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How to answer job interview questions

Updated on September 13, 2011

How to answer job interview questions feeling prepared

Job interview questions are not very easy to tackle and this is often times due to the uneasy calm that pervades the job interview situation. Most times the balance is tilted against the prospective employee as he faces a flurry of questions from his interviewer. This situation is further aggravated if there are several other applicants/candidates being interviewed for the same position.

There is something that must be made known to every job applicant and that is – job interviews are often times a test of suitability by the employer who wants the best for his organization or establishment (the most qualified and capable applicant for the job). No employer in his/her right mind will want to employ people for frivolous reasons such as liking the applicant’s skin colour, height, or accent but rather they will want to assess whether the applicant possesses qualities that will add value to their organisation’s goals and objectives. Qualities like; work compatibility or suitability and qualification and these can be deciphered by asking questions that affect the applicant’s personality (interests, personal goals, level of team spirit and objectives), work history, skill set, academic and professional qualifications as well as a preference for a particular industry.

The ideal job interview scenario is one in which both the applicant and the interviewer are in good terms both talking to each other like friends but still maintaining the integrity of the interview. Regardless of whether the interview is being conducted by an individual or a panel, the applicant/candidate should remember that an interview is a test and every test has a result.

Employers find undesirable, candidates who have as their primary motive any of the following;

1. Wanting a high paying job

2. Being attracted to employer’s benefit package

3. Not having sufficient self motivation and for the job

4. Too frequent job changes

Among many other reasons.

Of all the criteria used in assessing suitability work experience is the most important for most job positions however for entry level jobs and other less sensitive positions personality, especially where a good work attitude and self motivation are demonstrated are preferred sometimes to qualifications.

The kind of questions usually asked by interviewers cover the following areas;

1. Work history or work experience

2. Qualification (professional and Academic)

3. Personality

4. Career goals and objectives

5. Skill set

Questions about work history are always asked in such a way that a person’s understanding and preparedness for a job are revealed. An employer will be delighted to employ an experienced hand and more so if he or she is currently employed over an inexperienced person regardless of how impressive his/her resume or CV might be the only exceptions is if the position is for an internship position.

Questions about work history that could be asked include;

Have you ever been fired? If your answer is yes it must be for a forgivable offence. Gross professional misconduct is not likely to endear another employer towards you.

Tell us about your present or former employer? Bad mouthing your former employer even if you are being truthful is an automatic disqualification what makes this worse is if you are still on your present job and the interviewer knows your employer, he/she might leak word back to your boss and you know what that could mean. Try and mention both his strengths and weaknesses without being negative.

Give us a good example of what team spirit is and tell us how you have demonstrated this in the past? Simply demonstrate with your answer that you understand what it means to work as part of a team and why you believe in team work using an instance from your past when you worked as part of a group and how your part impacted the group.

What is your description of an ideal job? Be honest about what you expect your preferred job to be like. The areas you should cover include; job descriptions, work functions and requirements as well as packages and remuneration. You have to do this sensibly too so as not to appear immature or irresponsible.

Questions about qualifications could be;

How did you find your last academic examination? This is a question that requires a common sense answer. There is no right answer for this type of question just a sensible answer will do.

Briefly tell us the job of a (the position being applied for)? This question wants to find out if you are aware of the job description and requirements. Your answer should typically reveal your knowledge of the job functions and duties but above all show how those functions affect the organisation’s goals and objectives.

What do you expect the next 10 years to offer this industry? This question is intended to unravel your knowledge of the job in relation to industry trends and hence determine if you are prepared for changes especially challenging situations that might affect the job position in future.

Questions about yourself

Questions about yourself are divided into questions about your personality especially your personal attributes and your career goals and objectives.

Questions about your personality

How do you handle challenges? You should demonstrate maturity in your answer showing that you are bigger than your challenges and not the other way round. A good answer will be I take a little time off to assess the situation identifying the cause and finding a workable solution to use.

Are you a team player? For most job positions the answer should be yes why, because organizations thrive on team work and not individual effort. The exceptions are for jobs that require minimal contact with other workers such as research and analysis based jobs. Of course your answer should always be followed by a reasonable explanation on why and how you are a team player.

Tell us about yourself? You are expected to talk about your work experience, personality, skill set, career goals and other useful information about yourself that is relevant to the job.

Questions about your career goals and objectives

Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? This question wants to reveal whether you are interested in improving yourself along your career path.

Can you describe yourself in 5 or 10 years time? Same as the one above except that you are to provide concrete examples of what you wish to accomplish within that time and give good reasons why you believe such things will happen.

What are your plans for the future? Your answer should reveal career goals and methods for achieving those goals. Your prospective employer wants to know if you want a career or just a job.

Questions about skill set

What can you do for our organization? Your answer should reflect past records and evidence that you are capable of whatever you claim you can offer. Typically the organization wants a resourceful, well organized and loyal employee who will contribute his/her quota towards the organization’s overall strategy. What will make your answer even more compelling is if you can present awards or recognition given to you in the past for doing something really commendable that the organization will find useful as well.

Why should we employ you? A good example could go like this, ‘I believe myself and this company can benefit from each other. I have always wanted to work in an organization that would offer me an opportunity to grow in my career especially with regard to working among the best brains in the industry. This organization also stands to benefit from my resourceful and energetic work style which would ensure that I get things done properly and promptly thus saving the company useful man hours and avoidable costs.

What professional and personal development training have you received since you graduated from the university or college? Mention all certifications, trainings and on the job skills you have acquired in that period that are relevant to the job.

Questions to avoid answering

Never answer a question such as ‘how much would you like to be paid?’ except if you have already been offered the job. You will turn off most employers if you provide a direct answer to this question when your suitability for the job has not yet been determined. Instead avoid answering this question but if the employer keeps insisting on it give ambiguous answers such as what this company and most others in the industry offer for similar positions. Also avoid answering questions that have no relationship with the job in question.

Questions to ask your interviewer

An interview is not a one way strait. It also offers the possibility of candidates asking questions in return so when you have your chance ask good questions that will tell your prospective employer that you also mean business.

What is your company’s overall corporate strategy?

What corporate responsibility has your company been involved in of late?

What is your company’s greatest asset?

What kind of employees does your organization love to retain?

There are many more questions you could ask just ensure they are meaningful and penetrating questions.


Note that some of these questions overlap in that they fall into several categories so a question like why should we employ you? While it is a personality based question could also be a question about work history and skill set.

Also note that not all job interviews go the same way, as many employers have different goals. They often times want what’s best for them and that depends on their corporate policies and experience in dealing with former employees.


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    • profile image


      7 years ago


    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      9 years ago from United States

      This is a really great article. :) I linked to it from my hub on a similar topic. I also rated it up, useful, and awesome.


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