It seems you need to do an interview for absolutely everything these days and – although you may find it annoying – it is helpful to be able to get an idea of whom we are dealing with and what life may be like in the new school or university, at that new internship or that coveted summer-job.
Questions that seem easy, but are actually potential pitfalls, are first and foremost the dreaded ‘Tell me about yourself’. The reason why this is a difficult question every time again is that – when put on the spot – we hesitate and wonder whether we – in answering it - are either too boasty or too shy or maybe sound contrived.
The best advice to handle this specific question well, is to be as genuine as you dare to be and to add some humour to the description of your strengths and weaknesses. You may say for example what your friends say about you and you can also mention things you enjoy doing (as this is a metaphor for ‘I am good at'…). Do remember that such subtleties are lost on our US interviewers, whom will expect an explicit list of things you are amazing at. What you may consider as ridiculous showing off is in fact much appreciated by American interviewers.
For example in the UK you might say ‘I enjoy playing tennis and I am in the school’s C team’. In the US people would think you are kidding, but if – instead - you would say ‘I enjoy playing tennis and I am consistently in the top 15% of all players at school’ it sounds much more convincing.
Other questions that could be expected:
‘why do you want to come here (to this school, to this course, to this university’ and ;
‘what do you think you can contribute’ (to this school, job, university).
These questions can be prepared by researching the place you are trying to get into and why you think you do want this. Sometimes we are so busy preparing what others might want to hear, that we forget what we would like ourselves and what is important to us.
Questions that will come up often (and will say a lot about you in how you answer them) are:
- What is the world’s best invention?
- Who do you admire and why?
- What book are you reading?
- What gets you up in the morning?
- What difficulty have you faced and how did you deal with it?
- What motivates you?
- What do you most dislike in other people?
- Who is the smartest person you know?
And lastly, when asked if you have any questions, never say that you have no questions as it looks lazy and is a bit dull. When asking questions make them worthwhile and do not ask things you could easily find out yourself.
Interviews can be very enjoyable and a chance of ‘having the floor all to yourself’. So embrace, you may enjoy it.
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