Every company is known for putting their own spin to the interview process, especially if they’re looking to fill a position that’s essential to keeping the ship running smoothly. The job application process usually starts with an online application. All these applications will be filtered by the company’s HR department. The qualified applicants will be asked to come in for an initial interview; this is usually done with an HR representative. If you pass this stage, you’ll then be interviewed by a supervisor or your direct boss. This is where they might throw in some situational questions or behavioral tests—it’s different for every company.
But no matter how creative employers get with their job process, you should expect to be asked any (or all) of the following most common job interview questions.
Tell me about yourself.
Literally every job interview I’ve ever had started with this question, and it’s still one of the major introductions that make our minds go blank. The important thing to remember here is that the interviewer isn’t asking about your hobbies or personal relationships, so keep it professional. Try the Present-Past-Future formula: Explain what you’re doing at your current job; give a quick recap of your work history; finish by talking about what you can offer the company you’re applying for.
What do you know about the company?
It’s irresponsible (read: stupid) not to look up the company you want to work for. It should be the first thing you do when you see a job opening. And don’t just memorize the “About me” page on their website. Figure out how their mission fits into the position they’re trying to fill and prove that you’re the perfect person for it.
Why should we hire you?
This question is as simple as it gets. And it’s your time to shine, so you better know how to sell yourself. Talk about your skills and how you’ll use those skills to produce fantastic results. Make sure you send the message that you are a team player and that you can adapt to the environment they function in.
What are your strengths?
It’s tempting to just go into a speech of how great you are, but it takes more than self-confidence to land the position. Be accurate, don’t exaggerate. And be specific (“a people person” vs. “builds professional relationships and communicates clearly”). List the skills you’re most proud of, but make sure they’re relevant to the job description. If there’s time, provide situational examples of when you exercised these strengths in your previous jobs.
How about your weaknesses?
Yes, you have them. Yes, you should be honest about them…but not ~*too*~ honest. You need to prove that you’re self-aware, that you know the areas you need to improve on, but also that these weaknesses won’t keep you from getting the job done. For example, my number one weakness is public speaking. When I’m really nervous, I even stutter. But my job entails networking on occasion, so I use those instances to practice interacting with and in large crowds.
Tell me about a challenge you’ve encountered and overcame.
Again, this is not a chance to talk about your ex or family drama. Only bring up conflicts that happened in a professional setting, preferably ones that had a happy ending where you quickly came up with a solution and handled the situation with composure.
Why did you leave your last job?
Your interviewer will most likely call your previous employer for a reference, so don’t lie. If something bad happened, be clear but brief about it. For instance, if you were fired, it’s okay to say, “I was let go.” If it was just time to move on to something new, then openly say that.
What do you expect from the position you’re applying for?
The correct way to answer this question is by reiterating or including some of the tasks in the job description. Make it clear that you know what they expect and that those expectations are aligned with what you seek out of this job.
Tell us about your ideal work environment.
In my last interview—yes, for this position, lol—I explained that I function better in an environment that’s more collaborative than competitive. Some people, like the brilliant minds in Sales, are driven by a little competition. You get to decide the space you want to be in. Don’t force yourself in an environment you know you won’t thrive in.
In three words, how would your old boss/co-workers describe you?
This is an extension of: “Tell me about yourself.” Again, keep your answers specific and relevant. If they ask for three, keep it at three.
How do you deal with stressful situations?
Starting a new job always feels exhilarating at first. Everything is fresh, like your slate just got wiped clean. But even those who’ve found their dream jobs experience stress. Naturally, the company is looking for employees who know how keep their emotions intact when shit hits the fan. Do you panic when a deadline gets moved up? Do you turn on your officemates when your project isn’t going smoothly? Focus on the steps you take to keep things positive, and most importantly, productive.
Can you explain the gap in your work history?
I’ve got a big gap in my work history. During this time, I became a nanny in Singapore, did some online writing, and dealt with a mental health issue—all things I’ve always been transparent about. Just be honest, and then say something like, “It was what I needed at that point in my life, but now I’m ready to work hard for…”
What’s your management style?
Decoded, this means, “What kind of boss are you?” If you’ve never been a boss, think about all the people you’ve worked for in the past. What did you admire? What would you do differently? If, however, you’ve had some experience managing a team, talk about the highlights: What were your successes? What were some of your proudest moments?
What kind of salary are you expecting from this position?
No matter what industry you’re in, go into that interview with a range in mind. Check that range, then aim high. Don’t sell yourself short. This shows that you know the value of your skills. If they say yes, fabulous! If not, at least you’ll have room to negotiate.
How do you unwind? What do you do for fun?
Yes, sometimes they’ll throw in a personal question in the mix. But the reason for this is they want to know that your personality matches the team’s culture. Still, don’t get carried away by telling a potential employer that you like to black out every Friday night…no matter how good tequila makes you feel.
Why did you decide to change career paths?
Be honest about why you’re switching lanes, but find a way to convince them that whatever experience you have will benefit the company in the long run.
Do you have any questions for us?
Remember: This interview is also a chance for you to get to know them. Like you, they’re bound to put their best foot forward. Do not leave the interview without getting answers for your own evaluation. You might be surprised by what you find out. Maybe it isn’t a right fit after all.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I know, this question can be daunting, especially if you don’t even have your next week planned out. The key to answering this is by being honest about your future. It’s okay to be unsure of where you’ll be or what you’ll be doing, but you can mention how this new role is one step close to figuring out where this career could take you.
Tell us about your dream job.
Again, is the position you’re applying for in line with your career goals? Or is it just a rest stop? And if it’s not part of your ambition, ask yourself, what are you doing there?
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