Ah, the joy of job interviews. The whole process seems to be a pretty inefficient way of hiring good employees, but it doesn’t look like it is going away any time soon.
Sad as it is, job interviews often reveal how skilled a person is at interviewing, rather than how good a fit they will be for the job. Rather than getting frustrated at the process, our best course of action is probably to go with the flow and learn how to play the game. So, what can we do about it?
Be as prepared to answer the interview questions as possible!
Early in my career I would go to job interviews, knowing that they were going to ask some tough anecdotal questions. I would just hope that I could whip out a great answer without a 90 second awkward pause as I tried to think of a time when I had a situation at work that I used problem-solving skills to solve.
A trick for answering common job interview questions
After doing this interview after interview, a couple things started to dawn on me.
- Most of the interviewers often asked similar questions
- If I prepared beforehand I would have much more of an advantage than if I tried to navigate the archives of my brain while under the pressure of the interviewer.
So, next time I had an interview I decided to spend a few hours the night before thinking about stories of accomplishment, conflict resolution, and other answers to interview questions that might be asked. Three of the most common ones that I saw over and over in my job interviews were…
- How I helped solve a problem at work
- A time when I made a mistake and how I fixed it
- How I dealt with an unpleasant worker, etc.
So armed with my examples from my past, I would go into the interview and almost every time I would be able to work those examples in as an answer to their questions. The questions were often slightly different, but most of the time I could find a way to use that story as an answer to it – without the pressure or awkwardness of trying to think about it on the spot.
The top 25 common interview questions
Having these answers prepared made a world of difference when I was sitting at the conference table. Instead of having to spend 30 seconds trying to think of a time when I helped the company improve it’s bottom line, I already had the answer rolling off my tongue. My job interviews never were more comfortable as when I was properly prepared!
- Tell me about yourself
- Why did you leave your last job?
- What qualities do you look for in a boss?
- Are you willing to work overtime? Nights? Weekends?
- Would you be willing to relocate if required?
- Why do you think you would do well at this job.
- What would your previous supervisor say your strongest point is?
- What motivates you?
- What are your salary expectations?
- What are your goals for the next five years / ten years? How do you plan to achieve those goals?
- What kind of person would you refuse to work with?
- Tell me about your ability to work under pressure.
- Tell me about a time that you participated in a team, what was your role?
- Do you prefer to work independently or on a team?
- What challenges are you looking for in a position?
- Why are you the best person for the job?
- What kind of contribution will you make to our company?
- What interests you most about this job?
- What have you learned from mistakes on the job?
- What kind of work do you enjoy the most?
- How do you deal with conflict?
- What are your special skills or abilities?
- Why should we hire you?
- Tell me about a time when you helped resolve a dispute between others.
- What is your greatest strength/weakness?
So, I suggest spending a couple hours the day before your interview answering these questions. Even better would be to have a spouse or friend ask them. Think of relevant examples from your work life that give the interviewer the answers they are looking for.
While you are preparing for your interview, become very familiar with the job description and job requirements and when applicable and true, work those points into your answers as well. If the interviewer is looking for someone who is proficient with Excel, then if you can make mention of how you used Excel in conversation – this will just help solidify that you are the person they are looking for!
For more job interview questions asked you can check out these other articles…
That’s a great question list, Bob. It’ll definitely come in handy someday. Thanks!
“Tell me about a time that you were called upon to make a recommendation to your team that would have an impact on the bottom line. Explain the process of arriving at the recommendation, and the outcome and it’s effect.”
I was asked this question, and it shows your ability to think about how your actions and decisions would affect your team.
Regarding question #9 about salary expectations, here’s a tip that hopefully helps some people. It’s generally suggested by the experts to NOT talk about salary until they’ve offered you a job. Salary questions are a way to screen you out if you’re asking for too much, or trap you in if you ask for too little. Concentrate on answering questions about the job, and win them over before discussing salary.
I’ve found that you cannot avoid answering this, though. With the online applications, it’s required you insert a dollar number. ARGH!
Good point, but how would you skirt around the salary question if the interviewer asked? Do you recommend saying something like, “Can we please talk about compensation if I get an offer for the position?” I just wouldn’t want to sound rude or evasive. Thanks!
Joseph | kickdebtoff says
Depending on the industry you are interviewing for.. Some require hands on demonstration. Asking if this apply to you when invited for an interview can be helpful and one can brush up on these skills.
Yeah, I’m with Tristan. I didn’t know what to do either. I’ve always tried to avoid answering, but if they ask directly, is it appropriate to avoid it directly?
(Frankly, I think it might be, but I’m not sure.)
-Marshall Jones Jr.
@Tristan and bondChristian
Yes, salary negotation can get a bit uncomfortable if you’re not prepared. But you must stand your ground. You can say something like this:
“I’m sure we can come to an agreement if I’m the right person for the job, so let’s first agree on whether I am.”
“I know that you’d like to be sure you can afford me, so I won’t require a salary out of line with the job. But it’s a principle of mine not to discuss salary yet, because it can get us off track. What’s important is whether I’m right for the job and what I can produce for you.”
Basically, you want to bring the focus off salary talk, and back onto questions about the job responsibilities and how you can help the organization. Hope this helps.
I read about a man who would spill something (paperclips, papers) and see if and how quickly the potential candidate offered to pick them up, regardless of whether the interveiwer indicated he might just leave them or not. It spoke volumes about willingness to do whatever is needed, and innate helpfulness vs. having to be asked. Even the way the person approached the task was telling: were they grovelling / trying to win points, or was it simply a matter of course to help a person if they spilled something in your presence?
Preparing in this way seems like such an easy thing to do compared to worrying and fretting about how you did in the interview. I used to worry and get all worked up, but now, like you suggested above, I focus on preparing solid answers, practicing speaking clearly, and reminding myself to have good posture and not to slump! (For some reason, this is only ever difficult for me when I sit across from a potential boss!)
My now boss, asked me during my interview, What is currently in the trunk of your car?
First time I have ever gotten that question in an interview, but I guess it would tell a lot about the person! ha!
Great advice! Thanks!
Interesting — I’ll have to remember that one. It’s common courtesy, though, so it should be a no-brainer to the average person.
Dan @ Blueskiesfinancialcoaching.com says
I cant stress enough about the importance of having a list of questions you need to ask the interviewer. Do some research on the company and work on asking one of your questions after you have answered one of his/hers. This makes the interview more of a conversation than an interrogation. Some of my favorites are….
Why is the position open?
Who do you see as your biggest major competitor and what is your plan to gain market share over the next 12 months?
What kind of people are successful in this position?
What frustrates you?
What would you like to see accomplished in the first 12 months by the person who fills this position?
I like this list of interview questions. We’re doing some hiring right now so I’ve been doing a little interviewing myself. Here’s a question I like to ask… “Tell me about a decision a supervisor made that you didn’t agree with. How did you handle it?” I like to know how a prospective employee is going to respond when they don’t agree with me.
Also, I always give the person I’m interviewing a chance to interview me when I’m done interviewing them. When that part’s done I sometimes feel like if I were them, I wouldn’t hire me : )
Great article, Bob!
Ron K says
One way for the interviewer to simplify the process is to go through cover letters and resumes prior to calling people in for an interview. If there are a hundred applicants but only two jobs to fill it does not simplify the process by interviewing all 100. A resume is the first screening filter. Better have a good one.
Thank you for the words of wisdom. I actually have a telephone interview tomorrow. For me, you could not have posted a more timely and informative article! Thanks again! God bless!!!!
Man, God must have nudge you to put this up, because I’ve been praying about this job oportunity in a Nortern State (I live in FL) and would be a great change for my family (good & bad), my interview is next week, and I’ve been edgy about the interview. I may read into this posting as sign to relax! thanks
Mark Thomas says
I think one of the best things to do is to actually come up with some questions about the company yourself. Interviewers usually wrap up the interview by saying “do you have any questions for me?” and it’s common to just say no. Do some research about the company to get your brain jogging, and then let your curiosity wander to come up with some questions. Having an actual question to ask at that stage of the interview can set you apart by making you seem genuinely interested in the company and can possibly lead to some more conversation (a conversation in which you’re not getting grilled by a prompt).
Bob at MoreMoneyThanMonth.com says
Really great article, Bob. I was laid off back in 2009 in the height of the last recession. Spent 8 months looking before I found my current job and went through several interviews. I am a person that needs to think about a question a little before responding and that is difficult to do in an interview. I took similar lists of questions and wrote my answers out ahead of time. On the day of the interview I’d spend an hour or so reviewing those lists and my responses. I can’t tell you how much that helped. I highly recommend that to anyone that is looking for a job. This is a very good resource.
kiran sahu says
Hey! Great article.
It helped me a lot to prepare for my interview
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