“Tell me about yourself.”
It’s one of the most common questions you’ll encounter in a job interview – and it’s not going away any time soon, a new survey has revealed.
According to a survey by resume website Zety of more than 500 hiring managers and 1,000 workers, you’re more likely than not to cop this open-ended question, which is favoured by 60 per cent of interviewers.
The second-most asked job interview question is also well-known: “Tell me about a challenge or conflict you faced at work and how you dealt with it”.
Hiring managers also want to know about what you’re good at, too, with, “What are your greatest strengths?” the third-most common interview question.
Other frequently asked questions include, “How did you hear about this position?” “What are your greatest weaknesses?” and an example of a time you demonstrated leadership skills.
Hiring managers also want to know why you're leaving your current position, as well as a time you made a mistake.
Job candidates also confirmed these most-asked questions, with 94 per cent reporting they were asked to “tell me about yourself”.
Most were also asked what their greatest strengths were (91 per cent) or about how they dealt with a challenge or conflict at work (82 per cent).
Why are these questions so popular?
There’s one pattern that doesn’t change: most common interview questions are open-ended, and start with “tell me about”.
According to Indeed, open-ended questions are used to determine a potential new hire’s experience and abilities – and how you answer these questions will actually say a lot about you.
“Many employers ask open-ended questions to get a better insight into the candidate’s thought process and personality. These questions can also reveal whether candidates have enough experience and qualifications for a specific job by explaining how they apply their knowledge and skills,” Indeed’s career guide stated.
“The ability to answer open-ended interview questions in a detailed and thoughtful manner can show your problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.”
But that’s also exactly why candidates find these questions so challenging, too – but the fact that there’s no ‘right’ answer can be an upside, offering flexibility.
“An ideal answer will show that the candidate is ideal for the open position and showcase their previous experience in similar roles.”
The best way to answer these questions
Zety career expert Jacques Buffett also noted that you should answer with as much detail as possible.
“Answer in more detail, using stories, examples and lists,” he said. “Even if the question is more closed, elaborate and explain.
“For example don’t just say you like a particular type of work environment, explain why and explain how it makes you more productive and a better contributor to your potential employer.”
Open-ended questions can be answered through a very structured approach, Buffett said, by explaining the problem; explaining the solution; and demonstrating how your solution benefited the employer.
And just as an interview is the chance for employers to suss out potential employees, job candidates should come prepared with their own questions to ask too.
In fact, not asking any questions is a bad sign. “Asking questions at the end of the interview is another opportunity for you to impress,” recruiting firm Hays managing director Nick Deligiannis told Yahoo Finance.
“In contrast, asking no questions makes you seem disinterested. Poor questions, such as only asking, “How long is the trial period?”, or, “How many days holiday do I get?” don’t impress either.
“You want to ask a question that helps your interviewer visualise in their mind you doing the job well.”