Interview Questions
Tommy Lee Jones in The Company Men (2010). Design by the author.

The thing about job interview questions is that they (more or less) stay the same. Then why do most people have such a hard time dealing with the same questions over and over?

Imagine walking into a test knowing all the questions in advance. You would kill it, won’t you?

Then how is an interview any different?

Why does it feel so intimidating?

It feels that way because, contrary to what you are made to believe, an interview isn’t a test.

It’s a negotiation.

And if you want to land the best deal possible, you must learn to think ahead and read between the lines. Most candidates are too nervous, under-prepared, or plain lazy to do it.

So if you do it right, it can give you a significant competitive edge.

Let’s not waste your time. Here are the five most common interview questions and the hidden agenda behind them.

Tell Us About Yourself

When interviewers ask you this particular question, they aren’t asking to be bored with unprepared rambling, generic word salad, or too many unnecessary details.

So what are they looking for exactly?

Nothing much. All they are looking for is a clean, precise, and on-point pitch.

Do you want to make the magic happen?

Simple. You prepare. You do your work before the interview. Or else it could be too late by the time you are in the seat.

Here’s what you need to do instead of resorting to a Twilight-scale backstory:

Keep it short: The less time you take to get your point across, the easier you make it for the interviewers. It makes a strong case for your communication skills.

Get your talking points right: It’s a great time to establish your muscles, skills, and priorities that you will elaborate on later while answering the following questions.

Wrap it up with a narrative: You can increase the effectiveness of your words by many folds if you dress them up with a story-like flow. It’s less about what skills you have and more about how you got them.

How does it help?

When you cover these grounds, you make a killer first impression, pave the way for a subtle repetition of information for the hammer effect, and most importantly, set yourself aside from all the clueless amateurs.

Why Do You Want This Job

Now, this probably is the most memed job interview question on the internet. In all those memes, the candidates answer this question by saying something like: “I like the idea of not starving to death.”

Here’s where this mindset is wrong. It’s not just why you want the job. It’s far more nuanced than that. There are two different questions packed into this one:

➊ Why do you want this job out of so many other jobs available?

➋ Why do you want to work in this company in particular?

Once you look at it this way, the question becomes a different beast altogether.

By asking this question, an interviewer is testing

▪ your insights and expectations about the job you are applying for

▪ if you have done your homework about the company you are applying at

So it will be wise of you to save time and give them what they want.

Why Should We Hire You

Before getting to this question, we should acknowledge the biggest mistake a candidate can commit while walking into an interview.

Again, most people don’t take it as a negotiation.

They (simply) take on interviews because they need jobs to sustain their lives. And in order to get what they want, they try to appease their way through those interviews.

This game plan falls apart pretty fast. It happens because of two reasons:

① Everyone else is doing it. And interviewers, at least the good ones, have grown an eye to see right through this crap.

② They can’t care less about your needs or your sleazy antics.

It’s simple. The interviewers want to know what leverage you have. How will you make them give you what you want? What’s in it for them? What is your counter offer?

It’s not like they are asking for bribe money or anything.

These people only want to know what you bring to the table. That little piece of discussion is all these interviews are based around.

If you want to win this round, work very very hard on what you can give at your job instead of what you can get out of it.

Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years

Again, no one is interested in hearing about your imaginary mansion by the lake or cool sports cars. Nor is anyone drooling over your dream spouse. This question is far more layered than you think.

When interviewers casually toss this question at you with a cozy little grin on their faces, all they want to know is:

➊ Do you want to be in this company long-term, or will you be on your way once you find it more beneficial?

➋ Will you become a valuable asset to the company if they invest in you?

➌ How hard are you willing to push yourself to move up the ladder fast?

So make sure to keep the answers aligned with these questions.

It’s okay even if you don’t mean what you say. A lot can happen in 5 years, and there’s no way for you to predict what your priorities will be down the line.

But even then, you are better off following these questions instead of listing everything you would like to achieve in your personal life.

It will be a testament to your professionalism and higher comprehension skills.

Do You Have Any Questions for Us

When asked this question, most candidates enquire about the office environment, work culture, or any specific corporate policy. However, I find this strategy a bit incomplete.

Just think for yourself.

Even if the office harbors a toxic work culture riddled with petty office politics, do you expect your interviewers to admit that while hiring employees?

And about office policies, you can read about it later.

So what’s that one question the interviewers will answer honestly, and you can only ask during the session?

“Is there any reason you wouldn’t hire me for this job?”

I know. It might sound too bold. But there’s a good reason why I would choose to conclude an interview with that.

I learned this one from Hacking the System by National Geographic. Asking this seemingly bold question can help you in three ways:

✓ It gives you an insight into what your interviewers are thinking about you.

✓ You get the opportunity to address and possibly resolve their concerns right. That too, right then and there.

✓ Because not everyone will dare to ask this question, you will stand out in a good way. It will give them the idea that you are open to constructive criticism and learn from them.

But you have to be crafty about it. Before trying to handle the interviewers’ doubts, you have to make a point that you do agree with their observations.

It will help you build bridges right before you exit the room.

Read More: 5 Quick Tips To Be More Likable (Even When You Are Really Shy)