Interview Preparation: Common Interview Questions
Most interviews are structured around common questions designed to allow the employer to find out more about you and your potential to be a good fit with the organization. While speaking with you, the interviewer will most likely take notes on your answers. With good preparation for interview questions, you have the opportunity to portray yourself in the best light and to have clear and concise responses practiced and ready.
Strengths and Weaknesses
To prepare an answer to a question such as, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”, consider the skills and values you possess that benefit the organization and position, describing them clearly and concisely.
When developing an answer for weaknesses, explain how you are working to improve. For example:
- "I tend to overextend myself at times, but I'm getting better at achieving a good balance."
- "My spelling is not the best, but I use spell check and an online dictionary to counteract this issue."
- "I sometimes do not budget my time well, so now I use a personal planner."
When answering questions such as, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”, recognize companies want to hire people who are interested in making a long-term commitment and who want to grow with the company and participate in its success. Be imaginative when answering this question: what are your aspirations, ambitions, and vision for yourself at the company? They do not follow up with you in five years to see if you’ve accomplished what you state in your interview, so no need to be shy! One example of an answer: "In five years I see myself in an upper-management position that allows me to have a wider influence on the company's growth and direction."
Work Ethic/ Personality
Employers ask questions such as, “How would you describe your work personality? Can you give me examples from your prior positions? Why did you leave your last position? What did you like and dislike about your last job?”, to get a sense of the kind of employee you will make. The interviewer is looking for qualities that will be a good fit for the position and the company, and a personality that will fit in with the professional culture of their workplace.
If you do not have prior work experience, you should answer these questions by explaining how you have demonstrated work-appropriate skills through volunteering, organizations, clubs, school, and other activities.
Beware of over-sharing in your answer to questions about your prior positions. If you were fired, then you should be honest about it, but portray it as a learning experience that has made you a better employee.
If you resigned or moved on to a different position, here are some examples of short answers that do not give too much information:
- "I left the organization because I felt under-utilized."
- "I felt it was time to move on to a better opportunity."
- "I was offered a better opportunity."
- "I went back to school."
- "I relocated … "
“If you found out another employee was stealing or lying about their hours, what would you do?” Some employers have had issues with employees taking advantage of them or being dishonest while on the job, e.g., lying about the hours they work, skimming money from the register, stealing company supplies, using company resources (cars, credit cards) for their own needs, or observing coworkers doing these activities without reporting them. While most applicants will not admit if they’ve done these things, employers will try to get a sense of your ethical sensibilities by talking about your standards for reporting coworkers. An example of an answer: "I would report any employee I felt was behaving dishonestly in the workplace. I think trust between an employer and employee is very important and I’m not comfortable working in an environment where employees take advantage of an employer.”
If asked for your greatest accomplishment, choose one that shows your work ethic, determination, or skills related to the job. If you don’t yet have a work history, choose an accomplishment such as completing training or getting a degree.
Questions regarding your hobbies help employers get to know more about you. Choose an interest or leisure activity that is appropriate and not controversial. Remember that this is a job interview and you will be judged on your answer. Some safe areas are typically sports, music, literature, crafts, movies, theatre, hiking/camping, writing/arts, and philanthropic work. Philanthropic or volunteer work is always a thing good to mention, as it shows you are interested in helping other people.
Usually interviewers ask if you have any questions towards the end of the interview. If you are meeting with multiple people, each person may ask you this question. You should always have a list questions prepared for the interview. Some may be answered as you work your way through the interview, but some will not. Here are some sample questions:
- "Is this a new position? If yes: Why did you feel the need to add it? If no: How long had the prior employee held the position? Why did he or she leave the position?"
- "What are the hours typically?"
- "Are there specific areas you'd like to see the person in this position pay attention to? Areas that you would like to improve?"
- "What is the turnover rate like for this position?"
- "Why do you like working here?"
- "Describe the ideal employee for this position."
- "Does this position have the opportunity to grow?"
- "What is the possibility of advancement within the business?"
- "Can I provide you with any more information to help you get a better idea about the quality of work that I would provide?"
- "Does the company offer benefits? What kind?"
- "What is the next step in the hiring process (only if they have not mentioned this prior)?"
It is extremely important to prepare for an interview by making sure you have good answers to the most common questions. Your goal is to make sure you are not caught off-guard in an interview and therefore likely to give a less-than-ideal answer, and also to be able to conduct the interview with less anxiety because you'll know you are well prepared.
The Job Seeker's Toolkit
This article is based on the AFB Job Seeker's Toolkit, a free, self-paced, comprehensive, and accessible guide to the employment process. Set up a My CareerConnect account to get started with the Toolkit—it's an easy and fast process that will give you access to many helpful job hunting resources!
This article and The Job Seeker's Toolkit are based on the 2nd edition of The Transition Tote System, by Karen Wolffe and Debbie Johnson (1997, American Printing House for the Blind).
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