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How do I answer cliché interview questions?

We’ve all been to an interview where you have been asked those cliché questions that have us rolling our eyes and wondering what exactly the right answer is. But have you ever stopped to question why recruiters are asking these questions and what information it is about us they are trying to find out?

Well, let us put your mind at rest and give you some help with what these questions are really trying to find out about you and how you can answer them.

‘Tell me a little bit about yourself’

An easy opener and usually asked to make you feel a bit more comfortable. An interviewer doesn’t want your life story, however, be careful what you say as what motivates you to succeed in your personal life could be a reflection of how you perform in the workplace.

A simple way to answer this question is to think present, past, future. So your answer could be something along the lines of ‘I’m currently a Sales Executive for ABC Tooling Limited handling our top 5 Accounts, and prior to this, I was a Telesales executive for Roberts for the South East Region. Although I have really enjoyed both of these positions I feel that the skills I have acquired are best suited to handling an individual major retail account which is why I am excited at the prospect of this opportunity with your company’. A prospective employer wants to hear how you feel the experience you have gained is relevant to the position you are applying for, so remember this when delivering your answer. They have already read your CV, so try to personalise your answer with information that they don’t have that is relevant to you and your personality type. It is just as important to employers that you fit in with their corporate culture as well as having the relevant skills to qualify you for the position.

‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’

We know when you hear the words come out of the interviewer’s mouth there is a collective groan, but this is quite an interesting question both to be asked and to answer. The interviewer wants to know what you want to achieve and whether this fits in with both the position and the culture of the company. Do your ambitions fit in with what the position has to offer both today and in the future and are your aspirations realistic?   An employer will want to know about your career goals because a motivated employee who is succeeding and content with their role and the opportunities the company has to offer is more likely to stay with an employer.

‘What is your greatest weakness?’

On the surface, this seems like a question where you can do yourself absolutely no favours as you are admitting to not being good at something or having a character trait that could see you fail in an area of your job. But how you answer it speaks volumes about yourself and your personality, and the interviewer is looking to see if you are able to acknowledge your weaknesses and improve on them when necessary. No one is perfect, and we have all made mistakes and failed at some point in our lives. Admitting these weaknesses or failings and how you deal with them and learn from them can give an interviewer a great insight into your character traits and how you will handle rejection, criticism and adversity during your career path. Recognition of your failings and an ability to turn them around is a true strength of character and answering this question honestly while demonstrating your ability to recognise weakness and improve on it can only be seen as a positive character trait. Try to give the interviewer an example of how improving on your weakness was successful in your current position to demonstrate your ability to evolve.

While these are just a few of the most clichéd questions you may come across during the interview process, you can prepare yourself to answer any questions put to you if you do some prep and practising before your appointment. Researching the company, its culture, its clients and the job position thoroughly and demonstrating how your past experiences and work ethic fits with both the position and the working environment, will hold you in good stead for answering any question thrown at you during the interview process. Don’t forget this is the sales pitch of a lifetime and being open, honest and proving that you have the right skills for the job should help you be successful.