views are personal. My life, My Choice and My Thinking
Thursday, March 1, 2012
How to Answer Common Interview Questions
1. Tell me
a little about yourself.
very surprised if you haven't been asked this one at every interview. It's
probably the most asked question because it sets the stage for the interview
and it gets you talking. Be careful not to give the interviewer your life story
here. You don't need to explain everything from birth to present day. Relevant
facts about education, your career and your current life situation are fine.
2. Why are
you looking (or why did you leave you last job)?
This should be a straightforward question to answer, but
it can trip you up. Presumably you are looking for a new job (or any job)
because you want toadvance your careerand get a position that allows you to
grow as a person and an employee. It's not a good idea to mention money here;
it can make you sound mercenary. And if you are in the unfortunate situation of
having been downsized, stay positive and be as brief as possible about it. If
you were fired, you'll need a good explanation. But once again, stay positive.
3. Tell me
what you know about this company.
homework before you go to any interview. Whether it's being the VP of marketing
or the mailroom clerk, you should know about the company or business you're
going to work for. Has this company been in the news lately? Who are the people
in the company you should know about? Does the background work, it will make
you stand out as someone who comes prepared, and is genuinely interested in the
company and the job.
4. Why do
you want to work at X Company?
should be directly related to the last question. Any research you've done on
the company should have led you to the conclusion that you'd want to work
there. After all, you're at the interview, right? Put some thought into this
answer before you have your interview, mention your career goals and highlight
forward-thinking goals and career plans.
relevant experience do you have?
if you're applying for this position you have bags of related experience, and
if that's the case you should mention it all. But if you're switching careers
or trying something a little different, your experience may initially not look
like it's matching up. That's when you need a little honest creativity to match
the experiences required with the ones you have. People skills are people
skills after all, you just need to show how customer service skills can apply
to internal management positions, and so on.
else have you applied?
This is a
good way to hint that you're in demand, without sounding like you're whoring
yourself all over town. So, be honest and mention a few other companies but
don't go into detail. The fact that you're seriously looking and keeping your
options open is what the interviewer is driving at.
9. How are
you when you're working under pressure?
again, there are a few ways to answer this but they should all be positive. You
may work well under pressure, you may thrive under pressure, and you may
actually PREFER working under pressure. If you say you crumble like aged blue
cheese, this is not going to help you get your foot in the door.
motivates you to do a good job?
to this one is not money, even if it is. You should be motivated by life's
noble pursuits. You want recognition for a job well done. You want to become
better at your job. You want to help others or be a leader in your field.
your greatest strength?
your chance to shine. You're being asked to explain why you are a great
employee, so don't hold back and stay do stay positive. You could be someone
who thrives under pressure, a great motivator, an amazing problem solver or
someone with extraordinary attention to detail. If your greatest strength,
however, is to drink anyone under the table or get a top score on Mario Kart,
keep it to yourself. The interviewer is looking for work-related strengths.
your biggest weakness?
completely honest, you may be kicking yourself in the butt. If you say you
don't have one, you're obviously lying. This is a horrible question and one
that politicians have become masters at answering. They say things like
"I'm perhaps too committed to my work and don't spend enough time with my
family." Oh, there's a fireable offense. I've even heard "I think I'm
too good at my job, it can often make people jealous." Please, let's keep
our feet on the ground. If you're asked this question, give a small, work-related
flaw that you're working hard to improve. Example: "I've been told I
occasionally focus on details and miss the bigger picture, so I've been
spending time laying out the complete project every day to see my overall
you good at working in a team?
have the I.Q. of a houseplant, you'll always answer YES to this one. It's the
only answer. How can anyone function inside an organization if they are a
loner? You may want to mention what part you like to play in a team though;
it's a great chance to explain that you're a natural leader.
me a suggestion you have made that was implemented.
important here to focus on the word "implemented." There's nothing
wrong with having a thousand great ideas, but if the only place they live is on
your notepad what's the point? Better still, you need a good ending. If your
previous company took your advice and ended up going bankrupt, that's not such
a great example either. Be prepared with a story about an idea of yours that was
taken from idea to implementation, and considered successful.
anything ever irritated you about people you've worked with?
you have a list as long as your arm. But you can't say that, it shows you as
being negative and difficult to work with. The best way to answer this one is
to think for a while and then say something like "I've always got on just
fine with my co-workers actually."
there anyone you just could not work with?
unless you're talking about murderers, racists, rapists, thieves or other
dastardly characters, you can work with anyone. Otherwise you could be flagged
as someone who's picky and difficult if you say, "I can't work with anyone
who's a Bronco's fan. Sorry."
me about any issues you've had with a previous boss.
you fall for this one you shouldn't be hired anyway. The interviewer is testing
you to see if you'll speak badly about your previous supervisor. Simply answer
this question with extreme tact, diplomacy and if necessary, a big fat loss of
memory. In short, you've never had any issues.
you rather work for money or job satisfaction?
It's not a
very fair question is it? We'd all love to get paid a Trump-like salary doing a
job we love but that's rare indeed. It's fine to say money is important, but
remember that NOTHING is more important to you than the job. Otherwise, you're
just someone looking for a bigger paycheck.
you rather be liked or feared?
I have been
asked this a lot, in various incarnations. The first time I just drew a blank
and said, "I don't know." That went over badly, but it was right at
the start of my career when I had little to no experience. Since then I've
realized that my genuine answer is "Neither, I'd rather be
respected." You don't want to be feared because fear is no way to motivate
a team. You may got the job done but at what cost? Similarly, if you're
everyone's best friend you'll find it difficult to make tough decisions or hit
deadlines. But when you're respected, you don't have to be a complete bastard
or a lame duck to get the job done.
explain why I should hire you.
sure you know, "because I'm great" or "I really need a job"
are not good answers here. This is a time to give the employer a laundry list
of your greatest talents that just so happen to match the job description. It's
also good to avoid taking potshots at other potential candidates here. Focus on
yourself and your talents, not other people's flaws.