Common Interview Questions

Posted by Judy Anne Cavey on May 30, 2011 in , , | No Comments

Depending on the type of interview and interviewer, you could have a vast array of questions put to you.

But there are key questions which are asked in the majority of interviews that are highlighted below. In Next-Day Job Interview (Prepare Tonight and Get the Job Tomorrow), by Michael Farr and Dick Gaither, they present many questions, and sample answers, along with much more, to assist in the interview process. Listed in the book are the following questions (and more)  you must know how to answer–honestly and properly–in order to be a strong candidate.

Question #1:

Tell me a little about yourself?

This question is often used as an ice breaker in the beginning of the interview process. A question like this gives you an opportunity to present yourself for 1-2 minutes in a way that will shine a light on your value, express interest in their company, the field, your skills, abilities and successes. This is not the time to tell them your personal bio–keep your marital status, number of children, medical issues, and age–out of this answer. I can’t tell you how many “professional profiles” I still see with the person’s age, number of children and marital status listed in the first paragraph. The greatest offenders of this monumental mistake are women, who reveal too much information.

Question #2:

Why do you want to work here?

This question is also similar to What are your future career plans? or What do you know about our company? Do let them know you are seeking the job in the advertised posting. Here’s your opportunity to let them know you’ve done your homework on their company. You’ll want to present how your skill-sets and accomplishments will transfer over to this position they’ve advertised. Farr and Gaither suggest that, “…interviewer(s) are looking for indicators of commitment from prospective employees…the main theme of your answer should be that you’ve done research, you’re looking for someplace to develop a long-term relationship and you want to grow your skills”.

Question #3

Why are you leaving (did you leave) your last job?

Keep this answer very simple and never badmouth any your former employer, supervisor or coworkers. Present a positive truthful answer. In this economy, it’s not hard for an employer to guess that you’ve gone through a long job hunt right out of college. But you still need to present the answer nevertheless. If however you are currently employed and looking for a job change, you’ll need to give them the reason why. Be brief, be specific, and think of an honest positive reason for wanting to leave.

Question #4

What is your greatest weakness?

Don’t be coy and say that you have no weaknesses, everyone has them, we are human! People used to be coached to say that they are workaholics, but that isn’t going to fly either. Be honest, if you are disorganized, say it, but also let them know you are actively working on being more organized, give examples of what you are doing to overcome this weakness.

Question #5

What are your major strengths?

Here’s another opportunity to present what makes you the best candidate for their job. Are you organized, do you have excellent interpersonal skills, have you taken on tasks not in your former job description and successfully completed them (with raise and/or promotion)? Apply these strengths to the job you are interviewing for, show how those skills will be useful to the company.

What skills did you learn in college which might be transferred into a new position? Did you find you’ve become great at researching, or maybe your writing and verbal communication skills improved in college?

Question #6

Why should we hire you?

Here is another question that allows you to self-promote. This isn’t a time to say you’re desperate to pay your bills and you are living in your car! As the authors state, “If you don’t give an interviewer reasons for hiring you, he (she) won’t.” Give them solid reasons, back them up with proof, sell yourself to them leaving no question in their minds you are their choice. Do it in an upbeat way–with a smile on your face–showing confidence, but also that you’re friendly.

Question #7

What are your plans for the future?

Or could you tell me about your personal situation? Employers want to know you are not going to leave anytime soon if they hire you. Granted, there are some jobs that by the sheer nature of how they are designed, lend opportunity for employees to be “job hoppers”. For example, adjuncts in the community college system usually work at more than one college or educational program. It’s not unusual to see an adjunct working more than a couple of jobs at the same time in different districts, or move between districts as jobs become available in their field. I know this all too well having been an adjunct myself. But for those who are not in a field such as this, and have “job hopped” for better salary or position, you’ll have to do some explaining. Be sure you are honest without shooting yourself in the foot.

Your “personal situation” is just that, personal, so do only disclose work-related information when answering this question. Telling the interviewer your plans for marriage, having children, and travel are inappropriate. Those are personal plans, not career plans. Again, you’ll want to stres furthering your education, taking workshops, honing certain valuable skills, or whatever applies to the job that you honestly intend to do.

Question #8

What are your pay expectations?

This question can also be framed in other ways: What did you make at your other job? or What is your current salary range? However they say it, there is only one thing in mind and that is: how much will you cost? As many experts will tell you, this is a touchy question for both interviewer and potential employee alike. No party wants to lose. That’s why it’s best to be prepared for this question and look for a win-win situation.

This is a very important question, it’s one you must approach wisely. Make sure to find out the salary range for the position, verify the norm for that position (see the Occupational Outlook Handbook online) and keep in mind the economy has shrunk many salary ranges. You’ll want to get current information pertaining to your particular field regarding the percentage wages have been cut on average. This way, you won’t be too shocked when you see the salary range offered. While certain fields have been relatively unaffected, others have taken major hits. What you know can help you to prepare a fair range. When it comes to salary, let them make the first offer, you can always counter. What they may lack in salary, they could make up for in other benefits: extra time off, flexible schedule, work from home, dental, paying for more education, etc. Negotiate what you want.

Question #9

What will your other employers tell me about you?

This question can also be asked: What will your teachers, coworkers and supervisors say about you? No matter the wording, they want to know about your references, and they do check them. Both reference and background checks are performed by over 90% of employers. See my other blogs regarding credit checks, which are also becoming quite common.

Hopefully, you walked away from college and former jobs with letters of recommendation. Using what those letters say, you may answer this question. For example, your last employer sung your praises with regards to your organizational skills, being on time, and always willing to do whatever was necessary to get the job done. Before you go on your interview, contact your references, let them know you will be interviewing and will be using the information they put on the recommendation letters. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen them, it doesn’t hurt to go over the highlights to jog their memory.

Question #10

How does your previous experience relate to this job?

Again, preparation will help you answer this question. You know what the job description says, you know what you’ve done in your former positions, and what you learned in college, now you just need to put the two together for the interviewer. If you’ve just graduated, on the job experience may be something you have little of, but don’t despair. Hopefully you’ve volunteered, or took on an internship, or had a part-time job. Whatever you did, that’s experience you can use! Carefully look back on your schooling, are there advanced classes you took that you excelled in where you received extra credit, or some sort of accolades? Relate that to the job description in some rational way. Be brief, but get your point across.

More Questions

As you can imagine, there are many more questions that can and will be asked in an interview. I’ve touched on just the key questions here. To see more, pick up Mr. Farr’s books, he has several regarding the whole job search process. The better prepared you are, the better chance you’ll have to land the job you want. Practice with friends, family and your helpful Career Center on One Stop staff to become comfortable with the interview process.

Good luck!