Questions They Might Ask

For each of these questions you should prepare an answer which is relevant to the specific position and organization for which you will be interviewed. Concentrate on the position requirements (as indicated by the job description), and the employer needs (as determined through your research). Also, take a look at Killer Attributes to see what qualities employers admire, and interviewers look for in your answers.

Common Interview Questions and Tips on Answering Them

Selling Personal Strengths:

  1. Tell me about yourself.
    This is an opportunity to sell yourself - you should look forward to it. It is one of the most frequently asked questions and usually serves as a transition from small talk to the real interview. For this question, when describing yourself with adjectives, provide brief examples to reinforce what you are saying. Remember to focus your answer on information that is relevant to the employer. You can talk about a situation outside of work provided that you can relate it to how you would behave at work and that you make the connection clear in your answer.  Be concise. Keep your answer to this question in the form of an overview.  Do not go into too much detail, and do not ramble on about irrelevant experiences.
  2. What is your greatest strength? (Or Name 3 of your strengths.)
    The question asks for the strength, skill, or asset that you feel is your best. You should be prepared to talk about several different ones. Share whatever you think will make you look the best. Give a brief description and then provide a clear example.
  3. What are your greatest accomplishments?
    Again keep your answer job related. Also, share the credit with your colleagues and co-workers or others who were involved. It is better to present yourself as part of a successful team, than to appear to be exaggerating your own contributions.
  4. Why should we hire you?
    Usually this question is asked at the end of the interview, and it therefore offers you the opportunity to give a summary of all your strong points, as well as introduce new ones. Relate your answer to what you have learned about the job, your future boss, and the needs of the company. Try to make a good impact by giving a mix of personality skills, transferable skills, and technical skil

Overcoming Negatives:

  1. Describe the biggest crisis in your life or career.
    Describe something that was real, though not necessarily the worst situation. Give an example that allows you to give positive points about how you dealt with it, and in which you came out on top. Qualities such as maturity, perseverance, emotional stability, effectiveness under stress, and sound judgment, can be focused on.
  2. What is your greatest weakness?
    Everyone has to answer this question, so don't be afraid to give a negative about yourself. Demonstrate how this weakness has affected you. Show that you have known about this weakness for a while, and that you are already trying to overcome it. The interview will not go well if you give a litany of flaws that you have no hope of dealing with.
    Another strategy is to pick something which might have a positive impression such as "I am a workaholic," or "I am sometimes too trusting," etc. Be careful, as you may appear insincere if you can't back this up with some examples.
  3. Why have you changed jobs so frequently?
    This question is really asking if you are stable and committed worker. If you have changed jobs regularly, then you will be at a disadvantage. Think carefully about your explanation for this. If there are good reasons for leaving a job, say so, and try to point out a job in which you did stay for a longer period of time, and suggest that that one reflects your true level of commitment. If there is any other indication of commitment in your life, such as marriage, point this out.
  4. Why have you been out of work so long?
    Preparation for this question is very important. Always know why you were not able to work, what you were doing, either looking for a job, or busy with something else such as schooling. It is important that your answer is feasible. Explaining the reason for a long period without work is a way of controlling the negative implications this situation implies.
  5. What is the biggest mistake you ever made?
    Try to pick a mistake that was historically less recent, preferably at least two years ago. This is due to the fact that you can give more insight to something that time has allowed you to be objective about. 

Personal Factors:

  1. What are your career goals? (Or Where would you like to be 5 years from now?)
    Be clear and definite about your goals, but do not be overly specific. Try to describe only those goals which are relevant to what the organization can help you attain, and in doing so use whatever knowledge you've gained about the organization. Your goals should reflect what kind of experience, and expertise that you would like to grow within. However, try to stay away from position titles, as they are very limiting and including them may suggest that you are not flexible and do not care about the company's needs.
  2. Are you willing to relocate?
    Always answer this question with a "yes", as this keeps the interview going, and there is always the opportunity to give up the job prospect later. Try to find out where they possibly could relocate you, and also what benefits, or incentives might be there if you decide to move. This could be such things as promotions, or moving assistance.
  3. What are your primary activities outside of work?
    You should share activities that are somewhat different from each other, so that there is a balance between self-improvement, and something such as family activities. Be aware that your activities show what kind of person you are, by shedding some light on what is important to you.
  4. What qualities do you most admire in other people?
    These qualities should be what you really admire in others, and should comprise of at least three specific ones. They will demonstrate what you strive for as ideal qualities, since what you admire in others is usually what you are like, or would most like to become.
  5. What have you done to increase your personal development?
    What the employer is trying to ascertain is if you are a growth-oriented person. This can be established by discussing such activities as seminars, courses, or personal study. Self-improvement shows that there is a willingness to adapt to job changes and to grow and contribute more within the organization.

Work Factors:

  1. What did you like/dislike about your last job?
    Keep your answer brief and positive.  Make sure that what you indicate as a dislike is not presented as a fault of the previous employer, but  rather simply an element of their situation.  Also ensure that this is not an element of the situation of the organization for which you are interviewing.
  2. 2. Tell me about your responsibilities at your last position.
    It is not necessary to give a complete list of everything that you did at your last position. Rather you should focus on those responsibilities that are relevant to this employer, or show a transferable skill or quality that you possess. Remember to mention responsibilities that were not specific to the technical aspects of the job such as supervisory or management experience.
  3. Do you work better alone or with others?
    Before answering this question you need to know the nature of the job. It may be that the interviewer is trying to assess your ability to work as a part of a team, or he may be doing just the opposite and trying to determine if you can work alone, without constant supervision. In either case you should address both sides and indicate that you are effective working as part of a team or as an individual.
  4. How do you handle pressure?
    Here you want to say that you work well under pressure, but you also want to convey that you are not a "panic worker" who does everything under pressure because of a lack of time management skills. And again you should give an example that illustrates what you are saying.
  5. Can you take direction?
    Obviously you want to answer this question with a yes, but do not leave it at that.  Tell the interviewer that you have no problem asking questions and taking direction, but emphasize that you do not need constant supervision. Give an explanation or example which demonstrates that this is true.

Educational Factors:

  1. How has your schooling prepared you for this job?
    Demonstrate how your education has helped you to prepare for this job. If you changed your mind, and are looking for a job in a different field from what your major was, provide examples of how your major has provided you with certain strengths that befit your new job.
  2. Why did you choose _______ as your major?
    This is your chance to exhibit your interest in your field if your major is related to the job that you are applying for. If, on the other hand, it is not, you should try to determine a common element or something which can be an related to both your major and the job.
  3. 3. What kind of grades did you have?
    If your grades were not good, you should prepare for this question. Give an answer that allows you to show positives, such as time spent with other extracurricular activities that developed your skills in other ways. You could also express how you had to balance your school load, with supporting yourself (a job), which was rather time consuming.
  4. What courses did you like most? Least? Why?
    Courses that you did enjoy should have some relation to the job, as that shows that you have a keen interest in knowing more. Any courses that you did not like can be unrelated to the job, and probably should be.
  5. Tell me about the most significant paper, project, or presentation that you completed during your program.
    Again, it is important to relate your answer to the position and/or to the employer. If you can not think of a project that is related, then talk about one which demonstrates a quality that you want the employer to know that you possess.

Potentially Stressful Questions:

  1. Do you want to have your boss's job?
    Although you want to appear motivated and goal-oriented, you do not want to come off as arrogant or overly ambitious. Your answer should indicate that you are not looking to take anyone's job, but that you are interested in developing your capabilities over time and would like to follow a career path within the organization.
  2. See this apple? Sell it to me.
    This type of question is not asked solely in sales. Employers from all fields want to know that you can sell ideas and concepts. They may be assessing your communication skills, and your ability to think quickly and rationally. In selling the apple (or anything else), think about its attributes and how it could be of benefit to the interviewer.
  3. Why do you want to work here?
    This is where your research is important. Answer truthfully, but also consider what the employer would want to hear. List the things that you like about the company, explain how you would fit in, and state that you would make a valuable contribution.