Job interviews are always difficult for all job seekers including those that have been to hundreds of interviews. The best solution to the difficulty is nothing but to fully prepare for the interview. Take the time to review the “standard” interview questions you will most likely be asked. Also review sample answers to these typical interview questions. You need to take your time to research the company. While this will give you the knowledge to know some things related to the company you want to interview with. One of the most basic tips for a job interview is to get a copy of the job description before you go on the interview. This document can be found in the job advertisement, you can also discuss with people in the company and the industry about the requirement s of the particular post, and they can be of help to you which can be advantageous to you. Search the internet to get yourself familiar with the likely questions and the techniques behind its responses.
Below are some useful types of questions and their answering techniques:
Work History questions
- Name of company, position title and description, dates of employment.
Interviewers expect a candidate to be able to review their work history in detail. You should be able to tell the interviewer the names of the companies you worked for, your job title, your starting and ending dates of employment, how much you earned and what your job entailed.
You’d be surprised how many job applicants fumble when asked about prior employment. Don’t be one of them! Refresh your memory prior to the interview by reviewing your resume, so, you can speak about your prior work history in detail and accurately.
If you don’t have a resume, make sure what you tell the interviewer matches what you filled out on your job application.
What were your expectations for the job and to what extent were they met?
In many cases, interviewers will want to know what you expected from your last job when you were hired, so, be prepared to answer the interview question “What were your expectations for the job and to what extent were they met?”
There isn’t a right or wrong answer to this question. The best way to respond is to discuss what you expected when you took the job and give examples of how the position worked out for you. If the job wasn’t exactly what you expected, it’s fine to mention that. However, you should focus on the job itself, not the company, your boss, or your co-workers (if they were a problem). Do be careful how you answer and don’t focus too much on the negative. Instead, address the highlights of the job.
When responding, be specific. Prepare some examples to share with the interviewer in advance. For example, if your job involved creating web applications using Cold Fusion, discuss the specific programs you developed and the responsibilities you were given. If you were provided training and opportunities for professional development to help you achieve your goals, mention that, as well.
- What were your starting and final levels of compensation?
Interviewers expect a candidate for employment to be able to provide the details of their compensation history. Be prepared to tell the interviewer how much you earned at each of your prior positions. Make sure that what you tell the interviewer matches what you listed on your job application. Refresh your memory prior to the interview by reviewing your compensation history, so, you can speak in detail and accurately. Don’t exaggerate or inflate your earnings. Many employers will check references and confirm your salary history prior to making a job offer. A discrepancy between what you reported and what the employer says could knock you out of contention for the job.
- What major challenges and problems did you face? How did you handle them?
- What have you learned from your mistakes?
When asked the job interview question “What have you learned from your mistakes?” be sure to give examples that turn a negative (a mistake) into a positive.
Examples of good responses include:
- I think one of the most important things I’ve learned is persistence. Not to give up too soon, because the solution is probably right in front of me.
- I have learned to give every person a second chance, because first impressions can often be misleading.
- I used to think that there was one best solution to a problem, but I’ve learned that that kind of thinking limits the possibility of great success.
- What did you like or dislike about your previous job?
When you’re asked what don’t like about your previous job, don’t be too negative. The reason is that you don’t want the interviewer to think that you’ll speak negatively about the new job or the company when you’re ready to move on, if you get this job. Rather, it makes sense to talk about yourself and what you’re looking for in a new role.
- What was the biggest accomplishment / failure in this position?
Your potential employer will want to know what you accomplished, and what you didn’t, in your current or last position.
The best way to respond is to give an example of something you accomplished that is directly related to the job you are interviewing for. Review your resume and review the job posting. Find the best match and use that to show how what you accomplished will be beneficial to the company you are interviewing with.
If you wrote a targeted cover letter when applying for the job use the information you included to create your response. For example, if you are interviewing for a job at a school where you will need to manage student registration, explain to the interviewer how you registered students for courses, designed and managed registration software, and solved customer problems.
If you didn’t fail at anything, say so. If you can think of an example, be sure that it’s a minor one and turn it into a positive. For example, if you were working on a project that was behind deadline, explain to the interviewer how you adjusted the workload and the timeline to get back on track and ahead of schedule
- What problems have you encountered at work?
Review sample answers to the interview question “What problems have you encountered at work and how did you deal with them?” When you respond, be sure to include a positive outcome to the problems you reference in your answer.
- I feel that the best way to deal with any challenges is to meet them head on. When I found that one of my colleagues was saying things that weren’t true behind my back, I went to him and talked it through. It turned out that he had misunderstood what I had said, and I was able to set the record straight with him, and my supervisor.
- “Once I found a major flaw in the work of one of the most senior members of the department, which could have been very costly to the company if it had been overlooked. I went directly to him, and called it to his attention so he could fix it before it affected the final outcome.
- Have you ever had difficulty working with a manager?
Review sample answers to the interview question “Have you ever had difficulty working with a manager?” Be careful answering questions about previous managers. You don’t want to come across as difficult, and you want to cast any past experiences in the most positive light possible.
- I had a rocky start with a manager once, because we had different expectations for the flow of the workday. Once we talked about it, we realized that our goals were very compatible, and we were able to work very successfully together for several years.
- I have found that if I take the time to talk with my manager at the beginning of a project, we can all get off to a great start on the same page. I would say that I have never really had a problem working with anyone. I try to find our common ground, and get along with everyone’s different personality.
- Why did you quit your job?
Review these suggestions on how best to answer questions about quitting your job and tailor your response to meet your particular situation. Prepare answers to typical job interview questions, like this one, in advance. Practice your responses so you sound positive, and clear, about your circumstances and your goals for the future. Bad answer:
“I can’t stand my boss, or the work I’m doing.”
Again, stay away from badmouthing your job or employer. Focus on the positive.
“I’ve learned a lot from my current role, but now I’m looking for a new challenge, to broaden my horizons, and to gain a new skill set–all of which I see the potential for in this job.”
Sample answers to the interview question “Why did you quit your job?”
- I quit my job because my supervisor retired. I felt that after many years of working in the office that it was time for a change and this seem like the ideal time to move on.
- I was able to take advantage of an early retirement offer due to company downsizing and am ready for a new challenge.
- I resigned to focus on finding a job that is closer to home and will use my skills and experience in a different capacity.
- I don’t have room to grow with my current employer and I’m ready to move on to a new challenge.
- I’m looking for a new challenge and to grow my career and I couldn’t job hunt part time while working.
- I have been volunteering in this capacity and love it. I’m seeking to turn my passion into the next step of my career.
- I was laid-off from my last position when my job was eliminated due to downsizing.
- After several years in my last position, I’m looking for a company where I can contribute and grow in a team-oriented environment.
- I am interested in a new challenge and an opportunity to use my skills and experience in a different capacity than I have in the past.
- I recently achieved certification and I want to utilize my educational background and technical skills in my next position.
- I am interested in a job with more responsibility, and I am very ready for a new challenge.
- I left my last position in order to spend more time with an ill family member. Circumstances have changed and I’m more than ready for full-time employment again.
- I was commuting and spending an hour each day on travel. I would prefer to be closer to home.
- To be honest, I wasn’t considering a change, but, a former colleague recommended this job to me and was intrigued by the position and the company. It sounds like an exciting opportunity and an ideal match for my qualifications.
- This position seemed like an excellent match for my skills and experience and I am not able to fully utilize them in my present job.
- The company was downsizing and I thought it made sense to seek another position before my job was eliminated.
- · Tell us about yourself.
“I graduated four years ago from the University of Ibadan, with a bachelor’s in biology–but I decided that wasn’t the right path for me. So I switched gears and got my first job, working in sales for a startup. Then I went on to work in marketing for a law firm. After that, I took a few months off to travel. Finally, I came back and worked in marketing again. And now, here I am, looking for a more challenging marketing role.”
Instead of giving a chronological work history, focus on your strengths and how they pertain to the role. If possible, illustrate with examples.
“I’m really energetic, and I’m a great communicator. Working in sales for two years helped me build confidence and taught me the importance of customer loyalty. I’ve also got a track record of success. In my last role, I launched a company newsletter, which helped us build on our existing relationships and create new ones. Because of this, we ended up seeing a revenue increase of 10 percent over two years. I’m also very interested in how companies can use web tools to better market themselves, and would be committed to building on your existing platform.”
- What do you think of your previous boss?
“He was completely incompetent, and a nightmare to work with, which is why I’ve moved on.”
Remember that if you get the job, many of the people interviewing you will someday be your previous bosses. The last thing they want is to hire someone they know will badmouth them. Instead of trashing your former employer, stay positive, and focus on what you learned from him (no matter how awful he really was).
“My last boss taught me the importance of time management, didn’t pull any punches, and was extremely deadline-driven. His no-nonsense attitude pushed me to work harder, and to meet deadlines I never even thought were possible.”
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
“Relaxing on a beach in Maui,” or “Doing your job.”
There’s really no right answer to this question, but the interviewer wants to know that you’re ambitious, career-oriented, and committed to a future with the company. So instead of sharing your dream for early retirement, or trying to be funny, give an answer that illustrates your drive and commitment.
“In five years I’d like to have an even better understanding of this industry. Also, I really love working with people. Ultimately, I’d like to be in some type of managerial role at this company, where I can use my people skills and industry knowledge to benefit the people working for me, and the company as a whole.”
- What’s your greatest weakness?
“I work too hard,” or for the comedian, “Blonds.”
This question is a great opportunity to put a positive spin on something negative, but you don’t want your answer to be a cliche–joking or not. Instead, try to use a real example of a weakness you have learned to overcome.
“I’ve never been very comfortable with public speaking–which, as you know, can be a hindrance in the workplace. Realizing this was a problem, I asked my previous employer if I could enroll in a speech workshop. I took the class, and was able to overcome my lifelong fear. Since then, I’ve given several presentations to audiences of over 100 high-level executives–I still don’t love it, but no one else can tell!”
- What salary are you looking for?
“In my last job I earned $35,000–so now I’m looking for $40,000.”
“If you can avoid it, don’t give an exact number. The first person to name a price in a salary negotiation loses. Instead, reiterate your commitment to the job itself. If you have to, give a broad range based on research you’ve conducted on that particular role, in your particular city.”
“I’m more interested in the role itself than the pay. That said, I’d expect to be paid the appropriate range for this role, based on my five years of experience. I also think a fair salary would bear in mind the high cost of living here in New York City.”
- Why should I hire you?
“I’m the best candidate for the role.”
A good answer will reiterate your qualifications, and will highlight what makes you unique.
“I’ve been an executive assistant for the past ten years–my boss has said time and time again that without me, the organization would fall apart. I have also taken the time to educate myself on some of the software I regularly use. I’m an Excel whiz now, which means I can work faster, and take over some of what my boss would traditionally have had to do by herself. What’s good enough for most people is never really good enough for me.”
- What is your greatest failure, and what did you learn from it?
“I never finished law school–and everything that’s happened since has taught me that giving up, just because the going gets tough, is a huge mistake.”
You don’t want to highlight a true major regret–especially one that exposes an overall dissatisfaction with your life. Instead, focus on a smaller (but still significant) mishap, and how it has made you a better professional.
“When I was in college, I took an art class to supplement my curriculum. I didn’t take it very seriously, and assumed that, compared to my engineering classes, it would be a walk in the park. My failing grades at midterm showed me otherwise. I’d even jeopardized my scholarship status. I knew I had to get my act together. I spent the rest of the semester making up for it, ended up getting a decent grade in the class. I learned that no matter what I’m doing, I should strive to do it to the best of my ability. Otherwise, it’s not worth doing at all.”
- How do you explain your gap in employment?
“I was so tired of working, and I needed a break,” or “I just can’t find a job.”
Employment gaps are always tough to explain. You don’t want to come across as lazy or unhireable. Find a way to make your extended unemployment seem like a choice you made, based on the right reasons.
“My work is important to me, so I won’t be satisfied with any old job. Instead of rushing to accept the first thing that comes my way, I’m taking my time and being selective to make sure my next role is the right one.”