There is no way of predicting which questions will be asked in an interview, but by reviewing the “most common” questions you will begin to focus on how to present yourself in the most prepared and positive manner.
1. Q. “Tell me about yourself”
Any conversation when one person is getting to know another person starts with the question, “Tell me about yourself.” Whether it is in a job interview, in a media interview, a social setting, a sales call, a chance meeting with someone – this question will be asked in one way or another.
The words, “Tell me about yourself,” may not be the exact words used – but the question will be there.
“What do you do?”
“Tell us about your background.” (This is a different question than “Walk me through your resume.”)
Basically, “Who are you?”
Be able to articulate what you have to offer – particularly as a match for the requirements of the job. Give them a summary of your skills, experience and your strengths – tell them who you are in two to four minutes – depending on the circumstances. (Forget about the 30 second “elevator speech.” Whoever asked you who you were in an elevator?)
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2. Q. “Why has it taken you so long to find a job?”
It’s amazing that employers are still asking this type of question. Don’t they read what’s going on in the job market? If they were informed, they would know the answer to that question is: “Jobs are very scarce right now and unemployment is at an all time high.”
So what is the correct answer to give when you’re asked such a question in an interview? There is no “correct” answer. However, a technique that may work is to take the focus off the length of your job search and to move the focus to what you have to offer.
3. “What is your greatest weakness?”
The most dreaded question of all. Handle this question by minimizing the weakness and emphasizing the strengths. Stay away from personal qualities and concentrate on professional traits:
There is a formula for difficult questions called the Sandwich Technique.
() End with a positive statement
“I am always working on improving my communication skills to be a more effective presenter. I take every opportunity to practice speaking before groups and I recently joined Toastmasters which I find very helpful.”
4. Q. “Why should we hire you?”
Prepare and know your product – YOU!
Using your “5 points” to answer this question will assure you are focused and succinct.
Summarize your experiences: “With five years experience working in the financial industry, and my proven record of saving the company money. I could make a big difference in your company. I am known for my ability to find contacts and build long-lasting relationships. I am confident I would be a great addition to your team.”
5. Q. “Why do you want to work here?” “What attracts you to this job?”
The interviewer is listening for an answer that indicates you’ve given this some thought, and are not just sending out resumes because there is an opening. Doing research should give you plenty of reasons why you want to work there.
Example: “I’ve been searching for a company with the specific mission of helping people to get jobs. When I came across you position and began to research the company’s goals and accomplishments, I knew that this is where I wanted to work. I want to make a difference and feel good about my job and contribution to the company and to helping people.”
6. Q. “Why did you leave (are you leaving) your job?””Why do you feel you’re ready to step-up to this new position?” (internal)
This question is almost a certainty. If you are unemployed, put your leaving in a positive context: “I managed to survive two down-sizings, but the third round was a 20% reduction in force, which included me. I really liked my job and want to find one similar to what I was doing at my last company.”
If you are employed, focus on what you want in your next job: “After two years, I made the decision to look for a company that is more inline with the goals I have set for myself – mainly to get into customer service management. I know that I now have something to offer through my experiences and education.”
If it’s an internal “promotion” make sure that you give them reasons that you are ready and able to take on the challenges of a job at a higher level than your current position.
7. Q. “What are your goals?”
Why would the employer want to know this? Basically they want to know how long you’re going to “stick around.” This is a bit tricky because you may be taking a job to have a job at this time. When the economy improves you will be looking for something more in line with your goals.
Be careful not to convey this message if that is what you are doing. Be honest but state your goals in short-term and long-term goals.
Example: “You might say that I am stepping back to go forward. I believe that it is easy to lose touch with the bigger picture and I see this as an opportunity to do something different than what I have been doing. Long term I would like to assume more responsibility and move up in the organization if possible.”
8. Q. “What would you do if ….” (you had to deal with an angry customer – or use a situation that the job you are going for would be likely to be concerned about)
(This is a Situational Question and what the interviewer is looking for is your thinking process.)
Situational questions are difficult to prepare for because they can be about any imaginable situation.
If you think about it you have a natural way of solving problems – one that is yours. You automatically go through steps – whether you realize it or not.
There is a template to help you think through these answers in a focused manner.
Analyze – evaluate, Research, Develop, Implement, Evaluate
(more information is included in your materials)
9. Q. “Tell me about a time when….” “Describe a situation when….”
(when you had to deal with an angry customer – or something that the job you are interviewing for would be concerned about)
(This type of question is a behavioral question. The interviewer wants to hear about your past behavior – good and bad. If you did it before chances are that you can do it again.)
The best way to prepare for this type of question is with an example – “a story.”
Like all stories, it should include a beginning, a middle, and an end. The problem occurs with the proportions of the story. Most people focus on the beginning, skimp on the middle, and forget the ending entirely.
If you assign proportions to the story it will help you get your point across in a more succinct way.
Problem (the scenario/beginning) – 20%, Action (the plot/what you did) – 60% – Result (the end – how it turned out) 20%
Anything you say or have written on your resume is fair game for the interviewer to ask for an example. It is extremely important that you have a story – or proof – to back whatever you declare in the interview process.
10. Q. “What salary are you seeking?”
The first rule of salary negotiation is to be prepared with your numbers – your needs. You need to know what you want – expect. And, the going rate for your type of work and position. You never want to be caught off-guard.
You go to the interview prepared with the numbers you need and what you want in the way of salary. When they ask you questions about salary you are prepared and ready with answers.
When asked what your salary requirements are, you have several options.
• You can tell them what you were making at your last job. (Not recommended if you can avoid giving this number out)
• You can give them a range that is acceptable to you – making sure that the lowest number is enough to cover your basic needs. (Better way of handling this difficult question)
• You can ask them for a range that this position typically pays. (Getting them to name the number first is the best position for you)
• You can postpone the discussion until you have more facts about the company and the entire package. (If possible this is the best scenario for you. Only then will you be able to do a fair comparison of what you have made in the past; satisfy your own basic needs; and get the deal that is the best for you.)
There is no right or wrong answer, but how you handle this discussion will be key to your ability to try to negotiate a high offer.