What’s important to understand when interviewing for jobs is that employers are looking to hire people who fit their culture. They want to bring people on board who are not only talented, but also someone they enjoy being around. Although employers may ask questions such as “A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?” this really only determines if you can think on the spot and the type of personality you have.
The problem is, employers have the tendency to ask questions that don’t truly measure your skills and experience. Sure, while they want to discover your weaknesses or learn about the leadership experience you have, this doesn’t truly measure what you can bring to the company. It only shows the employer you were able to prepare a story of how you learned from a mistake or how well you can work in a team.
If you’re preparing for an upcoming interview, you need to make sure all of your bases are covered. Not only should you prepare your accomplishment stories for common interview questions, but also you should think of the best ways to let your personality shine through. In addition, you need to make sure you are thinking of unique and genuine stories about your career that can help you outsmart any interviewer.
Do you want to be smarter than an interviewer? Then here are some tips to help you stand out in any interview:
Research the interviewer prior to the interview.
If employers are truly looking for a cultural fit, then you need to know who you’re interviewing with. Interviewers aren’t only looking to learn about your skills, but also they’re trying to understand you as a person.
If possible, search for the interviewer on LinkedIn and find out what their background is. It’s also a good idea to find them on Twitter to learn about the types of topics they talk about. This way, when you enter the interview, you’ll be prepared for small talk and you might even discover you have something in common with the interviewer.
Be actively engaged during the interview.
Everyone knows you need to bring questions to every interview, but it’s also important to be very selective about the questions you ask. Many candidates wait until the end of the interview to ask their questions. However, you need choose questions that could easily be intertwined throughout the entire interview.
To do this, first think of questions the interviewer will ask you and prepare some examples from your experience. These examples could answer questions as simple as “What is your greatest weakness?” or “Why should I hire you?” After you tell your story and explain how your experience makes you the most qualified candidate, follow up with a question for the interviewer.
Let’s say you’re asked about your strengths and weaknesses during the interview. After you provide your response, ask the interviewer what opportunities the company has available for professional development. You could then explain how you believe your career is an ongoing learning experience and you’re always looking for opportunities to build upon the skills you already have.
Turn the spotlight on the interviewer.
If you really want to outsmart the interviewer, then you should ask them what they did yesterday. Kristine Faxon, executive director for career and alumni success at Savannah College of Art and Design, believes asking probing questions is a great way to impress the interviewer — and I agree.
Before any interview, make sure you’ve done your research on the company. This way, you’ll be able to think of questions that can tell you more about the job and company culture. Not only will this question catch the interviewer off guard and put him or her in the spotlight, but also you’ll be able to receive a better description of what the job is like.
When in doubt, go with your gut.
In the case the interviewer asks you a cutesy question such as, “How many uses are there for a spoon?” give yourself a few seconds to collect your thoughts and provide your best answer. The employer is testing your ability to think on the spot. If you waste time debating your answer, you could over-think the question and even fumble on your answer. Try to go with your first, best answer and roll with it. Always keep in mind that confidence is always key when answering the strangest interview questions.
As a job seeker, try not to get caught up in the pressure of these challenging questions. You don’t have to be the most clever, witty, or creative candidate to outsmart an interviewer. All you need to do is arrive to the interview prepared, display your genuine personality, and allow your passion for what you do shine through.