Q. I'm back in the job market and three questions interviewers ask always throw me for a loop. What do interviewers expect when they ask "tell me about your weaknesses," "tell me about yourself" and "do you have any questions"? Are there any perfect responses?
A. When interviewers ask applicants "what are your weaknesses?" they want to know whether or not you have a deal-breaker weakness and whether you're honest enough to own up to your Achilles' heels.
For example, if you're a perfectionist, some employers may worry you'll take too much time completing projects or that you'll judge your supervisor or coworkers as less than perfect.
If you respond "I don't really have any; I'm a great hire," it works against you as it signals you're blind to your flaws. Some applicants give a playful response to this question, by saying "chocolate" or "Cheetos." While these responses makes most interviewers smile, they also disrespect the question and can tick off a serious interviewer.
Some applicants give responses such as: "those who don't take their work seriously bother me." While these interviewees think they've found a perfect answer, they haven't answered the question, unless you realize they've said "I'm a finger-pointer."
Other applicants deflect the question with self-serving compliments such as "I work too hard because I care too much," causing interviewers to inwardly roll their eyes.
Interviewers prefer honest answers coupled with how you'll overcome your weakness. For example, "I lack industry experience, but that makes me excited and I plan to use my own time to research recent industry trends." Or, "once I start researching to figure out how to solve a challenging problem, I have to tear myself away. I've learned to cut it off at work and then do follow-up research at home." Or, "I don't know Excel so I'm teaching myself at night."
Although it sounds like a personal question when an interviewer asks "tell me about yourself," most interviewers want information relevant to the job you're interviewing for and will notice whether what you say fits well with the position and organization. Don't waste time repeating what's already on your resume, reciting your life story or chat about your hobbies, unless your interviewer clearly shows he or she wants to get to know you personally.
Emphasize what you want the interviewer and employer to know about you. Are you creative? A problem-solver? Or do you have a solid work ethic? Now is the time to tell the interviewer. Statements such as "I am highly dedicated. I go above and beyond" work well. Interviewers also notice how you deliver your response. Do you sound genuine, articulate and confident? Or do you ramble, or sound overly practiced and robotic?
When interviewers ask "do you have any questions?" they give you a chance to signal you're a great hire. If you ask questions such as "What will you want me to accomplish in my first 30 (60) days?" you show the interviewer you're focused on meeting employer expectations.
Finally: Perfect responses are truthful.