Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and Profiles » Job Search, Job Interview Questions, & Job Interview Tips » Simple Truths About Routine Interview Questions - Understanding The Interviewer's Motives, The 10 Questions You Need To Be Ready To Answer

Simple Truths About Routine Interview Questions - The 10 Questions You Need To Be Ready To Answer

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Here are 10 of the most common questions you're likely to encounter in a job interview. They have been chosen because they're the ones that job candidates may provide weak answers for precisely because they seem so common and routine.

1. “Can you tell me about yourself?”

The common mistake in answering this question is thinking that the interviewer is asking for your life story. As fascinating as it may be, the interviewer is less interested in where you went to kindergarten and how you won the second grade spelling bee as he or she is in how your experience in your last job directly relates to this position. Limit your answer to work-related aspects of your background. Assuming that you've studied the job posting thoroughly and researched the company, tie your background and experience to the prospective employer's needs.

2. “Why do you want to work here?”

Again, if you've done your research, you should have some sense of what the company does, what the corporate culture is, and how your skill set fits into the picture. Your answer should be something along the lines of “Your mission statement and corporate vision are consistent with my professional goals, and I believe my skills in the areas of [insert examples] will allow me to contribute to the success of [insert name of a specific program or a challenge the company faces]. The potential is very exciting to me.”

3. “What do you know about our firm?”

Once again, research, research, research! If you can't tell the interviewer much about what the company makes and sells, or what its biggest challenges are, the interviewer may assume you have little genuine interest in the company or the position you're applying for. In this modern age, Internet access makes research relatively easy. Chances are, you found the job posting at a company Website, so be sure to explore the site in more depth to find out about the firm's products, plant locations, financial performance, and any other information that might be useful. If you're applying in the nonprofit world, many agencies have Websites that can provide information about the organization's mission, active programs, and funding. You may wish to refer back to Chapter 2, where we discussed researching prospective employers. Take note of the recommended resources mentioned in Appendix C at the back of the book, as well.

4. “What are your goals?”

When posed with this question, it's not a good time to share that your long-range plan is to own a sheep ranch in West Virginia. Your answer should relate to the job in question and perhaps how you see yourself within the organization three to five years down the road. Give some thought as to what the logical career path is for someone in your field, and tailor your answer to reflect that. Maybe that means aspiring to be a supervisor or manager within the department that hires you, or taking advantage of educational opportunities to enhance your value to the employer. Once again, if you've done your research, you should have some idea what's expected for an employee entering the company at your level.

5. “What are your strengths?”

Again, the real underlying question is, “How will your strengths fulfill our needs?” Choose one or more of your strong points and relate them to the opening you're being interviewed for. Your response could be something such as, “I've always been good with numbers, and I know that budgeting is a key component of this position. At my last job, I developed and administered a $580,000 operating budget and achieved all of our key objectives for the year while staying under budget.” That might lead to a follow-up question such as, “Really! How much under budget were you?” To which you can reply, “We saved a total of $29,000, which was 5 percent.” Notice how this second answer reinforces your assertion that you're good with numbers by demonstrating your ability to come up with the amount instantly and calculate the percentage on the spot.

6. “What experience do you have that's directly relevant to this position?”

This question is a variation of the previous one, so you can answer it pretty much the same way. Pick one of your core skills and explain to the interviewer how it will help you in performing the duties of the new job. For example: “I have extensive experience prospecting and cold calling while establishing long-term relationships. Because your firm sells capital equipment, I recognize that it involves a long sales cycle. I believe that my previous experiences will allow me to identify strong prospects and maintain a rapport with them over several months as we move them toward a buying decision.”

7. “What would your former coworkers say about you?”

Your answer to this question can hurt you in two ways. First, a casual or flippant answer about how you get along with everybody will do little to advance your case with the interviewer. On the other hand, coming on too strong about how you have the professional respect of everyone you work with may sound a bit disingenuous. An even-handed approach might sound something like this: “I believe that they would tell you that I'm well-organized, consistently meet deadlines, and know how to engender cooperation among colleagues when necessary to meet objectives. They probably also would say that I have a great sense of humor and know how to defuse a tense situation with a small bit of humor, when appropriate.”

8. “What are your salary expectations?”

This is a routine question that often comes up, but it's also one of the toughest challenges a job seeker faces. You may encounter this question because the interviewer is incompetent and truly doesn't know any better; or, the interviewer may be trying to gain a negotiating advantage for later by getting you to name your price first. If this question is broached in the early stages of an interview, the best approach is to say, “I think I'd like to know more about the responsibilities of the position and reach a point where we can agree that I'm the right person for the job before getting too deeply into salary discussions. As a well-regarded company in your industry, I'm certain that your compensation package will be in line with the current market and that we can reach a mutually beneficial agreement about salary.” If the interviewer continues to press for an answer, you might ask what range they have in mind; whatever the answer, you should always be near the top of that range.

9. “Why should we hire you?”

Here's another great opportunity to talk about your key strengths as they relate to the job opening. An appropriate answer might be, “I have the skills and experience necessary to do the job, I believe in the company's mission and think its products are great, and I'm willing to commit to whatever additional training or education might be necessary to meet the department's future needs.”

10. “Do you have any questions?”

This question may be the most important one you're asked in an interview. In fact, if the interviewer doesn't ask it, you should pipe up and say, “I have a few questions I'd like to ask.” Either way, this is your golden opportunity to learn more about the company, the job, your role within the company, and more. Some interviewers say that the questions a candidate asks are often more important than his or her answers to the interviewer's questions. In addition to helping you gather information about the company, your questions can also demonstrate your interest in the position. An insightful question shows that you've done some research but are eager to learn more.

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