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Job Interviews: 10 Commonly-Asked Questions (And How to Answer)

Aug 18, 2007
Being prepared for a job interview isn't just about dressing appropriately, it's also about knowing how to respond thoughtfully to the interviewer's questions. Interviewers like questions that are personal and revealing, which can be intimidating. But the truth is that interviewers tend to ask the same questions - or variations thereof. So, if you know what these questions are, you can prepare accordingly. Here are ten of the most commonly-asked job interview questions. Don't be surprised if they come up in your next interview.

1. "Tell me about yourself." This is the ice breaker. First of all, it is important that your answer doesn't sound rehearsed. Your answer should be genuine and honest as well as short and sweet. Don't talk endlessly about every detail of your life - that's not what potential employers want to know. Focus on your education, work history, recent career experience and any hobbies or accomplishments that reflect a strong character. Even though it's an ice-breaker question, it should still be selling you as a candidate.

2. "Why did you leave your last job?" With this question, it is crucial to be brief, honest, and, most importantly, positive. If you left by choice, don't talk badly or put blame on others. You'll only make yourself look bad. Instead say you left for a better opportunity. If you were fired, be honest about the reasons and assure the interviewer that the mistakes - if any - will not happen again. Being honest about the circumstance shows your interviewer that you have confidence in yourself.

3. "What do you know about this company?" You should expect this question at every interview. This is why you should always do some research on the company before the interview. Find out where they have been and where they are going. What are the current issues and who are the major players? This shows the interviewer that you are actually interested in the company and being employed by them.

4. "Why do you want to work for this company?" Again, make sure you've done your homework and base your response on the knowledge you've acquired. For instance, you could say that you're interested in the kind of business with which the company is involved, or that you like the benefits the company offers. Better yet, try to relate your answer to your personal interests or career goals.

5. "Why should we hire you?" This is a softball pitch - an easy opportunity to show your strengths - so hit it out of the park. Try to sound confident without sounding cocky. Create your answer by thinking in terms of your abilities and experience. Point out specific ways in which your assets as a candidate will benefit the company.

6. "How long do you plan on staying with the company if you're hired?" Technically, employers are not supposed to ask this question; still, sometimes it finds its way into the conversation. If it does, steer clear of specific answers; being too specific could be potentially dangerous. You could be making promises you can't - or don't want to - keep. That being said, try not to sound too vague. Try something along the lines of "I'd like it to be a long time, or as long as we both feel I am doing a good job."

7. "Are you willing to work overtime?" You're on your own here - but be prepared for the question. It's to your advantage to be honest up front in setting the terms of employment; however, keep in mind that the more flexible you are, the more likely you'll get the job. If nothing else, let your interviewer know that while you have preferences or special circumstances, you are willing to be flexible.

8. "What do you feel this position should pay?" A loaded and a delicate question. The best way to have success with this question is to not answer it directly. A good tactic is to counter with something like, "That's a tough question... Can you tell me the range for this position?" In most cases, the interviewer, taken off guard, will tell you. Of course, a better approach would be to do your homework. Find the average salary for the position you're applying for and answer, "I understand that the range for this job is between $____ and $____. That seems appropriate for the job as I understand it." Either way, make sure you communicate that while the money is important; getting the job is first priority.

9. "What is your philosophy/attitude towards work?" If you get this question, be advised that the interviewer is not looking for a soliloquy. Ask yourself: "Do I have strong feelings about how work should be done?" If so, answer accordingly. If not, keep it short and positive, always showing concern for the good of the organization.

10. "Do you have any questions for me?" This is one of the most neglected and overlooked questions of the interview. In fact, many applicants treat it as a "throwaway." Instead, come with some prepared questions, such as: "How can I be an asset to the organization? How soon will I be able to be productive? What type of projects will I be involved with?" Remember that a keen or insightful question on your part will tell the employer as much about you as your answers.

To conclude, let me observe that the key to most of these questions is doing your homework. The fact is that you can compensate for lack of experience or education, even getting fired, by having a well-rehearsed and well-delivered response to the questions above. Still, remember that even the best answers will have no credibility whatsoever unless you are completely honest and sincere with yourself and with your interviewer. And while I can't promise you'll get every job using these tips, I can promise a more successful interview and a fighting chance even with jobs you have no business applying for.
About the Author
Benjamin Welch has been a college instructor in writing and composition for nearly six years. When he's not teaching or playing golf, he offers advice for students seeking information about online education and online degrees.
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