Some sample job interview questions and answers.
Common Interview Questions:
1. Tell me about yourself.
Keep your answer short and focused on your professional life and professional goals and aspirations. This is not an invitation to dwell on personal relationships, childhood experiences, family etc. A brief history of education, career and special interests is what is called for here capped with why you are interested in and uniquely qualified for this particular career and job and how you expect to make a firm and solid contribution. Use this to show career focus, commitment to success and strong personal and professional values that are aligned with the company's.
2. Why are you applying for this particular job?
Show interest and demonstrate that you have researched the job and know what you are getting into. Bring up evidence from past work/ studies that supports your interest in this role and any skills you have acquired in preparation for the role. You can say something like 'I would like to work for a leader in innovative network and telecommunications solutions and my college degree in computational mathematics has given me a solid background for this role. Mention the value-added you can bring to the job.
3. What do you know about our company?
Indicate what you have learnt from your research activities - from their annual reports, newspapers, word of mouth, other employees etc. Use this to show that you have done your homework, know what to expect and are genuinely interested in working with them.
4. What makes you qualified for this particular job?
Again, explain that you are very interested in the job and demonstrate what it is about your past experiences, education and qualifications that makes you ideal for the job. Show enthusiasm and support your answers with evidence wherever you can (eg. my summer internship at Citibank gave me broad exposure to the area of equity analysis and I think I can apply many of the tools I learnt there in this job). Elaborate on all the past experiences and skill sets that make you uniquely suitable for the job.
In cases where your past experience is not directly relevant, you can still find elements of it that can be useful. Play up teamskills, technical skills, leadership roles, specific courses and independent research activities that can be useful to the job at hand to show your initiative even where you don't have directly relevant job experience.
5. What can you do for us that someone else can't?
Demonstrate key strengths, skills and personal characteristics. Also show that you have thought about the contribution you would like to make and already envision yourself making that contribution. Be specific in terms of where you see yourself fitting in and what you see yourself contributing - the more you can show you have genuinely thought about meeting a particular need or solving a particular problem the company has as is related to the job you are applying for the more likely you are to impress. Show you are a person who is willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to meet the company's targets and can find innovative solutions to old problems.
6. Why should we hire you?
Because you have all the experience/ traits/ skills/credentials needed for the role and in addition to being qualified, you are enthusiastic, intelligent, hardworking, flexible, committed, willing to learn and have a track record of personal and professional success. Show how you will be an asset to their team and contribute to meeting the company's goals and targets. Also mention any key relationships you may have that may assist you in the job.
7. What do you look for in a job?
Be honest. Also mention keywords such as challenging, steep learning curve, good work culture, demanding, rewarding, opportunities for advancement and growth, team environment, opportunity to build and maintain client relationships etc.
8. Why are you looking to make a career change?
Mention your interests and make sure you bring up all skills/ experience however insignificant that can support your move in this new direction. It is quite common in this day and age to make a career switch. You need however to show that you have very carefully thought about the change, have a strong interest in the new career and can use some of your previous skills/ education/ relationships to make that move.
9. Why did you leave your last job?
Do NOT use this as an opportunity to badmouth past employers or peers or talk about a failure of any sort. Any of these answers are acceptable: you were looking for a new challenge, your learning curve had flattened out in the previous job and you were looking for a new learning opportunity, the company or department were restructuring, you were ready to start something new after achieving your career goals at the previous company etc. Ideally you need to show you are in a position where you are happy with past successes and ready to achieve even more pronounced successes and take larger strides forward in your career.
10. Why do you want to work for us (as opposed to the competitor companies)?
Demonstrate that you know something about the company, that you believe they are leaders/ innovators in what they do, or you think their work culture is exactly what you are looking for, or you like their product(s) or you have friends who work there and have always been attracted to the company etc. Indicate that this is a company where you feel you can make a meaningful and significant contribution and mention why you believe so. Flatter the company and show you have done your research about it and see yourself as a valuable longterm member of their team.
11. How long will it take you to start making a meaningful contribution?
Show that you are enthusiastic and willing to learn and will put in all the hours and effort necessary to learn the ropes and start making an immediate contribution. Indicate that your past experiences/ skills/ credentials will enable you to make an immediate contribution at some level while you quickly learn the new aspects of the job. The employer ideally wants someone who is willing and able to learn, has a valuable existing skillset, a strong work ethic and will deliver a return on the employer's investment sooner rather than later.
12. What are your strengths?
What in your opinion has contributed to your success to date and will be a valuable attribute in this job? Ideally chose strengths that have the most bearing on the role you are applying for whether it be technical skills, leadership skills, quantitative skills, interpersonal skills, ability to consistently achieve targets, teamplayer skills, ability to work very well under pressure, creativity, client relationship skills, research skills etc. While you probably have many strengths, rather than delivering a long laundry list, chose those strengths that may be the most relevant to your chosen field and that indicate focus and professional maturity.
13. What are your weaknesses?
It is probably unwise to chose this as an invitation to elaborate on key weaknesses and fundamental character flaws. This is not the place to say you are bad at meeting deadlines or consistently fail to meet all your targets or would rather be in a different career altogether. Turn this question around to your benefit. For example, you may be 'overambitious' or 'extremely attentive to detail' or 'like to take on too many projects'. Chose a positive trait that accurately reflects you and keep the answer positive. Another way to handle this question is to chose a weakness that has absolutely no bearing to the position you are now applying for and consequently does not raise any warning flags eg if you are applying to a financial analyst position you can comment on how your graphic design skills could use some tweaking and comment that you are aware this is completely irrelevant to your chosen career path. Finally you can bring up a past weakness that is not at all severe or alarming and will not raise warning flags and comment on actual concrete measures you took to successfully overcome this weakness eg. courses attended, books read, mentors sought, experience gained etc. This shows that you are a proactive professional who is not saitisfied with mediocrity and is willing to take the time to learn and build skills and develop.
14. What are your career goals?
Show you have thought forward and are committed to your career. Indicate where you would like to be in 2 years, 5 years and 10 years time. Indicate you hope to continuously add on new responsibilties, make a larger impact on the company's profitability and success and develop personally and professionally.
15. How would you describe yourself?
Ideally you are just the kind of person who will succeed in this role and your research has highlighted all the key traits you have that the employer is looking for which you can use this opportunity to recite. Every role will have its different set of unique requiremenst however very generally speaking employers are looking for employees who are hard-working, persistent, proactive, committed, career-oriented, ambitious, diligent, pleasant to work with, professional, fair, dedicated, fast-learning, creative, good at problem-solving and able to learn from their mistakes. Be honest in describing your key professional strengths and how you think they will positively impact your performance in the new role.
16. How would your colleagues describe you?
Employers are looking for someone who is pleasant to work with, co-operative, a good team player and possesses all the soft and hard skills required to excel in the job. Do not bring up anything negative here.
17. How would your boss describe you?
Be candid but do not dwell on weaknesses. They will check references anyways so bring up the most positive attribute you can remember from your last formal or informal performance review and leave it to your Boss to say anything to the contrary.
18. What did you most like/ dislike about your past job?
Do not use this to badmouth past jobs/ employers. Keep it candid and in your favour eg I outgrew the job, there wasn't a clear career progression, I wasn't learning anything new etc. Ideally, you will have loved your last job and would like to achieve the same kind of success and job satisfaction in a more challenging area as you have now 'outgrown' that job and are ready to take on 'new challenges'.
19. Describe a situation in your past where you showed initiative?
You could describe any new methods you came up with to do your job or to save time or money for the company or to solve a problem or turn around a bad situation. It can be something as simple as changing a filing system, or establishing a relationship with a vendor that saved your department a lot of money. If you are in sales, you may want to talk about how you brought in that big account or drastically increased sales from an existing account by being more proactive and taking several important steps or addressing a key issue or reorganizing the client service team or changing the terms of the relationship to a more win-win situation etc. Creatives may talk about how they came up with that cutthroat image or design that brought in the business. Whatever your role, you need to demonstrate a situation where you took a proactive and creative approach to improving the company's performance, thought ''outside the box'' and innovated successfully in your domain.
20. What were your main responsibilities in your last job?
Have these ready and list them all. Focus on the ones that are most relevant to the new job. Do not dwell on the more trivial aspects of the job or those least relevant to the job at hand.
21. What do you consider your greatest accomplishments?
Many of us have one or two milestones in our career that we are very proud of eg. that early promotion, that 'huge' deal we brought in, the design we came up with, the costs we saved, the revenues we increased, the people we trained, a new invention or process we came up with etc. Examples of accomplishments may be: 'Reduced costs by X%; or renamed and repositioned a product at the end of its lifecycle, or organized and led a team to do do XYZ, or achieved sales increase of X% etc. If you are a fresh college graduate, talk about extracurricular activities, leadership roles, internships, summer jobs, volunteer activities and grades.
22. Describe your management style (if relevant)
Describe what the management role means to you and how you bring out the best in the teams and resources you manage. Elaborate on how you have succeeded in keeping your teams motivated, engaged, committed, ambitious, enthusiastic and successful; how you communicate with your teams; how you encourage teamwork and cohesiveness in your teams and what you believe are the keys to successful management and how these have applied to you.
23. Do you work better in teams or independently?
Show that you are a proactive teamplayer and like to bounce ideas off others and get input; however you are very capable of working independently (give examples of both).
24. How do you work under pressure?
Indicate that you are very capable of working under pressure and give evidence that you have worked under pressure successfully in the past without compromising your professionalism or the quality of your work or your targets in any way. Indicate however that your effective time management and organisational and communication skills allow you to plan ahead and allocate resources effectively and communicate efficiently with the appropriate stakeholders such that you are not always working to impossible deadlines or unrealistic targets.
25. What other jobs have you applied for?
In order to show focus and single-mindedness and career maturity you may choose not to mention jobs you are currently applying for that are in totally different career directions (eg advertising copywriter and investment banking analyst) even if you are genuinely unfocused and still in the 'shopping around' phase of your job-hunt. Do however bring up any other offers or Interviews from competing firms.
26. How did you do in college?
Keep it positive. It's okay to say you were very busy making the most of college and were very involved in sports, activities, internships, part-time jobs, social life etc. Employers want human beings not robots. Mention the areas you did very well in even if it was just one or two courses you excelled in. They will check for themselves.
27. What kind of hours would you like to work?
Employers want to see flexibility commitment and a strong, unwavering work ethic. Indicate you are willing to put in whatever hours are necessary to finish the job. Do however mention any constraints you have eg. you would like to be home to pick your kids up from school at 3:30. Most employers are willing to work around your constraints if you show flexibility on your side as well.