negotiating, and more, follow me on social media and/or subscribe to my newsletter below.