What Will You Be Asked At A Job Interview?
For some job interviews — especially your first one — can be nerve-wracking. The good news is, you can prepare yourself for the kinds of questions you’ll be asked. Employers tend to ask the same kinds of questions. So take a an hour or so to study the questions below and work out how you will answer each question.
You can even write out your answers, but don’t bother to memorize your answers. Just remember the gist of what you want to say. That way you’ll come off sounding natural, rather than like a computer.
As you prepare the answers to these questions, always remember the Number One Rule of Job Interviews: Always tell the truth. Why? Well, in addition to the ethical issues (and the feeling good about yourself that comes from acting ethically), the fact is, most employers will instantly fire an employee whom they discover to have falsified his or her job application. That kind of dismissal is very hard to explain away on your next job application.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t psych out the employer and try to figure out what kind of answer the employer is looking for. Understanding the purpose of the question can help you come up with an answer that’s truthful but still puts you in the best light. To help you psych out the questions, we’ve added a little advice beneath some of them.
- Be truthful, but stay positive.
What do you think are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- Everyone has weaknesses. The trick is to turn a weakness into an asset.
What’s your definition of success?
- Before you answer this, take a careful look at the company you’re applying to. If possible, talk to some of the employees and try to determine what are the driving motivators within the company. Does management talk a lot about “goals”, “excellence”, “money”? Unless it’s totally not you, use those works in your definition. (If it is totally not “you”, rethink applying for this job. You probably won’t be happy here.)
Describe an accomplishment that has given you a lot of satisfaction.
- Here the employer is looking for your ability to set goals and be persistent.
What have you learned from your mistakes?
- Everyone makes mistakes. The point is to learn from them. Stress what you learned. Don’t apologize for the mistake.
Talk about a book you’ve read recently (outside of class assignments)?
- If you read and what you read tells the employer a lot about your outside interests and whether you are committed to personal growth. Make a point of reading something that challenges your mind — and is not a novel or about sports.
Describe one of your accomplishments.
- Pick one that shows your initiative and willingness to work.
About your education:
Why did you choose your college?
- This tells a lot about your values and whether you’re a leader or follower.
Are you happy with the college you chose?
- It doesn’t matter if you are or aren’t. What matters is your reasons.
What are your majoring/minoring in?
- Tells the employer how related your education is to the job. Also, you minors (which can sometimes be surprising) reveal a lot about your personality and your creativity.
Why did you pick the courses you took?
- More about values.
How would your favorite professor describe you? Your least favorite professor?
- This is really about you, not your education. Stay positive. Mention weaknesses, too, but turn them into assets. In the case of your least favorite professor, don’t dump on him/her. (Avoid criticizing at all costs.) Remember that your least favorite professor may not perceive you in the same way that you perceive him/her.
What was your most memorable classroom experience? What was your most/least favorite class — and why?
- These questions are all similar. They want to know what turns you on.
How has college prepared you for your career?
- This isn’t so much about academics as about your ability to solve problems and take what you learned and apply it.
How would you change your college?
- Show creativity. Never complain.
Are you planning to continue your studies?
- The answer should always be “yes”, but consider first the kind of job you are applying for. Employers want you to be committed to becoming more skilled for the position, but may not want to hear that you have long-term plans to move on to a different job/career.
Who is your favorite professor or favorite supervisor. Tell me about him/her?
- Stay positive. Again this is about what turns you on. Talk about how this person motivated you.
Do you think your grades are a good indication of the type of employee you’ll make?
- If your grades are good, say “yes”, but tell them grades aren’t everything. Stress the life skills you have developed: the ability get along with others and to work in groups, the ability to see a difficult project through to the end, initiative, etc. If your grades are average or poor, remind the interviewer that grades aren’t everything and focus on other accomplishments that show you’ll make a good employee. For example, sports can be an indicator of being a good “team player”.
What’s your GPA? Are you happy with it?
- Unless it’s 4.0, the answer is “no”. They want to hear you have ambition.
Has college changed you as a person?
- The answer is always “yes”. The point is, they want to know you grow from your experiences.
Have you ever done any tutoring?
- Here they are looking for your abilities to train and motivate others.
Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you were to begin college all over again?
- They want to know you’ve learned from your experience.
About previous work experience:
What skills have your internships and part-time jobs taught you?
- In addition to the standard task-oriented skills, think outside the box to things like troubleshooting, problem-solving, communication, working in a team environment, etc. Also, consider new personality traits you may have taken on, such as persistence, patience, etc.
What kinds of things did you do outside of classes and work while in college?
- The answer to this question tells a lot about you, and not just your interests. It also shows whether you have a rounded, balanced personality and what kind of jobs you might do well at. For example, if you were a zoo volunteer, it might show that you like working with people (zoo visitors) and are interested in the environment. It’s a good idea, as you answer this question, to think about how the skills required for your pastime could be transferred to the job you’re applying for.
What have your experiences outside the classroom taught you?
- Think not just about your work experiences, but also about volunteer work, after-school activities, sports, etc. Relate those to skills you can use on the job.
About your future:
What do you want to do in life?
- This question assumes that you won’t be happy with the entry-level job you’re applying for. The best answer presents the job you’re applying for as a first step in reaching a long-term goal.
What are your long-term career objectives — and how do you plan to achieve them?
- This question is similar to the one above. In addition, it tests your ability to set realistic, achievable goals and devise strategies to reach them. Spend some time researching how one moves up in your field and you’ll come out smelling like roses.
Looking down the road five years, what do you see yourself doing?
- This question tells a lot about your beyond your goals – whether you’re ambitious, how realistic you are, whether you’re a doer or a dreamer. It pays here to do some research about your planned career. Find out from others in the field how far you can get in 5 years. It’s doubtful that you’ll be the president of a corporation, but you should be able to achieve a management position, for example, or have made a significant contribution to your company’s goals. It’s best not to think in terms of salary. Too much focus on money indicates a job-hopper. Instead, concentrate on how you can fit into the company that you’re applying to. Learn something about the career path within the company. If you aim too high, your potential employer is going to think that you’ll leave his organization if your goals aren’t realized. On the other hand, if you aim too low, it will appear you haven’t any motivation.
About the job:
Which do you consider more important — the job you do or the money you make?
- In most circumstances, it should be the first. However, some jobs, such as working in a boiler room (a term that means an office that has a lot of sales people selling things over the phone), see money as a primary motivation.
What makes you go the extra mile?
- This is really about you, not the job. They want to see you passionate about your work.
Why should I hire you?
- A hard question. Unless you really are better than everyone else, the best approach is to summarize the skills you have and show how the match perfectly to those needed on the job. Also, talk about your experience. Coming fresh out of high school or university, it’s not likely you have much, but think how the activities you’ve engaged in relate to the job. Someone who raised a lot of money for a club project, for example, is probably good sales or management potential.
Describe the ideal job.
- It should sound a lot like the job that you’re applying for.
What about you will make you successful?
- Describe your personality, skills, knowledge and experience. These should match the job you’re applying for.
What do you think it takes to be successful in this company?
- The best way to answer this is to do some research. Look at the company’s literature and web site. Talk to employees of the company. And listen carefully at the interview. You may get some clues.
Do you work well under pressure?
- In today’s fast-paced work environment, you had better.
Why do you want this job?
- This is about what motivates you.
Tell us about our company?
- Research, research, research! This question shows whether or not you’re really interested in working there.
What interests you about our products?
- More research.
What do you know about our competitors?
- Even more research.
What criteria are you using to choose companies to interview with?
- Obviously, you don’t want to tell them that you found them in the phone book. Good buzz words here are things like “quality”, “leadership in the field”, “give me a challenge”, “technology leader”, “innovative”, “excellent work environment”, “help me develop (or use) my potential”. Money should not be on your list.
What kind of promotions and salary increases do you expect?
- This is a good question to answer with a question or two to find out what company policies and opportunities are. Generally, most businesses give you a raise each year. You should expect regular annual performance and salary reviews. If you’re in the kind of job that has a career track, you should move up each year. It pays to ask about opportunities for advancement. Many large companies target young employees with a lot of potential for a fast-track management advancement program. If you’re really interested in moving up, check whether the organization you’re applying to has one.
Are you willing to relocate? What if the job requires travel?
- It’s best to be flexible, but be honest or you could be put in an awkward position.
What other jobs/companies have you applied for/with?
- Don’t let yourself look like you’ve got all your eggs in one basket. Pick the leaders in the field.
What qualities would you look for in someone applying for this position?
- Yours, of course.
How well do you work with people? Would you rather work alone or with others?
- You need to know something about the job before you answer this. Most companies like to see team players, but if the job you’re seeking requires a lot of solitary work, you need to be able to work alone. The best answer covers both bases, letting the employer know you can do both (after all, the promotion you may get may lead to a position requiring exactly the opposite skill.)
Describe a group project where there were difficulties and how they were resolved?
- If you have no previous job experience, don’t panic. Think about when you worked with others in clubs, teams or other situations to reach a goal.
How well do you adapt to change?
- In today’s work environment, where changes come rapidly, it pays to be flexible.
Which is more important: creativity or efficiency? Why?
- Before you answer this, research the job skills needed. It’s best to be balanced, though. Companies value both creativity and efficiency. The greatest, most creative idea in the world is no good if it costs the company too much to develop it.
About your career:
What rewards you expect to gain from your career?
- Focus on personal growth.
What do you expect to be earning in five years?
- Research what is reasonable!
What do you expect to be earning after you graduate?
- More research.
Why did you choose this career?
- They want to know what turns you on