Have you ever gone to a job interview prepared to talk about the organization, your skill set, your passion for excellence, and had the interviewer ask the one tough question you had not considered?
Interviews come in all shapes and sizes: the telephone screen, AI screen, behavioral interview, situational interview, technical interview, case study.
The more you practice, the better your conversation with the hiring manager will go.
Below are 10 common interview questions and sample answers
Question 1. Tell me about yourself?
Your first panicked thought – What? Didn’t you read my resume? My carefully crafted cover letter?
The tell me about yourself question is an opportunity for you to craft a story that will help your future employer learn more about you. There is no wrong answer.
You can briefly describe your background including previous jobs, activities and geographic locations in a way that helps the interviewer understand what makes you a good fit. A chance for you to edit the story and highlight skills and experiences that may not be obvious.
Your answer should help move the listener to appreciate more about you and gain a better overall understanding.
Don’t speak for too long!
Question 2. Why are you interested in our company?
Of course you researched the company, the role and the interviewer before the day of the interview!!!
The interviewer wants to know if you have done your homework. Can you differentiate this company from the competitors in the same industry. Do you have a real desire to work here. What makes you excited about this company and this job.
Every organization has a distinct culture, the better your research, the better you will answer why you and the company are a good fit.
Question 3. What is your major weakness?
Your first thought might be No!!! I am afraid to answer this question.
Clearly, if you are interviewing for data analytics roles, do not list math as your weakness.
The interviewer is interested in how you answer this question as much as in the answer itself. One suggestion is to talk about an area where you would like to further develop your skills. This is your chance to show that you are thoughtful and self-aware.
Question 4. What motivates you?
Money? Power? Job satisfaction? Develop skills? Save the world?
The interviewer wants to understand more about your priorities and whether they align with the company and with the team.
For example, if you are interviewing for a sales role, you may want to talk about enjoying competition and the ability to see the direct results of your work, as motivators. In other positions, this answer might not be appropriate.
Be honest with yourself as you look at jobs. Both you and your future employer want a good match in terms of motivation and priorities.
Question 5. What salary are you looking for?
Don’t we all just hate this question?
Research is the key. You need to understand the salary range for a job before you go in to the interview.
If pressed for an answer, offer a range that you know is within the salary band. You can also say that you would like to understand the full job description more clearly before committing to a salary.
Ideally salary is negotiated at a later point in the interview process, and at the offer stage.
Question 6. Tell me about a time when you have served others?
You may think, I have never been in a customer service job before!!
The interviewer is trying to understand whether you have the ability to consider other peoples’ needs. Are you able and willing to put yourself in the position of the customer (inside the company or outside the company) and understand their goals.
As you frame the answer, think about examples from paid or volunteer work, or an experience you have had with a friend, teammate or fellow student in need. You can be creative and demonstrate the ability to work in an environment that is customer focused.
Question 7. Tell me about a time you had multiple competing priorities and deadlines. How did you deal with the situation?
Love this type of question.
Here is an opportunity to give examples of teamwork as well as highlight a skill or a project you have done. Everyone has confronted this situation somewhere, either in work, school, sports or volunteer work.
In answering this question you can also show your awareness of management styles and your ability to negotiate and prioritize.
To answer this question, try the STAR method.
Describe the Situation, explain your role or Task, outline the Actions you took and conclude with the Results.
Click here for a review of types of interviews and more about the STAR method
Question 8. If there was one thing you want us to remember about you after this interview, what would it be?
You may be thinking – I want this job!
Probably not the best answer
This question gives you the opportunity to highlight an important connection between yourself and the role. Consider what differentiator or skill you would like to reinforce. Connect yourself to the job or to something that was discussed in the interview.
Question 9. We are looking at doing a deal with an overseas media company. What are the steps you would take to analyze the transaction and what model would you use?
This question was asked in a first round, telephone interview. The position was for an internship in private equity.
The candidate’s first thoughts. Oh No! This is such a quantitative question. This is supposed to be the cultural fit interview.
If you are interviewing in private equity or consulting, you will be reading and practicing for case interviews. But, it is possible in any interview to get a question that takes you far out of your comfort zone.
Take a deep breath. The interviewer wants to see how you respond, how you think, how you process and solve problems
Ultimately it is not the answer but how you think about it.
Question 10. We cannot hire everyone in this room, if you had to fire someone, who would it be?
Do employers really ask this question. Yes! This was an actual question asked during the last phase of a group interview for a summer internship.
Such a tough and horrible question for so many reasons. I like this answer from a candidate who said, I analyzed everyone in the room and picked the person closest to myself in skills and experience. I figured that he was my closest competitor.
If you find yourself in a high stress interview, stay cool, be kind and be creative.
As you interview, enjoy exploring your opportunities.
Debbie Matson is a Career Coach, Recruiter and Founder of CareerAmplify. She has an MBA from Cornell University and is a certified Executive Coach from Columbia University Teachers College. Her passion is empowering students moving from academics to full-time employment, and helping people at all stages of their careers find the next great job.
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