How to Respond To Frequently Asked Interview Questions

Apr 1, 2000 (Updated Dec 27, 2003)

The Bottom Line Advice on what questions to prepare for during the interview process.

The main objective to a job interview is to thoroughly communicate your abilities and skills to an employer. However, when I recently conducted an interview workshop for college seniors, I discovered that many of the candidates came across as being unprepared for the interview questions. Preparation for the interview is necessary, because most hiring decisions are made after the first interview. Although no interviewer or company is the same in their interview style, there are standard industry formats and questions to help better prepare you for the interview. Ultimately, you are providing the employer with specific examples of why they should hire you.

The key components of a standard interview format are:
a) The greeting and small talk (this is where the applicant and employer establish rapport),
b) Company and position overview,
c) Transitional questions (these questions allow the employer to learn more about your work experience, education, and skills), and
d) Closing (The interviewer asks if you have questions for them and raps up the interview)

Some Examples of Frequently Asked Interview Questions Are::

1) Tell me about yourself. This is a standard introductory interview question that is targeted toward your professional experience, so avoid providing personal disclosures. Discuss your work and educational background, and use the information listed on your resume as talking point guidelines for the discussion. Keep your answers short and to the point. Be positive when discussing previous employers. (I actually prefer to ask “Tell me about your work experience and educational background.” to avoid leading the applicant into personal discussions of marital status, age, hobbies, etc.)

2) Why did you choose to apply for this position? Before the interview, be sure to research the company. Learn as much specific information about the company as you can, such as: the industry, size, culture, history, mission and philosophy. Let the employer know why you chose to apply based on the information from your research. (Never say that you applied because of the money!) Describe your past work or educational experiences that may be a comparable fit to those of the prospective employer. Give answers that support that you will make valuable contributions to company’s specific goals.

3) What are your strengths? This is an excellent opportunity to discuss your special skills traits, or talents, such as: communication skills, leadership skills, organizational skills, innovation or being a team player or problem solver.

4) What are your weaknesses or areas of development? I have interviewed several applicant who could list several strengths, but no weaknesses. By not responding they ended up looking egotistical. This can be complicated, because you also do not want to give the employer too much to think about. The best way to get out of this question is to use a weakness that may also be viewed as a strength. “I need to recognize that that I cannot control the actions of others" or "Although I consider myself to be computer proficient, I feel that I could always learn more about HTML and different programs and functions.” Provide a solution or a plan in which you are dealing with your weakness.

5) Do you consider yourself flexible? Share an example of a time where you have been flexible in your school or work schedule. This helps determine your own self –assessment and fit for the position. Give result-oriented examples.

6) Are you competitive? This is another self-assessment question. Many people believe that they should respond “no”, when actually the response should usually be “yes”. For example: “Although I enjoy working as team, I also like to be recognized and contribute to the organization on my own individual merit.” In many industries (such as sales), competition is encouraged, so it is good to be somewhat competitive.

5) What other types of careers have you considered? This type of question is a skills assessment and helps identify interpersonal skills. For example, a teacher would be a good alternate career choice for a trainer or manager, because of the mentoring.

6) What do you like to do in your spare time? This question offers insight into your social or interpersonal behavior, and a scope of your personality.

7) How do you handle stress? This question determines your adaptability under pressure. Provide specific examples of stressful situations that you have dealt with and handled well. Employers want to hire people who can demonstrate grace under pressure and adaptability.

8) Which of your past positions did you enjoy most? This answer should explain your cultural, environmental, or leadership style. Keep your responses achievement and task oriented.

9) How would you describe yourself as a manager? An employee? A co-worker? Emphasize your leadership and team player skills, and incorporate your initiative and adaptability in your answers.

10) Are there certain things that you feel more confident in doing than others? What are they and why? This is another self assessment question that you should turn into a positive spin. For example, “I do not feel comfortable giving constructive criticism to someone else, but I when I have to I approach that person with a positive manner.”

11) What are your salary expectations? Ask what salary range the job is classified in or the salary range for similar positions in the company, rather than asking for too little or too much. If the employer doesn’t provide an answer, then give a range of what your salary expectations based on your credentials.

12) Do you have any questions for me? This is the opportunity to find out unanswered questions. Keep the question the questions brief (1 or 2) and company specific. (For example: “Are benefits available with the position?”)

Identify the meaning behind the question. The employer is trying to learn more about your skills, initiative and experience with each question to decide if they should hire you. The questions I have listed should serve only as a guideline to prepare for the interview. Remember to be a natural, but professional version of your true self. Good luck!

Here’s some more career search and interview advice that may be of interest:
Tips For A Successful Job Search

How to Avoid Getting your Resume Placed in the "Not Recommend" File

Interview Do’s and Don’ts

Pre-Employment Testing: Just When You Thought Your Test Taking Days Were Over!

What to Expect & How to Prepare for a Telephone Interview

How to Prepare for and What to Expect from a Second Interview

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