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Interview Questions

Knowing what kind of questions you will be asked at your interview can be a real help. You won't be able to predict every question, but there are some common ones that most interviewers will ask. Some will be related to the job for which you are applying, while others will be more generic.

Below you will find a list of common interview questions, along with explanations of why interviewers ask them and what type of response you should provide.

Remember as you prepare your answers that an important part of the interview process is the subjective opinion of you the interviewer develops. Be yourself in the interview--don't memorize responses word for word before you go into the interview. Answer the questions honestly, and maintain a relaxed, positive attitude throughout.

How to Use the Questions

  1. Read the question. Think about why the employer would ask the question and how you would answer it.
  2. Read the explanation below the question. Did your expectations and answers match?
  3. Read the question and explanation again. Practice giving answers which provide information that match the employer's expectations. Give specific examples when appropriate.
  4. Practice the questions with someone else. Have them give you feedback on the answers and on other things such as your body language, or any odd mannerisms you might have.
  5. Videotape yourself. This can be a great way to find out how you look to others and how well you answer the different questions.

The Questions

A. Openers

1. Tell me about yourself...

The interviewer is asking you to tell them about yourself as a person, not merely about your job skills.

Take your cues from the interviewer as to how formal or informal you should be.

  1. Try to provide information that may indicate something you have in common with the interviewer.
  2. Describe a few personal items, such as hobbies or interests.
  3. Mention work-related factors such as previous work experience, training and education.

Mentioning these topics will help create a friendly atmosphere and put you and the interviewer at ease with each other.

B. Work Experience/ Job Performance

1. Have you ever done this type of work before?

The interviewer is trying to determine if you are qualified for the job.

If you have completed similar work in the past or have held a job using some of the required skills, examples of skills used in past jobs should be described. If this line of work is new to you and you have never done anything similar in the past, be sure to mention your eagerness and ability to learn.

2. Why should we hire you instead of someone else? What are your greatest strengths?

When answering this question, remember to keep the information related to the job you are competing for. Mention positive traits that give the interviewer a variety of information about you. Confidently list your skills and your positive characteristics.

3. What are your weaknesses?

A tough question. Everyone has weaknesses, but the interviewer wants to know if you have any weaknesses that will prevent you from doing the particular job well.

Don't mention weaknesses if they will not interfere with your ability to do the job. If you do have a weakness that will interfere with the job, then perhaps this is not the best position to be applying for. If you feel you can overcome the weaknesses, mention them to the interviewer and explain what you have been doing to overcome the difficulties. Always reassure the employer that you are confident that you can either work with or overcome the weakness.

4. What kinds of machines/equipment have you worked with.

Only mention machines or equipment that are related to the job in question. The more equipment you can operate, the more apparent it is that you are capable of learning about other types that might be used on the job. If you have not had experience working with the type of equipment used, describe similar equipment and express your confidence that you can learn quickly.

5. Give me an example of a time when you worked under pressure.

Employers want to know how you are able to handle pressure.

Give the interviewer examples of paid or unpaid activities that involved deadlines and pressures and be able to explain how you handled the stress. If you were unable to meet the deadline, explain what you did to compensate, such as working overtime, renegotiating the deadline, etc.

6. Why have all your jobs been short term?

The interviewer is trying to find out if you can keep a job.

You should mention any straight forward factors that are responsible for your work history, such as returning to school, summer or temporary employment, travel, etc. If you have no explanation to offer the employer, mention that you were looking for work and assure the employer you plan to stay with this job for some time.

7. Why did you leave your last job?

The interviewer is looking to see if there were problems at your last job that may arise again.

Employees usually leave a job for more than one reason and you should mention only those reasons that are favourable to you. If you were fired from your last job and feel you need to mention the position on your resumé, explain what happened in a positive manner and note that the situation would never occur again. Do not say anything negative about a company or supervisor you used to work for as the interviewer will most likely view you as someone who will do the same thing again.

C. Education/ Training/ Future Goals

1. Why aren't you in school/Why haven't you finished school?

The interviewer may fear that you will leave your job for the same reasons you left school. He/she may also be curious about any ambitions you have to complete your education.

Tell the employer in a positive way why you are not attending school at present. If you do plan to complete high school, let the employer know this.

2. What are your long range goals?

The interviewer wants to know whether you are serious about staying with the company and to determine whether you have given some thought to your future.

If your goals are related to the job in question, be certain to make note of this. If the position is not related to your goals, mention the advantages of gaining additional work experience as part of your career planning.

D. Company Research

1. Why do you want to work here?

The interviewer wants to learn what you know about the company and the job for which you are being interviewed. Knowledge about the company and the job shows the interviewer you are interested and demonstrates initiative on your part.

You should mention as many of the positive features as you can about the company and mention why you are a good candidate to fill the job vacancy.

2. What kind of salary do you expect?

Most lines of work have a set salary range and it would be wise to learn what this range is prior to the interview. If you are unable to obtain this information, you may want to tell the interviewer that you would work for whatever the company feels is fair, based on your qualifications and the company's standard salary level for that position. If you want to request a specific salary, be able to back up why you should get that amount (avoid stating personal reasons).

E. Personal

1. How much were you absent from work/school? How is your health?

The interviewer is trying to determine whether they can depend on you to show up for work.

If this has not been an area of concern for you, stress your past reliability and give assurance of your future reliability. If you have had difficulties in this area in the past, tell the interviewer what the reason was and why you feel that it will no longer be a problem. If it will continue to be a problem, be up front about this and try to negotiate a schedule that works for both of you.

2. When are you available for work?

If you are presently unemployed, you can most likely respond that you can begin work right away. However, if you are presently employed, you should be aware of how much notice your present employer requires before you are able to leave your present job. If you are going to school, know when you will be finished and what part-time hours you will be prepared to work before the school year ends.

3. Can you explain this gap in your employment?

The employer may be questioning your commitment to employment, thinking that you don't like to work, or wanting to find out what you have been doing with yourself during the gap.

If you have been doing anything constructive during this time, such as dedicating yourself to school, taking courses, performing volunteer work, etc., mention these. Also, mention that you were looking for jobs, and that you enjoy working.

4. Do you have a criminal record?

If you have a criminal record, don't try to hide it from the interviewer. Briefly explain the situation, remembering not to sound like you are making excuses or blaming the incident on someone else. Reassure the interviewer that you have learned from your mistakes and have changed your ways.

5. Are you willing to cut your hair/take out your earring?

The interviewer feels that some aspect of your appearance does not "fit" with the business and wants to know if you are willing to change your appearance.

The decision of what you say is yours. However, if you say no, you may not be considered for the job. Saying yes will increase the chances of being seen as a cooperative person and, consequently, of being hired.

F. Closures

1. Do you have references?

It is best to provide the interviewer with a neatly typed sheet indicating the name, position, location and telephone number of your references. If you do not have employment references, consider using the names of teachers/instructors or the names of personal references. Personal references should not be the names of friends who are approximately the same age as yourself. Almost all employers will ask for references, so be prepared to provide this information. Also have permission to use someone's name prior to adding it to your reference sheet.

2. Are there any questions that you have?

This is often the final question that an employer will ask. It is wise to always ask one or two questions as it shows the interviewer your interest in the position available. However, the interview is not the time to ask questions about salary, benefits, hours or vacation. This information may be critical for you in making your decision, but wait until you have been offered the job before asking about them.