A. APPROPRIATE RESPONSES TO TYPICAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS*
An interviewer has the task of discovering what kind of person and worker you are in the short time period of about an hour or even less. Therefore, the questions asked by interviewers are fairly standard from one interview to another since all interviewers are trying to obtain the same type of information. On the following pages, these typical questions will be listed with a description of how you should answer each one.
1. TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF
When an interviewer says, 'Tell me about yourself", he/she is asking you to tell him/her about yourself as a person, not merely about your job skills, The type of answer you should give follows the same guidelines as you followed in providing personal information in your resume, and you can refer back to this to remind yourself about what you should include, Try especially to provide information that may indicate something you have in common with the interviewer, so that you are no longer a stranger to him/her. Perhaps his/her children attend the same school as yours do, or you follow the same sport, or have lived in the same city, or his/her parents had a background similar to yours, or you have the same hobby. These are the specific items you should mention:
1. Common Friend. If you know someone who works in the company or who knows the interviewer, mention him/her since this establishes a common acquaintance,
2. Hobbies and Special Interests. Tell him/her what your hobbies or special interests are, especially if they might be job-related, such as drawing, building gadgets, designing your own clothes, doing seasonal work as a tax preparer, fixing cars. Also include non-job-related special interests such as being a strong football fan, coin collecting, and keeping tropical fish.
3. Personal Stability. Mention any facts about yourself that indicate personal stability and trustworthiness. Owning a home indicates your desire to stay in the area, as does your having lived in the area a long time. Marriage and children also carries this message. Tell him/her about your desire to stay in the area and what you like about it.
Only after you have described these personal items should you talk about your job skills and experience, Almost all interviewers will ask you to talk about the personal factors, but even if they don't, try to mention them since the topic serves to create a friendly atmosphere. Then mention the following work related factors;
1 Your interest and experiences related to the job
2. Your past work experience
3. Your training or education
4. Your strong interest and enjoyment of your work
2. HAVE YOU EVER DONE THIS KIND OF WORK BEFORE?
You should never say "No" to this type of question, since no two jobs are alike and so, of course, you have never done exactly this same work, In all jobs, new skills and rules and details must be learned. A cook in one restaurant will never be preparing exactly the same foods with exactly the same equipment and exactly the Same schedule as in any other restaurant. what the interviewer wants to know is whether you can learn to do the job in a reasonable time. Consequently, mention all of the experience you have had that makes it likely that you can learn quickly to do the work required in this specific job. Tell him/her about;
1. Your past experience
2. Your education and training related to the job
3. Unpaid experience related to the job
4. How quickly you have learned that type of work in the past.
As an example, the school principal asks you if you have taught French, since the opening is for someone who can also teach one French class. You haven't, but you would tell him/her that you took French in college, have taught grammar and English, have an aptitude for languages, had spent some time in France, and would have no trouble handling it. Similarly. the interviewer might ask you whether you have worked as a bookkeeper and you haven't, but you could mention facts such as you kept some books as part of your previous job as a secretary, you maintain an exact book of records of your family expenses, you had a bookkeeping course in high school, you're good with figures, and you're sure you could learn the necessary details quickly. If you are asked about whether you ever worked as a furniture salesperson, you would similarly describe any selling experience, your interest and knowledge of furniture, your general ability as a salesperson, and your assurance that you would learn very quickly.
3. WHY DO YOU WANT TO WORK HERE?
'when an interviewer asks you why you wish to work for his/her company, he/she is attempt-ins to learn whether you will be satisfied with your job and likely to stay. To reassure him/her, you should mention as many positive features as you can about the company, such as:
1. The good reputation that the company has and your pride in telling people you work there.
2. You heard that the company is very fair and appreciates hard working employees (mention any employees who have described it to you).
3. The company has the kind of job that you are good at and like to do.
4. You like this type of work and you feel you can do a good job.
4. WHY DID YOU LEAVE YOUR LAST JOB?
When the interviewer asks you why you left your last job or why you want to leave your present job, he/she is trying to determine whether you had difficulties that may also arise in his/her company. This same question is also asked on some employment application forms. It has been discussed that employees usually leave a job for many reasons and that you should mention only those reasons that are favourable to you. The fact that you did not do well in one company does not mean that you will not do well in another, so you shouldn't be concerned about leaving unmentioned any problem you might have had there. This situation might very well have been unique and would never again occur.
Some of the common reasons for leaving a job are that the company had a cut-back or a lay-off, it was a seasonal job, it was a temporary job, it was only part-time, it was only a good job while you were in school, it required too much travel away from home, it was not in a part of the country where you wanted to live, or the company was not doing well and could
not keep up with the standard salary level. Other contributing factors may have been that you wanted to go into a different line of work for which you were well qualified and more interested, or that your company had a reorganization and no longer required the position you had.
Avoid saying that you were fired; if you were; rather, mention the other factors involved, such as the job not being sufficiently oriented to your training or abilities, or that it involved a great deal of travel.
Whatever reasons you give, point out that the job for which you are being interviewed does not have the same problem that led to your leaving your last job. If you say that you left your last job because it involved too much travel, or was in a different area, or was not up to your skills, then point out that this job does not require travel, is in a part of the country where you want to live, or is more in line with your training aptitudes. If you were fired because of medical reasons, explain that they have been professionally taken care of. If you were fired because of family problems, assure the employer that they have been taken care of. Whatever the reason, explain in a positive manner how the situation has been, or will be, corrected.
In describing your last job, say as many positive things as you can about it even if it had many undesirable features - all jobs do. Do not say anything negative about the company or the supervisor - only that your needs did not fit in with the job. if you criticize the company or supervisor, the interviewer will view you as someone who is likely to do the same to him/her if you are hired in his/her company. On the other hand, he/she will regard you as appreciative and pleasant if he/she hears you speaking in a positive way about a company you left and will feel that you are likely to be appreciative and pleasant regarding the job for which you are interviewed.
5. WHAT WAGE OR SALARY DO YOU NEED?
When you are asked about your salary requirements in an interview, the interviewer is attempting to determine whether your expectations are too high for them. Of course, you want as much as the company is willing to pay. By naming a salary at this stage of the hiring process, you can only harm yourself. If you mention a lower salary than the interviewer has in mind, you may be hired at a level less than is standard and below what you might have obtained. If you mention a higher salary, it may be more than what he/she had been thinking of paying and he/she may well terminate the interview and decide he/she can't afford you. The wisest course is to avoid mentioning any specific figures or even a salary range until he/she has decided that you are the right person for the job and has offered it to you. Having decided that you are a good potential employee, he/she may well decide that he/she is willing to start you off at a high salary level.
One way to answer the question of your required salary level is to tell the interviewer that you would work for whatever he/she feels is fair based on your qualifications and the company's standard salary level for that position. You might do this by saying, "I know you 11 pay as much as I'm worth to you and I can't ask for much more than that", or "You probably have set rates and whatever that is, I'd feel that was fair", or 'Your company has a reputation for fairness so I know you will pay an amount that is right for me
After the interview is over and you have definitely been offered the job, you can then decide whether the salary is high enough. If the salary is too low when the job has been offered, tell the employer about the problem that you have in accepting the job. Tell him/her that you believe you can do better elsewhere, or that you have been paid more in similar jobs in the past, or that you have another possibility or offer that pays better, whichever one of these reasons applies to you. Tell him/her what all of the positive attractions are of the job he/she has offered and how much you wish to accept if only the salary could be increased somewhat. Explain that your decision to accept would be much easier if he/she could find some way to offer a higher salary. If he/she is unable to do so, suggest that you would feel more comfort-able if you had some assurance that a raise or promotion might be possible in the near future if your work will justify it.
6. WHY SHOULD WE HIRE YOU INSTEAD OF SOMEONE ELSE?
When you are asked this direct question, the interviewer is asking you, in a sense. to make his/her decision for him/her. If you have to hesitate or can think of only one or two reasons, then he/she will feel that the reasons are not too obvious or are not sufficient. You should quickly list our skills and positive characteristics. Some of these might be: I'm very good at that type of work; I'm conscientious: I am efficient; I'm a company person for whomever I work and give everything I've got; I don't have to be supervised and always get my job done correctly and quickly; I like this company and would enjoy working here; I'm not a clock-watcher; I'm dependable and don't take time off; I've got many extra skills that would be useful in the job besides the ones that are needed; I work harder than other people; I am always willing to work overtime and get the job done.
7. HOW MUCH WERE YOU ABSENT FROM WORK IN YOUR LAST JOB?
An employer wants to be able to depend on his/her employees being present, and this question is designed to determine whether he/she could depend on you. If you are absent a good deal because of some reason. tell the interviewer what the reason was and why you feel that it will no longer be a problem. "I'm in great health and don't expect to be taking any days off". The same is true of some types of jobs that have an especially high absence rate and suffer a serious disruption when employees are absent, such as production line work. In answering this question, stress what your past reliability has been and give assurance of your future reliability.
8. HOW IS YOUR HEALTH?
A question about your state of health has the same intent as the previous question - how reliable an employee will you be. This is not the time to talk about your athlete's foot or an appendectomy you had as a child, or a backache or headache. The interviewer wishes to know whether you are likely to be absent because of health problems. You almost certainly do not intend to let health problems interfere with your job and so you should tell him/her that "My health is excellent" or "I have no health problems that will interfere with my work". Depending on your specific history. you could say, "I've never been out of work because of illness" or "I've never been out of work for sickness for more than one day at a time" or "1 don't let small things interfere with my job".
If you have a physical problem that is not visible to others, such as a blood condition, a sore arm, a rash on your back, a slight hearing difficulty, or kidney problems. do not mention them unless they are so serious that they would prevent you from being a reliable employee.
This is rarely, if ever, the case since almost all such conditions can be treated medically to a degree that enables you to function adequately in almost all jobs.
Suppose, however, that you have a physical problem that is visible to the interviewer. He/she will want to be reassured that it will not make you unreliable or incapable of acing your job. Examples of such physical problems are that you are in a wheelchair, you have a missing arm or leg or hand, you are blind, or you have a large hearing loss and are wearing a hearing aid. The first rule here is to have obtained a letter from your doctor to give to an interviewer stating that your physical problem does not require extensive additional treatment and does not interfere with your general ability to work.
The second rule is to mention the problem before the interviewer does, since he/she may feel embarrassed about discussing it and yet maintain a bias because of it.
Thirdly, point out how you function normally in spite of the handicap by engaging in some action that you can perform that relates to your problem. For example, if you wear a visible hearing aid, ask him/her to whisper and turn up your volume control and repeat what he/she said. Or, if you have an artificial limb (arm, hand), pick up a piece of paper or some other object and also show him/her how you write. Tell him/her how well you function in spite of the disability, but be sure to actually demonstrate since the actual performance is more convincing than any statement. Then ask him/her to think of any situations he/she thinks you will have problems with and demonstrate to him/her how you will handle it.
The fourth rule is to point out how your disability actually makes you a better worker. Point out to the interviewer that when non-handicapped workers see you working so well even with the handicap, they stop finding excuses for not being able to work very hard themselves.These advantages apply to almost any disability, but, in addition, point out advantages that exist because of your specific disability. For example, if the employer knows you are an alcoholic. you can point out that now that you have recovered, you don't drink at all so you have less problems than most people who may occasionally. have too much to drink. If the employer knows you have a criminal record, tell him/her that, because of your record, you can't take any chances at all and wouldn't even think of taking a pencil by mistake as other people do since you have too much to lose. If you are in a wheelchair, you can point out that it is important to your health to stay busy constantly. If you are visually impaired you can point out that your other senses are more developed than normal and that you have developed the habit of maintaining constant alertness.
9. WHEN ARE YOU AVAILABLE FOR WORK?
When you are asked how soon you can start work, tell him/her as soon as possible. Many factors may be causing your hesitation about committing yourself, but now is not the time to mention them. You may not be sure you want the job, but this is something you can go home and think about and discuss with your friends. If you decide against it, you can call him/her as soon as you decide. However, if you express hesitation now, you may not receive the offer.
Another hesitation you might have is that you are not sure how soon you can leave your other job. make travel arrangements, or cancel other appointments. If you mention these problems now, you may not have any reason to make these arrangements. Once the job is offered, try to make the necessary arrangements, and only if you can't should you call the employer and tell him/her you need the extra day or week be ore staffing. If you find your current employer desires a week or two notice, then your new employer is likely to respect you for this and gladly allow you to start later since he/she knows now that you will do the same for him/her.
A third reason for hesitation might be that you are waiting to hear about another position you applied for, In this situation, also, you should tell the interviewer you desire to start as soon as possible. Once the job is offered, you can then call the other job possibilities you have been interviewed for and explain that you have an offer but would rather work at their company and request a decision before you have to make a decision. In general, an employer will have an increased estimate of your value as a worker if he/she knows you have other job offers, and he/she will also be flattered by your preference for him/her,
10. WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST STRENGTHS?
When asked this type of question, mention all of your positive aspects: your skill, reliability, experience, enthusiasm, efficiency, organization, pride in a job well done, ability to get along with others, and so on. If the question is, "What is your greatest strength?", mention something about your personal reliability, but also add that you have several major strengths and add them to your description.
11. WHAT ARE YOUR WEAKNESSES?
Do not describe any possible weaknesses when asked this question. If some weaknesses exist, such as lack of experience or reliability, you surely intend to overcome them, so there is no reason to draw attention to factors that will probably not occur. Mention nothing negative. You could say you are impatient to get the job done or hard to please because you demand perfection. Or, you can say you have no weaknesses that will prevent you from being an excellent employee. You might also state once again briefly your strongest points at this time.
12. WHAT FIVE WORDS WOULD YOU SAY DESCRIBE YOU BEST?
When asked to select words to describe yourself, select only positive aspects. As in the previous questions, do not mention anything negative, but, rather, answer as if you were asked to describe you strengths. Some words that might be appropriate include: reliable, conscientious, friendly, honest, cooperative, easy to get along with, hard-working, energetic, skilled, take pride in my work, responsible, respected, enthusiastic, dedicated, and likable.
13. WHAT WAS YOUR LAST EMPLOYER'S OPINION OF YOU?
The best answer to the general question about your last employer's opinion of you is to have an open letter of recommendation from your last employer, which you can then summarize and show to the interviewer.
Unless you were fired, your employer must have thought well of you or else he/she would not have continued to employ you. Of course, there are always some minor annoyances that everybody feels about any other person and the same is true about employers and employees, Since you wish to emphasize your positive characteristics, mention only those items that were positive and do not mention the negative. Even if you recognize that there were some things about you that your employer didn't like, do not exaggerate their importance by mentioning them here. Some of the aspects of your work that you feel your employer liked or, at least, did not complain about, might be your high level of skill, your trustworthiness, your reliability, your ability to get along with some people that most others couldn't get along with, your promptness, your willingness to work overtime when needed, and your good customer relations. If you cannot think of any, try to remember a chance compliment he/she made you in passing and repeat it.
If you have an open letter of recommendation, it will speak for itself and you should give it to the interviewer. If not, suggest to the Interviewer that he/she contact your employer, and express your assurance that you would receive favourable comments such as, "I know he/she will speak very highly of me. I worked for him/her for two years
If you were fired or did get along badly with your previous supervisor, you might consider not mentioning that particular employer on your resume if you feel that the situation would not repeat itself with other employers. However, you must be honest, so if your application form requires you to list his/her name do so You may be surprised to learn that your employer still had a very high regard for many of your abilities even though you were fired. Of course, the interviewer may not contact him/her; most do not. However, assume the best and mention only those qualities that you feel the employer liked..
14. WHAT ARE YOUR LONG RANGE COALS?
This type of question is sometimes phrased as "What kind of job do you hope to have in 10 years?" or "How long are you thinking of working for this company?" or "What are your future plans?" The interviewer is trying to find out whether you ,are serious about staying with this company or whether you are using this job only as a temporary stopover, or will be dissatisfied after a while. So, you should try to assure him/her of your intention to stay with the company and to grow in your career within the company, which, of course, you probably want to do if the job proves to be satisfying to you.
If you know beforehand that this company has many opportunities for advancement and encourages it, tell him/her that you "hope to become valuable to the company and to be promoted" as you earn it. However, be cautious in making this type of statement, since it can easily be interpreted as already showing dissatisfaction with the job at which you will be starting. Similarly, if you mention a particular position as your objective, such as "I want, eventually, to be the head of a shipping department", your statement can easily be misinterpreted as revealing future problem competition.
The items to stress are that you like the company and that you hope to become a valuable employee to the company. As to your future plans for staying with the company, reassure the interviewer with information such as "I don't plan on moving away, or going back to school", "I see no reason why I can't stay with this company for a long, long time", "I know I'll be very happy with this company", '~I like this area and don't ever plan on leaving", or "This job is just what I enjoy doing and I don't see any reason for leaving it".
The principal facts to mention are that you like the company, you like the work you'll be doing, you like the area, and that you have no plans that would require you to leave the job.
15. WHAT KIND OF MACHINES OR EQUIPMENT HAVE YOU WORKED WITH? WHAT KIND OF EQUIPMENT CAN YOU OPERATE?
In asking this question, the interviewer must be looking for specific skills. Demonstrate your knowledge by referring to specific model numbers or types of machines. However, make it clear that you can quickly learn other similar machines that the employer may use. Feel free to ask questions yourself, especially if the interviewer is knowledgeable about the equipment. This is a great way to build bridges and common interests.
If the interviewer asks specifically about your ability to operate a machine you haven't had experience with, do not say you haven't had experience but, rather, describe what types of similar machines or other machines you can operate and express your confidence that you can learn quickly.
16. CAN YOU WORK UNDER PRESSURE OR TIGHT DEADLINES?
This question indicates that your job will involve working under pressure and deadlines, so reassure the interviewer by giving examples from paid or unpaid activities that involved deadlines and pressure. You might mention: how you handled the last two days of political campaigning in your volunteer work; how well you performed when a large rush order suddenly had to be filled; how you managed to prepare for three final exams in one day in school; or how you handled a crisis when your boat was caught in a storm. Mention several examples, stressing how capable you were in rising to the occasion, that you did not mind the stress, and possibly enjoyed it.
17. WHAT WOULD YOU DO IN THIS SITUATION? (Hypothetical or technical questions)
Sometimes an interviewer will confront you with a specific situation or problem to gauge your reaction. Take the necessary time to answer the question carefully and ask for further details or explanations where necessary. Keep in mind the general steps in problem solving:
If given a technical question, keep your cool, analyze the question and often you will find that you have the necessary background to answer. In both cases (hypothetical or technical questions), the interviewer is trying to evaluate your ability to function under pressure, to analyze and solve problems.
18. ARE YOU THINKING OF GOING BACK TO SCHOOL OR TO COLLEGE?
An interviewer will usually ask this question only of younger applicants, as he/she is concerned that the person will be quitting soon. You should reassure the interviewer by mentioning considerations such as your desire to work for a few years or that work is very important to you, or that you have no desire to continue schooling and you want to build a future for yourself, or that you will take courses only at night. If you do not have a high school diploma, you may impress the interviewer by telling him/her that you definitely are going to attend classes in order to obtain your diploma, butintend doing so at night.
19. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF WORKING IN A GROUP?
In this question you are being asked to demonstrate your ability to get along with others. Speak of the advantages of working in a group. For example, you might explain how the various individuals in a group complement one another in carrying out certain tasks. Be prepared to give concrete examples of personal experience in a group.
20. ARE YOU MARRIED?
When the interviewer asks whether you are married, he/she is usually concerned that your marital status may present a problem in your job. In general, the fear is that a married person may be too tied down by family responsibilities to be flexible or dependable on the job, and a single person may be too unreliable. The answer you should give involves assuring the interviewer that your married or single status will not cause any interference with the job. Furthermore, your answer should include a statement of the advantages for the job of being single or married.
If you are married, you can point out that:
1. You are not going to be changing jobs because you have family responsibilities.
2. You are established in the area and your family likes it here.
3, You are able to travel and work overtime since your marital partner knows that is part of a job and accepts that fact.
4. You have made arrangements for the care of your children while you are working and will not need time off from work if they are sick. This point is especially important for women with young children.
5. Your marital partner has a permanent job and wants to remain in this area. This point is especially important for women since employers are often concerned that a woman may have to quit to be with her husband if he leaves the area even though she is happy with her job.
6. Talk about your marital partner and children, stating what kind of job your partner does I and what your children's ages are and what school they attend. The interviewer may know your partner, be interested in his/her type of job, or have children the same age, thereby establishing a common area of interest between you.
If you are single, you can point out that:
1. You can travel in your job or work overtime without restriction since you have no family to tie you down.
2. You like the area and have friends or relatives here and intend to stay.
3. That marriage will not cause you to move.
21. ARE THERE ANY QUESTIONS THAT YOU HAVE?
This is often the final question that an interviewer will ask and is often asked merely as a gesture of courtesy. Do not attempt to obtain complete information about the job at this point, since you may unintentionally give the impression that you are not sure you really want the job. Wait until you have definitely been offered the job before asking questions about retirement benefits, chances for advancement, public transportation facilities, salary, and so on. This information may be critical for you in making your decision but wait until you have been offered the job to ask about them.
The interviewer may also want to find out to what extent you are interested in the job. Below are a series of questions one could ask at the end of an interview. Review these and select one or two that may be appropriate for the job you are seeking.
You could also respond to this final question by giving the interviewer a compliment such as, "No, I have no questions. You've done a complete job in describing this company and the job requirements", or by indicating your strong desire to work, such as by saying, "The only question I have is, "How soon can I start work?"
Some other questions might include:
What do you look for in a job?
What position do you expect to have in five years?
Why do you want to work for this company?
What do you want to avoid in your next job?
Your resume suggests you are overqualified for this job. What's your opinion?
What did you like most/least about your last job?
What two things did you learn in your last position?
What do you think of your former boss?
Describe some situations where your work was criticized?
What career options do you have?
How would your co-workers describe you?
What kind of salary are you expecting?
How do you react when people disagree with you?
How do you handle direction?
What do you think "communication" means?
What do you feel are the criteria for getting ahead?
What subjects did you find most interesting in school? Why?
In looking back, what do you feel you got out of your education?
In what ways do you feel you might further your education from this point? How do you plan to go about this?
What other jobs are you considering?
How creative are you?
Do you think unions are good for a company?
How do you define success?
What book are you reading?
B. QUESTIONS AN APPLICANT CAN ASK DURING AN INTERVIEW
Ask questions throughout the interview in order to show your interest in the job or in the company. (Two-way exchange)
Ask your questions clearly and without hesitation.
Don't insist on obtaining a more complete/thorough answer from the employer.
Watch for signs that the interviewer is ready to close the interview.
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