Top 20 Interview Questions -- Part 1
Whenever you're able to speak with a recruiter about an employment opportunity--whether
it's on the phone or in person, you should be well-prepared. I've compiled a list of the 20
most often asked questions, but don't memorize anything! Rather you should understand the
principles so you don't sound like you're reciting well-practiced answers; understanding the
principles will also help you be prepared for variations of the questions below, or questions
that aren't on this list at all. The questions below should also assist you in introspection and
self improvement where needed.
The questions below are not in any particular order, so become familiar with them all.
1. Tell me about yourself. (Similar question: Tell me something about yourself that’s not
shown on your resume.)
This is a very open-ended question, and is a somewhat common one for recruiters to ask.
What we’re looking for is your ability to communicate effectively, a willingness to open up
about yourself, self confidence, and a natural enthusiasm. We’re also looking for a sense of
what type of person you are: loyal, dedicated, intelligent, and hard-working, or are you
someone just looking for a job, any job? This is your opportunity to tell the recruiter why
you’re qualified for the job. It’s also a time that you can share some of your great achieve-
ments, or how your previous experience nicely relates to the job you’re applying for. Give a
quick rundown of your experience and qualifications as they relate to this job, and you can
also touch on your work history, education, and recent work experience. Don't ramble; be
sure that your answer is to the point.
2. Why are you looking for a new job?
The answer to this one question can provide
much insight into a person's work habits and
personality traits. What I want to see are
candidates who know exactly what they want,
and where they’re going in their career; I want
candidates who have a goal in mind for their
career, and are not willing to take just any job
that comes along. You can also use this
opportunity to share what you’ve learned in
your previous positions, and how you can use
those skills moving forward.
There are many possible answers to this question, with some being acceptable, others not.
The most common answer we get is the candidate wants to advance in their career
and grow as a person and an employee, but that there’s not an opportunity to do so at
their current job. This reason is simply a common catch-all that’s sometimes true, but
oftentimes it’s not. If this person can’t advance their career with their current employer,
is it because the employer truly doesn’t have such an opportunity, or has the employer
determined that this person is not worthy of advancement? Is this a person trying to
change jobs because they feel it’s not going well and they may be terminated soon?
Or perhaps this person doesn’t have a solid idea what they really want in a career,
and they're just grasping for something new.
Termination4. What do you know about our company?
If you were fired you’ll need a good explanation as to what happened, and how you’ve
improved or learned from the experience. Be prepared with an honest and sincere
story that gives a good reason for your termination, but don’t share too much personal
information, or speak poorly of the employer. Tell why it was mutually beneficial for you
to leave, what lessons you learned, and what you would now do differently. Sometimes
there are reasons that are understandable for being terminated, but it’s important for
the recruiter to learn what the underlying reason was. Are there defects in this per-
son’s work ethic or personality that will cause them to fail at this company as well?
Maintain a positive attitude!
This is getting to be an increasingly common reason now, but it’s still important for the
recruiter to learn the underlying reasons for your layoff. One aspect of a layoff that will
probably be of interest to the recruiter is if you were one of the first people to lose
their job, or did they hang on to you until the very end? Tackle this question honestly
to address the issue of the layoff, then turn the conversation to discuss your strong
attributes, and how you can benefit this new employer.
Don’t say the current or past job doesn’t pay well enough, because it begs the
question why you would have accepted the job in the first place if the compensation
wasn’t adequate. An exception may be a sales position in which there were great
promises of large commissions that weren’t true. I’ve even heard people say they’ve
already quit their old job because it didn't pay well enough! More likely it’s a person
that was fired or on the verge of being let go, and now they’re scrambling for an
excuse--and this is a pretty weak one.
Do your homework before you go to any interview!
Whether you’re applying for the position of V.P. of
Communications or that of shipping clerk, you should
know about the company you’re applying to. What
products or service do they produce? Has this company been in the news lately? Who are
the people in the company you should know about? By investigating the company, you’ll
stand out as someone who comes prepared, is genuinely interested in the company and the
job, and is willing to put in effort. On the other hand, if you come unprepared you’ll stand out
as someone that lacks the ambition, and is perhaps looking for a job just to get by until
another one comes along. Remember, there are so many people unemployed right now that
recruiters don't need to waste their time on people who lack desire and ambition.
5. Discuss your experience, and how it relates to this job.
Because you prepared for the interview by studying their company and the job description,
you’ll be able to relate the very specific experience and skills you have that are relevant.
Give specific details, and be honest and accurate. Maintain a positive attitude, explain why
your experience and accomplishments would make you a strong asset for the employer, and
repeat your interest in the company and the job. If you’re lacking experience or perhaps
changing careers, then you may need to call on experience that’s not specifically stated in
the job description. For example, if you regularly volunteer, perhaps you could emphasize
traits required for success there, such as people skills, dependability, organizational abilities,
and your leadership. Also, have you had any additional training that may relate to the job?
Make sure you mention it. Are there traits required for your favorite hobby that can lend itself
to the job? That’s worth mentioning, too.
6. If I were speaking to your former co-workers or managers, what would they tell me
about you and your work performance?
Think of those people you’ve worked with that have a positive impression of your work ethic,
and use those people to formulate your answer. If you’ve actually received positive feedback
from someone you’ve worked with, share that! This would also be a good time to mention
any performance-based awards you may have won. Also, having a good idea who will have
positive things to say about your work performance will also help you determine who best to
use for your employment references.
7. Where else have you applied?
What the recruiter is looking for is how serious you are in your job search; if you seem like a
promising candidate, they’ll want to determine if you’re in the interview process with any
other employer. It’s acceptable to let them know if you're speaking with other companies if in
fact you are, but be careful to not cross the line of sounding like you’re trying to play one
company against another; if you do that, you just may lose.
8. Describe a time when you were under extreme pressure at work, and how you
Keep a positive tone to your answer. You may describe an especially stressful job you had
and how you were able to maintain, or perhaps a particularly stressful project or time frame
within a job, but in all cases, share how you were able to maintain your composure, and
manage the stress levels. Share specific examples of what caused the stressful conditions,
appropriate measures you took to manage the stress, and perhaps feedback you received
from others about your abilities during those difficult times.
9. What motivates you to do a good job?
Let me first say that I don’t apologize for saying money is a great motivator; after all, if a
person weren’t getting paid, would she still go to her job each day? This is our livelihood,
and money is the reason we work! People in sales—especially those that work on a
commission—often have money as a prime motivator, and rightfully so. Having said that, the
underlying reason for doing a good job, however, shouldn’t be money; instead, it should be
your sincere and deep-felt desire to be outstanding at what you do, and that your work ethic
calls for you to put in solid effort toward a job well done. Another strong motivator for doing
good work is the recognition it brings, and for some people, the desire to become a leader.
10. What’s your greatest strength?
This is another question that is asked very often, so be prepared for it. It’s difficult for many
people to talk about themselves, but this is not the time to be shy or hold back. We want to
know about your strengths so we can best determine if you’re a fit for this job, and if you
don’t tell us, how will we ever know what you’re great at? This is your chance to shine. Once
again, you should be well familiar with the job description so you can relate your strengths to
what they’re looking for--and don’t be afraid to speak up. In advance of your interview, think
of two or three traits about you that are very strong and positive, and be prepared to share
real-life examples that support them.
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