Common Interview Questions – A Brief Overview


Matthew Coppola is an Australian Careers Advisor, Employment Specialist and Resume Writing Expert. If you are interested in having him as a speaker or utilising any of his services, please contact him by clicking here.

Common Interviewing Questions

1 – Tell me about yourself.
This seems to be an innocent enough question. But be aware that Interviewers often ask this as an invitation for you to share your life story or personal information. Interviewers often want to know personal details like your age and marital status. So this question often elicits background information such as when you graduated high school or college, your marital status, number of children, etc. When you hear the tell-me-about-yourself question, think of how you can answer with details about your prior work experience, abilities and professional accomplishments that will fit this job.

2 – What else should I know about you?
If the “tell-me-about-yourself” question doesn’t prompt you to reveal personal statements, later in the interview (when you have been lulled into complacency), the interviewer often asks this question. Reiterate why you are the best fit for the job. No personal info is required. It’s up to you what private details you reveal.

3 – Why should we hire you?
Talk about a job where you used skills you believe will be necessary in this job. Point out how your skills or experience meet the needs of the organization.

You can say, “Because I am the best candidate for the job,” as long as you add the reasons that make you the best candidate. Be confident and enthusiastic and emphasize several reasons why you should be hired. “I’ve got extensive experience in (whatever) with the specific skills you are looking for. I’m a fast learner who has learned to adapt quickly to change …” Give examples to back up your statements that demonstrate your unique qualifications.

4 – What are your weaknesses?
One/ of the secrets to answering this question is being honest about a weakness, but at the same time, demonstrating how you have turned it into a strength. For example, if you had a problem organizing your work in the past, demonstrate the steps you took to more effectively keep yourself on track. This will show that you have the ability to recognize aspects of yourself that need improvement, and the initiative to improve.

Do not say, “I don’t have any weaknesses,” or “I am a bit of a perfectionist.” Those answers will turn off interviewers. They know the first is probably untrue and the second is impossible. Being a little bit of a perfectionist is like being a little bit of a liar. Better to use a weakness that is really something you are trying to learn like a foreign language or a new software program. Make sure that any weakness you talk about is not a key element of the position.

5 – What is your greatest strength?
This is your opportunity to highlight your best skills. Focus on your top three or four. Examples would be: “my leadership skills, problem-solving ability, team-building skills, interpersonal skills, ability to work under pressure, professional expertise, ability to resolve conflict” and so on. Be prepared to offer examples for each skill you mention.

9 – Where do you see yourself five years from now?
If you say, “In your job,” you have shot yourself in the foot. Interviewers ask this question because they want to hire people who are focused on specific professional goals. Vague works best. “In five years I expect to have more responsibility and new, exciting challenges.”

Do not indicate that you hope to start your own business, change careers, or go back to school. Such responses indicate a lack of long-term interest in the organization. Keep in mind that throughout the interview, the interviewer is trying to discover if you are a good fit and can make a positive contribution in the job.

10 – Why do you want to work here?
“Because you have a job,” won’t win any points for you. Instead, use this question to talk about what you know about the company, and how your background and experience relate to issues they may have. This shows the interviewer that you have done your homework and at the same time, gives you another opportunity to show how your qualifications and experience match the job. “What I can bring to this job is six years experience and knowledge of the industry, plus my ability to build and sustain patient relationships …”

11 – Why did you leave your last job?
If you lost your last job because of downsizing, restructuring, the company closing, etc., say: “I didn’t leave my last job. My job left me.”

If you left on your own accord, do not say anything negative about your former company, boss, or co-workers. You might say: “There were many aspects of my job that were rewarding but I believe this new position will give me the opportunity to contribute even more.”

12 – What did you dislike most about your last job?
If you loved your last job, say: “What I dislike most is that it ended.” If you didn’t love your last job, do not say anything negative. Instead, use a variation of the statement: “There were many aspects of my job that were rewarding.”

13 – What is a weakness you still have?
A negative question again. Repeat a “weakness” you may have used earlier that indicates how you are working to learn something new.

18 – What salary are you looking for?
Negotiating salary can be a minefield if you aren’t prepared. This strategy is an excerpt: “Do not disclose your salary history or the salary you are seeking. Instead, ask: ‘What is the range for this position?’ You focus continuously on asking for the range, not the salary. When you disclose, you lose the power of negotiation.”

Behavioral Interviewing Questions

Behavioral interviewing focuses on the candidate’s actions and behaviors and therefore minimizes the personal impressions that can affect hiring choices. This style of interviewing is based on the premise that the best, most effective way to predict your future behavior is to determine your past behavior.

These questions ask about what you have done in previous jobs, not what you would do. You will know it is a behavioral question when the past tense is used. “What did you do … Tell me about how you handled … Describe a time when …”

19 – Describe a problem situation and how you solved it.
If you had responsibility in your previous jobs, you can describe a work situation where you were responsible for turning it around. If you do not have professional experience, describe something like prioritizing your schedule and making to-do lists to give you enough time to study. Regardless of the issue involved, you demonstrate that you can think critically and develop a solution.

20 – Describe how you handled a stressful situation in the past.
Give an example of how you used your problem-solving or decision-making skills to reduce stress. An example might be that you learned the value of a time-out for both yourself and your staff. Or if it’s true, how you actually seem to work better under pressure and deadlines.

21 – Tell me what has been your greatest work-related accomplishment?
Choose an example that was important to you and also helped your company. Give specific details about what you did, how you did it, and what the results were. Talk about an accomplishment that relates to the position you are seeking. Interviewers like to hear about accomplishments that reduced expenses, raised revenue, solved problems or enhanced a company’s reputation.

22 – How did you keep current and informed about your job/industry?
The interviewer is concerned that once you get the job will you continue to learn and grow? You could say, “I stay on top of what is happening in my industry by reading newspapers, magazines and journals. I am a member of several professional organizations and continually network with colleagues at the meetings. Whenever possible I take classes and attend seminars that offer new information or technology.”

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