A critical aspect of interview preparation is anticipating the questions and preparing what you want to say during the interview. If the interview can only remember three things about you from the interview, your preparation can help ensure that they remember the most important three things. Think about your message and how you will deliver in it response to typical interview questions.
Types of Interview Questions and Samples:
Tried and True
- Most employers still ask the “tell me about yourself” question to break the ice. It is a great opportunity for applicants to differentiate themselves and highlight their strengths for the particular position. Consider how you tell your story in the context of the position you are applying to.
- “What are your strengths and weaknesses? “ is still asked frequently. They expect proof statements to support the strengths and the actions taken to improve the weaknesses. They are looking for self-awareness and assessment and expect responses that will help differentiate the student from other candidates. A twist on this is to ask what your manager or colleagues would say your strengths and weaknesses are.
- “Do you have any questions? They expect that you have questions and they should clearly demonstrate your preparation and research in advance, your strong listening during the interview and your interest and enthusiasm for the position.
Behavioral Interviews or “tell me about a time…”
- “Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a member of your team at work. How did you address it and what was the result?”
- “Tell me about a time you had multiple top priorities due at the same time. How did you address the problem and what was the result?
- “Tell me about a mistake you made and how you addressed it.”
- They are trying to anticipate future behavior by understanding how you behaved in the past and what you learned. It is important to clarify the situation succinctly, explain what specific action you took and what the result of that action was. You are painting a word picture for them to help them understand how you work.
Mini-Case Situations or Unusual Questions
- These questions give employers an opportunity to see how you think.
- “What you would do if you were in this job and the CEO called and asked you why sales were down in the X division last month and then told you she needed an answer in an hour before her executive team meeting?” This isn’t the time to talk about surveying customers or implementing tracking programs for new promotions. What information do you need to put your hands on? How would you use that information? What kinds of questions do you need to ask? You need to talk them through your thought process to show that you are thinking logically about the issue and finding actionable data.
- “We’ve experienced disruption in the manufacturing department for each of the last three months due to timing delays of getting the six specific component parts to the assembly station for a critical part of the manufacturing process. The VP of Manufacturing is very upset and has assured the CEO it won’t happen again next month. He needs your recommendations first thing in the morning. What information do you need and what possible solutions can you offer? Think through the process out loud so they can see your thought process.
- What would you do if you lived on an island that ran out of diapers and any materials commonly used to produce diapers? I actually had an employer ask this of our applicants and applicants enjoyed thinking of creative solutions. It is less about the specific answer and more about how you think creatively about a problem. Applicants who could not provide any response did not advance in the process. This is actually a question an employer asked in an interview process. They love to see how you think on your feet.
At this point, we are seeing most employers asking a mix of all three types of questions to get as good a sense as possible of how well the student will fit in their organization and how well they will be able to perform the specific job.
You want to be remembered for your positive answers not the ones you answer inappropriately.
Sample Worst Answers to Interview Questions:
So, tell me a little about yourself.
- “there really isn’t much to tell.”
- “I’m really not all that interesting.”
- “I haven’t done much yet.”
- “Well, I was born in xx and went to elementary school….. 5 minutes later the candidate is still babbling and the interviewer has completely glazed over.”
- “My life really started going downhill when my parents got divorced when I was a teenager. They really ruined my life.”
- “once I joined AA my life started getting better”
- “After I beat cancer for the second time…”
- “I’m married, I have three kids ages 3, 5 and 7…”
Why do you want to leave your current job?
- “they don’t pay me enough”
- “they expect me to work too many hours”
- “my boss is a jerk (idiot, etc.)”
- “my colleagues are all idiots”
- “they don’t know what they are doing there”
- “the company is on the brink of bankruptcy”
- “I think they are probably doing some illegal things”
- “I’m bored out of my mind”
- “they don’t give me things that I like to do”
- “After six months of doing the same thing every day, I’m ready for a change”
- “I need more flexibility to handle my kids activities after school”
What interests you about this company?
- “I don’t know anything about the company but figured why not apply since I really need a job.”
- “My friend works here”
- “I heard you pay well”
- “I need the benefits”
- “It is close to home”
- “it is a recognizable name so it would look good on my resume”
- “I really like your product.”
What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
- “I don’t have any weaknesses”
- “I really don’t know.”
- “I get things done.”
- “I was a star student (athlete)”
- “I can make other people get things done.”
- “I’m the best candidate you are going to see so we could save time by moving the process forward.”
How would your current or former colleagues describe you?
- “the best employee they ever had”
- “the only employee who did things right”
- “someone who worked hard even though they were given the boring jobs”
- “their best friend”
- “A great guy to hang out with after work.”
What is your goal for the short term?
- “I need to get a job as soon as possible. I have bills to pay.”
- “ I need the health/dental insurance right away so I can have some problems taken care of”
- “Get a new job that isn’t so boring”
- “Get a new job that doesn’t require any nights or weekends”
- “Get a job working with people who have more realistic expectations”
- “Get a job so I can move forward with a divorce”
Do you prefer to work independently or in a team?
- “working with teams is such a waste of time since half the people don’t do anything anyway. Just give the work to the person who can get it done.”
- “Other people think they know it all and they don’t so teams are a waste of time”
- “I can get everything done on my own without needing help from anyone else”
- “I always get everything done that is assigned to me on my own”
- “I just put my head down and plow through the work. “
- “working with a team makes things take longer”
- “I only like working with a team if there is someone on the team who really knows how to do all the work”
Are there certain tasks or types of people you find difficult to work with?
- “People who think they know it all aren’t fun to work with”
- “I don’t like working with people who are obsessed with following the process. Rules are meant to be broken.”
- “Demanding people stress me out. They set deadlines and expect everything to get done by their deadline just because they said so. They probably don’t really need it then.”
- “I hate having to do the same thing every day.”
- “Repetitive tasks are too boring. Once I know how to do things they should make someone else do the boring stuff.
- “I don’t like people who keep checking to see if my work is done or if I’m making progress. I’ll get to it.”
Let’s talk about salary. What are you expectations?
- “I know I’m worth a lot more than what I’m making now.”
- “I just finished an MBA so I’m worth at least $25K more than I was making before.”
- “My rent just went up and I have car payments to cover so I need more than I was making before.”
- “I’m a hard worker so I deserve to be at the top of your range.”
Do you have any questions?
- “not really”
- “you already answered them all”
- “Do I get the job?”
- “how much does the job pay?
- “How much vacation and sick time would I get?
- “Can I still take my planned trip next month?
- When can I start?
- Is the drug testing really required?
Check out Tips for a Successful Interview #2!