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What Hiring Managers Really Mean When They Ask These Questions (And How You Should Answer Them)

Your cheat sheet to your next interview.
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It’s job-hunting season, and your best chance at acing your interviews is by coming well-prepared. Apart from researching about the company, it really helps to prepare your answers to questions your interviewers are most likely to ask. We consulted HR managers and executives on the questions they most frequently ask, and the kind of answers they’re looking for:

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This is usually the first question asked during the interview, and it’s your shot at making a remarkable first impression, according to Mac Vengco Bergantin, who works as human resources director at a start-up.

“This question may be cliché, but this is actually one of my favorites,” she says. “How an applicant answers this is very telling. Surprisingly, others, new applicants mostly, seem to neglect this question and, more often than not, stumble for answers. Others, because of lack of preparation, tend to babble on. Verbal meandering is a no-no for me during interviews.”

How to answer:
This isn’t the time to talk about your hobbies, or interests, unless they’re related to the job.

“Keep your response succinct. Only present relevant information in connection with the position you are applying for,” Bergantin says. “Remember that how you answer this can set the tone for the rest of the interview.”

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Prepare a one to two-minute pitch on why you are fit for the job, and highlight your strengths and professional accomplishments. “Emphasize your major selling point as an applicant,” Bergantin advises. “Do not make the mistake of meagerly reciting your resume.”

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“The whole interview is basically about this question,” Bergantin explains. “The interviewer wants to know if you're the best fit. Our job is to hire the best person for the position. We're actually asking you to sell yourself and convince us that you are the person we are looking for.”

How to answer:
Bergantin says to study the job posting and its description beforehand, particularly the requirements and qualifications for the position. “The key is to highlight the qualifications that you possess in connection to what they are looking for,” she says. “Before the interview, list down at least five main points and focus on your areas of expertise and accomplishments.”

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“I used to hate this question when I was still an applicant,” Bergantin says. “However, I turned out to be one of my favorites when I was the one doing the hiring. And this is the question I get the most similar answers to.”

HR managers know that applicants aren’t going to be completely honest when they answer this question, and that they’re going to cite a weakness that seems negative, but is actually positive. “The answers should come out naturally and I can tell right away if they are pulling my leg,” says Tara Santos, marketing director of The Moment Group.

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How to answer:
First, cite a “good” weakness—one that’s acceptable for the job you’re applying for. “Again, study the job requirements and make sure that the weakness you chose is not in any way related to those desired skills listed,” Bergantin says.

But don’t stop there—make sure to mention the steps you’ve taken to work on or overcome that weakness. This is crucial to giving a good answer.

“One told me his weakness is he falls in love easily, but his strength was that he converts negativity into positivity,” Santos says. “They were honest answers but they came out naturally, and he sounded like a very positive person so I hired him right away.”

 

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This question may make it seem like your prospective employers are pressuring you to have your whole life planned out, but this isn’t the case. They just want to make sure you’ll stay with the company if they hire you. After all, with millennials hopping from job to job, loyalty has become even more important to employers.

How to answer:
“What we're actually looking for is how committed one is to the job at hand,” Bergantin explains. “We want to know what your long-term goals are and if it aligns with ours. This is a good chance to highlight loyalty and dedication.

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You should always have a few questions to ask at the end of the interview. This will show that you’re genuinely interested in the job. “This also shows if you prepared thoroughly for the interview,” Bergantin adds. “This is also a good opportunity to show that you are proactive.”

How to answer:

Make sure to look at the company website and avoid asking questions if the information is already stated there, unless you have clarifications. “Questions should be relevant to the position,” Bergantin says. “HR Professionals love and appreciate well-thought-out questions.”

A good question to ask is what their key performance indicators are, what they’d like you to accomplish in the first three to six months, and what it would look like if you were excelling at your job.

And remember: once you’ve done all your research and prepared your answers, relax. The interviewers aren’t out to grill you. “I don't think interviews should be like a cross examination,” says Allan Ko, head of HR Service Delivery at Johnson & Johnson Asia Pacific. “My general tip is for candidates to be confident, be themselves, and be honest—but don't be boring.”

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Angelica Gutierrez
Angelica is currently Editorial Assistant for Esquiremag.ph.
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