Most students look for a stable job after they finish a Master degree and if you are a PhD student, you already know how important it is to support yourself financially. Finding the right job while pursuing a PhD programme is not exactly picnic, but you have to persevere. The perfect job opportunity is out there waiting for you.
You’ve probably been to at least a few job interviews so far and maybe in the past, for a student job, you didn’t even bother preparing for it too much. Even if you did prepare, some interview questions that initially seemed simple have proven more difficult than expected.
Job interviews can be compared to a school exam: if you fail, you have to go through it once again, yet always with different people. Yes, I said “fail”; it’s a harsh word, but I bet that’s exactly how you felt whenever you didn’t get hired after a challenging interview, especially if you really wanted that job.
Although no one will ever give you a guaranteed recipe for success, there are a few common mistakes that you can avoid during a job interview.
Here are 7 basic tips about what your answers to the most common job interview questions should focus on:
1. ”Tell me a few things about yourself”
After you’ve been introduced to one another and you were invited to have a seat, you will have to go through this introductory part where you have to present yourself. Fair and square and …piece of cake!
However, most candidates are more or less nervous, so they might omit sharing a few important details. Unlike in any other part of the interview, this is your chance to speak freely and be a little more creative in “promoting yourself”.
So, after briefly presenting your past jobs, focus on your last accomplishments, specifically at your most recent work-place. Connect this story to how it led you to apply for this job and if your qualifications are related to the ones they look for in a candidate, it’s a good thing to mention them, but be completely honest about it.
2. ”Why do you want to work here?”
After checking your job qualifications, the interviewer wants to see if your personality fits the culture of the company. Just skip the part about the high salary and benefits that attracted to this job. Candidates who are looking for any random job where they get a monthly pay check don’t make a good impression.
Ideally, make a research before the interview and see why you would enjoy working at this company. Mention how you could advance your skills as an employee and what new and interesting challenges might help you build a fruitful career. Specify some of your own abilities that are not included in the job offer. The interviewer could be pleasantly surprised and you would stand out from the crowd and actually end up on the short list of valuable candidates.
3. “Why are you looking for a new job at this moment?”
This question is usually addressed to candidates who are currently employed. While people could have so many reasons to leave their job and look for a new one, sometimes you can’t give a straightforward answer and you have to distort the truth a little. Yes, honesty during a job interview is genuinely appreciated and if you tell many lies, trust me: the HR person will know.
However, you don’t have to lie, just know how to present your situation. Try to emphasize that you want a better opportunity to grow and develop professionally. Maybe even give some examples why the direction of the company is heading might align with your own desires and ambitions.
The interviewer likes to hear that their company is really great and will be pleased to see you did your homework.
Another important tip: regardless of how bad your previous work experience was, for whatever reason, it is always best to keep the worst details for yourself. Generally, people from HR don’t like to see candidates who are running away from a bad opportunity and it would put you in an awkward position.
4. “What is your greatest strength?”
First of all, don’t give as example a strength or quality that is not relevant for the job or for the professional life in general. Unless you applied for a job as a basketball coach, nobody wants to know you’re a good basketball player. Don’t get too carried away and mention too many.
Resume to one or two, but connect the strengths to specific details. Take advantage of this opportunity to call the shots of the interview and share a touching story from a prior job where you managed to deal with a situation or came up with a solution for an important issue.
5. "What's your greatest weakness?"
Aha! This is not a trick question although most job candidates look at it this way. We have all been tempted (or have even done it!) at least once or twice when we were asked this question to say something like: ‘I’m a perfectionist, I really can’t think of a weakness right now…”; or “all my managers were always very satisfied with my work and they hadn’t complained once regarding my performance”.
Yeah, tell it to the marines, because no one would believe you. Not even an HR novice. So get over this impulse and be honest by putting your weakness in a good light and point out how you work on improving the weakness.
You could say something like: “I’m not a very technical person and I don’t have too many technical skills, but I recently applied for an online course to learn more about databases, X software or application”. Of course, you don’t say this unless it is the truth and are able to back it up with proof.
6. ”How do you think your last manager would describe you?”
This is also a type of question that lets you be more creative and it’s always recommended to have stories or give examples to back up your answer. If you would say: “I think he/she would describe me as a responsible person”, this would not be enough.
Tell the interviewer a reason why you think people see you that way and give a specific example of when you proved to be a responsible person. This could be when one time you had to fill in for a colleague and went to a presentation or an important sales meeting and saved the day.
7. ”Where do you see yourself in five years?/ What are your future career plans?”
Now this is a trick question and no one really knows the perfect answer. Unless you are a very determined person and have made specific career plans and know exactly what you want to do with your life, this question could actually puzzle you. You don’t know what you will do in the next two years, talk about five, right?
So in order to weave out on a statement like “I have no idea”, highlight you’re interested in a stable and long-term career at this company. If you actually want to be working somewhere else in five years, don’t mention where, but stress once again how this job would be such a tremendous opportunity for you in terms of career growth that would eventually help you succeed in the future job you dream of having in five, ten years or more.
Show the interviewer you’re a confident person!
So keep all this in mind when you go to the next job interview and try to be as authentic as possible. Smile and keep a positive attitude and don’t let the interviewer see you’re nervous even if you are.
Remember to dress properly, be confident and surely you will make a good impression! Don’t forget that first of all, you are a person, and that pretending to be someone you’re not might get you a job you don’t like or set unrealistic expectations.
Read other useful articles about PhD studies.