Interviewers use very special questions and answers to determine whether you have the potential to succeed. Because potential can be very difficult to measure, much of the interview process is subjective. No matter how difficult it is to predict, it is a process that is easy to prepare for. You just have to translate past actions into words and, using an appropriate tone, project confidence as well as your knowledge of self and your knowledge of job-specific qualifications.
Your past actions and accomplishments are cited on your resume. Your ability to connect your past to the future and to your desired goal will be the basis upon which your interview skills will be judged. In fact, a popular interviewing trend these days is called “behavioral interviews.” This technique allows interviewers to quantify and objectify a traditionally subjective process. It is based a upon a principle stating that past behavior is the best predictor of future performance. Moreover, more recent behavior is a better predictor of future performance than older behavior, and trends in behavior are better predictors than isolated incidents.
Interviewers present “what did you do when” scenarios or ask you to identify past incidents when you used certain behaviors to reach a goal. Before the interview, a behavioral interviewer determines the behaviors that are desired. Basically, the interviewer arrives with an established checklist for determining if you have the qualities associated with success in a particular job. Be prepared for this, and don't get rattled by any open-ended questions.
Note-taking by the interviewer is not unusual, so don't interpret it as negative or positive. Interviewers may seek clarification or contrary evidence of your statements by continually probing, so don't become rattled or express frustration.
No matter the style, whether it's conversational, traditional, or behavioral, a review of common questions is extremely helpful. Attempting to memorize answers can do more harm than good, so please use the list to stimulate thoughts and inspire you to share ideas effectively during interviews. You might ask a friend, family member, or peer to select five and ask them aloud, initiating a role-play interview. Hearing the questions as well as your answers, rather than just thinking about responses, is valuable.
Traditional Interview Questions
Conduct a practice session, having a friend or family member ask you these questions. Remember, there are no right answers to particular questions. Responses during an interview must seem well conceived, yet spontaneous. Think of this interaction as a conversation, not an inquisition. It is best to complete this exercise aloud, even if you are doing so alone. To maximize your use of this list, after you review the general as well as behavioral queries, identify a “top five” list of questions that related to a specific job matching your goals:
Why are you interested in this particular field of employment?
What academic or career achievements are you most proud of?
Why did you choose your major, and how does it relate to your goals?
What classes did you find most stimulating, and did they nurture job-connected skills?
What would you like to be doing in five years?
What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
How would you describe yourself, and how would others describe you?
How would you characterize career-related success?
What are your three most significant employment or school-related achievements?
When did you use persuasive skills or sales talents?
Why should we hire you?
What are your long-term career goals?
How have your academic experiences to date prepared you for a career, and what are your future academic goals?
What would you do differently with regard to academic or career experiences?
What was your most difficult decision to date, and how did you go about making it?
Why did you attend your alma mater?
What do you think it takes to succeed in the job you are being interviewed for?
What lessons have you learned from your “failures” or “mistakes”?
What are your geographic preferences, and are you willing to relocate?
What concerns do you have with regard to this job and our organization?
How would you describe this opportunity to friends and family members?
What additional information do you need to determine if this is the “right” opportunity for you?
What motivated you to first contact us?
Behavioral Interview Questions
Behavioral questions, and those that might be used during what some might call a traditional interview, include the following:
Describe when you faced problems at work that tested your coping skills. What did you do?
Give an example of a time when you could not participate in a discussion or could not finish a task because you did not have enough information.
Give an example of a time when you had to be relatively quick in coming to a decision.
Tell me about when you used communication skills in order to get an important point across.
Tell me about a job experience when you had to speak up and tell others what you thought or felt.
Give me an example of when you felt you were able to motivate coworkers or subordinates.
Tell me about an occasion when you conformed to a policy even though you did not agree with it.
Describe a situation in which it was necessary to be very attentive and vigilant to your environment.
Give me an example of a time when you used your fact-finding skills to gain information needed to solve a problem; then tell me how you analyzed the information and came to a decision.
Tell me about an important goal you've set and tell me about your progress toward reaching this goal.
Describe the most significant written document, report, or presentation you've completed.
Give me an example of a time when you had to go “above and beyond” to get a job done.
Give me an example of a time when you were able to communicate successfully with another person, even when the individual may not have personally liked you.
Describe a situation in which you were able to read another person effectively and guide your actions by your understanding of his/her individual needs or values.
Specifically, what did you do in your last job in order to plan effectively and stay organized?
Describe the most creative work-related project you have completed.
Give me an example of a time when you had to analyze another person or a situation in order to be effective in guiding your action or decision.
What did you do in your last job to contribute toward a teamwork environment? Be specific.
Give an example of a problem you faced on the job and how you solved it.
Describe a situation when you positively influenced the actions of others in a desired direction.
Tell me about a situation in the past year when you dealt with a very upset customer or coworker.
Describe a situation in which others within your organization depended on you.
Describe your most recent group effort.
Describe the most challenging person you've interacted with and how you dealt with him or her.
Questions You Can Ask Potential Employers
Questions you might ask potential employers during an employment interview or during a pre-interview information conversation include the following:
How would you describe the job in terms of day-to-day roles and responsibilities?
What qualities are you seeking in a candidate?
What type of person would most likely succeed in these roles?
What advice would you give someone who would seek to achieve success as quickly as possible?
What should I expect of myself over the first few months on the job?
How will my performance be judged, and by whom?
Whom should I use as a role model for this position and would it be appropriate to contact this person?
What characteristics does it take to succeed within this organization and within this position?
What are the best things about the job and the most challenging requirements of the position?
Who would have the highest expectations of me, or be the one(s) who would be most difficult to impress?
What is the typical career path and time frame associated with career development?
How will I be trained, and how can I appropriately seek skills enhancement?
Who last served in this position, and what is he/she doing now?
What goals do you have for the person who will serve in this job?
What project would you expect to be completed first, and what would be involved?