We’ve all heard stories about the eccentric interview questions that some companies are known for asking. But chances are you’ll be asked some pretty common questions first, ones that you can easily prepare for in advance.
Here are 12 common interview questions and how to answer them well:
1. Tell me about yourself
Well, the most common question isn’t even a question! The much dreaded “Tell me about yourself” is more like an open-ended command, followed by silence and an expectant stare. The trick to not panicking -- and answering well -- when asked to talk about yourself is to have something prepared in advance. Understand the scope of the question--the hiring manager or interviewer simply wants a professional summary, not a retelling of your childhood or list of your favorite hobbies and travel destinations. We recommend preparing a one-minute spiel that traces your career path to where it is now, putting most emphasis on your latest position and accomplishments, as well as a sentence or two about what you hope to achieve in the future.
2. When did you last use ____ skill?
Interviewers want to assess your skills and competencies against those required for the job. The best way to do this is by asking for concrete examples of when you last used certain skills, e.g. negotiation, overcoming a challenge, turning a complaint around, fixing a budget issue, displaying leadership, etc. To prepare for these questions, take another look at the job description offered by the company. What are the required skills for the position you are interviewing for? Note them down and think of one recent example where you displayed each skill in your current or last position.
3. How much do you know about our company?
Employers want to know that you’re serious about working for them. If you show up for the interview not having done a bit of research, you run the risk of looking not only unprepared, but disinterested in the position as well. Know what the company does, who its competitors are, what differentiates it from those competitors and what its business model is.
4. Why do you want to work for us? or Why do you want this job?
This is the hiring manager assessing not only your enthusiasm for the position but also your motivations for wanting the job. Keep your response focused on your passion for what the company does and what will be the day-to-day tasks involved in the position. Do not discuss benefits, salary, or the easy commute as being among the reasons you want this job.
5. Why should we hire you?
Here’s the question you should always be preparing for--in front of the mirror in the morning, in the shower, before you go to bed. Learn to sell yourself confidently and eloquently. In preparation, make a list of your most positive qualities and how you’ve applied them in the professional world. Be specific and cite examples. The more confidently you deliver this answer, the more likely you are to impress the interviewer.
6. Why did you leave your last job?
Keep your responses positive and avoid bashing your old company, boss, or colleagues. Don’t lie about getting fired or laid off, but you don’t need to go into great detail either. If you were fired, let the interviewer know that you acknowledge your mistakes, have learned from them, and that you see the experience as having a positive impact on your career. If you voluntarily left your last job, or if you will leave, acknowledge your accomplishments and convey your readiness to take on new challenges.
7. What would your last manager say about you?
This question is all about self-awareness. The hiring manager wants to know if you are aware of how others perceive you, and how this affects your job performance. To prepare for this question, reflect on conversations with your manager and on your last performance review. What did your manager feel you were doing well? If anything negative came up, what steps did you take to turn it around?
8. How would you spend your first 30/60/90 days in this role?
This question is quite common for management roles, but can be asked of any future employee. The interviewer wants to know what your goals are, how you will prioritize them, how you organize yourself. That said, there is no one right answer to this question. Focus on conveying the fact that you have concrete goals, and how you will attain them. For example, how will you get to know your team during the first 30 days?
9. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
While you may not be asked this question directly, it’s important to have practiced answers, as other questions may lead you to discuss both. To have a couple of answers ready, reflect again on your past performance reviews. What skills and competencies are you consistently praised for? Don’t be afraid to acknowledge an area where you’ve been critiqued, but do be prepared to explain how you made changes to address the issue or how you plan on making changes in the future.
10. Where do you see yourself in five years?
The recruiter wants to know, just as much as you do, if this job is the right fit for your overall career goals. If you aren’t sure about how to answer, don’t say, “I don’t know.” Instead, say that you would like to progressively grow your career by advancing within the company where you are applying. This is where knowledge about the internal structure of the company and about the industry as a whole can come in handy. Spend some time researching what higher-level jobs are available in the company and in the industry that you are interviewing in. Look up those jobholders on professional networks, not forgetting Hosco of course! What was their path? Do you see yourself following a similar path or doing something different?
11. What are your compensation expectations?
This question may not come up on the first interview, but eventually you will have to talk compensation, so it’s best to be prepared from the start. Read the job description closely, and be sure that you understand all of the responsibilities of the position that can justify your answer. For example, will you be directly responsible for bringing in revenue or managing a budget? Your experience with specific tasks are negotiating points, so know as much as you can about the job before the interview. Additionally, research the industry standard salary range for the position you are applying for. Sites like http://www.wageindicator.org can help you find out what others with the same title and experience are making. Finally, be confident in the number or range you give, but remain flexible until an official offer has been made.
12. Do you have any questions for me?
Many times, the last question of an interview is this one. Even if the interview has been thoroughly informative, you should prepare a couple of questions to ask the recruiter. What is the company’s take on work/life balance? What kinds of benevolent activities does the company participate in? What’s a typical day in this role look like? Keep questions centered on the position you are applying for and what it’s like to work for the company. Don’t ask questions about salary unless the recruiter has already brought it up, or unless you already have an offer.