Common Interview Questions and the Best Responses
Common Interview Questions and their Best Responses
Interviewing can be an intimidating experience, however there are many things one can do in preparation to gain confidence and ease those nerves! Before I delve into the most common questions that are asked in an interview, allow me to run through these preparations.
1. Dress Appropriately - First impressions are a big deal. The first thing your interviewer will see when you walk in is the way you present yourself, so obviously you will want to start the interview by impressing them with your attire. To put it in the words of Barney Stinson from CBS' How I Met Your Mother..."Suit Up!" Both men and women should be in business suits. Women have a little more leniency on the matter, so if you cannot find or afford a suit, dress slacks with a matching blouse will do. Be sure to have matching shoes that are not scuffed and as polished as possible. Men should have a matching tie, and no white socks!
You should be neatly groomed as well. Hair should be clean, combed, and not all over the place. Earrings are fine for women, but any and all facial piercings should be removed for an interview. Similarly, cover up any and all tattoos, and do not chew gum. Last, but not least, on your attire includes your cell phone. LEAVE IT IN THE CAR! If you must have it on you, shut it off. That does not mean put it on vibrate. Turn the phone completely off.
2. What To Bring - Unless the interviewer asks you to bring something specific, you should only bring one nice looking folder/binder containing a hard copy of your resumé and a notepad for you to take notes during the interview. There is a good chance that the interviewer will already have a copy of your resume, but it is always a good idea to offer a hard copy when you arrive. If they don't take it, then it is not big deal, but if they ask for one and you didn't bring one with you, it will make you look bad. (Resumé's should be printed on quality resume paper.)
The notepad is also important. Before going to your interview, you should have a list of questions written down to ask the interviewer, because they will inevitably ask if you have any questions for them. (see the Questions To Ask section) During the interview, listen to what they are telling you about the position and the company, and take notes! Even if you don't really care about the information, write it down and look interested.
3. Research - Know the company in which you are interviewing for. Prior to the interview, visit the company website. Figure out what it is exactly that the organization does. Research the history of the company, and discover their mission statement and values. Look into the position that you are applying for and get as many specifics about the function. Also, look into the company culture and be able to explain why you would make a good addition to their team.
4. Practice - It is always a smart idea to practice an interview before going to the real one. Have a friend or family member sit down with you as if they were the employer. Have them ask you some questions (see Common Questions) and answer them as if you were really interviewing. You will probably laugh, but gain your composure and take it seriously. It will help.
5. Hand Shake - To help make a good first impression, you will need a strong handshake. An employer will receive a strong handshake as a sign of confidence. You can also get a friend or family member to help you practice a handshake as well. It may seem like a minor detail, but if you are equally as qualified as the next candidate but you went in for the handshake with a limp wrist, there is a good chance that will make the difference in who gets hired!
6. Common Questions - Okay, now lets take a look at some of the most common questions that you will be asked during an interview, and their appropriate responses:
Tell me about your last job.
Make sure you are prepared with information about your most recent position. Even if you hated your job, you should pretend like you enjoyed it. You don't want a potential employer thinking that you don't like to work! Describe the responsibilities and duties of your last job. Tell them what type of a job it was; i.e. customer service, sales, human resources. If you were in a supervisory role, tell the interviewer how many employees reported to you on a daily basis. Chances are you were at your job for a while, so relax and simply explain what it was you did everyday!
Why do you want to work for this company?
You have applied for the job and done the research, so it should be a no brainer as to why you want to work for the company. Something must have drawn you to apply, so simply tell them why you applied for the position. It is just common sense.
Tell me about a time that you had to deal with a tough customer. What was the situation and how did you resolve it?
Again, this is a common sense answer. No matter what job you have had, you have undoubtedly dealt with a disgruntled customer. Recall a time when a customer you were dealing with was unhappy about something, and tell the interviewer the story. They are most interested in how you resolved the issue, so spend less time on the customer aspect of the story, and more time describing how you came to the rescue.
If you had to describe yourself with one word, what would it be?
This is never an easy question, especially when you're not prepared for it. The best way to come up with an answer ahead of time is to ask your friends and family that exact question. Tell them to describe you in one word, and pick the one that would most apply to the position you are interviewing for.
What did you like most about your previous job?
Like I said before, you may have hated your previous job, but there must have been something about it that you enjoyed. Maybe you liked the people you worked with, or your schedule. Pick one and describe why you liked it. It is always a good idea to try to relate it to the position you are interviewing for. If you liked your employees, tell the interviewer that you liked being a part of a team that had to work together to solve problems. The interviewer will want to see what you learned from your prior position, and how you will we able to use that in your new job.
What did you like least about your previous job?
You do not want to come off as hating your last job, so pick something negative about the position that can be improved by this new position. Perhaps your manager did not listen to suggestions that you may have had to make your job (and maybe everyone else's job) easier. Tell the interviewer that you had some good ideas that you tried to share with your supervisor, but they were ignored. You are now looking for a position that your input is welcome and will be considered.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Even if you have no intention of staying with this company for a long time, you will want to give that impression. The interviewer is looking for someone they can develop and move up and around the company. It is costly for employers to hire and train employees, so the fewer times they have to do so, the better. Explain to the interviewer that you are looking for a position that will allow for upward mobility. In five years, you would like to be in a position that is further down your career path. Make THAT your point when answering this question.
What are your goals?
This question is very similar to the previous question. The answer should also be similar. You want to stress the fact that you want to move up within the company, and that you are not looking for a stagnant job.
What are your strengths/weaknesses?
I will be honest, I have never been asked these questions, but every business school and publication on interviewing will tell you to be able to give a solid answer. Some examples of strengths could be; time management skills, organization skills, communication skills, cooperation, a quick learner, and perhaps experience in the field that you are interviewing for. You want to pick the strengths that will most benefit the company you are trying to join. Coming up with weaknesses is often much harder for the interviewee, but you must think of something that you could improve upon and spin off as a potential strength. For example, you may have a tough time relying on co-workers to get their share of the work done and feel that you must do more than what you have been assigned. You can convey this is a weakness, however if you word it properly, the interviewer will see this as you taking initiative to go above and beyond the call of duty.
7. Questions To Ask - As stated above, you should be prepared with a few questions to ask the interviewer when you are given the opportunity. Here a few good questions you should ask:
- How many applicants are there for this position?
- What is the next step in the interview process?
- When are you looking to fill the position?
- What kind of training will I receive?
- Will there be periodic reviews of my work?
One last aspect of an interview that may or may not apply is a criminal record. Most employers will do a background check to look at your credit history, criminal record, and consumer report. If you happen to have something that will show up on a background check, you will do yourself a huge favor by being honest with the interviewer. They will not ask you about it, so wait for an opportunity at the end of the interview to mention it. If it is an issue, you will know right away, but for the most part, as long as you are up front about your record, they will likely look past the incident.
The best piece of advice that I can give is to be confident, and the best way to gain confidence for the interview is to know what you are talking about. As my high school biology teacher once said, "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail." This could not be more true. If you are not prepared, your interview will not go well and you will not be hired.
- Helpful Books, Tools, and Other Stuff - Books
Here are some books that will help you answer the tough interview questions!
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