Job interviews can make you nervous; that is how it is for everyone. Interestingly, some questions get repeated in many sessions over the life of a job-seeker. What better way to get ready for an interview than to practice answering some of the most frequently asked interview questions?
Here are 20 of the most common:
- Tell us a bit about yourself
This question is meant to break the ice and make the interviewee feel comfortable. The interviewer expects you to give them some background information. Do talk about your relevant training and work experience. Give a response that offers information on your highest qualification level and the companies you have worked for in the same or similar industry with your position title. Avoid over-sharing on your personal circumstances.
- What experience have you had for this position?
The interviewer wants to know what you did in your previous job. Try to discuss and elaborate on the roles that you have listed in your resume. This is your opportunity to demonstrate your ability and especially in roles where you did similar work to what you are currently interviewing for. Give a couple of specific examples where you made a difference in your role.
- Why did you love or hate about your previous job?
The interviewer is interested in how you would feel about the job if you were to get hired. Refrain from negative comments about past work environments and try to be enthusiastic about the benefits you obtained from working there. If there was a negative experience (such as being laid off), reframe that as pointing you in the direction of a benefit you hope to get in the future e.g. I am now searching for jobs closer to home or I have gained extra skills in this area which I wish to use more in the future.
- What salary are you expecting?
Money matters are a deal breaker so the hiring manager wants to see how competitive you are in relation to their salary scales. The salary discussion is not essential until they are seriously considering you. It is often a wise move to give a range so that it leaves room for negotiation.
- Have you faced any major challenge at work? How did you handle it?
This is a question that tests your ability to overcome work-related challenges; by coming up with solutions or coping with the problems. When answering this question, give scenarios that brought direct value to your previous employer. Mature candidates have greater industry knowledge, life experience, financial responsibilities and emotional resilience. In the modern workplace, you may be called upon to mentor younger, less experienced coworkers. In an interview, do share this and how you have been helpful in helping less experienced team members work through certain challenges.
- What are your work strengths?
This question requires a bold answer; you cannot afford to be too modest here. Make it known to the interviewer how skilled or qualified you are in relation to the job at hand. You can respond by citing attributes that make you the right fit for the job. Example: I learn new processes easily. My last two roles were in fields that I had not formally trained for but I quickly grasped the concept of what was required of me and was able to teach others.
Use interview opportunities to overcome any ageist assumptions such as your ability and interest in learning new skills, your active lifestyle outside of work and your experience in the industry which gives you an advantage.
- What are your weaknesses?
Everyone has weaknesses, however it shows maturity to be aware of them and have worked on them so they can be made into a positive part of your personality. Example: as an introvert I was always quite shy about airing my views. My personality however means that I am a good listener and this has helped me a great deal when assigned to a customer-focused role.
- How do you relieve stress?
Most people shut down when faced with a stressful situation and the hiring manager wants to know if you are one of these people. If the job can bring high stress rather quickly, the interviewer wants to know if you will be overwhelmed. Example: I have mastered my mood patterns and easily identify stress creeping in. Before it happens, I take 5-10 minutes to refresh as I focus on my breathing. I have a daily exercise routine that also keeps me generally calm.
- Talk about how you overcame a difficult situation at work
This question requires you to give a real-life example of something that happened specifically to you, explaining briefly what the situation was and how you overcame it. The interviewer is wanting to see how you think through a situation in a logical manner, whether you can articulate the scenario showing good reasoning skills and were able to present solutions that were acceptable to the people involved.
- What does success at work mean to you?
The interviewer may be wanting to know about your personality and working style, whether you enjoy collaboration with others, enjoy helping customers, problem-solving, working on long-term or short-term projects, handling responsibility, being a team leader or identifying solutions to complex problems. Focus on attributes you have that would benefit the company and give you added value for the position.
- Why did you leave your previous job?
People have various reasons for moving jobs and you could have many. Try to be consistent when giving this answer to the various people who work for the company. Do not give them a reason to lock you out when they start comparing notes. Example: our company was bought by another company. I was invited to take on a transition role but I decided to explore new career prospects.
- What makes you a perfect fit for this job?
The interviewer is seeking to see how well you can align your experience, qualifications and skills to the demands of the new job. The interviewer is looking for a “spark” here, someone that will not only meet but exceed their expectations. Applicants who show a keen interest and enthusiasm for the role, the company and the industry, will always have an advantage.
- What do you plan to do in the future?
The interviewer would like to match the objectives of the company with what you give as your own. Make sure your answer suggests that you will stay with the company for more than a few years. Interviewers are often looking for a stable workforce and mature workers often have an advantage here. Do not use words like “slow down” or “take it easy” as ageism creeps in when it is assumed that mature workers are just coasting along until retirement. Also avoid sharing personal age-related lifestyle experiences, such as “spending time with the grandchildren”.
- What is your skill level with technology?
Research is needed here to know what technology is expected for your job in today’s workplace. Do not immediately assume that it is too hard or complex for you as many of these programs are fairly quick and easy to learn.
- Are you on LinkedIn?
This has become an industry standard and it is unwise to be left behind. You may need to reassess your engagement with LinkedIn and social media in your job-hunting journey, and adapt to it, if it is what hiring managers and the marketplace now expect. It is worth getting assistance to help you if you are totally unfamiliar and confused about it.
- How long have you been unemployed?
If there are gaps in your employment, present yourself as someone who is looking for the “right” opportunity, not someone who is desperate for work. Neediness can transmit itself with a “vibe” that can be off-putting. In an interview, you are selling your skills and experience, not yourself. The best salespeople have an aura of indifference, whether the prospect accepts their proposal or not. This does not mean you should not appear keen and enthusiastic. Enthusiasm and energy sells! Avoid the negative drain that comes with neediness or desperation or even anger and resentment at the circumstances that led to your unemployment. Instead, aim to present yourself as a person who is considering several great opportunities at the same time. The “vibe” with this attitude reflects your value to yourself and to the marketplace.
- What would you like to know about the organization?
The interviewer wants to know how interested you are in the company and if you have taken time to conduct any research about it. It is recommended that you are proactive in this area, by first having identified companies (such as this one) that match your career goals for specific reasons. Companies always appreciate candidates with genuine admiration and enthusiasm for the company’s position in the market and their product or service offering. The interviewer needs to be able to see that you would be aligned with the company’s goals.
- What would you like to know about the position?
There is an opportunity here that not every job-seeker takes advantage of. The opportunity is to talk about the position, the importance it fulfills in the company’s goals, and what the vision is for the company in filling it. Many candidates talk about themselves and their strengths, which is useful. However, it is even better to ask probing questions to drill down and clarify exactly what the “need and vision” is for the role. Doing this well may showcase you to be the most attractive candidate because you offer the extra 20% of value – value that is not uncovered until you started discussing the position instead of yourself.
- What is your experience in this industry?
It is valuable to be “up to speed” with the industry in which their products or services are sold in. This helps you to know who their customers are and what they are trying to achieve. Does the company manufacture, import, export, develop products? How many retail stores do they have? Have they won any awards? Check out their market position from current media releases and their website company news. Join some group discussions on LinkedIn to find out what the current concerns and news that people are talking about or search for industry updates online.
- How can we contact you?
Make sure your resume has your contact details at the top. These should include a phone number and email address. Use a gmail.com email address instead of an older style one. A physical address is no longer important. It is also helpful to include a link to your LinkedIn profile and this has become standard practice.