How to Answer 23 of the Most Common Interview Questions

By Paul Michael on 4 October 2007 (Updated 19 November 2013) 272 comments

[Editor's note: If you recently lost your job, take a look at Wise Bread's collection of tips and resources for the recently laid off.]

Let's face it; no one likes the interview process. Well, certainly not the people being interviewed anyway. You have to be on your best behavior, you only get one chance to get it right, and it's like taking your driving test all over again. Over the years I've been to countless interviews. To get my first job out of college I attended some 15-20 interviews a week. Whether it was in Britain or over here in the States, the questions never really seemed to change from job to job. Not only that, but the answers to them are usually the same, with your own personal interpretation of course. Here I present 23 questions you're likely to be asked, and how I have learned to answer them. Why 23? Because I had more than 20 and less than 25. Remember, being interviewed is a skill, and if you do the preparation you should ace it every time. (See also: 12 Unique Ways to Score a Job Interview)

1. So, tell me a little about yourself.

I'd be very surprised if you haven't been asked this one at every interview. It's probably the most asked question because it sets the stage for the interview and it gets you talking. Be careful not to give the interviewer your life story here. You don't need to explain everything from birth to present day. Relevant facts about education, your career and your current life situation are fine.

2. Why are you looking (or why did you leave you last job)?

This should be a straightforward question to answer, but it can trip you up. Presumably you are looking for a new job (or any job) because you want to advance your career and get a position that allows you to grow as a person and an employee. It's not a good idea to mention money here, it can make you sound mercenary. And if you are in the unfortunate situation of having been downsized, stay positive and be as brief as possible about it. If you were fired, you'll need a good explanation. But once again, stay positive.

3. Tell me what you know about this company.

Do your homework before you go to any interview. Whether it's being the VP of marketing or the mailroom clerk, you should know about the company or business you're going to work for. Has this company been in the news lately? Who are the people in the company you should know about? Do the background work, it will make you stand out as someone who comes prepared, and is genuinely interested in the company and the job.

4. Why do you want to work at X Company?

This should be directly related to the last question. Any research you've done on the company should have led you to the conclusion that you'd want to work there. After all, you're at the interview, right? Put some thought into this answer before you have your interview, mention your career goals and highlight forward-thinking goals and career plans.

5. What relevant experience do you have?

Hopefully if you're applying for this position you have bags of related experience, and if that's the case you should mention it all. But if you're switching careers or trying something a little different, your experience may initially not look like it's matching up. That's when you need a little honest creativity to match the experiences required with the ones you have. People skills are people skills after all, you just need to show how customer service skills can apply to internal management positions, and so on.

6. If your previous co-workers were here, what would they say about you?

Ok, this is not the time for full disclosure. If some people from your past are going to say you're a boring A-hole, you don't need to bring that up. Stay positive, always, and maybe have a few specific quotes in mind. "They'd say I was a hard worker" or even better "John Doe has always said I was the most reliable, creative problem-solver he'd ever met."

7. Have you done anything to further your experience?

This could include anything from night classes to hobbies and sports. If it's related, it's worth mentioning. Obviously anything to do with further education is great, but maybe you're spending time on a home improvement project to work on skills such as self-sufficiency, time management and motivation.

8. Where else have you applied?

This is a good way to hint that you're in demand, without sounding like you're whoring yourself all over town. So, be honest and mention a few other companies but don't go into detail. The fact that you're seriously looking and keeping your options open is what the interviewer is driving at.

9. How are you when you're working under pressure?

Once again, there are a few ways to answer this but they should all be positive. You may work well under pressure, you may thrive under pressure, and you may actually PREFER working under pressure. If you say you crumble like aged blue cheese, this is not going to help you get your foot in the door.

10. What motivates you to do a good job?

The answer to this one is not money, even if it is. You should be motivated by life's noble pursuits. You want recognition for a job well done. You want to become better at your job. You want to help others or be a leader in your field.

11. What's your greatest strength?

This is your chance to shine. You're being asked to explain why you are a great employee, so don't hold back and stay do stay positive. You could be someone who thrives under pressure, a great motivator, an amazing problem solver or someone with extraordinary attention to detail. If your greatest strength, however, is to drink anyone under the table or get a top score on Mario Kart, keep it to yourself. The interviewer is looking for work-related strengths.

12. What's your biggest weakness?

If you're completely honest, you may be kicking yourself in the butt. If you say you don't have one, you're obviously lying. This is a horrible question and one that politicians have become masters at answering. They say things like "I'm perhaps too committed to my work and don't spend enough time with my family." Oh, there's a fireable offense. I've even heard "I think I'm too good at my job, it can often make people jealous." Please, let's keep our feet on the ground. If you're asked this question, give a small, work-related flaw that you're working hard to improve. Example: "I've been told I occasionally focus on details and miss the bigger picture, so I've been spending time laying out the complete project every day to see my overall progress."

13. Let's talk about salary. What are you looking for?

Run for cover! This is one tricky game to play in an interview. Even if you know the salary range for the job, if you answer first you're already showing all your cards. You want as much as possible, the employer wants you for as little as you're willing to take. Before you apply, take a look at salary.com for a good idea of what someone with your specific experience should be paid. You may want to say, "well, that's something I've thought long and hard about and I think someone with my experience should get between X & Y." Or, you could be sly and say, "right now, I'm more interested in talking more about what the position can offer my career." That could at least buy you a little time to scope out the situation. But if you do have a specific figure in mind and you are confident that you can get it, I'd say go for it. I have on many occasions, and every time I got very close to that figure (both below and sometimes above).

14. Are you good at working in a team?

Unless you have the I.Q. of a houseplant, you'll always answer YES to this one. It's the only answer. How can anyone function inside an organization if they are a loner? You may want to mention what part you like to play in a team though; it's a great chance to explain that you're a natural leader.

15. Tell me a suggestion you have made that was implemented.

It's important here to focus on the word "implemented." There's nothing wrong with having a thousand great ideas, but if the only place they live is on your notepad what's the point? Better still, you need a good ending. If your previous company took your advice and ended up going bankrupt, that's not such a great example either. Be prepared with a story about an idea of yours that was taken from idea to implementation, and considered successful.

16. Has anything ever irritated you about people you've worked with?

Of course, you have a list as long as your arm. But you can't say that, it shows you as being negative and difficult to work with. The best way to answer this one is to think for a while and then say something like "I've always got on just fine with my co-workers actually."

17. Is there anyone you just could not work with?

No. Well, unless you're talking about murderers, racists, rapists, thieves or other dastardly characters, you can work with anyone. Otherwise you could be flagged as someone who's picky and difficult if you say, "I can't work with anyone who's a Bronco's fan. Sorry."

18. Tell me about any issues you've had with a previous boss.

Arrgh! If you fall for this one you shouldn't be hired anyway. The interviewer is testing you to see if you'll speak badly about your previous supervisor. Simply answer this question with extreme tact, diplomacy and if necessary, a big fat loss of memory. In short, you've never had any issues.

19. Would you rather work for money or job satisfaction?

It's not a very fair question is it? We'd all love to get paid a Trump-like salary doing a job we love but that's rare indeed. It's fine to say money is important, but remember that NOTHING is more important to you than the job. Otherwise, you're just someone looking for a bigger paycheck.

20. Would you rather be liked or feared?

I have been asked this a lot, in various incarnations. The first time I just drew a blank and said, "I don't know." That went over badly, but it was right at the start of my career when I had little to no experience. Since then I've realized that my genuine answer is "Neither, I'd rather be respected." You don't want to be feared because fear is no way to motivate a team. You may got the job done but at what cost? Similarly, if you're everyone's best friend you'll find it difficult to make tough decisions or hit deadlines. But when you're respected, you don't have to be a complete bastard or a lame duck to get the job done.

21. Are you willing to put the interests of X Company ahead of your own?

Again, another nasty question. If you say yes, you're a corporate whore who doesn't care about family. If you say no, you're disloyal to the company. I'm afraid that you'll probably have to say yes to this one though, because you're trying to be the perfect employee at this point, and perfect employees don't cut out early for Jimmy's baseball game.

22. So, explain why I should hire you.

As I'm sure you know, "because I'm great" or "I really need a job" are not good answers here. This is a time to give the employer a laundry list of your greatest talents that just so happen to match the job description. It's also good to avoid taking potshots at other potential candidates here. Focus on yourself and your talents, not other people's flaws.

23. Finally, do you have any questions to ask me?

I'll finish the way I started, with one of the most common questions asked in interviews. This directly relates to the research you've done on the company and also gives you a chance to show how eager and prepared you are. You'll probably want to ask about benefits if they haven't been covered already. A good generic one is "how soon could I start, if I were offered the job of course." You may also ask what you'd be working on. Specifically, in the role you're applying for and how that affects the rest of the company. Always have questions ready, greeting this one with a blank stare is a rotten way to finish your interview. Good luck and happy job hunting.

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Alya

There was once I missed on a big company because I fumbled with the term Healthcare Provider and Healthcase Solutions Provider. I was doing fine with all the questions until he came to number 4. I had the right words in my mind but the wrong words came out from my mouth. He felt I did not do my research properly. The interviewer became angry and corrected me. I apologised but I could see he lost his interest. This was way back after I graduated from college. Since then I became very cautious and I sit and practice infront of the mirror, sometimes I even use the PC to record my voice as I am practising my answers so as I can judge myself and be more careful. After that episode, I learnt to pass all my interviews!

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Guest

I think your flub was a blessing in disguise. Any interviewer who would become angry is a poor representative of a company or business. Imagine working in that climate....

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haha

looks like you need to learn how to freaking spell, go back to college, dude!

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Guest

Hopefully you've learned to spell. Learnt?

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Faye

Uh, guys, "learnt" IS in fact, acceptable English. It is like "burnt," "knelt," "spilt," etc.

Perhaps research would be a good idea next time.

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Guest

nothin like bein a grammar nazi only to find out you're a jew.

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Guest

The interviewer sounds tightly wound, if you ask me - yikes! To most of the people making comments about Alya's use of the term 'learnt' - why don't back off and retreat back to the pedastal you came down from?

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Ben

To everyone saying Alya has bad spelling, I'll just say this. I don't think she's spelling anything wrong. I'd say she's British. "Apoligised...practising...learnt." That's how they spell stuff there. Kind of like they use colour and favourite.

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Guest

Some people are obviously unaware that there are other countries in this world and that the spelling of certain words varies. Ignorance!

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HA

I agree..blessing in diguise! I wouldn't want to work for someone who is that anal! When I'm being interviewed by a manager, I am also determining whether I want to work for them. It's important to have the right fit!

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Guest

Agreed - lesson learned, but this interviewer seems like he was probably just nasty. Like some faceless folk on the internet. It was probably better that you didn't get the job. What a work environment that would have been.

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Guest

You know half of you guys shouldn't be allowed to post on here. It very much seems like Alya is British as the spelling is perfect as far as I can see... and I'm British. Anyway, that's beside the point, wasn't the main topic of conversation supposed to be the 'interviewer' and the method of 'practising' for the interview?! Stop being so anal people... god help anyone that's ever interviewed by you!!

Paul Michael's picture

Doing a dry run or practising in front of the mirror are both great ways to overcome any possible issues you may have with certain questions. 

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Ryan

No wonder you guys didn't get hired...

You don't even know how to spell

*practicing, not practising

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ScottB

Maybe he's English, dude. They spell practice practise in England. Favor is favour. License is licence.

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Gopal Pawar

THANKSSSSSSSSSSSSSS
I got ur massage

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Be Nice

Practise is a verb in Canada and England while practice is a noun. In US, practice is for both the verb and the noun.

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Guest

Paul,

Regarding question # 23, from my understanding, the interview process is also for the potential employee. Would it be advisable to ask questions like the following:
1- Can you tell me how many people have left your company in the last couple of years?
2- How do you choose your managers/supervisors? Is it by length of time they have been with the company or is it because you see true leadership qualities in them?
3- Based on your experience with several employees, what were the specific qualities of the employees that you truly enjoyed having worked and hopefully continue to work for your company?

These questions to me says a lot about the organization.
What do you think?

L

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Guest

@Ryan how about you stop being the spelling/grammer police!

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Debbie M

My worst answer was "I don't know." I've since learned that "it depends," with a couple of examples, is perfectly appropriate. And that's how I'd answer this one:

Are you willing to put the interests of X Company ahead of your own? It depends. I would put important interests of the company over minor interests of mine and I would put important interests of mine over minor concerns of the company.

Of course then they will ask what if both are important. Then I hope I'd say that maybe the the job and I aren't a good match. I try not to get into situations where that would happen. And can they give me examples of where this has happened before?

I'm to the point now where I'm always trying to guess what their real goal is. If anyone even asked me illegal questions like "Are you planning to have children?" I'd just say something like, "It sounds like you're worried that an employee might quit just when you finally got them trained. I wouldn't take this job if I didn't think I'd be wanting to stay a while."

And if anyone asks me those evil "worst weakness" types of questions, I ask a similar one right back, like what is the worst weakness of the company or section of the company. Or just give a brief answer: Has anything ever irritated you about people you've worked with? "Of course."

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Mike J

Absolutely beautiful answer. Honest and classy. Will make me much more comfortable at an interview.

Paul Michael's picture

Some good advice there. I have also tried "it depends" but have been asked too many time "yes, but if you HAD to choose" so now I make a firm choice. 

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Debbie M

I did have one interview that was really terrible in this way. I had real trouble not rolling my eyes. I ended up getting the job. It turned out the people asking the questions also hated them, but they had to ask them because there was an HR spy--ahem--representative in the room.

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kevin

I answer this question with, "With few exceptions, yes"....

and if asked what the exceptions are, provide a small list of exceptional events, such as a family member in trouble/ill or the wedding day of my daughter.

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Guest

I would say: "I would plan ahead both my work and my personal life to avoid any conflicts. Of course I can understand emergencies, and an emergency in both sides are important. But none your life or you job should be full of emergencies unless you are a doctor at the hospital. Otherwise something is worng with the company or with yourself!"

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Timmy

I sometimes get stuck on the question, "So what are your short/long term goals?" or "Where do you see yourself 5-10 years down the road?" I always try to say something along the lines of "in a position that is still challenging with room to still grow". What do they want to hear? I stumble on this question time and time again.

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Guest

Where do you want to be in 5 to 10 years? They dont want to hear in the same job you are interviewing for. Ultimately, the HR people are searching for someone who can handle the job now, and has the potential to grow into a high level management job in the future. Do you have those goals too?

In other words....are you looking for a career, or a job? (MakkyD's is hiring).

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Arun Bamania

Hi Timmy,
It is really a tough question to answer. By asking such questions, the interviewer tries to judge whether your primary aim is to gain a specific designation, that is, are you over-ambitious.

Answer such questions in a way that you do not reveal any specific designation, for example, Manager, Director, Vice President, or CEO. If you specify any designation, it may appear to the interviewer that you are over-ambitious. Also, the interviewer may feel that if you could not achieve the desired position, you may leave the organization.

Maybe you can answer such questions as, "Five years down the line, I want to be among the best performers or best employees of the organization."

Hope this helps.

Regards,
Arun Bamania

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Preeti

Hi Arun,

Good advice.
Keep helping the people who really need such advices.

Thanks
Preeti

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Guest

I was asked that, and my answer to the interviewer was, " Hopefully,I would like to be sitting in your position", understandably, I did not get a call back. So I guess that was too overly ambitious? 

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Guest

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Guest

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Kim

I feel if your answers are honest, you stand a good chance on giving the interviewers what they want to hear. And going online and looking up 'questions and answers on a interview' and practicing the answers with a friend or spouse really does help with being nervous on said interview. And ask the interviewer similar questions are a very good idea as well. Good luck on your next interview.

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Jamie

"I would like to be sitting in your position" can be a tricky response. Think of being in a court of law, if you do not know the answer to the question, then don't ask it?

a) Maybe the interviewer got your position 6 months ago, and are now in that position: So in 5 years you want to be where I got in 6 months? That's under-ambitious.
b) Perhaps the Interviewer was hired as that position; maybe it's not an available option for you; maybe it's a department the company would just not promote to from your position? That's ambition in ignorance.
c) Perhaps it took the interviewer 15 years to get that position, but you want it in 5? Over-ambitious.

Sticking with "leading my field within this company" (in a prettier way) is usually the best option.

Being vague in an interview is not always bad, so long as you punctuate that vagueness and don't try it every question. As an interviewer I love it when someone says, "I don't know". It means my company can still teach them a thing or two, and they are willing to throw their hands up instead of procrastinating a solvable issue in fear of "getting it wrong". Knowing when to ask for help is a rare skill few are willing to divulge during the interview process.

Instead of just hoping your answer is what they are looking for, you're allowed to ask questions too. Opening a question into a discussable topic during an interview is gold at an interview. "Before I answer that question, can I ask what the promotional opportunity, or expectations, are within this company?" You also just answered the question. You want a job that offers opportunity to climb the ladder. A perfect answer, and you are satisfying the last question, "do you have any questions for me?"

And when they do ask that question, it's ok to recap the questions you have asked during the interview process: "Let's see....do I? We covered promotional opportunities and X Y and Z questions I had earlier, so I think I'm all set!"

-Jamie

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Guest

Jamie. The response is intended to show ambition, however is aggressive, and that is why the interview was failed.

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Guest

When I got asked this question my response was:

There's no telling where I'll be in 5 years. I am ambitious, yes, but people learn in different rates. I want to take my time to learn and experience what this field has to offer me. No one can do everything perfectly. I'm not perfect myself, but I want to be as close to it as possible and that takes time. If I receive this position, I'll do all that I can to be the best at it.

They gave me the job because they saw how eager I was and that I was willing to humble myself.

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Guest

At my last employer there was two types of career paths within engineering, management and technical expert. I would think the most benign answer to the question would be something expressing interest in mastering the technology and becoming an expert, ie. "The xxxx field is highly specialized. I am looking forward to continuing my research in yyyy being an industry expert in zzzz". etc... The goals and timetable should be vague and non threatening but makes the candidate look like he work hard and problem solve for the company.

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Dave

The answer to 18 is completely wrong. I am a director at a major media company's interactive division. Our company is expanding and I am almost in a constant state of hiring. I ask a variation of this question in every single interview and if a candidate has never had one issue or disagreement with anyone, (I stated a variation: I ask if it has happened with anyone in the workplace) I peg them as a liar and reject them immediately.

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Guest

That's b/c you're small minded and assume, so wrong. How do you know that that's not true. So you mean to tell me out of everyone alive that's in the working field, no one can have a smooth ride? You're full of crap, b/c I've never had any problems with anyone at the job and I've been working since 1994.

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Siju

The answer to Q18 can be right as well. I am working with my boss for the past 3 years, without no grudge at all. I never let an argument last to an extent that leads disgruntlement. It all starts when you ain't flexible. My answers would be "No" to Q18 and still I am not a liar.You may have to rethink on the same, I request.

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Guest

If your company is always hiring, then chances are you are losing employees faster than you can hire them. Maybe check your interviewing tactics.

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James

This isn't about the truth, it's about getting a job. I fabricate a minor disagreement that had a positive outcome. Max points on the HR interview question point scale.

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janin

That's a tough statement i would say.. no wonder you get mouth shutting replies.. But i do agree with you. it's no good in the ear that you have had enter into dispute with your past employer/co worker but reality check,BIG companies don't want employees who are like dogs, because if that's the case there's no room for improvement. if you had bad shots with your boss that's because you know your rights, and in the business world those who made it to the top are those who knows how to fight for the right cause.

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Shanique

I have to agree with you Dave thats why when I was writing my response I stated something like. We are both humans its likely to happen.... and then focus on something more positive like...but my boss was a great motivator who encouraged good performance and constructive critisisms, so I would much rather focus on that than pointless conflicts.
---even if your boss was count dracula you get to admit that there have been conflicts but you come off looking good saying so.

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Arun Pathak

Thanks Mr Dave. Appreciate your feedback.
But its 70% true only , sometime we also dont have any issue with employer.

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Matthew

I mean obviously there's always that one guy at every job you could live without. He's at every job!! haha. If you say you've never had problems with anyone, you're being dishonest. I simply say "there's people you don't get along with but I don't let that effect my work". I try to keep my opinions of people to myself and make the best of it :)

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lkanony

And what if IN FACT the person HAS NOT had an issue or disagreement with anyone? I mean frankly, NOT everyone is interested in raising hell or getting their feet wet in a childish back and forth debate (read argument) IN THE MIDDLE OF WORK. I'M PERSONALLY ONE OF THEM. I HATE AND AVOID CONFLICT.....THUS, I start no trouble so there wouldn't BE any trouble. Some people just like to pick a bone with others for the most petty reason(s) and believe me, those reasons may not necessarily be anything in relation to work...just superficial things. In other words, SOME employees let their personal insecurities get the best of them when they come in contact with other employees that seems to be doing better or who are always bettering/enhancing themselves OUTSIDE OF WORK....NOTHING WORK RELATED. Why humor that? The ONLY conflict I generally have with co-workers have all been scheduling conflicts and well.....IT IS THE TRUTH. My professionalism, maturity, work ethic and on and on should NOT be compromised because of someone else's professional and/or personal issues. I have and DO tune these types of individuals out because they are distracting to me and I LOSE MY FOCUS and purpose for being at the job. I don't need it. Perhaps the media world is another ball game BUT perhaps giving people the benefit of the doubt (for reasons I've noted with my own observations, experiences and mindset) won't be such a bad idea.

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Guest

Another take on question #12 is "What was your greatest disappointment?" One answer, "That I haven't had the time to work on completing a PhD in Business (or something related to your work). And, it's not a lie, for me at least. Here, your disappointment should be admired by the interviewer and turns a negative into the opposite.

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J. Lin

I absolutely agree with Dave @ Major Media Company up above.

I may or may not immediately reject the person as a liar (some people really are laid back and easy to work with). I'd put it together with other clues I have about them. But generally, there are always conflicts with other people, even if it's minor. For someone to say they've never had conflicts with anyone, is suspicious.

When I ask this question of a candidate, I want to see how they resolve interpersonal conflicts. I want to see how they work in a team. I want to see how creatively they make the most of what they have.

Fortunately for me, _I_ can be honest about it. =) I think I've been quite successful at working out more difficult work relationships. An essential part of it is, of course, to actually try to get to the heart of the conflict and do my best to resolve my portion of it.

Companion to that, I crack jokes that deride and make fun of myself first. I will make jokes about the other person too, just much more benign jokes and only after I've gotten to know them.

I think this serves several purposes: 1) laughing makes everyone relax; 2) it's safer to make fun of myself than someone else; 3) I cannot be hurt by negative comments about me because I've already said it; 4) most importantly, I show that I understand their point of view which makes compromising and meeting in the middle easier.

I have never known this approach to fail with reasonable people, which most co-workers are (I'm in IT/Software).

-- J.

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Jamie

Paul Michael's suggestion along this vein may be the most appropriate from an interviewer's point of view.

All people have had strife, even those who have said they "have had no problems that have lead to any actual disgruntlement", is a MUCH better answer than, "no, no problems"

Those of you that say you may have never let anyone bother you in the workplace, may be accurate; but that doesn't your actions weren't ever an issue (voiced or not) to a previous boss or co-worker. In short, unless your name is Jesus Christ, (and even then, Judas) you've been involved in workplace disruptions.

"Sure, I've had issues with my past employers, employees and customers (well the customers have an issue with the company, but it's me they are talking to nevertheless...from time to time, who hasn't? The important thing I would like to stress however is I've never knowingly allowed an issue to become more than just that; it's how we handle those issues that separate us, and I'm a professional."

Paul Michael's picture

I talked to several HR employees before I wrote the article, and also based this on my experiences. I found that bringing up disputes with prior bosses never went across very well at all, but when I said "I never really had a problem, nothing worth talking about anyway" I was always greeted with acceptance and the next question. But it's good to know that opinion, thanks so much.

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Guest

I think the best response would be a fellow co-worker putting other co-workers down, and not fostering their development. I think that within a company's environment, everyone should help to foster everyone's growth and development and not hinder them. To which you then resolved the situation by drawing attention to teamwork and the need to work together and conhesively. No idea is a bad idea and no question is a bad question.

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Omar

"What Are Your Major Weaknesses?" is also a very important question. What would you answer?

Omar

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Guest

Omar- I agree with the article about the weaknesses question. You need to be able to list a few small ones that are easily fixed. I always say I get lost in the details so now I am more focused on the bigger picture. I can tell you another thing I have learned from this question is whether or not they like you. If they ask you to list one, they are just asking to ask and see what you will say. I know my husbands friend was actually asked to list seven of them, so the number is a good gage.

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Guest

These are all stupid questions that are only asked by idiots in HR. If a company is asking these kinds of questions, they don't really need me. If they really NEED me, then they are going to be in a panic and asking technical questions about how I can bail them out of their predicament.

Also, companies who are desperate pay a lot.

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D.Webb

Brother are you egotistical! I've been a Controller, HR Mgr. for 20 yrs. and these are the type of questions for insight into character flaws and problems. With this knowledge companies can help to eliminate problem candidates with the potential of becoming problem employees. Problem employees are those that companies can't legally terminate without just cause. These types of employees are most often the cause of EEOC and frivolous lawsuits. Nowadays companies can and do loose thousands of dollars through these procedures.

It is much easier and safer to hire a candidate with much the same skill set and fewer character flaws. Companies would rather pay the tuition to develop a good employee with the skills needed. We do it all the time. Companies don't like to pay profits to attorneys. Good luck with your job search....sounds like your going to need it.

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FITT

DO NOT answer "21. Are you willing to put the interests of X Company ahead of your own?" like the writer suggests by saying 'yes,' that is not a good response at all. In every single instance, this is pure HR bait to see how spineless you are. Saying yes to this question says two things a) you're spineless b) you're lying, and probably about other answers you've given.

The best bet is to say something like "It would be situational. If you're asking am I willing to work until 3am to get a project out the door, then absolutely, but if you're saying will I come in to work on a project when, for instance, a family member is on their death bed, then absolutely not. I'm ready to work extremely hard for X company, but there are a few things that are more important than work." It shows you have a spine and are at least somewhat honest.

Otherwise, a good read! =)

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djNio

I just wanted to say that you are totally right and you got a good point!
Its very important for someone not to "asslick" their bosses by saying things "I would give everything to be perfect in my job and stop living.." becouse its really annoying! Personally its really "Not MY TYPE" and I would suggest everyone not to be "such nerd" too as well! =P

So -> #23 Is here! :))

Regards,
DeeJayNio..

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ProBono

The only reason why you are asked questions is for them to gage your reaction and to see if you can handle pressure well. Everyone knows you're BSing as much as they are.

The jobs I got are the ones where I walked in with a great attitude, relaxed, and sound useful. Answer what they want, but not necessarily what they ask.

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Ophie!

I've botched every question and gotten some right but this is a great guide, I get nervous reading the questions right now.

Good question: would you rather work for a big company or a small one? Favorite answer: I'd treat any company like it was my own regardless. Total ownership of the situation can get you a long way.

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Ophie!

I've botched every question and gotten some right but this is a great guide, I get nervous reading the questions right now.

Good question: would you rather work for a big company or a small one? Favorite answer: I'd treat any company like it was my own regardless. Total ownership of the situation can get you a long way.

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Shahzad

Hi All..
Am having interview at macdonalds and itz my 1st interview. can any body help me to answer questions 1,2,4,9,11,12,14,22 plz.Some sort of general answers
thnkz

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Guest

In case you are not joking around you might want to start by checking how the company's name is spelled. ;-)

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Guest

Sure, just show up for the interview.

Guest's picture

Forget about looking for job, start your own business! You’ll never get rich by being employee. Plus, you don’t have to go for interviews.

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Guest

Really??? What an idiotic suggestion... If everyone were starting their own businesses where would hospitals, schools, and -yes- big companies go? Would you start a hospital and a school for just your family??? Everyone would love to have a financially comfortable life but some occupations and professions are more about love for doing the job than financial gain because they are underpaid and that's not going to change. One example is being a teacher or a nurse. Obviously they can improve their incomes by continuous studying and becoming leaders in their field but can you imagine a world of every single one of them founding schools and hospitals??? How would they even be able to open them if everyone just wants to be rich and not someone else's employee??? How would you open a school or a hospital if no one wants to be an employee??? Or better yet, are you going to invent a way in which these workplaces would function with just you as a doctor, nurse, surgeon, manager, etc; or principal, teacher, bus driver, cook, school nurse, etc all at the same time??? Having your own business is good if you really believe in your product or service and have the skills to manage it on your own but we are not islands and we need each other and fortunately we all have different skills to make our society function. Whether that system is fair is an entirely different issue but the point is that nobody can function alone. And your suggestion is about that: function alone and get rich (which is ironic because you need others to get rich: you need other people to want or need whatever it is that you offer). And yes, there are interviews: with your clients (or do you know everyone on the planet who will buy your product or service?)

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Catherine

I believe your adice is sound. I usually add a little humour depending my read of the room. It helps lighten things up and demonstrates confidence
under pressure.
Your suggestion on projects implemented is good. I find most companies are looking for people who can deliver outcomes in a timely manner and on budget.

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Jamie

Absolutely! When asked if there is anyone you would not work with, I always jump on this. Interviews are not just to see if you are a reliable person who will do your job well, but also, if people will get along with you and vice-versa.

Have fun at your interviews, "Yes, I'm sorry to say that through past experiences I find that I am unable to get along with Bears' fans.....[hahahahahaha].....no really, barring the obvious murderers, rapists and thieves...I'll work with anyone and I'll sell to more!"

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Obsession

You're making a basic mistake by looking for a job. You'll do better if you start your own business instead.

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Silk

Is that so, Obsession? If everyone did that, who'd work in your business?

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Obsession

The great thing is that not everyone has courage to start his/her own business, which is why I got people working for me and I don't have to work myself. I was actually forced to start my own business because with ADHD I have difficulty to finish any work on time, so the only solution was to find someone to do most of the work. Now, I have several people working for me, I just check from time to time if everything is delivered and that's all. PS: I do design, branding etc.

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work smart not hard

Awesome! I also suffer from ADHD and find it difficult to stay on task. The minute I get bored I'm off on another project, never really completing the first one. As a manager its good for me because I can then delagate it off to someone else to finish. Not a great quality to bring up in an interview though.

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Ritter

After a year of training in the secret underground of pick up artists I found out that you can use this stuff just anywhere. I had a couple of job interviews lately and I did the exact same routines with the 3-5 people on the table like I do with chicks at a club (or street/coffeeshop/bookstore, if it's for daygame). Works perfectly fine. Tends to get boring though, so I picked a job I really like.

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Guest

All of these questions and answers are great, but how do you get to the interview process?? I am looking for a job in retail I see all theses places hiring on simply hired and career builder and I have applied and no one is calling back. i have had 3 calls in 2 months for about 15-20 jobs I have applied for. Any suggestions to why??

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Lori

I would suggest that you contact the managers at the places you have applied in the past and ask them if they received your application. Find out if they would be willing to spare you a few minutes and discuss with you their reasons for not hiring you and if they have any suggestions on what you could do to become hireable with them. It would be better if you could met them in person to have this conversation.
It could be you do not have enough experience for the positions you have applied for, or it could be your resume does not reflect your skills. Usually if you look good on paper, you have a great chance at being called in for an interview.
I would strongly suggest that you apply for any retail positions in person to the manager, rather than leaving, or sending in your application. I was in management in retail for many years and I think you can represent youself better face to face. Often you may get an interview on the spot. Also, apply at the companies you would like to work, after researching them first. Don't wait for them to advertise a position. You might be surprised at how successful you will be.

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Sara

The CV is so important, i have 2 CVs, one for Visual merchandising and one for retail management. You need to look at the qualities they are asking for and put them in the key skills section of your CV. I tailored them to the jobs and saved them under the company name with a strong covering letter mentioning their company by name and complimenting them within it ... so and so is at the forefront of design, i find your work very inspiring and i would love to be part of your team.
When i started to do this, i was getting interviews for nearly every job i applied for compared to the 10% i was getting before.
A really punchy statement at the start helps and not too long, mine is 2 pages
:)

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Guest

When I'm reading articles like this one, i tend to ask myself "what does this guy know that I don't, and why should I trust him/her on the subject?"

"To get my first job out of college I attended some 15-20 interviews a week."

An HR-manager, or someone familiar with interviewing would have been a great resource regarding the interview process. But one who has just been to several interviews? I'm just wondering, WHY have you been to many interviews, because you are good at them? I'd doubt it.

Paul Michael's picture

haven't worked in advertising in London. When you're fresh out of college you have to go and see as many agencies as possible, get your face known and interview with as many places as you can in order to increase your chances of landing a job. Some of my friends were seeing 3-4 agencies per day for many weeks. You may doubt my abilities as an interviewee, but I'm in a business that demands face time in front of agencies. It comes with the territory, and you often have to take your book around even when you're not specifcally looking for a job.

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From a small business owner's perspective, thank you. I'm doing my first interview for an office assistant next week.

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Guest

I've found the most killer way to answer the question "do you have any questions" is to ponder for a moment, and then ask your interviewer "what aspect of your job do you find most challenging". Its a bit out the park and really gets the interviewer to think (which is good) and their answer gives you a bit of an inner taste for the company.

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Guest

21. Are you willing to put the interests of X Company ahead of your own?

I'd say "my OWN interests sure, but my DOG'S interests are ahead of everything else."

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Guest

I've started to look again for a job and keep hearing that the best way to get your foot in the door is thru networking. Newpaper, Monster, Simply Hired, Recruiters, Network! - do them all.

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Joe Levi

I applied for a position advertised as "Web Master" some years back. This was a new position for the company and the job title and the description didn't match, so after we went over why I was on the market (had been recently down-sized), what my education certifications were (associates degree from a local University, and several industry specific certs), I interjected, asking about the position they were hiring for.

I mentioned that I didn't have much experience as a Web Master, per se, but that a web master was in charge of maintaining the web server(s), installing updates/upgrades to the box, and ensuring the pipe to the web server(s) was sufficient for current traffic without being limiting to the future.

I then defined the role of a Web Developer (someone who writes markup, code, and basically enables web-based designs and applications to run on a web server), then asked which of the positions they were really trying to fill.

Once we had determined they really wanted a Web Developer I was able to pull out my "Web Developer" resume' and detail my experience.

I ended up getting the job, and getting $11,000 more than they were initially offering.

- www.JoeLevi.com

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Guest

These questions all sound like they'd be asked of people in the services industry, like marketing, retail, sales, management. The kind of questions HR would dream up for someone looking for a job in HR. All of these questions and "right" answers amount to "how well can you BS?" It's a total shame that people on the technical side should ever have to endure more than a couple of these questions during an interview. BSing is not their skill, nor is it nearly so important to their job.

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Guest

Now if I could only find an employer who agrees with you! I am very good at being an accountant, I can wrangle numbers and balance books like nobodies business but I really suck at sitting in a room being questioned in this manner. I am not comfortable sitting there giving a cookie cutter answer that I have researched and know is the "right answer". I just want to present myself nicely, meet the potential co-workers or supervisors, discuss my qualifications and answer honest questions. 

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Jamie

It's true, and it's not. Yes, they are cookie-cutter questions. The answers however, not so much.

1) Good interviewers do not ask all 23 of these questions. You're right, only half of THESE questions are necessary, but they are still probably the 23 most asked questions.
2) Good interviewers also change up these questions requiring a different....Intro into the answer.

"What strengths would you like to see your Supervisor so that he/she would best compliment your weaknesses?

If you tell me your Supervisor should be patient, than you're telling me either you're not or you're slow.... It requires thought and non cookie-cutter responses. It also measures an importantly equal skill set in business: Listening skills. If you answer without listening to the question merely thinking "oh this is an easy one" and spam out your cookie-cutter response....well I won't be hiring you due to your inability to follow instruction.

3) I've never interviewed, or had an interview, that only contained these kind of questions; if you have then you're either doing the interview an injustice, or you have an interviewer that just doesn't care and you won't be hired anyway, or it is a "high school" job.

However as to the post being written, I've never been involved in an interview that didn't ask at least a good portion of these questions.

Lastly, cookie-cutter questions allow an interviewer to pull out an interviewee from a nervous, defensive position. I've used cookie-cutters to get people comfortable, had I gone straight into my private list of questions...I promise you their stress level alone would have been an unfair element that probably would have meant a lot of non hires that were ultimately (at first) too shy to allow themselves to succeed...and are now some of our most valuable employees.

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Ruiaxe

Thanks!

This really sums up 99% of my interviews!

Nice to see I haven't made a lot of mistakes... :)

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Frida

Maybe it's cultural - I'm a European - but I certainly wouldn't hire someone who answered all the questions just to give the 'right' reply.
When I've interviewed candidates for a post, it's been fundamentally uninteresting to speak to those who follow this kind of advice and anxiously try to tell you what they believe you want to hear.

I'm no pro in being interviewed for jobs (finding and changing jobs has been relatively smooth) but I would stress the following:
-- when interviewed, remember that recruitment is a two-way process: the company is also putting itself on the market place. Therefore don't signal that you sell yourself at any price an in any way (the terrible response to question 21!). I think the right answer should signal professionalism, work ethics and self-respect.
-- I tend to work much too much, but would never say that in a job interview. If asked about my availability, I would say that occasionally I can put in a few extra hours if there is something unforeseen, but I prefer to work efficiently during regular working hours and plan and manage the workload in a way that preempts the emergencies. So far I have never had any negative reactions using this response, on the contrary, it has put the company representatives a bit on the defensive and they have started to try to sell the post to me by making it sound more manageable.
The idea is of course that a more demanding candidate tends to get more esteem. And to avoid having to work for a company that has shows no consideration for the needs of the employees.
-- I would also say that your approach is more important than the reponses. The prospective new employer does not give a toss about the conflicts you've had in your workplace, but needs to see if s/he can live with your way of solving them. No conflicts means that you just go along with what everyone says, which signals incompetence, or that you are covering up, which signals dishonesty.

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Juicy77

It's definitely cultural. A lot of American employers have misplaced priorities. They'd rather you dazzle them with dishonest answers than be forthright and qualified. It's sad.

Guest's picture

This is pretty much every job interview.
Just Practice and you'll do good!

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solak

Re: question 23.
I would ask the interviewer, “Why do you like to work here?” or, if that has already been discussed, turn some other question they’ve asked back to them, preferring the job-related questions to the money or personal ones. This is similar to response #30, (though I don’t think it’s “out of the park” at all) in that you’re showing more interest in the job and the company, and the answer will tell you something about whether you actually want the job if you do get an offer.

Reply #39 also raises this important issue not covered in the article: Just as much as they are trying to find out about you, you need to find out more about the company and the job to decide whether it is a match. If your response to #23 is, "When will I get reimbursed for my travel expenses?", you've blown it.

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Guest

Thanks for this good article. I have frequently been on both sides of the interview table in my career, and it can be a fascinating experience, especially for the interviewing team.

I too peg someone who admits no faults, or has never had a conflict in the workplace as either a liar (depending on other factors) or seriously out of touch with the reality of the workplace(even the 'laid-back' people have conflicts--they just may choose not to acknowledge their existence!)

I recently didn't hire someone, who otherwise had great qualifications, because they couldn't give the interviewing team even a passing answer at 'your deficits as an employee'. It was embarrassing watching the person struggle with the question, and that told me all I needed to know. How I read it: this person does not know herself at all OR she has had major deficits as an employee and doesn't want to reveal them.

The better answer for this question for this potential employee would have been something like: 'In the workplace there are always conflicts born from differing priorities, paradigms and practices. My style has always been to steer as clear of conflicts as possible, but to take them on when I see that my integrity is being put to question in some way. I suppose you could say that one of my growing edges as an employee is to learn how to better know what conflicts I should engage and which I should look at as gossip-driven and have no part in. I'm working on this." (Of course, only if this is true!)

Thanks again for a good article, particularly for those new in the job market. I will be using the article as reference material for teaching interviewing skills in a local high school that my Rotary club has become involved in as a project.

Beth

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Here is a great website that will help you answer all the real tough interview answers.

http://www.tspractice.com

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Guest

It's a jungle out there, kiddies. Forewarned is forearmed. To understand today's hiring climate remember that any large company (thousands of employess to hundreds of thousands of employees) has been sued for sex discrimination, racial discrimination, age discrimination, employees who have gone Postal, embezzlers, fraudsters, etc. etc. and any combination thereof and undoubtedly settled or lost in court along the way.

They are gun shy. The HR depts. in these companies have no other purpose than to follow the instructions of the lawyers. In fact, today, in order to be an HR person you essentially are a lawyer and should be one.

In many of these companies, the HR dept. has the hiring managers on a very short leash.

Then on top of that, you have the companies that put all management through a Gallup interview, the type of questions that #43 alludes to on their site. To understand this from the employers perspective, you should read the Gallup books by Buckingham. This is the "past performance is the best indicator of future performance" mentality - Gallup invented it, which may or may not be the correct way of evaluating job candidates.

Basically, in order for this to work, the company has to profile the personality required of every position or key role in the company and draw up a mix of personality characteristics of the employees who perform well and have high job satisfaction. They are then engaging in a matching process to identify who has the best fit. You, of course, do not have the benefit of seeing the profiles, so you are operating blind.

To understand this from your perspective (how to do the right thing even though you have no idea how), read The Hero With a Thousand Faces and other books by Joseph Campbell which examine the human condition throughout the ages across all religions and belief systems and the journey through life that we are all compelled to undertake. You are on a journey whether you want to be or not and whether you realize it or not. You may as well realize it. Campbell shows the way.

In this type of interview, no matter what you say, they will reply with something to the effect of these words, "Can you give an example of a time when you..."

For example, they say, what would you say are your strengths. You mention something. They say, can you tell me about a time when you used that strength.

Any claim of any sort that you make will be followed up with a question about specifics. So for any statement about some wonderful thing you have on your resume, you need to be armed with a dozen examples that you can supply to prove it is true.

What they "want" you to say is something along the lines of, "There was a situation in which..." or "I was given a task to do..." After describing the situation or task, you then go on to say, "What I did was..." or "The action I took was..." and then you say, "The result was..." or "This resulted in".

Thus, so-called the STAR approach (Situation or Task, Action, Result).

Your challenge is to couch your answers in this very robotized fashion without sounding like a robot. To understand the essence of this, just watch any Proctor and Gamble tv ad for Tide-gets-the-dirt-out, Bounty-the-quicker-picker-upper or any of their other products. They all use the same problem/solution/product-is-the-hero approach. "Tide saved the day!" You're the product here, so be the Hero in your STAR stories about yourself! Good luck!

Then, in addition to that, you have the Top Graders. These are managers that systematically lop off the 10% of the lowest performing employees every year and recruit to replace them. The creates lots of opportunity for aggressive newcomers to the organization, but hangs over the head once you are in.

Jack Welch and GE is a well known example of this. These managers think they are on a mission to hire "A" players and will engage you in multiple lengthy interviews at multiple levels of the organziation - taking up hours and hours of your time. Every time you make the slightest gesture or utter the slightest word they are asking themselves whether you are an A, a B, or a C performer. Their mission - keep the A's, develop the B's and re-position or fire the C's.

There is a book on this one, too, of course, Top Grading. Every management level employee should read this because you will be subjected to this type of interview process somewhere along the line and in these organizations, you will be expected to employ this method in your own hiring of staff. Remember this: the top grade interview process is extremely difficult to conduct and you are as likely to be subjected to managers who are "learning" or botching it as you are to meet those who get it right.

Of course, you should be using your own Top Grading process to find the best company to work for. (A book on this one, anyone?)

Best defense - take the Force with you!

Guest's picture

Thanks for the article. I've had the experience of being both the interviewer and the interviewee, and somehow I found both equally stressful. I think the key is to practice answering questions beforehand and to really play to your strengths. Calm confidence is the key.

Guest's picture

Thanks for the article. I've had the experience of being both the interviewer and the interviewee, and somehow I found both equally stressful. I think the key is to practice answering questions beforehand and to really play to your strengths. Calm confidence is the key.

Guest's picture
Guest

A previous post mentioned a question I KNOW I'm going to hear: Where do you see yourself in 5-10 yrs?

My problem: A little background info...I have a degree in Biology and 2 years in a doctor of optometry program (it's a 4 yr program; I left b/c I decided I wanted to become a physician/ophthalmologist instead of an optometrist). I have an interview for an ophthalmic technician position (requires a G.E.D. and certification preferred; try getting a job w/ a B.S. in Bio and no work exp...it's hell! No one cares about all of my schooling :() to hold me over until I get into medical; maybe 2 years from now. NOW...here's the problem: I know they're going to ask about my future plans so what do I say? If I tell them I want to go back to school to be a physician, they probably won't hire me b/c companies want long term employees. So, what do I say? If I tell them I want to "grow w/ the company" (not quite sure where you can grow in the healthcare field if you're a tech...w/o going back to school), they probably won't believe me b/c I have a bachelors and 2 years of graduate education. Any suggestions? Thanks!

Guest's picture

Great Post Paul! I added this to our list of career resources for recent College Grads.

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Dee Dee Kay

This information is very helpful and greatly appreciated!

I have a very good work history and I'm great at resumes but I've always had issues with the interview process. There is some really great advice here! I'm very organized and like to be prepared and I honestly believe this article will help me improve my interview skills. If you have any advice on how to relax and get into a "good mind set" for an interview I'd love to hear it!

Thanks so much, this is a great thing your doing here!

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Guest

Hi
I think the best advice for you is to join www.toastmasters.org near you. Toastmasters will help you relax, and by being able to relax your greatness will come through during interviews. It is the stress that usually kills us.

Enjoy