If you want to answer an interview question effectively, you need to understand why it’s being asked.
What are your weaknesses?
Why do interviewers ask “What are your weaknesses?” I’m guessing this is one of your least-favorite questions. It may help to realize that the interviewer isn’t really (or at least, not primarily) digging for dirt or looking for reasons not to hire you.
It’s true that if your answer shows that you lack a skill that’s essential to the job, you probably won’t be hired. But in most cases, this question is not so much about the lacks or flaws themselves, but about your attitude and approach to them. The interviewer is wondering whether you’re aware of your weaknesses, which will make it more likely that you’ll overcome them. They also want to know what you’re doing about it. This, too, says a lot about your ability to grow.
If you seem unwilling to discuss your weaknesses–for example, if you answer with a joke that doesn’t tell the interviewer anything–they may worry that it will be hard to give you constructive feedback on the job.
With all that in mind, it’s best to mention a real (though not terribly concerning or disqualifying) area you’re working on and that you’ve made good progress with. For more tips, see my post “What Are Your Weaknesses?”
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Staff turnover is tremendously expensive and makes a manager look bad. So this question is partly about whether the position fits into your career goals and interests. If it doesn’t, the manager reasons, you won’t stick around—or you’ll stay, but be discontented and unengaged.
In addition, the interviewer is hoping to see a reasonable level of ambition. Ambitious employees go above and beyond requirements. They seek out learning opportunities and “stretch projects” to build their skills.
On the other hand, they’re also hoping your career plan is realistic, so that you won’t be frustrated when you aren’t quickly promoted from associate to vice president. They may also be concerned about hiring someone who will be striving to take their job.
In most cases, a successful answer will balance a desire for growth with an understanding that advancement takes hard work and some degree of patience.
For more tips, see my post “Most Common Interview Questions: Your 5-year Goal.”
Would you please walk me through your resume?
What’s going on with this question? Is the interviewer too lazy to read the resume himself?
The interviewer wants you to help them understand how your background has prepared you for the job they’re trying to fill. Tell them the story of your career as it has prepared you to excel in the role you’re interviewing for.
They also want to understand the reasoning and motivation behind the steps you’ve taken in your career. They may ask you to explain why you left your past jobs. Even if they don’t ask about any gaps in your experience, it may be a good idea to proactively explain any breaks of more than a month.
Keep in mind that this question is not just about your past–what you’ve done–but also your present–what you’re looking for–and your future–how you’ll use your experience and skills to achieve their goals.
As if that isn’t challenging enough, your answer should generally take less than two minutes. So prepare carefully in advance.
For more tips, see my post “When the Interviewer Says ‘Walk Me Through Your Resume.'”
When this question is asked, it’s typically this is the first question in the interview. If so, plan an answer in which your best strengths shine through clearly so you put your best foot forward from the very beginning.
Why do interviewers ask these questions? They’re giving you an opportunity to convince them that you’re coachable, committed and qualified!