Everyone needs to practice their interview skills before they go to a interview. You should be prepared to answer a few of the most common questions. This page introduces a few of the questions, but our online training will cover the job interview in greater detail.


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Some people are naturals when it comes to handling tough questions, but most aren't! Even great sales producers have been known to fall flat when they were under pressure to sell themselves. If you take the time to verbalize your answers to the obvious questions you expect -- it will take the pressure off... and enable you to be at your best!

Some people are natural wordsmiths when it comes to answering questions of any type. Regardless of how direct a question may be, they seem to handle it in a manner that impresses the person doing the interviewing. For these people, each question simply offers another opportunity to make a point about their particular assets, while demonstrating their confidence.

Most people, however, will come across much better if they are prepared for their interviews. The idea is to think of the questions that might cause some difficulty or hesitation, and to have prepared answers thought-out in advance.

Let us have a look at some of the most common questions that come up in interviews. You will also find some brief commentary on strategies for answering questions that have caught some people by surprise. Let's first look at the style for answering some sample questions.

What is your weakness? "Well, I really don't feel I have a weakness which affects my working ability. At times I have a tendency to be impatient and occasionally push people too hard to get a job done."

What do you think of your boss? "He's outstanding. I have enjoyed working with him."

When could you make a contribution? "Well, I hope to be able to make a contribution in a very short time. Obviously, it will take some time to get my feet wet. However, there are a number of things which I have accomplished before that I may be able to institute once I gain a better understanding of your organization."

How long would you stay with us? "As I mentioned to you, I'm looking for a career. However, I'm a realist. If I don't do the job, you won't want me around, and if there is no opportunity, it won't be right for me."

What's wrong with your firm? "I really don't feel there is anything wrong with the firm. I have enjoyed working there, and they have some really top people in management. It's a good company, but I am ready to handle additional responsibility right now."

Why are you leaving? "I'm anxious to earn more money and take on added responsibility. I'd also like to expand my knowledge. Quite frankly, these opportunities don't exist in my present firm."

Here Are Most of the Common Questions You Might Be Asked

Employment / Management Style

Why did you join your present firm? Why are you leaving? How would you evaluate your present firm? Have you managed people before? What are your capabilities that will help us? What major challenges have you faced? Have you fired people before? What references can you give me? Does your employer know you are looking? Why have you stayed so long? Describe a typical day in your job. What are you looking for in a job? How do you feel about your previous moves? Which firms did you enjoy the most? What parts of your job do you enjoy the most? How well do you handle pressure? What do you look for when you hire people? What do you think of your ex-boss? Why haven't you found a job so far? How does the firm view your performance? Which areas of your performance have been criticized? Is there anything that might hinder your ability to perform with our company? Can you work independently? Can you fit in an unstructured environment? How have you helped reduce costs? What was your greatest accomplishment in your present or last job? Describe your management style. How effective are you as a motivator? What decisions do you delegate? What types of controls do you use? What are your strengths? Weaknesses? What are your short / long range objectives? Would you classify yourself as a leader? How hard do you work? How do you handle confrontation?

Education / Compensation

What full- or part-time jobs did you hold while in school? What subjects did you enjoy most? Least? How were your college grades and class rank? What about other activities? What specialized training have you received? Why didn't you do better in school? How did you finance your education? How have your education and training prepared you for this job? What is your current compensation? How often have you had raises? What do you think you are worth? Why does your compensation seem so low? What would you like to be earning 2-4 years from now? What were your highest earnings?

Character Traits / Personal

What are the reasons for your success? How often have you been absent from work? How often do you lose your temper? How confident are you about addressing a group? How would a friend describe you? Would you work if you did not need money? What do you do when you have trouble solving a problem? Have you ever been arrested or convicted? What are your hobbies? How do you spend your spare time? Are you active in your community? When was your last vacation? Are you interested in sports? What part of the newspaper do you turn to first? What was the last book you read? Have you ever been refused a bond? How much debt do you have? Have you ever gone bankrupt? In what areas can you improve?

Miscellaneous

Tell me about yourself. How old are you? Would you object to working for a woman? What is your present financial situation? Who do you admire? Why did your business fail? How are your writing skills? What work environment are you looking for? Why are you interested in our position? How long can we expect you to stay with us? Why should we hire you? Where else are you interviewing and what other offers have you received? How do you feel about minority groups, divorce, etc.? Why aren't you earning more at this stage of your career?

Strategies for Answering Typical Interview Questions

What are your short-range objectives? Keep your answer focused on the job at hand. It should reflect realistic, attainable goals such as "I want to build up a highly effective sales force in less than 12 months."

What are your long-range objectives? Try to remain flexible. State your desire to make significant contributions to the organization resulting in additional responsibility.

What do you look for in a job? Gear your answer to the job at hand and things that you want to have in your next position. Emphasis must be on your functional qualifications. Once these are identified, be flexible and throw in some personal attributes, "While I am a team player, I also look for an opportunity to excel independently."

Why are you leaving your present position? Why are you available? Some good reasons include:

  • Company's growth has not been as fast as expected and promotional opportunities are limited.
  • You have outgrown the position.
  • Despite your best efforts, the business is not doing well... someone else dropped the ball.

What can you do for us that someone else cannot do? Why should we hire you? You don't know what others can do. Stress what you can do. Concentrate on the positive contribution you can make. Relate your skills and substantiate with a SOAR.

How good is your health? This question may be motivated by an apparent health (weight, age, etc.) problem or by an impression of low energy. Your best approach is to use the ARTS technique described in this program.

How do you work under pressure,deadlines, etc.? A positive answer should be illustrated with a specific example (SOAR). Follow this with a question about the situation in the new job: "What type of deadlines (pressures) are typical for this position?"

What is your philosophy of management? Projecting a flexible approach to management is the best response since you do not know what the expectations are. State that you have found that each situation is unique and calls for a unique solution, and that your successful experience bears this out. Then ask about the company's management style.

Do you prefer line or staff work? Obviously you want to "prefer" the type of job that is the one you are interviewing for. Some examples:

"I prefer staff work because it has enabled me to become an expert in my field and to make meaningful contributions to the company."

"I prefer line work because it allows you to implement your ideas and see immediate results. Knowing you are accountable forces you to be thorough and use all your skills."

What are your biggest accomplishments in your present/last job? What is your biggest strength? Asset? In citing any accomplishments, strengths, or assets, bias them toward major elements of the position under consideration. You want to demonstrate that you have what it takes to meet the needs of the job. For example, if cost cutting is an immediate need, then illustrate a cost cutting accomplishment.

How long would it take for you to make a contribution to our firm? Start out by indicating that you are a quick study and/or self starter and you can make immediate contributions. Illustrate with a SOAR. Follow with a question about the most immediate/pressing needs the person in this position will face.

How long would you stay with us? Indicate that your interest in this job and company is based on your perception of both being growth-oriented and challenging your professional skills. Therefore, you do not see any time limits on your involvement.

How do you feel about minority groups? ... alcoholism?... divorce? ... homosexuals? ... women in business? ... religion? ... abortion? Recognize that these are all questions related to contemporary social issues, and that you cannot second-guess the interviewer's/company's position. The best approach is a noncommittal one: "These are major social issues for which no simple answers exist. In my own work, I try to be both fair and equitable toward everyone with whom I am associated."

If you could start again, what would you do differently? You want to avoid bringing up issues or information which may be perceived as liabilities ("I wish I had an MBA"). In order to keep your response credible, you may say, "Obviously with 20-20 hindsight, any one of us would probably make some changes if they could. However, on the whole I would have to say that I am proud of my achievements and happy with my career progression."

How do you rate yourself as a builder? As a manager? Using a need of the new job you perceive to be important, you could say, "If the intention is the ability to generate new business, I would have to rate myself as top-notch. My reasons are simple. Over the course of my work for... " and continue with specific information using the SOAR. Follow with a relevant question such as, "What are the success criteria in this company?"

What do you think of your boss? Point out that you are aware of how difficult and demanding your boss' job is. Then indicate that one of the best aspects of your relationship with your boss has been his/her serving as a mentor, someone from whom you have been able to learn.

Why haven't you obtained a job so far? What other positions are you considering? Stress that since you are not looking for a job but rather for the right career opportunity, you are being both selective and deliberate in your search.

What features of your jobs have you disliked? What's disappointed you in your career so far? Try to give neutral examples which will not reflect poorly on you. A safe response would be to indicate that you wish you had more challenging assignments to work on.

Would you describe a few situations in which your work has been criticized? Describe a situation early in your career, in which it was suggested to you that things could be done differently, you recognized your mistake and took immediate steps to correct it. You have viewed such occurrences as beneficial.

How would you evaluate your present firm? Give a positive evaluation. Even if you indicated some limitations as the reason for your leaving, don't place blame.

Do you generally speak to people before they speak to you? State that you are both a good communicator and a good listener. When necessary, you initiate a conversation; other times you respond.

How would you describe the essence of success? "Success (in the business world) involves setting goals and achieving them." You may be more specific if you have a good knowledge of the expectation of the new job and can tailor your response.

What was the last book you read, movie you saw, sporting event you attended? Be prepared to discuss any of these, briefly, provided they are not frivolous. How you state your answer may be as important as the specific opinion you will be asked to provide.

What interests you the most about the position we have? The least? What interests you most should be an important aspect of the job, one which you know will benefit the employer. Since you are just being introduced to this job, you can say that you have heard nothing that turns you off.

Don't you feel you might be better off in a different size company? Different type of company? Try to find out why the question is being asked. The best approach to answering it would be to indicate that you have done a great deal of research and have concluded that this size and type of company is best suited to you, or that this environment seems like one where you can maximize your contributions.

Will you be out to take your boss's job? "When that position becomes available, I would certainly hope that my talents and contributions will make me a natural choice."

Why aren't you earning more at your age? The objective of your response is to show that your perceived low pay does not equate to low value or poor performance. You might indicate that the salary range at your present firm is low, or that you have reached the top of the range -- and that's one reason for your wishing to move on.

Are you creative, analytical, a good manager, a leader,etc.? Answer in the affirmative and follow up with a SOAR. By claiming a qualification and then validating it with an example, you will make your candidacy much more credible and memorable.

Follow with a question such as, "How would my creativity come into play in this position?"

How would you describe your personality? Describe your personal attributes and related functional skills, concentrating on those areas you know are essential for the proper execution of the job.

How have you helped increase sales? profits? Decreased costs? Be prepared with specific examples, with SOARs that illustrate your accomplishments.

What do your subordinates think of you? This is an opportunity to sell yourself through other people's viewpoints. Describe skills and strengths essential for the new position. Use a SOAR to validate.

Have you fired people before? Discuss this aspect of management in the context of the total picture and the effect it has on the bottom line. "While it's never easy to separate an employee from the company, it is often the best for both parties. However, my initial interest would involve trying to save the employee and improve productivity."

If you haven't fired anyone, indicate that you have been involved in employee evaluations and/or disciplinary procedures within your area.

What do you look for when hiring people? Focus on the different skills required for different positions under your control. It's an opportunity to highlight personal skills without lengthy discussions.

Why do you want to work for our company? Indicate the areas of close match between your qualifications and the needs of the company. "It seems to me you are looking for someone who can do ___, and I have had substantial experience in this area." Follow with a SOAR example, if appropriate.

Why do you feel you have management potential? If you have been in management, state that your successful experience attests to your abilities. Provide examples, especially of functional skills. If you haven't managed, present such skills as your ability to see the larger picture, your job's effect on the bottom line, and your communications skills.

Tell us about yourself. Start out with a broad framework defining your total experience, "I have had 13 years of progressive experience in engineering management." Then state the skills and experiences which are the closest match to the requirements of the job, "My special areas of expertise include strategic planning, budgeting and forecasting, manpower configurations."

Avoid These 30 Pitfalls That Get People Rejected

  • Not likeable
  • Poor image / dress / mannerisms
  • Too aggressive, overly anxious
  • Poor communicator, poor voice
  • Lack clear objectives
  • Fail to express genuine enthusiasm
  • Lack of polish, confidence, poise
  • Narrow interests, dull
  • Focuses too much on money
  • Expecting too much too soon
  • Makes excuse, seem evasive, shifty
  • Lack of tact, maturity, courtesy
  • Negative on past bosses / employers
  • Lack of social graces
  • Weak handshake / lack of eye contact
  • Indecisive / unsure of self
  • Unstable personal life
  • Likely to stay only a short time
  • No sense of humor
  • Little knowledge of field
  • Name dropper / conceited/ arrogance
  • Unwillingness to relocate
  • Sarcastic, cynical mannerisms
  • Questionable ethical / moral standards
  • Prejudices could hurt firm
  • Financially unstable
  • Inability to take criticism
  • Asks poor questions / gives vague answers
  • Projects experience that is inadequate
  • Comes across as O.K., but others are preferred

At some point, you can choose to take one of two routes: Ask the interviewer what skills he/she perceives as essential for the position, then go on to discuss them, using examples, focus on one skill you see as essential and illustrate with an example (SOAR).


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