When you are invited to an interview, it means that the recruiter believes you may be a good match for the job opening, and they want to know for sure. The interview creates an opportunity for the recruiter to determine whether you are qualified for the position, and to get to know you better. Not only are these questions asked to establish whether you have the right skill set for the position, but these questions also provide the recruiter with insight into your personality, your ability to integrate into a new team, as well as vital issues such as your work ethic and values.
It is vital that you have prepared answers for frequently asked questions that you may be asked to answer. Answering common interview questions properly, takes practice and preparation. Always remember that the recruiter generally will not ask random questions, but rather will have prepared a specific set of questions.
A recruiter is looking for a candidate who can answer questions in a way which is acceptable, but not necessarily right, as well as someone who knows something about their potential employers business and the post they hope to fill. These are really the basic components of any candidate who ‘interviews well’. There are obviously other aspects employers may look for in relation to specific posts – i.e. a specific skill set, as well as a candidate that is able to think on their feet, somebody who is meticulous and precise etc. These are all aspects which will be related to the particular job, and to the company’s preference in employees.
However, the bottom line is that job interviews can be very stressful, it doesn’t matter how many interviews a job seeker has been on, it can always prove to be a very stressful time. You are under scrutiny, and you know it. This creates huge anxiety and stress levels.
The key way to prevent your fear overcoming you in any situation is to prepare for the situation.
The best way to be prepared for the interview, is to do some research on the company. What do they do? What will your position involve? What is the company mission? How long have they been in existence? What is their staff compliment? Who are their competitors? Try to find out as much as you can about the company. By doing so, you will be able to be ready with some good answers for the job interview questions, that will specifically relate to the company you are interviewing with. It also shows that you take the initiative, do your homework, and ensure that you know what you are dealing with. All of which are positives, for a possible future employer. Even if you can only get limited information from their websites or news articles, you can use these as a starting point, to come up with some good intelligent questions to ask them.
During a typical interview you can expect a number of questions related to the following:
- Your Work History and Experience
- Questions about You
- Questions Specifically about the company and new job
- Questions about the future, and your future aspirations
Your Work History and Experience
Below are examples of some typical questions that you can expect to be asked about your work history.
Name of company, title, job description, dates of employment.
This would appear to be a relatively simple question to answer, but when nervous, one can so easily flounder over dates, what job was when etc. So ensure when you go into the interview, that you have been over your employment history, and have not forgotten your dates with the various companies, remuneration etc.
What were your responsibilities in your previous position?
When you are asked questions related to your current or previous positions, it’s important to be specific and to be positive about what you did in your previous position(s). Don’t get off the subject, and never focus on the negatives. The best way to respond, is to describe your responsibilities in detail, and to connect them to the job you are interviewing for. Focus mainly on the responsibilities and duties that are directly related to the new job’s requirements.
It’s also important to be honest. Don’t embellish your job, because you don’t know who the hiring manager will be checking with when they check your references. If you don’t know something, rather say so, but make it clear that you are very willing and eager to learn.
What did you expect from a previous position and to what extent were your expectations met?
When asked a question concerning a specific position, try to focus on the job itself, and try not to focus on your co-workers, manager, team etc. (particularly if these were a negative). Try to always address the positives of the role, and stick to the facts. Don’t get side tracked and go off on something not related directly to the question.
What was your biggest achievements/failure in this position?
Your potential employer will want to know what you achieved, and what you didn’t, in your current or last position. The best way to respond is to refer to a specific situation, where what you achieved is directly related to the job you are interviewing for. Review your resume and review the job description. Find the best match and use that to show how what you achieved will be beneficial to the company you are interviewing with.
If you didn’t fail at anything, say so. If you can think of an example, be sure that it’s a minor one and turn it into a positive.
Questions about your co-workers and supervisors?
Generally when asked questions such as these, the potential employer is trying to determine what type of person you are, i.e. are you a team player? Are you confrontational? How do you behave when under pressure? What were your relationships with your co-workers like? I.e. are you able to get on with people? Are you able to work under pressure? Keep all these questions in mind, when answering these questions.
Stick to the rule that even if there has been conflict or problems, to try to turn a negative into a positive, i.e. acknowledge that there was a problem and then show your ability as to how you managed the problem, and that you managed to turn it into a positive.
If, for example, you couldn’t stand your manager, instead of carrying on about how horrible he/she was, rather than focusing on that, say that you found your manager hard to work for, however he/she was extremely knowledgeable, good with clients, technically orientated (or whatever it was that was a positive) and that by focusing on those aspects, you managed to find It easier to work for that person. You can say that your previous manager is not somebody you would chose to be friends with, but that by focusing on their positives, you were able to work better with him/her.
Have you worked with someone you didn’t like? If so, how did you handle it?
Once again rather do not carry on about the negatives, how difficult this person made your life etc., but rather say something along the lines that when you focused on the skills they bought to the job, their ability to deal with irate clients, or ability to solve problems, or whatever there was, that was a positive, that you were never friends, but you did manage to work well together.
Why did you resign?
Inevitably during an interview you will be asked why you left your previous positions, or why you are wanting to leave your current position. This question is generally always asked in any interview. So be prepared for it. When answering, be brief, to the point, and stay positive regardless of the circumstances. Try not mention personality conflicts, major problems with management and never speak badly about your supervisors, co-workers or the organization. The interviewer may spend some time probing you on this issue. Always respond positively — along the lines of for better career advancement or promotion opportunities, increased responsibility, greater variety at work. Any of these areas are acceptable.
What Have You Been Doing Since Your Last Job?
If you have a period where you did not work on your resume, the interviewer will probably ask you what you have been doing while you were out of work.
The best way to answer this question is to be honest, but do have an answer prepared. You will want to let the interviewer know that you were busy and active, regardless of whether you were out of work by choice, or otherwise.
Questions about You
When asked questions about you, always talk about your attributes that would best qualify you for the job. Try not to bring your personal life into it, and rather focus entirely on work.
Although your first reaction may be to start by describing your interests and hobbies, remember where you are. You are in a job interview with the sole purpose of being hired. The information that you should concentrate on, must always be by describing yourself in a work situation. Prepare a summary of your work experience as well as your career achievements. Briefly detail your education accomplishments as well as any other accomplishment or skills that are relevant to the job vacancy. After you have given all the information required for the specific role, you can then give a very brief overview of your interests and character traits, if you feel it would be appropriate.
One of the most commonly asked questions you will come across when asking about you, is what are your strengths and weaknesses?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Although this question may seem as though you should answer with a positive answer for your strengths and a negative for your weaknesses, try to give two positive answers. When asked about your weaknesses, always try to turn a negative into a positive. When discussing a weakness, try to explain where you identified a problem area where you were able to remedy this and explain how you did so.
E.g. I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist, and can’t stand shoddy work, but I have managed to use this side of my personality to my advantage, as I know that I am very good at attention to detail and working towards deadlines.
When asked about positives, be honest, explain what your positives are, when doing so, try to keep in mind the attributes required for the specific role that you have applied for. E.g. I pride myself on my ability to always meet deadlines well before time.
Most importantly however be honest, creating a false impression about what type of person you are etc, can only lead to disappointment for both a potential employer long term, and yourself.
How would you describe yourself?
When you respond, keep in mind the type of position you are interviewing for, the company culture, and the work environment. Your answer should help show the interviewer why you’re a match for the job and for the company.
Examples of what you could say are:
- I’m a people person. I really enjoy meeting and working with different people and able to get on with people at levels in an organization .
- I’m efficient and very organized. This enables me to be as productive as possible on the job.
- I enjoy solving problems, troubleshooting issues, and working towards deadlines.
- How do you deal with conflict or criticism?
Always answer this question (which is often asked) with a positive approach. Explain where you may have experienced conflict in the workplace in the past and how you handled it. Always ensure that any examples you give are from the work place, and not your personal life. Explain in a positive light, how you managed this conflict and what you learnt from the experience.
What didn’t you like about co-workers or manager?
Although this may be just the opportunity you may have been waiting for to get off your shoulders all the problems that you may have experienced in your previous position with your co-workers or boss, remember this is a trap question. Make sure that when you answer the question that you do not come up with anything really substantial. A short statement that you seem to get along with people in general, and as a rule avoid “office politics and gossip” is exactly what they are wanting to hear.
Are you willing to work overtime? Nights? Weekends?
This is up to you. However whatever the situation is, be totally honest. You cannot change the goal posts once you start the position. So rather be clear on this.
What is your current salary?
Just tell the recruiter. Dancing around this question will only irritate the person interviewing you. The recruiter probably has a good idea what salary range you are in. Be honest. They will probably ask for a salary advice, so ensure you give them accurate information.
What are your salary expectations?
Be realistic. If what you are expecting is not market related, this will knock you out of the game faster than anything else because it reveals to the recruiter, that you are unprofessional and unrealistic.
Job Interview Questions About the New Job and the Company
Often in interviews, you will be asked questions about the position and company, you are interviewing for. The reason for this, is that the employer is trying to ascertain your suitability for the role, and how you would fit into the company.
When you’re asked what interests you about the position you are interviewing for, the best way to respond is to describe the qualifications listed in the job posting, then connect them to your skills and experience. That way, the employer will see that you know about the job you’re interviewing for (not everyone does, this shows you have done your homework) and that you have the qualifications necessary to do the job.
Typical questions you can expect about the new job and company are as follows:
What do you know about this company?
An employer wants to know that you are genuinely interested in working for their company. You need to let them know that you have taken the time to research what they do, where they are positioned in the market place and are aware of recent activities they have been involved in. Much of this information is available online. Look at the corporate website, old newspaper articles etc. If possible, obtain a copy the organization’s annual report. The more senior the position, the more information you should seek. By gathering this information, you are proving to the recruiter that you are proactive and take the initiative.
What interests you about this job?
When asked what interests you about the job, don’t say for example that you like the sound of it because you don’t work weekends, whereas in your current role you do. Rather focus on the role itself, what you would be doing, that interests you, and how you can tie this in to any previous roles etc.
For example, if you were interviewing for a Mine Manager job where you would be responsible for people management, training, safety etc, you will want to discuss how you were responsible for these functions in your past positions, and why you are interested in continuing to develop your expertise in this role. If not an exact match to your previous role, you can also mention your interest in learning and excelling in a new environment, plus any relevance that your qualifications and training may have for the particular role.
What can you do for this company?
First of all, be sure to have researched the company prior to the interview, so you are familiar with the company’s mission. Respond by giving examples why your education, skills, accomplishments, and experience will make you an asset for the employer.
Take a few moments to compare your goals with objectives of the company and the position, as well as mentioning what you have accomplished in your other jobs. Be positive and reiterate your interest in the company, as well as the job.
Why are you the best person for the job?
The best way to respond is to give concrete examples of why your skills and accomplishments make you the best candidate for the job. Take a few moments to compare the job description with your abilities, as well as mentioning what you have accomplished in your other positions. Be positive and emphasize your interest in the company and the position. Compare your goals with objectives of the company and the position, then reiterate why you would be an asset to the employer. Let the interviewer know what you can do for the company, if you get a job offer. Remember a positive attitude and energy are great attributes; don’t be shy to show these qualities.
Interview Questions: The Future
It is very common in an interview to be asked about the future. This is so that the employer can gauge where you are wanting to go, how stable you are, what are the chances of you moving on again quickly. These questions are always loaded, so be very careful how you answer. A typical question is: What are your goals for the next five years / ten years?
The best way to respond to the interview question “What are your goals for the future?” or “Where do you see yourself in five years?” is to refer to the position and the company you are interviewing with.
Don’t discuss your goals for returning to school, taking a sabbatical from work to travel, or having a family, they are not relevant and could jeapodise your chances of getting the job. Rather, you want to connect your answer to the job you are applying for. Keep these career aspirations realistic and ensure they are attainable within a 5 year period. Don’t say you’re aiming for the Vice President position unless it’s the next step in your career path or you’re applying for the VP position. Discuss ways in which you anticipate attaining your career goals. Most importantly, be realistic.
Remember that the employer is looking for reassurance that your plans are to remain in the company for a reasonable amount of time. Recruitment is an expensive exercise, as is training new recruits, and an employer will be looking for reassurance that you are not going to up and leave after a few months. Indicate that you want to quickly get up to speed in your position, broaden your responsibilities and develop within the company.
Wrapping Up the Interview
The final few minutes and how you handle the close of the interview, are extremely important. If and when the recruiter asks “Do you have any questions before we wrap up?” this will give you the opportunity to ask something that offers the interviewer the ability to provide insight into their work life. Ask a question such as: “What is a typical work day like for you?”.
Keeping a few, well thought up, clever questions in your back pocket, can help you impress the hiring managers one last time. As mentioned earlier, If possible, obtain a copy the organization’s annual report and read it thoroughly. You can then use this information to ask a clever question directly related to recent news, occurrences etc. Examples might be questions about projects they’ve taken on, or contracts they’ve won or any other information that you have managed to find out, that you feel may be relevant.
The last few minutes of a job interview also gives you the opportunity to try to ease any concerns that the recruiter may have. By asking a question such as “Is there anything that concerns you about my background?” If the recruiter does have any concerns, this will give you the opportunity to try to ease them. This can be the deciding factor in whether or not an applicant is called back for a second interview or not. So if you are given the opportunity and you feel the timing is right, don’t be scared to ask.
One topic you should lay off, however, is money. While it’s natural for a job seeker to think about salary, it’s probably best to avoid the topic unless prompted – especially at the end of the interview. Rather tell the recruiter from what you have learnt during the interview that you feel you would be a good fit for the position and the company, and that you are excited about the position and that you hope to hear from them soon. This – and the other techniques above – could go a long way toward ensuring that a recruiter won’t forget you, when you walk out the door.