Master These 15 Interview Questions
First impressions are everything, and making a good one during a job interview can very well snag you the job of your dreams. Interviews can be nerve-racking, especially if it's for a job you really want. The only way to calm your nerves is to do a lot of prep beforehand so you'll be ready for your interview. Read on for 15 common interview questions.
— Additional reporting by Macy Williams
Tell Me About Yourself
This question usually takes about one to two minutes to answer and will be your elevator pitch. You want to give them a brief rundown of who you are as a person and show how articulate you are. Don't start rambling on about your personal history. Talk about highlights from job positions or schooling and how you can contribute to the company with your background and experiences.
Know what the company is looking for. If it prizes technical skills, play those up. Showcase the qualities needed for the job you're interviewing for.
Before the interview, write down two to three notable achievements, and be sure to bring them up during your elevator pitch.
What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?
Think about what others have said about you when you're trying to come up with a list of your strengths. Remember, always back up your points with an example.
Pick strengths that align with the company's culture and goals. If you're applying to a scrappy start-up, highlight your ability to multitask and to take initiative.
The most important factor when choosing which strengths to highlight is to make sure they relate to the position your applying to. For example, if you're applying for a human resources position, talk about your interpersonal skills.
The weakness question is always the hardest to answer. Don't give a clichéd answer such as you work too hard or you're too much of a perfectionist. Try your best to stick to the truth and make sure you mention the steps you take to counter the weakness. Don't disclose anything that will make you look like an incompetent employee, such as not meeting deadlines and getting into conflicts with coworkers. Put a positive spin on the weakness but make sure it doesn't sound too practiced. An example of a weakness can be impatience, which can mean that you want to get the job done. Another weakness can be time management, but make sure you name the steps you take to beat that problem. You will look like a problem solver when you show them what you did to fix a flaw.
What Salary Are You Looking For?
You don't have to answer this question at the interview, and you can try to deflect this question until you've received an offer. Tell the interviewers that you want to hold off on salary talk until the both of you know that you're right for the job.
Why Do You Want to Work For Us?
Read everything you can about the company, including the website, news articles, profiles of employees, and any tidbits on LinkedIn. If you or your friends know employees at the company, ask if they can speak to you about what the company is like.
Try to get a sense of what the company culture is and what its goals are. Once you've done your homework, you need to figure out how the company ties into your own career path and future.
Where Do You See Yourself in a Few Years?
Think about how you can move forward from the position you're eyeing. Figure out the natural career track and tailor your answer to the company. Try to be honest but not to the point where you make yourself look like an unattractive candidate, such as saying you want to work for their competitor or something too personal like becoming a mom. Stick to professional examples; they don't want to hear about your personal life plan.
Are You Interviewing With Other Companies?
Try not to spend too much time on this question and answer briefly. A simple yes and mentioning the fact that you're open to opportunities will do the trick. You can also say that this particular job is your first choice. Remember: honesty is always the best policy, and don't lie and say you're interviewing at certain companies when you're not.
What Can You Do For This Company?
There are several versions of this question, including, "What will you do when you're at [job position x]?" When you're preparing for the interview, think about why you would do a good job at the position and what steps you would take to achieve that.
Bring in new ideas and examples of what you have done in the past that have benefited your previous companies. One trick that will help the company visualize you in the position is to tell them exactly what you'd do in the first two weeks at the job. Be specific about what you'd like to accomplish, so it's more believable and impressive.
Why Do You Want to Leave or Why Did You Leave Your Current Job?
It's understandable if you were laid off given the rocky economy or circumstances beyond your control. You don't have to share the dirty details, but you should be truthful and mention that your company had to let go of X number of people or the department was being restructured.
If you are leaving because of a negative situation, be sure not to badmouth your old company or boss. It just reflects badly on you if you do. You can focus on the fact that you're looking for growth and that you feel this company feels like the step in the right direction.
Do You Have Any Questions For Me?
Asking good questions can reveal a lot of your personality and can be the most important part of the interview. Take some time to craft very personal, well thought-out questions that require more than a "yes" or "no" answer.
Don't ask questions that seem to be too assuming and that make you sound like you think you got the job. Don't try to focus on pay, benefits, and getting promoted. Focus more on what you can do for the company and not what the company can do for you.
Use your judgment during the interview on how many questions are appropriate.
When Did You Have to Deal With Conflict in the Office, and How Did You Resolve It?
Be careful when you're addressing this question and make sure that you're not bitter or negative in your answer. You should always be positive because this reflects the fact that you handle conflict well. Talk about a problem you faced (preferably not something you created), and detail the steps you proactively took to resolve the problem. The best examples will come from your past experiences.
Testing Your Knowledge and Experience
Make sure what you can live up to your claims in your résumé and cover letter, because your interviewer may try to test your knowledge and experience.
For example, they might ask you questions in your field or get your professional opinion on some current events happening in your expertise. Another way to test your knowledge is to walk you through a sample scenario you might face in this new job, and ask you how you would solve the issue.
The best way to prepare for these questions is to read up as much as you can about the industry that you're applying to, and brush up on items in your past. Give yourself time to think about how you would tackle the problem they present to you, and don't rush your explanation. Even if you don't arrive at the conclusion the hiring manager is looking for, they may be impressed by your thought process.
Tell Me About Your Achievements
It's your time to shine when you talk about your achievements. Make sure you're preparing ahead of time for this question.
Write down three possible past wins relevant to the company and position you're applying to, and practice articulating your answers. Do your best to be specific and possibly throw in numbers to really back up your answers. For example, saying something like, "As a result of achievement X, revenue numbers increased by X percent year over year." This will really show your hiring manager how you added value to your past company's growth and reveal your worth as an employee.
Tell Me About Your Failures
Be careful when picking which failures to talk about because it can either be a hit or miss answer.
Be honest in your answer. Don't pick a weak example, where the failure wasn't truly a flop. It's very telling if you're uncomfortable with the question. The interviewer may see you as someone who can't take responsibility for her mistakes and grow from it.
You want to make sure that whatever you mention, you're able to explain how you bounced back stronger than ever and how you took steps to make sure that the mistake never happened again.
How Would Your Co-Workers Describe You?
It's time to talk yourself up! Highlight your positive traits, and make sure you're not bringing up your flaws. You should only bring up negative things if you're asked to do so.
Think back on what your co-workers and bosses have said about you in your past reviews. This will help you formulate your answer.
What Was Your Last Salary?
Remember, you don't have to reveal anything you're not comfortable with to the hiring manager. You can answer this question indirectly by giving the interviewer a range you're expecting.
Liz Ryan, CEO of consulting firm The Human Workplace, writes in a LinkedIn post, "When we call the plumber because our tub drain is clogged, we don't ask, 'What did you charge the guy down the block to unclog his drain last week?' If we do, the plumber is going to say, 'My rate is $95 an hour. Do you want me to come over or not?'"
She suggests responding to this salary question with, "In this job search, I'm looking for jobs in the $95,000 to $100,000 range. Is that in the ballpark?"
The best way to prepare for this question is to figure out how much salary you want to be paid.