written by: Janelle Martel•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 5/23/2011
It is often recommended to look up a list of common interview questions and prepare yourself to answer them when readying yourself for a job interview. However, how do you know if your answer will show you off best? This article goes over several common interview questions and ideas on answers.
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The Interview Begins
"Tell Me About Yourself"
This is a very common interview question, and one that tends to worry people. It is open-ended, and the interviewer is not very clear about what it is in particular he is looking for. Keep in mind that interviewers ask this question for that reason. They are looking to evaluate your communication skills, such as how articulate you are and your ability to remain on topic and get to the point. For this reason, it is a very good idea to have an idea of what you will say in answering this question, but don't memorize a response as this comes off as too rehearsed. Along with your communication skills, your interviewer is looking to see if you have the skills and experience the job requires. Successful job interview responses should be short (2-3 minutes) to explain who you are and why you would be the best person for the job. Highlight the skills you possess that would allow you to succeed in that position, and include examples to show you can use these skills proactively.
This always seems like an easy question to answer, but it is important to keep a couple things in mind. First of all, do not worry about bragging. The interviewer is not going to know that you are trying to be modest, and may dismiss you if you list only very general strengths, like "I'm a good communicator" or "I'm very organized." Be more specific, and always give examples when you can. For example, to highlight good communication skills, you might say "I am able to articulate myself successfully through writing as well as verbally. This was beneficial in my last job as I was responsible for communicating with clients via e-mail, and any miscommunication could have lost the company sales. I know your company also communicates frequently using e-mail and I am confident in doing so." This is a good response because it is specific, uses examples, and relates back to the job you are applying for. The interviewer is looking to see that you have the strengths for the position for which they're hiring, so listing irrelevant skills would not be helpful. Always show that your skills can be applied to the position at hand.
"What Are Your Weaknesses?"
This is another tricky one. Of course, you only want to show your best side to the interviewer. However, be cautious of saying "I'm not sure" or "I can't think of one" because everyone has a weakness, and being aware of your weaknesses is a strength. There are two ways to approach this question. The first is to discuss weaknesses that would be insignificant or minor in that position. For example, maybe you are not confident in using computers when looking to get a position that rarely uses computers. The other approach is to turn your weakness into a positive. For example, maybe you aren't the type of person who speaks up. You could say that people often see you as being quiet, but that is because you tend to listen more than speak.
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Your Last Job
"What Challenges Did You Face in Your Last Job?"
Here, the interviewer is looking to see your problem-solving skills and your ability to take the initiative. Knowing that you were able to contribute to your last employer makes it clear what kind of contributions you can make at this company. To answer this question, think of one or two specific challenging situations and explain how you approached the situation and the process you took to overcoming the challenge.
"Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?"
Successful job interview responses to this question depend on your personal circumstances, but you should always be honest. Your prospective employer is looking to see how you worked with other people, particularly co-workers and superiors. Even if your experience at your previous job was poor, remain professional. Never blame another person or present a company in a bad light as your prospective employer will assume that you could say the same about their company. Also, always remain positive. For example, a termination might have presented you with an opportunity to further your education or look for a job that you would be a better fit for.
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The Potential New Job
"What Do You Know About Our Company?" or "Why Do You Want to Work for Our Company?"
This is why you need to do research about the company before going into your interview. Interviewers ask this question to see if you did do research, which shows that you have a real interest in the job. Successful job interview responses to the question would be to explain what you know the company does, and mention a recent accomplishment or new development the company is working on. If you were asked why you wanted to work for the particular company, you can comment on the company's goals and outlook and how these relate to your personal goals.
"Why Should We Hire You?"
This will probably be a similar question to others you have been asked. Here, the interviewer is looking to see confidence from you, as well as how your skills suit the company. Try not to list general skills, and instead choose the three strongest skills that would allow you to succeed in this position. Re-state how you will be able to utilize these skills to contribute to the company.
"Do You Have Any Questions for Me?"
This question is similar to the one about your knowledge of the company in what the interviewer is looking for--professionalism and your interest level. It is always a good idea to come with a few questions prepared. Things you might ask about are any questions about the position in particular, such as whom you report to, questions about what it is like to work for that company, or follow-up questions, such as when they expect to make a decision.
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Always arrive to the interview on time, well prepared, and dressed appropriately. Along with your successful responses to job interview questions, you should also bring a copy of your resume, a list of your references, and questions for the interviewer. I also suggest you be conscious of effects of your body language during an interview.