written by: Andrea Campbell•edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 1/3/2012
Worried about an upcoming interview? Prepare yourself by learning some of the most common job interview questions asked. Craft your answers beforehand, and come prepared.
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The Boy Scout Mantra
Being articulate is paramount especially if you seek a customer service job, and the interviewer will probably craft some questions that feel like they are meant to trip you up. No one can possibly have all the questions, or even respond with the best answers all the time.
There will be moments on the drive home where you will say to yourself, “Why did I say that?" Mostly, you will try to re-live the interview to diagnose where you might have messed up. Here is a list of the probable top 10 job interview questions to help you out.
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#1 Tell me about yourself
I love the job interviews where the company representative says, “Tell me about yourself." I find this free-form exchange of information much easier, because who doesn’t like to talk about themselves? (Of course it must be your “business self"!) For this question, the wise thing to do is prepare. Beforehand, write out your career goals, skill sets and areas where you have expertise. Pick three or four examples of professional accomplishment and explain why it worked out for you briefly; that will be your answer.
However, nine times out of ten you will get the interview question format where: they ask pointed questions, and you are expected to answer succinctly and on target. Read on.
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#2 What are your strengths?
This is not exactly a personality query. This is about skills and what you bring to the table. The answer here should be about how you handled a particularly sticky challenge—or at least make it about that. This type of scenario is the best way to interpret this question.
Use specific examples, for instance: "I was able to save the company money by negotiating prices and payment schedules with a big vendor." Alternatively, maybe a customer was angry and you managed to defuse a tense situation and turned a bad instance around. Make it honest and keep the anecdotal story short.
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#3 What is your greatest weakness?
Don’t admit to office foibles like being late to meetings, not getting along with some type of person, or having trouble with accounting. It’s best to choose something that you had to learn or master in order to get to another level. That way you can take this lack of knowledge and turn it into something gained for both you and the company. Get it?
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#4 Why are you leaving your job?
This can be a huge trap. Do not fall in. If you were fired—something such as, "...There wasn’t room for growth...", or, "I was laid off by new management who did some restructuring," and similar is best. Don’t blame anyone else, act angry, or sound vindictive. The business you were in may be doing business with the people who can hire you now, remember that.
A relocation, less commute time, or a change in family circumstances are all viable answers. (Or why not suggest that this job seemed like an exciting opportunity?)
This is one of the top 10 job interview questions that people "hem and haw" on. Don't let that be you.
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#5 How did you prepare for this interview?
Preparedness is a plus. Someone that has done research into the company and finds out who runs things; what the mission statement or objective is; or who even has read the bios of the founders is someone that has done their homework and appears to have their act together. No one wants to have an employee who “wings it."
I once had an interviewer ask me how I decided what I would wear. I replied that I wanted to appear professional, dressed for the environment and the setting, yet still be comfortable so I wouldn’t be fidgeting instead of listening.
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#6 How did you handle a challenge?
This question is to get you to reveal how you solved a problem. Perhaps it started where it should have, with research. What other steps did you take toward the solution? Write some down ahead of time so they will be fresh in your mind. For example: The sales department hit a wall and we found out that our customers were looking for better value. I discovered that if we used less packaging, the product wouldn’t suffer, yet we could charge less. (That’s what I’m talking about! Give yourself a high five.)
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#7 Our company leaders often have to put in longer hours, how does that work for you?
No one likes a martyr—the guy who sacrifices and let’s everyone know it—and yet, you don’t want to be a slacker/whiner about having to go the extra mile sometimes. You can explain that you have worked hard in the past and don’t mind doing it if necessary. Your goal, though, is to get the job done, of course, but with the most efficient methods. Add that you will always be looking to do that for both you and the other employees. That's the sign of a leader and a team player.
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#8 Why do you want this job? (or this position?)
Think it out now. What is it that appeals to you? No, not just the money. How about providing a meaningful family service? Maybe the company seems innovative and makes interesting products? Mention that you bring experience and knowledge of the industry but you also want to be able to communicate with customers more.
There are two more commonly asked queries in the top 10 job interview questions to come and these are important.
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#9 Why should we hire you?
Don’t be afraid to state why you are the best candidate. The hiring manager is looking for a memorable answer. If you truly understand the expectations of the job, that is where your mind should head to craft your answer. Look over the open position. What are the requirements? Match your skill sets to that and then prepare a story that will help to illustrate.
Don’t brag, but you can say something akin to: "I noticed you are looking for someone who is able to fundraise. In this difficult climate that is a concern for everyone. But I have a list of proven techniques that got us new patrons at my old job that I think will mesh with your company’s mission." (Wow! I’m impressed and maybe they are too.)
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#10 What is your salary expectation for this job?
This is a toughie and it always comes up. If there is no advertised salary mentioned, you stand to say the wrong thing with a definitive answer. You can turn the question back on the interviewer and ask: “What is the range of salary budgeted for the job?" Or, if you have done the research, you can say that your investigation into similar companies with graphic designers (at your level) for example, is in the ________ to _________ (fill in the blanks) average range.
But you can always defer to: “I’ll need more information about the job and its responsibilities."
We hope this article about the top 10 job interview questions has given you some ammunition for your next outing. Good Luck!
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Suggestions & Resources
Have a list of intelligent questions that you can ask. That shows interest and indicates that you’ve done some of your own thinking.
You should ask: What were you looking for in an employee for this position?
Ask if they need additional references.
And you can always inquire as to how long they (the interviewers) have been with the company and what do they like about their job.
Definitely ask when you will know if you have landed the job or not.
I often ask if the office has outside activities.
One time I asked: Is there any question that I should have asked but didn't? (Kind of reverse psychology here.)
Go well dressed.
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Places to study occupations, basic requirments and salaries: The Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-11: http://www.bls.gov/oco/