Tell Me About Yourself, Part 2


A few days ago, we discussed smart ways to answer tough interview questions that may come your way.  Read on for more questions and tips on how to present your best self and get the job you really want!

4. What is your greatest weakness?

I find this one to be one of the craftiest questions asked during interviews.   If you’re not careful, you can be trapped into saying something that could count against you.  If your answer is too honest, you can instantly get added to the do not hire list.  For example, if you say it’s difficult for you to make deadlines, or you tend to procrastinate and have issues with time management, or you get annoyed easily, you could be painting an unappealing picture of yourself.  However, if you lie or sound disingenuous, it could be painfully obvious.  The best way to handle this question is to be honest about your weakness (try to keep it at one) and make sure to explain what you have done to improve this weakness in the past.  Interviewers do not expect perfection but they do expect a well thought out answer.  If you discuss an area you are trying to improve and emphasize the steps you’re taking to do so, you are showing your interviewer that you don’t consider yourself perfect and you understand that there is always room to grow and learn.

You can also turn the question around and offer a weakness that could be interpreted as a strength as well.  Be careful with this one because you do not want to use typical answers or appear like you’re not being completely honest.   An appropriate weakness may be that you have trouble balancing your work and personal life because you spend a lot of time working but in turn, you may spend less time with friends and family. This shows your dedication to your work but it’s also a true weakness. Another weakness could be that you take too long to complete projects because you won’t submit something until it is the best you can possibly make it.  This shows that you are detail oriented and willing to put in the time and effort to make projects successful but it is a true weakness because you are not making the most efficient use of your time.   Both of these examples show that you are self aware and you realize there are things you need to work on to excel in your personal and professional lives.   Whatever you do, do not say you’re a perfectionist.  This may have been an appropriate answer years ago but at this point, it’s overused and screams unoriginality.  Someone who is truly a perfectionist would think of a better response in the first place.  Whichever answer you choose to go with, you should always sound genuine.  Try to always end things on a positive note.  No one is perfect and everyone has personal and professional aspects of their lives they’d like to work on.  The point is to get past the weakness and focus more on your strengths.  To be able to do this, you really need to know yourself and be self aware enough to evaluating who you are and what you do and do not bring to the table.

5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

One possible interpretation of this question is to find out if this position and company is part of your career path for the future.  The interview process is extremely time consuming and takes a great amount of effort to find the right candidate.   On top of that, once the employee starts, there are a lot of resources and training that go into bringing you up to speed so that you become a valued member of the team.  Your interviewer wants to find out if you are planning on sticking around for a while or if they will have to repeat this process in a year if you head to another company.  Moreover, someone who is interested in the organization makes for a more motivated employee who will therefore be much more successful.

If you’re not sure at this point where you’ll be in five years, it’s okay to say that, especially for students.  It’s great to have short and long-term goals but it’s ok if your long term goals aren’t yet a clear picture in your mind. The key is to be truthful and say that although you are not exactly sure where you’ll be in five years, you view this job as providing the necessary experience in helping you make that decision.  You may not know that you want to spend the next five years in this company but you do know that you are excited about this job and believe the skills you gain will play an important role in your future plans.

6. Can you describe a situation in which you came across an unexpected problem?  How did you handle it?

This is another way of finding out if you can think critically and on your feet. In any setting, problems will arise that you may not have originally foreseen.  For this question, describe what exactly happened, what you did to intervene or fix the issue, and what was the ending result.  Focus on a situation that really demonstrates how your mind works and positive aspects of your personality.  For example, it could be a group project you were working on in which someone checked out and wasn’t as involved as the rest of the team. It could also be a tight deadline you had in which another assignment was added at the last minute.  How did you handle yourself and ensure the success of the team and project?  Describe the steps you took and the people you interacted with throughout this process.   At the end of your answer, the interviewer should be able to get a good picture of your decision-making and problem solving skills.

7. Do you have any questions?

Whatever you do, do not say “no” to this question.  It makes it seem as though you are indifferent and just want the interview to end.  This is your last chance to leave  a memorable impression so make it count.  The best scenario is to ask a follow-up question on something that was said during the interview.  This shows that you were paying attention and were engaged throughout the discussion.  Just in case, have some questions in the back of your mind so that you do not freeze when you need to shine one last time.

One area you can inquire further about is the culture within the company.  What is the organization most proud of?  Be careful to not ask questions that you should already know the answer to based on your own research.  For example, how many positions are available?  Which therapeutic area are you hiring for? If something is clearly stated in the job description, do not ask during the interview or you might end up looking unprepared and wasting precious time you have to prove yourself.

Don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer challenging questions.  For example, you can ask if he/she likes their job.  Most people will automatically say yes but pay attention to how the question is answered.  You can tell a lot about whether someone is being truthful by the tone of their voice and the examples they use.  Even though this person is saying yes, do their examples and stories support their answer?  That’s how you get a truthful answer and that’s how you figure out if this is the place for you.

Questions you should avoid include anything related to salary, sick days, vacation days, or bonuses.  This will be discussed further along in the process after an offer has already been extended.  If you ask these questions prematurely, you can come off sounding presumptuous and as though you are focusing on the wrong things.  Ask smart and thoughtful questions that show how prepared and ready you are for this job.

Lastly, whether you are doing a phone screen or a face-to-face interview, always send a thank you card or email. Make sure to get thank-you-and-Follow-up
everyone’s card so that you have their contact information.  Many times the interview will be divided into several one-on-one interviews with different people.  Make sure you send a follow up thank you note to every person who interviewed you.  Tailor the thank you note to the person you spoke with.  Did this person mention a particular project they are currently working on?  Did they mention something that happened along their career that lead them to this point in their lives?

Think back to the questions you asked and anything the interviewer might have mentioned during your conversation.  For example, an interviewer once told me that in another lifetime, she had an entirely different career and she went back to school to get her PharmD, which eventually lead her to her current position.  At the time, I could definitely relate to that because I was also giving up my position as a pharmacist in a retail chain to do something entirely different.  This moment in the conversation really stood out to me and I felt like I could relate to her.  I mentioned this in my thank you note.  Try to personalize the note as much as possible while remaining professional.  This will help you stand out amongst the other candidates and will also demonstrate that you were listening and appreciated someone sharing their experiences with you.

The best way to help ensure your success during an interview is to be prepared and have some examples ready in your mind if needed.  An interview can be a stressful situation and a lot can be at stake. By doing your research and putting some thought into it ahead of time, you are doing everything you can to make it all worth it in the end.

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