SOME COMMON, AND CHALLENGING, INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
Why should we hire you?
- Point to the ways in which you can contribute to the success of the project/group you would be assigned to. Mention your unique skills and/or good-for-teamwork personality traits.
Why do you want to work for us? Why did you apply here?
- Describe what you want in an employer, and what kind of working environment you prefer, but put the biggest emphasis on what you want to contribute, rather that what you want to get. For example, talk about your desire to contribute to all phases of a project from start to finish, or your desire to exercise your skills in a particular area of interest, or your desire to get involved in a particular technology or market.
What do you know about our company?
- Be prepared for this. Use the Internet, the library and trade publications to research products, services, company size, company income, corporate reputation, image, goals, problems, management talent, management style, people, skills, history, philosophy, etc.
- If you don't know very much, state that you want to know more.
Why should I take a chance on you?
- Point to your accomplishments, preferably from actual job experiences but if these are thin, then point to accomplishments in the community or volunteer activities.
- Don't point to things more than 5-7 years old unless they are extraordinary.
- If possible, state your accomplishments in terms of quantifiable impact: reduced turnover by 25%; increased profits by 40%; designed a program to service 15% more clients than before, etc.
- After citing specific accomplishments, point to the personal traits that make you attractive as a candidate, such as "willing to work and put in long hours," "motivated," “fast learner”, etc.
What will you do for us? What will you do for us that someone else cannot?
- Describe your past experience and why you were successful.
- Clearly draw the connection between your past performance and their future needs.
- Differentiate yourself from your competition. Point out special skills, training, or experiences that you feel are hard to duplicate.
- Do not forget that communication skills and team skills are key reasons people are hired. If you lack some technical skills, highlight your ability to problem-solve, work well with a variety of different personalities, and meet your commitments.
Why are you leaving your present job?
- You want to be as honest as possible -- the interviewers will be listening carefully for anything that sounds like a smokescreen.
- At the same time, you do not want to slam your current employers, or come across as whiny or hard to get along with.
- Talk about the things you have enjoyed in your current job, and why it is no longer meeting your long-term goals and your need to contribute and grow.
Describe your ideal working environment. If you could create your own job, what would it be?
Mention things like:
- In general terms – the types of supervisor/employee/coworker relationships you prefer, decision-making style, general atmosphere
- Types of role you would like to fill
- Type and scope of responsibilities you would like to have
- The resources for professional growth that you would like to tap into
- The kind of recognition/reward you wish for a job well done
What are your strong points?
Present at least 3. Connect them to the organization's goals and the job role.
What are your weak points?
- Don't say that you have no weak points… because everyone has them.
- Don’t try to twist them into assets – “I am too much of a perfectionist,” or “I work too hard,” – it sounds contrived and fake.
- Describe weaknesses which are modest and manageable. Present weaknesses which are unlikely to cause major personal conflict, or harm to the project you’re working on.
- Immediately after describing your weaknesses, describe how you are working to improve them, or how you have learned to work around them.
Tell me about yourself:
Be prepared - this open-ended question can be an open-ended trap. Interviewees, especially nervous ones, frequently say too much too fast without thinking things through.
- As they say in public relations, stay “on message”. Stick to material that has to do with why you are a good candidate for the job.
- Connect your responses about yourself to the job and the organization. (In other words, put yourself in the position of the interviewer. They DO care about your career history, they are NOT as interested in your family background or hobbies.)
- Don't ramble. Any personal information you introduce should take up 1 - 2 minutes at most.
- To guide yourself, pretend that they have asked what path has led you to their door. Describe your education, your career goals, your experiences so far, a bit about your personality, your decision to apply for this job. Then stop.
Describe your personality.
- As you talk, keep in mind that the interviewer will be putting everything you say in the frame of what you will be like to work with.
- Stick to the positive, avoid the negative.
- Describe yourself as working well with others. There are very few jobs that don’t require you to get along well with your teammates!
- Keep your answers brief.
Why haven't you found a new position before now?
- If your job search has been long, you need to explain what you have been doing since your last job.
- One of the best ways to answer this question is to point out that you have not wasted the time - you have been involved in other jobs, consulting, community projects, continuing education, or travel.
- You can also say that you have deliberately taken your time in order to fully explore your options and to avoid making the wrong choice.
Why should I hire someone who hasn't been in the workforce for 5 years?
- Just because you haven't received a weekly salary doesn't mean you haven't been working.
- List what you have done, which skills were required, and what key accomplishments you achieved.
- Talk about the ways in which you have grown, which will add value to you as a worker.
- Point out the parallels between the tasks you have been doing, and the skills required for the job (e.g. time management, multi-tasking, self-starting, etc.)
What are your objectives?
- If the interviewer does not specify whether these are short, medium or long-term objectives, break the future into 4 time frames, and give short descriptions for your goals for each one:
Describe a situation where you showed leadership/good problem-solving/conflict resolution/etc. skills.
- Don’t panic. You can take a few seconds to think this one over.
- Do prepare ahead of time, by thinking about challenging situations you have encountered over your career, and achievements you are proud of. Think about them from different angles – people skills, decision-making, grace under pressure, etc.