As a fresh graduate, venturing into the working world is truly a difficult step. What we often forget is that life is a learning curve, full of ups and downs. Once we learn that simple fact, even the hardest interviews seem like a minor bump in the road.

However small that setback was, it is no use denying just how challenging it is to ace an interview. Especially if it’s for a professional role, something competitive and/or involves an extremely meticulous hiring process. These setbacks can really damper one’s spirit in applying for that particular job position. However, high risks ultimately bring high reward. And that can be said true when applying for jobs.

Chances are, you’re like me, a fresh graduate with over less than 2 years of professional work experience and you’re dreaming of landing that “perfect” first job. You’d take into account your look, the clothes you’re donning for the day, the bright wide smile that speaks volumes of your own confidence but somewhere along the interview you just blank out. Yes, I’m talking about the full mouth, opened-to- an- “O” -kind-of expression in the middle of answering those just too difficult questions. Then all of a sudden, your mind caves in and self-esteem just takes the plunge into the dark abscess of your defeated brain. Yes, I totally understand how this feels and unfortunately, I’ve had the “pleasure” of being in this situation one too many times.

Not to worry though! I’ve got you covered with getting through some of the most simple-sounding yet challenging interview questions to get you through your next rodeo. Let’s get to it.

Question 1: Tell me about yourself

I’ve been stuck at answering this question countless times, and even after interview number 12, it still strikes fear in me. Like, should I tell them a brief summary of my work experience? Should I give them a short story of how and why I applied for this job? Or should I give simple points detailing my extracurricular activities and personal achievements right up to receiving my degree? Ah, questions, questions! And you don’t get an hour to answer this question so time’s ticking and remember, you’ve got to engage in a conversation with the manager. It could be on the phone, a Skype interview or even face-to-face. The question still persists- How does one answer this question?

My tip is, briefly introduce yourself (your name, age, nationality, degree earned, university attended, etc) within 2 short sentences. It should be easy to articulate without using any fancy jargon or such. The point is to introduce yourself and who you are to the hiring manager. Next, follow up with your past work experiences (recent work experience should be mentioned the last chronologically) and do describe your personal work achievements. Not your work responsibilities, but exactly what you have been successful in achieving in each of your work experiences.

You could mention your success in reducing the time spent by 1 day by creating a content template for content marketing, or even generating profit for your previous company by achieving optimum usage on a certain machine or system. You’ve got to present yourself within 30 seconds and remember, confidence is very different from boasting about your successes. Remain focused in getting your points across!

Question 2: Why should I hire you?

I know, I know, the answer to this seems pretty straightforward. There’s a need for talent, hence you applied for the position and you’ve got shortlisted for an interview, etc, etc… However, this question is actually a secret weapon for hiring managers to discover just how willing you are to commit for the position. This is the question where you need to articulate how you are the “Right Fit” for this position, through your past work experiences, your skills and abilities as well as the attitude and outlook gained through voluntary opportunities and student competitions.

Remember to do some research about the company, the job roles and responsibilities as well as the market/industry in which they operate in. All of this information will definitely come in handy here. Tailor your answers to fit what is most relevant to the position and employer. If the job revolves around being a journalist, writer or an editor, you should mention your attention to details (grammar, tonality and vocabulary).

Question 3: What do you think is your weakness?

As infamous as this question can be, it surprisingly is very simple to answer. Easy, just be honest. Don’t try to craft the perfect weakness simply because there is none. All weaknesses are perfectly normal to experience and don’t be afraid to be yourself. If you are a stressor, and meeting tight deadlines makes you nervous or anxious, be honest-tell them exactly so. But here’s the important part- think about a solution to overcome this weakness.

So, for example, if you get easily stressed, mention your hard work in attempting to test yourself by committing to 1 work goal per day and how you try to increase your responsibilities after each day. This shows your desire to overcome your weakness. A tip here is, mention this weakness as a construct of your past. Talk about the steps and ways you took to overcome this and mention an improvement that made you genuinely proud! Oh, and try not to say your weakness is public speaking/ speaking in public, because that’s a tad overplayed.

Question 4: Do you have any questions for me?

Never, and I mean never let this question go unanswered. Trust me, hiring managers definitely want to hear whatever concerns you have in mind and the best way to turn the tables back on them. It’s your turn now to ask the questions! (How fun is that?) Asking questions is also another way to buy more time with the employer in order to discuss any other relevant information like an award you won or a skill you developed through the questions. It’s important to engage and connect with your employer in a more personal way and this helps them to remember you more!

Way ahead of an interview, keep a list of about 5 questions ready at hand so you don’t have to scramble and rack your brain at that exact moment. Remember, this is a good chance to see whether you are the right fit for the company’s culture, structure and formalities or even the work ethics and moral principles that govern certain decisions. You need to be aware of vague-sounding answers that are given by employers and make your decision wisely according to the responses you get. Not every company’s a right fit for you, and that’s perfectly okay. It’s better to assess beforehand in order to avoid any unwanted surprises.

Wrapping up…

An interview needn’t be a trip to hell, and by preparing yourself beforehand, you might even have a great time sitting in that chair. Always stay grounded and focused, no matter how long you have been in the industry or not at all. Honesty is highly valued in interviews and by giving a concise and clear picture of who you are personally and professionally, your future career is right ahead of you.