Preparation is essential for any job interview. Whether the job you are applying for is just a part-time position to make extra cash, or a full-time salaried career job, you should never assume that you are going to ace the interview without mentally preparing yourself at the very least. There are some common questions that are asked during interviews, and if you aren’t prepared to answer them, you will seem unsure of yourself, which can be damaging to you during an interview.
You should always know information about the company you are applying for, even if it’s just some quick facts or history of the company. Sharing your knowledge of their business will show that you care about the position you are applying for and respect the job enough to learn more about it beforehand.
Take a look over your resume or application that you filled out before the interview to refresh your own memory about your past job experiences. The interviewer will have a copy of this in front of them, and will be basing many questions about your past based on it. Be sure to have dates of previous employment, as well as your last salary, fresh in your mind in case they ask you for specifics.
Be professional and dress appropriately for the interview, and be sure to arrive there on time, or even better, five to ten minutes early. Always shake your interviewer’s hand when you first meet and call them by name if possible, remembering to thank them for taking the time out of their busy schedule to meet with you. Be enthusiastic and positive throughout the interview, and remember to smile.
Those are just a few tips to remember before the interview. You should also review the list of possible questions that you may be asked. You are sure to encounter quite a few of these any time you interview somewhere, so it is always best to prepare ahead of time by reading through them, and knowing what your answers to them will be.
Common Interview Questions about Yourself
Tell Me About Yourself…
This is one of the first questions you will be asked at almost any interview. It is ambiguous, and can be difficult to answer for those who aren’t prepared for it. The key to answering this question is to understand that the interviewer isn’t really asking about your personal history. Keep the focus in your answer to specifics about yourself as it pertains to the company and the job you are applying for, such as your experiences in your previous field of employment and what you liked about it, and the strengths that you brought into it. Be sure to also mention what you are hoping this job position will do for you, and why you wanted to apply there.
What is your greatest weakness and your greatest strength?
These are two other common questions that may take a bit of thought to answer them well. It is always good to have an answer ready for these questions before the interview, so you don’t wind up scrambling for something to say when asked. When describing a weakness, it is best to make that weakness into a positive, such as being too much of a perfectionist and spending too much time on tasks to get them exactly right. Describing strengths will be a little easier, but try to highlight skills that pertain to the job you are applying for and that will be seen as benefits for doing the job if hired.
How do you react in stressful situations?
The interviewer is trying to determine with this question how well you handle stress in a work environment. The job may have some potential stress factors that come with it, and they want to make sure that you will be able to handle it in a calm and professional manner. If you thrive under pressure, or are able to deal with stressful situations calmly, those are good responses to this question. Answer as truthfully and positively as possible, and also include examples of how you’ve handled stress in past jobs to illustrate your response.
Describe a difficult situation you’ve encountered in the past and how you overcame it.
This is another tough question that should be thought through carefully beforehand. There is really no right or wrong answer to this. The interviewer is just trying to ascertain how you handle different situations, as with the stress question, in an attempt to determine how you will handle future difficulties if hired. Give specific examples by relating what the problem was that you encountered, and then discuss specifically what you did to resolve the issue. They are looking for your response to situations, so be sure to highlight your role and not other workers who may have helped. Be sure to have a few good examples in hand before the interview begins, and choose the best one from those that you think will help illustrate your strengths in overcoming obstacles.
Do you prefer working by yourself or with a team?
This question can be a little tricky to answer. The interviewer is trying to discover if you’re a team player or if you would rather work independently. Depending on the job, working independently might be something they are looking for, as well as being able to work with others, so being comfortable with both is the ideal answer. Again, give examples that illustrate your answer to this question in a positive manner, such as a time you worked in a team-like setting and by yourself on a project, and relate how well you did in both settings.
Common Interview Questions about Your Past Jobs and Experiences
What were your responsibilities in your past job?
It’s important to be honest when answering this question, as the interviewer can reference your resume and may speak to your past employer about you. Describe the specific tasks that you were responsible for in detail. Try to focus more on the responsibilities that also relate to the job you are applying for. This way, it is clearly demonstrated to the interviewer that you have the required qualifications.
What was your best accomplishment / worst failure in your past job?
The interviewer is looking to see what you consider to be successes or failures, as well as finding out what you accomplished and learned in your previous experiences. Think this question through carefully before the interview, and use an example of a success that can relate back to the job you are interviewing for. Be sure to explain the reasons why you feel it was your best accomplishment. As for the failure part of the question, if you didn’t feel you failed at anything at your past job, it is okay to say that. However, you might want to relate a minor incident that you can then turn back into a positive. For example, if a project you were leading was behind schedule, you can share how you reassigned tasks and managed your time better to get back on track.
What did you like and dislike about your past job?
For this question, focus more on yourself, rather than specific things about the job that you liked or didn’t like. Don’t be too negative and badmouth your previous company. You don’t want your future employer to think that you will do the same about them. Instead, you can say things about how you enjoyed the people and the environment, or discuss specific tasks that you did well on and really enjoy doing. As for disliking anything about your previous job, a good answer would be that you did not feel challenged enough in the position you held, and that there was no room for advancement.
Have you ever had problems working with a manager?
Be very careful with this question. You do not want to sound like you are complaining about someone or portray that you are difficult to manage. Chances are, the person who is interviewing you might be one of your supervisors if you are hired. Again, look for a situation that you can make into a positive experience, such as working through communication issues with a manager so that you were able to work together better.
Why are you leaving / did you leave your present job?
Depending on the manner of your unemployment, honesty is usually the best policy for this question. If you were fired from your previous position, explain why this was a positive change for you and things that you have learned from that experience. If you left of your own accord, or are looking to leave, explain your reasons for doing so, and again make them as positive as possible. A good tip is to explain why leaving your previous company was beneficial for you. Try to relate it back to the job you are applying for as well, such as looking for a better career path, or seeking new challenges or opportunities that this job can offer you that the previous employer couldn’t.
Common Interview Questions about the Job and Company You are Applying For
Why do you want this job?
Explain to your interviewer why this job is essentially made for you. Describe how your qualifications and background make you an ideal candidate. Be sincere and enthusiastic about why you would enjoy working in this position, as well as listing the benefits you could bring to the company.
What do you know about the company?
This question is very important to the interviewer. They want to know how much time you’ve invested into researching their company, and how much you already know about it. You should have taken the time before the interview to do some extensive research. Be sure to have facts and general knowledge ready to go when this question is asked. It will make a good impression on your future employer.
What do you consider to be good customer service?
There are two parts in answering this question. Describe in detail your idea of what exemplary customer service is as it pertains to the company you are applying at, and then also discuss how you would be able to provide that level of service if hired.
What experiences do you have that qualifies you for this position?
Be very specific when answering this question. Discuss your previous responsibilities and tie them back to the tasks that you will be responsible for in your new position, and explain why these previous experiences can help you in your new tasks.
How long will you expect to work here, if hired?
Most companies are looking for a long-term employee who will remain with the company for a while. Answering that you will only be there for a short amount of time will most likely not impress the interviewer, unless the position is for a temporary employee. Be sure to be honest and positive with your answer to this question. If this is a job you think you will be at for the next twenty years, explain that to them and also tell them why you believe that. Your sincerity will reiterate your enthusiasm for the opportunity to work there.
Common Interview Questions about the Future
What are you looking for in your next job?
For this question, the interviewer is trying to see if the goals you have are a match for the job that is being offered. As you should have a good understanding of the position you applied for, be sure to tailor your response honestly so that it directly relates to the tasks you will be performing if hired. Good responses include a positive working environment where your skills are utilized to their best potential, and a fulfilling career with opportunities for advancement.
Where do you see yourself in the next five or ten years?
This is a very common question for most interviews. Connect your answer to the position you are applying for, and not personal goals like raising a family or buying a house. Good responses can be anything from a top-performing employee, somewhere along the company career path, or in a managerial position within the company.
What are your career goals?
This question is used to determine if you are a focused individual with set goals in mind to work towards, or if you just jump when you see a new opportunity. A good way to answer this question is to start by describing your career path up to this point, and how you came to make the decisions that led from one step to the next. Try to show, if possible, that you can stay on track and focused to reach goals that you set yourself, while also demonstrating that you thought decisions through before making them.
Tips on Concluding the Interview
After the interviewer has finished their questions, they will most likely ask if you have any questions for them. You should have a few prepared, but be sure they are not obvious questions that you could easily find out by visiting the company website. Your questions should reflect your knowledge of the company and also reflect the job that you are interested in, such as management style or opportunities for advancement, and also when the position will need to be filled. Another good question to ask is what the interviewer himself or herself likes about working for the company and in the workplace.
Keep in mind that there are a few questions you should not ask after a first interview. Questions about drug testing, background checks, and if they are going to contact previous employers are all indications that you might be hiding something, so refrain from asking these. If the company requires a drug or background test, they will tell you without you having to ask them first. If you don’t want them calling a particular employer, don’t include the contact information on your resume or application.
You should also refrain from asking about time off, benefits, and the work schedule. If you receive a job offer, you can ask about these items at that time, and more than likely, they will tell you these details when they offer you the job. Asking about them during the interview can be a detriment to your chances as a potential employee, as it will make them think that your top priority is to get paid or receive benefits, rather than focus on the job you are hired to do.
End the interview strongly. Reiterate your interest in the position and your qualifications. Shake the person’s hand, and let them know that you are looking forward to hearing back from them. You can also make a note of who to contact later on, so that if you call back regarding your interview, you will look more professional when you know the proper person to contact regarding it.
If you don’t hear back from the company right away, wait a few days or even weeks before checking back in with them. This will allow them the time they need to conduct other interviews, as well as get hiring documents organized and ready. Either call the person who interviewed you or check back in person about the status. Doing so will help them recall your specific interview and also remind them of your eagerness for the job.
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