The interview is an imperfect way to evaluate talent. Companies are trying to find out how well you'll be able to perform a variety of tasks at work through a series of questions. If they were allowed to, the average company would have you work for them for a few weeks to determine whether or not you have what it takes. But companies can't do that. All they have is a few hours to ask you some questions.
For the job seeker, that means your mission is to find a way to prove to an employer that you are capable of performing any task they throw at you just by answering a series of questions that the employer has for you.
What Every Employer Wants to Hear
The questions you face in interviews will vary greatly depending on the job, the industry, the interview strategy, and more. Every single job has its own unique questions, and unique questions require unique, job-specific answers. If you want to impress an employer for an IT job, you should talk about your experience in IT – not your experience mopping floors or cooking steak.
But no matter the job, there is one thing that all employers want to hear from you with every answer: They want to hear that you have the ability to make yourself better – the ability to grow professionally.
How to Integrate Your Professional Growth Into Every Answer
The easiest way to illustrate the proper interview strategy is to look at one of the most common entry-level interview questions: "What is your biggest weakness?"
There are many ways to answer this question. You can say that you sometimes accept work even with a full schedule, or you have sometimes had trouble sharing your opinions at large meetings. You can even give a cliché answer like, "I'm a perfectionist."
But it's not necessarily about your answer. What really matters is what you say afterward.
When you answer any job interview question that requires you to say something negative about yourself, employers want to hear about what you're doing to make it better. They want to know what you're doing to grow.
"I have often struggled to speak up at meetings. I have been focusing on ways to prove to myself that my ideas are worth sharing, and I am getting much better at it."
"I sometimes take on more work than I can handle. I am working on learning to say no, because I know that sometimes turning down extra work is the best thing I can do to ensure I continue to perform well at my job."
"My biggest weakness may be time management. Sometimes I overwhelm myself with work and end up having to work late at night to finish. I have been working on finding better tools for organization and making sure that I always have a good sense of what I have on hand."
It's that follow-up that all interviewers want to hear. Any time you're asked to say something negative about yourself, ending with a positive helps show that you're someone who is ready to grow professionally, someone who is always improving.
Similarly, when asked to say something positive about yourself, make sure to emphasize what you've learned and how you're continuing to improve.
Employers Want Positive Learners
Employers want to hire people who are going to grow in the job. Answers that emphasize that growth and your ability to learn and improve in any position are going to impress employers the most, no matter what job you're applying for.