Practice makes perfect, and that includes job interviews. How many times have you been asked that tought question and didn’t have a good answer? We’ve included some typical (and sometimes challenging) interview questions along with some suggested answers. While specific answers are impossible to provide, the responses provided below should help you in crafting your own responses. When in doubt, practice answering these sample interview questions with friends or relatives.
1. Tell me about yourself –
This is the dreaded, classic, open-ended interview question and likely to be among the first. The interviewer wants to know information that is pertinent to the opportunity. Focus on what you can bring to the job.It’s your chance to introduce your qualifications, good work habits, etc. Keep it mostly work and career related.
2. What do you know about our company? –
This is where “doing your homework” (see 8 Resources to Help Find the Right Company for Your Next Job). Ensure you’ve done your research on the company and industry before the interview. Hiring managers not only want to know that you are qualified for the job, they want to know that you know their company and want to work there.
3. Why do you want to leave your current job? (Why did you leave your last job?)
The first rule of thumb is to be nice and to not speak poorly of your current company, coworkers or managers. Focus on answers that speak to “looking for new opportunities”, “looking to learn more about the industry”, “looking for more responsibilities”.
4. Why do you want to work for us?
Similar to question number 2 above, your research on the company should help. If you know someone who works (or has worked) at the company, leverage their insight and experience. Leverage your LinkedIn connections to get some data or use sites such as Glassdoor.com.
5. What are your strengths?
Now is not the time to be shy. While you don’t want to spend 15 minutes talking about your strengths, you do want to focus on those strengths that make you an excellent candidate for the job. Keeping that in mind, you know what question probably comes next.
6. What are your weaknesses?
Everybody has weaknesses, and you really don’t want to spend too much time on this one and you definitely want to keep it work related. Along with a minor weakness or two, try to point out a couple of weaknesses that the interviewer might see as strengths, such as sometimes being a little too meticulous about the quality of your work or wanting to please everyone. Do not use “I work too hard.” For every weakness, offer a strength that compensates for it.
7. Why should we hire you?
Point out your positive attributes related to the job, your related work experience and specific job/industry related skills. Include any accomplishments from your current or prior employer(s).
8. What motivates you and makes you want to work hard?
Motivating factors can be self-serving, such as “I want to become the best at this”. Hiring managers are looking for answers that demonstrate characteristics you possess that will help them decide if you’re going to be a good fit for the organization such as whether or not you a team player, do your values align with the job and the company. Most importantly, can they work with you. Focus more on achievement and the satisfaction you derive from it.
9. How do you handle pressure and stress?
Another challenging question. Everybody feels stress, but the degree and how people handle it varies. Saying that you whine to your shrink, kick your dog or slam down a fifth of Jack Daniels are not good answers. Projecting your stress into positive activities is the way to go, such as exercising, relaxing with a good book, socializing with friends or turning stress into productive energy.
10. Explain how you overcame a major obstacle or challenge.
This is an opportunity for you to communicate your problem-solving and critical thinking abilities. The interviewer is likely looking for a particular example of your problem-solving skills and the pride you show for solving it. Explain what you accomplished and how you did it. The hiring manager is interested in learning how you approach a challenge. Your thought process and problem solving skills are key parts of your answer.
Emphasize the outcome and what you learned from your experiences.
11. Where do you see yourself five (ten or fifteen) years from now?
This question is older than time and I sometimes find it hard to believe that interviewers still ask this (but many do). You should have a career plan and you can use this opportunity to explain your career-advancement goals and how they align with the job for which you are interviewing. Mention that you’d like to earn a senior or management position with additional responsibilities.
12. What type of work environment do you like best?
Again, having done research on the company will help quite a bit here. Much of your answer depends on the type of job. For example, if the job requires independent research (so you are sometimes working on your own), you should also indicate that you enjoy being a team player when needed, but also enjoy working independently. Mention that you’re a strong team player and work well within a collaborative environment.
13. Why do you want this job?
Focus on what originally attracted you to the opportunity. Avoid the obvious and meaningless, such as, “I need a job.” Stress that (based on your research) this is a great company (give reasons why). Describe what you think the (positive) challenges of the role will be and why that appeals to you.
14. What qualifies you for this job?
Speak to those skills, experience and education that specifically align to the role and industry. Explain why your achievements and experience are a great fit, give specific examples. Emphasize that you will bring fresh ideas to the role, you adapt quickly. Mention that you are dependable, goal-oriented and that you work well in teams.
While you can only be so prepared for the unexpected question, the most powerful tool you can have and use in your interview is your skills and your experience. Prior to the interview, spend time thinking about all of the challenges and successes you’ve had in your career.
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Good luck in your search,