How To Ace Your Job Interview Like A Boss

Here’s how to tackle the four frequently asked questions in job interviews…

(3A) Tell me a bit about yourself…

(Variations: Walk me through your past; Where do you see yourself in the future?)

The recruiter has a fair idea about your history at this point. So there’s no point narrating your C.V. Instead, take this chance to tell your story. How are your previous experiences connected to a larger life goal? How this job will help you get even closer to that dream? What have you learned so far, and what do you aspire to pick up here?

Keep the focus on your core beliefs and ideologies, illustrating each with a professional experience. Your answer should be split up into 2-3 parts, each connected by a central theme that answers: “What defines and drives you as a person?”

Here’s an example:

I grew up watching ads from Amul, Zomato, and Durex. These brands are the first to put a creative spin on trending topics and current events. Inspired by them, I want to start my own marketing agency that specializes in modern social media content, which is all about being useful, relevant, topical, and fun. I believe that sort of content is the future of advertising. So my goal is to serve 100 young startup brands in 5 years. This is what drives me as a person. 

Obviously, this target would need me to pick up a variety of skills so that I can lead my team when I take the plunge. So I decided I’d work in four to five startups to get the hang of the environment. With Fave, I got to practice my creative ideation and design skills. We focused on using movie launches, trending hashtags on Twitter, and hot topics in the pop culture world. To connect with the youth, our target app audience. For example, when the movie ”Fantastic Beasts” released, we did a creative on “Fantastic Vouchers… and where to redeem them,” which many Harry Potter fans found funny. 

Now, after getting some growth in design, I want to work on my business acumen and strategy, which is why joining our agency will help me get entrepreneurial knowledge. What I offer is the ability to not just think of ideas for our clients, but also execute them, since I come from a design background. In return, working here will help me get an insider’s view on how agencies function, which will prove to be invaluable when I launch my own seven or eight years down the line. That’s what motivated me to apply here.   

(3B) Your strengths + weaknesses?

(Variations: How would your colleagues describe you? Describe yourself)

They ask this to gauge your self-awareness. For strengths, keep the job description in the back of your mind, and try to match your answer with their key requirements. Regardless of what you choose- good communication skills, or a command on many languages- what matters most is how you present them.

Start with a clear statement about the strength, and immediately give an example that shows you using it in action. A real-life experience holds much more credibility than your words, so ensure you’re backing up your answer with a personal context.

For weaknesses, you need to be very careful with your choice because: 

  • You don’t want to look vain, inauthentic, or over-confident. 
  • But you also don’t want to hurt your chances.    

Most of us go with generic answers- pointing out flaws in interpersonal communication (I’m shy in meetings) or work ethic (I procrastinate too much)- not realizing that a lack of social skills only damages your credibility. Instead, put a safe, positive spin on it:

1Potential, not DeficitThe approach should not be that of an area that makes you weak, but that of an area that will help you become better as a person.I really want to work on my copywriting skills because I come from a design background so picking up copy will help me come up with better creatives as a whole, independently, too.
2Corrective ActionsWhat are you doing to improve? You need to show a great willingness to work on the flaws that you’ve stated.I’m taking part in a monthly challenge for coming up with 5 copy ads for one brand every day. I post them on LinkedIn and ask my advertising friends to give me feedback. I’ve already done 17 days, and learned so many lessons by doing it.
3RelevancyGo back to this particular job- that should be the focus of all your answers. How will coming here help you? And how do you plan to work on it with the team? Remember our discussion on framing? The more contextual value you create, the more decision-making power you gain.In fact, I feel that coming here will help me get more mentorship from our senior copywriters. I’m very excited to show them my samples, get tips, and use that feedback when I ideate on copy for our clients. I’m confident that with my polished design skills and new copy skills combined, I’ll become a more savvy marketer to contribute to our company’s growth.

(3C) Why are you quitting your job?

(Variations: Why are you coming here? Are you having problems at your current job?) 

Don’t badmouth your company/boss, or give the impression that you’re grossly unhappy with your co-workers. Go back to the positive stance- focusing more on how this new job will advance your goals.

You may say that while you appreciate your current company, you feel that its time for a fresh change, and you think the new company is a good cultural fit to foster your aspirations. This time, keep it as general and crisp as possible. I always say:

I’m grateful for the growth I’ve seen at XYZ but I feel its time to explore new waters. Coming to ABC will give me the agency experience I’m looking for as an aspiring entrepreneur. This is a long-term step I’m taking to become a more dynamic marketer. 

(3D) How many doors in Mumbai?

(Variations: Count the number of crows in NYC; How many stars in the sky?) 

This kind of brain teaser can be frustrating. Because you know there’s no right or wrong answer. Rest assured, the recruiter is not testing your GK on door manufacturing. What they want to check is:

  • Can you handle surprises and uncertainty?
  • Can you think logically in steps and arrive at a solution?
  • Can you explain your idea clearly in a pitch?

So to demonstrate these qualities:

  • STEP 1: Break it: The goal is not to give the faster answer but the most coherant one. So don’t rush into an answer. Break down the big question into logical steps, so that you can show an order for the solution- even if that’s wrong. For this question, you can say you could consider:
    • How much land does Mumbai cover?
    • How many buildings occupy this land, approx.?
    • How many rooms can one building have on avg.?
    • Assuming every room has 1 door, you can arrive at an estimate
  • STEP 2: Write it: Looking at the ceiling for answers? You’ll just look awkward and lost. Instead, request for a pen and paper to note your calculations. That way, you’re more likely to catch any errors in reasoning as you go.

When its time to present, focus more on explaining how you arrived at your answer, not on the numbers/estimates you used.

So those were some common questions you should expect ahead. You can find more exhaustive lists below:

Pat yourself on the back for surviving the onslaught. But don’t hang your sword just yet. There are two more steps to go. Flip to continue reading, or go back to the first page.

Published by Manik Rege

Hey there! Full disclosure, I'm a bit of a mess. But my interests range from Career Growth Strategy to Marketing & Branding, and Animal Rights to filter coffee. Same vibe? Tweet to me @manik_rege.

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