To give you a little practice in answering both traditional and behavioral questions, here are some interview questions that might be asked of an applicant going for a position at any level (management or non-management) in an organization. After each question, you'll find an analysis of the question, which may help you understand how to answer such a question in your job interview.
- Could you please tell me about yourself?
Although this question is broad, keep your answer focused and relevant to the job you're applying for. Mention the top three or four aspects of your experience, skills, interests, and personality that make you a qualified candidate for the job.
- What are your long- and short-term career goals?
Good question! The interviewer is trying to get a feel for why you want this job and how long you’re going to stick with it. The ideal answer will assure the employer that you’re worth his investment—that is, training you, introducing you to clients, entrusting you with responsibility. Your answer should assure him that you’ll be around for awhile—and maybe even a long time.
- Outside of work, what are some of the things you do?
Employers know that what an applicant does for free can speak louder about his character than what he does for money. Tell the interviewer about something in your nonprofessional life that says: “Hey, I’m a good person.”
- What strengths do you bring to this job that other candidates might not?
There’s no hidden message here. The employer’s giving you the floor to sell yourself for the job. Prepare well for this answer and deliver it with confidence. After all, who knows more about why you’re suited for the job than you? And make your presentation using brief achievement stories whenever possible.
- Do you consider this a lateral or vertical career move?
This question is designed to find out how challenged you’ll be on the job—be careful, it’s a double-edged sword. If you aren’t challenged, you’ll get bored and move on. If you’re too challenged, you might not make it past the first week. Try to come in somewhere in the middle—maybe say something to the effect of, "It’s a comfortable stretch." Another tip: Your answer will also give the employer a sense of whether you’re hoping for a just a little or a big increase in salary.
- Why do you want to leave your current position?
Ah, the interviewer’s concerned about any problems that might pop up on your next job—especially since that might be with him. Be sure to use good judgment here. Don’t bad-mouth your current boss and don’t bring up anything negative. A safe approach is to say something like: “It’s time to move on in my career” or "I'm looking for a greater challenge."
- Why did you leave your last job?
Sounds like the interviewer wants to know if there are any underlying problems like: lack of commitment, difficult personality, poor performance, or anything that might lead to termination. Employers don’t want to take on someone who has a record of walking out on jobs or getting fired. No matter why you left your last job, couch your response in positive terms, without lying.
- Please explain why you have a gap in your employment history.
With this question, the employer’s looking for any problems in your personal life that might become his headache if he hires you. Explain your gaps honestly, leaning on activities that support your job objective, if that’s possible. If you don’t have anything to say that’s relevant, then talk about activities that show your strength of character and helped you know what you really want to do next: the job you're interviewing for.
- Of all the problems you had at your previous position, which was the hardest to deal with?
What a sneaky question! “Of all the problems”... don’t fall for it. Don’t let on that you had lots of problems, even if you did. Instead, refer briefly to an area you—and probably the rest of the world—find challenging, and move right on to how you’ve learned to deal with it.
- What project required you to work under pressure? And what were the results?
How you respond to this question will tell the interviewer whether or not you like working under pressure. Be honest and positive. All jobs bring with them a certain amount of pressure, but some have a lot more than others. So give an example where the level of pressure was just right for you, which will suggest how much pressure you’re looking for on your next job.
- What college experience are you especially proud of?
If you haven't been in the workforce long, this question is your opportunity to give balance to the fact that you don't have much paid experience. Spotlight your academic and extracurricular achievements, especially the ones that are relevant to your job objective.
- What classes or training are you planning to pursue at this point?
This one’s tricky. You want to look dedicated to developing your profession but you don’t want to appear to have so much going on that you won’t be 100 percent on the job. Make it clear that your number one priority is your job; developing your profession is second.