Category: Interview questions & answers

Describe yourself and what makes you unique, 150 characters or fewer

If you ask around, you’ll hear a few different approaches to this question as well as some vitriol aimed at interviewers who ask job candidates to explain why they are unique.

Some people say to explain how hiring you will benefit the company and the interviewer. That’s an important message, but it probably needs to be delivered with the answers to every other question, not as an answer to what makes you unique, try to catch our eye.

My advice is to tell a story that shows the interviewer something about you. If you’ve studied fiction writing, you’ve heard “Show, don’t tell.” The same rule applies here. Show the interviewers or the application readers something about who you are.

My wife recently came up with what I think is a great answer to the question what makes you unique in 150 characters or less: I found Lucky in Jirisan a week before the floods. I cried when the vet put him on an IV and said it was 50/50. I laugh every time he licks my nose.

This is a short story that shows you my wife is an animal lover and has saved / adopted a stray named Lucky. It doesn’t tell too much though – Is Lucky a dog or a cat or a bear? Where is Jirisan? There’s more to the story, which is critical if you are answering this question on a job application. Now they should call you for an interview to get the answers. If they ask during the interview, it’s still good to show them something but not everything. An interview is a discussion so don’t give any speeches.

Is it a fair question?

It may seem unreasonable to disqualify a candidate because they can’t think of something clever to say about themselves. But some jobs require clever people who say creative, interesting things.

I think it’s fair to ask people to show that they have some personality. If you can’t think of anything interesting to say does that mean you’ve never done anything fun? Does it mean you can’t open up with the interviewer? Of course as describe yourself in 150 characters or less becomes more popular, it also becomes less useful as people will have prepared for the question.

Interviewee question: tell me about yourself

I just had an interview with a decent company. I think it went OK. I just want to ask your opinion on something.

In school, we had several accounting professors who were partners in big fours, some were CFOs, COO, and CAO. Basically they weren’t people from the street, they were successful individuals.

Whenever it comes to interview they always tell us to ASK QUESTIONS. Not only ask questions at the end, but also in the middle and in the beginning. They always put an emphasis on this.

Today I had an interview where the first question was tell me about yourself. After I finished answering, I asked the interviewer to tell me about herself. She gave me a smile like WTF you asking me questions/almost like rolling eyes, and did not answer the question.

Did I do something wrong? Should I have been one of those guys who should have waited until the end? I swear it was an awkward moment.

Well, yeah, you did something wrong. Asking questions is good advice but why would you ask her to tell you about herself?

You should be asking questions about the job and the company, not about person interviewing you. So the work environment matters but not specifically the personality of the interviewer. There are exceptions though – if you can ask the interviewer a question about them and the job, that’s good. Something like how long they’ve been there and how long they plan to remain (if the interviewer is leaving soon that might matter to you) could be appropriate. Something about their management style makes sense if you’d be working under the interviewer. Would you tell me what’s made you so successful here? would be a strong question to ask thanks to the embedded compliment. It doesn’t sound like ass-kissery but it ought to give the interviewer that warm fuzzy feeling that says you respect her.

Personality question: Who was your favorite Beatle?

Believe it or not I had a boss who would always ask people who their favorite Beatle was. If they said John he considered them radical or left leaning, if they said George they were moderate centrists and if the said Paul he considered them more conservative or right leaning. If someone said Ringo he felt they had something to hide or where just trying to impress him with a different answer as no one really liked Ringo. While it might seem very wierd, it always seemed to provide a pretty accurate brief analysis of the individual as we found out after they were hired.

I’m just relating a unique question one of my former bosses (I’m retired) used to ask and how he interpreted some responses. Obviously anyone who would think a final hiring decision was made based on the response is an idiot. However, it was a good question to throw people off their game a little during the interview process and often got some interesting conversations going as they tended to relax more and talk more about themselves. I say whatever works!

Notice how the emphasis is on getting the interviewee off their game and getting an interesting conversation going. When you get interview questions, one of your main goals is to make the conversation an interesting one. Interesting people get hired because the interviewer would probably like to work with interesting people.

So don’t get too thrown off your game by these types of questions. Be yourself and be interesting. Let your personality show and be likable.

And, since the person who asks this question probably likes the Beatles, you should have a favorite and at least appreciate their music. Don’t say that the Beatles suck and everyone who likes the Beatles is a tool. Name one, and say what you appreciate about him. And be willing to have a friendly conversation.

Great question. (smile) I’d have to say Paul is my favorite. The thing I admire most is his work on A Garland for Linda – it’s just such a beautiful tribute album and Paul did a piece on there and I’m sure that his influence helped get the other great artists to write for the album. And it shows real love, something I think we have to admire.

Trick questions

Most interviewers are smart enough not to use them but some claim that trick questions are good for spotting people like to spew BS. I don’t like these questions personally but there is something to that. These questions make it easy to spot when someone is pretending to know what they’re talking about.

Given the numbers 1-1000, what is the minimum numbers of guesses needed to find a specific number if you are given the hint higher/lower, for each quess you make?

The answer is 1, by the way.

Where a banana costs $0.20, an apple costs $0.40, and an orange costs $0.60, how much does a pear cost?

I prefer apples and oranges anyway so I wouldn’t even ask.

Personality question: what kind of animal are you?

Some interview questions seem ridiculous and impossible to answer. Many of these crazy sounding questions are personality questions and if you recognize a personality question, you can actually forget about trying to find the right answer and just relax – let your personality show.

what kind of animal are you?

There’s no right answer (but there are wrong answers) so you let the interviewer get to know you and hopefully like you.

I’m definitely a dog. I don’t know why, but dogs just love me. They really treat me like one of their own.

Now if the interviewer is a dog person, we now have something in common. That’s a very good thing because people like people they have things in common with.

The one thing you need to avoid is negative association. You don’t want to be associated with something the interviewer hates so avoid spiders and mosquitoes because most people don’t like them.

if you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?

Tell us about yourself: how to & how not to

You have to be careful when it comes to taking advice on how to interview from the internet. Lots of people want to give you interview advice but much of the advice people want to give is not worth taking.

Let’s look at this example of how to answer the question, Tell us about yourself.

Now there are a few good things about this answer, but there’s one major flaw. Can you identify the problem? Keep in mind that the answer to tell us about yourself should contain the following:

1. Why you’re there

2. How you can help them

3. Why they will like working with you