Interview questions you can expect

While you do not know the exact questions you will be asked in an interview, you can anticipate some of the primary topics the questions will cover. Prepare for these questions by rehearsing responses to sample questions and making notes of important aspects to cover within your responses. Remember to keep your answers to the point and positive.

Basic questions

Here are common interview questions and insight into what the interviewer hopes to learn from your responses:

  • Tell me about yourself. Give a brief overview of your professional credentials and experience, emphasizing recent experience and relevance to the position.
  • Why do you want to leave your current position? Explain your desire for additional challenges and your potential to accomplish more. Avoid negative statements about your current position, co-workers, or company.
  • What are your short-term and long-term career goals? Explain your goals as relevant to the position and company, as much as possible. Think of long-term goals as five years from now and be sure your answer demonstrates your desire for growth and advancement.
  • What do you look for in a job? Include being part of a team, workplace culture, and personal aspirations.
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses? Have two or three strengths with specific examples ready to discuss. Name one minor weakness and steps you use to overcome it.
  • Why do you want to work for this company? Demonstrate that you have researched the company and believe there is a good match for your skills.
  • Do you have any questions? Ask one or two specific questions about the position responsibilities, growth potential, or the company’s long-term objectives to demonstrate your interest.

Think through these topics to be prepared with answers which cite your successes and demonstrate your ability to adapt easily to a new employer.

Leading questions

Some interview questions are designed to reveal more detailed examples of your work performance, leadership skills, problem solving, and ability to work effectively with others. If the position you are applying for includes any of the following attributes, be prepared with specific examples of your successes in these areas:

  • Leadership. Be ready to discuss a time you stepped in and took charge of a situation, had to discipline or fire someone close to you, or develop leaders under you.
  • Initiative and follow-through. Give examples of how you overcame major obstacles, achieved a long-term goal, or achieved a milestone.
  • Communication. Describe a situation in which you positively affected an outcome, such as a major presentation that influenced decision-makers, persuading team members to try something new, or demonstrating an ability to bring together individuals with differing opinions to accomplish a mutual goal.
  • Working effectively with others. Discuss developing and maintaining positive relations among people with differing points of view, motivating others for a specific result, finding resolution to a difficult situation with a coworker, or exerting influence in getting a team back on track.
  • Work quality. Tell about your recommendation which resulted in organizational improvement, your actions which made a positive impression with a customer, or a project you led which saved the company money.
  • Creativity and innovation. Describe a situation where you found a better way of doing something, solved a problem, or brought out creativity in others.
  • Priority setting. Explain a time when you had to balance competing priorities, identify the priorities in an on-going project and make sure they were accomplished, or balance short-term and long-terms needs for the benefit of the organization.
  • Decision-making. Tell about an important decision you had to make with limited facts, when you were challenged with communicating an unpopular decision, or a time when you had to make a decision that impacted a large number of people.
  • Ability to work in varying work conditions. Discuss a time you worked effectively under pressure, were unable to complete a project on time, or had to change priorities mid-project because of organizational changes.
  • Delegation. Describe when and how you successfully delegated a project, or delegated to someone who already had a full workload, and the result.
  • Customer service. Give examples of dealing with an angry or disappointed customer, or a customer-service situation of which you are proud.

Precarious questions

While it is relatively easy to explain your successes, some questions may require thoughtful, careful answers. Here are some difficult questions and insight to appropriate types of answers.

  • How much money do you want / what salary are you looking for? Indicate you want to be compensated fairly, what you are currently earning, and that compensation is one of several factors you are considering. Emphasize that the job opportunity is the most important consideration. Do not raise this topic unless the interviewer does.
  • What are your weaknesses? Cite an area that is not essential to the specific position. Describe a weakness, but follow it up with the steps you take to overcome this. Or cite an attribute that could be seen as a weakness or strength. Example: If you get nervous speaking in front of a large group, you can explain how you cope and describe success in this area.
  • Tell me about some situations in which your work was criticized. Give an example, as well as how you addressed the criticism and solved the problem. It is important to demonstrate that you are open to constructive criticism.
  • Do you like your boss? Be positive in your response describing this person, even if you have negative feelings. Describe some positive attributes for which you respect this person.
  • Why haven’t you found the right position before now? Finding a position that is the right fit is much more important than just landing a job.
  • Why were you laid off? This is not the time to discuss internal conflicts. Discuss economic conditions. Be positive.
  • Why should we hire you? Summarize your work history as relevant to the job, emphasizing your achievements and strengths. Make logical connections between the position and your skills. Tell the interviewer you know you will be an asset to the company.