The 32 Essential Interview Questions

Acing your Job Interview

The following are what I consider 32 of the most important or most common interview questions you are likely to be asked. Practicing how to answer each before you get to the interview will greatly reduce your stress when you here them and increase your probability of getting the job.

The first seven are behavioral questions.

1. How do you deal with tight deadlines?

A question like this looks at several of your qualities: organization, initiative and ability to cope under pressure. Any real-life examples will help to illustrate your answer. Remember to talk the interviewer through the whole story: why the deadline was so tight, how you formed a plan to deal with it, how you put that plan into action, and what was the outcome. You can talk in general about how you stay organized and avoid having tight deadlines. Do you have any techniques or tips for managing your workload? The interviewer might be happy to learn some from you!

2. How do you respond to criticism?

The safe answer to a question like this is to say that you try to take everything on board and make changes where required. If you have any examples, they will add weight to your answer. It’s even better if you can give an example of how criticism has helped you improve in a measurable way. You can also talk about how you give criticism to people. One of the things being assessed here is your ability to communicate, so anything that’s relevant is worth mentioning.

3. How do you deal with pressure?

Pressure is a fact of life in any job, so your ability to cope is vital. Your answer should focus on how you organize yourself, stay on top of things and avoid getting overwhelmed. It’s actually not great to say that pressure doesn’t affect you. People who throw themselves into high-pressure situations are more likely to burn out in the long run. People who try to manage and reduce pressure are the ones who last. If you have any practical examples of coping with pressure, be sure to share them. If you have any practical examples of coping with pressure, be sure to share them.

4. How do you stay organized on long-term projects?

If you have any specific techniques, do talk about them. For example, you may use tools like Google Calendar or Trello to stay on top of your commitments. Interviewers also want to hear about real-world examples. If you have delivered a major project at work, focus on this for your answer. You can also talk about examples from your education or personal life. Ultimately, the interviewer wants to know how you approach a long-term challenge and ensure that nothing gets missed.

5. How do you keep your skills up-to-date?

Even if you’re very experienced, there’s still a chance that your skills are outdated. You may not be aware of new processes, new software or current industry trends. The traditional ways to keep skills up-to-date are to join professional associations or subscribe to specialist journals. This keeps you in touch with your industry colleagues. These days, a lot of people use the internet and social media to stay in touch. Talk about the websites or Twitter accounts that you get your news from.

6. What would you do if you thought your manager was incompetent?

What a dangerous question! You never want to speak badly about your former managers, so don’t be tempted to spill the beans about your old boss. When people complain about their manager, it usually means that there’s been a communication breakdown. So, focus on that – how you would try to improve communication and learn more about the pressure they are under. Consider what the interviewer wants to learn. They want to know about your problem-solving, conflict resolution, communication and teamwork skills. Focus on these positive skills in your answer.

7. Tell me about a mistake you’ve made and how you fixed it

For a “tell me about…” question, you want to first talk about the situation you were in, giving details of the environment and the mistake you made. Then talk about the task you were faced with after the mistake: what needed to happen next. The next part of your answer, talk about how you figured out your solution. Demonstrate your problem-solving skills. Finally, talk about the outcome. Your story should have a happy ending, with lessons learned and no real damage done. The interviewer doesn’t care about the mistake itself, as long as it wasn’t too terrible. What they want to know is how you analyze problems and arrive at solutions.

8. Have you ever been on a team that was going through major changes?

When a business makes changes, some people adapt quickly while others struggle. Your answer should show that you’re in the first group. If you have a professional example of going through change, talk about that. How did you adapt to the new way of doing things? How did you support your colleagues? It’s even better if you can talk about benefiting from change. For example, if your old employer was making a change and you saw an opportunity to implement a long-overdue process improvement.

9. Have you ever interacted with a colleague in a way that you regret?

We’ve all snapped at colleagues who didn’t deserve it or bitten our tongue when we should have said something. It’s okay to talk about mild conflict with former workers, as long as you’re not too negative. If an interviewer ever asks about regret, you should focus on what you learned from the experience and how it helped you to improve. Are you a better communicator now than you were before? If you really don’t want to admit to a fault like this, you can swerve the question slightly by saying you regret not thanking someone enough for their help in the past.

10. Have you ever had to deal with a customer or client who didn’t speak the same language as you?

Be careful with a question like this, because you could really get yourself in trouble if you say anything that’s even remotely discriminatory. Also, remember that customers must always be treated with the utmost respect. Focus on how you solved the problem. What steps did you take to communicate with the person? Were they happy with the outcome? If you don’t have an example of dealing with a language barrier, it’s okay to talk about an occasion where there was any kind of communication issue. Communication is vital in every job and employers want someone who can overcome these barriers.

11. Have you ever said the wrong thing to a customer?

If you have an example of this, you need to focus on why you knew it was the wrong thing, how it affected the customer, and what you did to rectify the situation. Don’t worry about casting yourself in a negative light (as long as your story isn’t too terrible). The interviewer is really more interested in how you fixed your mistake, rather than the mistake itself. Talk about what you learned from the experience and how you now avoid saying the wrong thing.

12. Have you ever had to change your hair or clothes for an employer?

Lots of people have run up against dress codes, either in school or at work. If you have a practical example of this, you can discuss it with the interviewer. A question like this is sometimes more about conflict resolution and teamwork. How did you discuss the issue with your manager? How did you arrive at an agreement? Your answer should show you as a reasonable, co-operative person. However, if you do have a red line such as a piercing that you are not willing to remove, it’s best to be upfront about that with the interviewer.

In most interviews, there are some questions that are just bound to come up. The classic “Tell me about yourself” ice-breaker is a guarantee, and the way you respond will set the tone for the rest of the interview.

When the interviewer phrases a question with “Tell me,” use this as an opportunity to show your personality and use an anecdote or story that explains your answer. Check out the “Tell me” questions below as a guide to practice and feel confident about your response!

13. Tell me a few things about yourself.

Consider beginning by sharing a few personal interests which don’t necessarily relate to work. Your answer should focus on your experiences and skills that will be relevant to the position and company for which you’re interviewing. Turn your answer into a concise, compelling pitch that illustrates why you’re the right pick for the job.

14. Tell me why I should hire you.

Prepare by making a list of qualifications for the position, then determine how to discuss your qualities that will meet the specific job requirements. Your answer should be brief and should highlight why you stand out among the other applicants. If you possess qualifications that make you unique in the candidate pool, emphasize these when answering this question.

15. Tell me about the type of work environment you prefer.

Interviewers generally ask this question to determine how well you’ll fit in at the company. Be honest but be sure to let the interviewer know you’re adaptable. Do a bit of research on the company culture by checking out the “About Us” section of the company website.

16. Tell me about a project or improvement that you have spearheaded.

Ideally, you should be able to talk about something work-related, but don’t panic you don’t have any examples. Talk about a situation where you had to take on a major challenge. Tell your story in steps.

First, talk about the nature of the challenge you faced. Then, talk about how you analyzed the problem and identified the solution. After that, talk about implementing the solution and how you measured success. This question is mostly about your problem-solving ability. Do you leap in blind, or do you carefully step through things to arrive at a solution?

17. Tell me about a time you went the extra mile for a client or customer.

It helps to know the values of the employer when answering a question like this. Companies that focus on service will want to hear extraordinary tales of helping people. Companies that emphasize value or efficiency would like to hear about how you were able to help customers while staying focused on your job. Walk through your answer in steps.

First, talk about what it was that the customer needed. Demonstrate empathy and show that you put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Then, discuss how you decided what to do next. What were the options available to you? Did you choose the best one? This is another chance to show strategic and analytical thinking. Finally, talk about the benefit of what you did. Was the client happy, leading to a stronger relationship? Did it prevent a loss of business? Did you help your employer avoid a liability?

18. Tell me about a time you had to work with a difficult colleague.

You should never say negative things about former colleagues because it can often reflect badly on you. You may come across as someone who’s not a team player. Answers should focus on teamwork and co-operation. Talk about how you resolved the situation or stopped it from having such an effect on the team.

19. Tell me about a time you had to persuade someone about something.

Situational questions like this (“tell me about a time…”) should be answered with the STAR approach: Situation, Task, Action, Result. Talk about the situation you were in, the thing you needed to persuade someone about, the action you took to persuade them, and the outcome of your efforts. The interviewer is looking to assess particular qualities here, namely your communication and persuasion skills. Your answer should illustrate the degree to which you possess these skills. Ideally, you should give an example from professional life, but you can talk about personal life too. How do you go about talking people into things?

20. Where do you think this company will be in five years?

It’s great if you have done some research and you know about the company’s strategic goals or any new products that they have launched. Focus on these concrete details in your answer and ask your interviewer what they think about them.

If you don’t have any examples about this, then talk about the industry in general. If you can mention any articles or blog posts you've read about the future of the industry, be sure to mention those.

If you don’t have an answer, turn the question around and ask the interviewer what the company’s goals are. If you can engage in a discussion about this, it shows that you have some understanding of what they do.

21. Could you work for a manager who was younger than you?

Questions like this should always be answered in the affirmative, no matter what. In every job, they want employees who are good team players and work well with everyone else.

If you have an experience of working with a boss who is younger than you, be sure to talk about what that was like. Be positive and talk about what you learned and enjoyed.

Remember that a question like this is being asked in a context of anti-discrimination laws. Neither you nor the interviewer can say anything derogatory about anyone based on their age, gender, ethnicity or sexuality. Don’t make jokes, even if you think they’re not offensive.

22. Where do you see yourself in six months?

This is a challenging variation on the old “where do you see yourself in five years?” chestnut.

The first six months of any job are spent training and generally learning the ropes. This should be the focus of your answer.

If you know you’ll be learning a particular skill, be sure to focus on that. It shows that you understand what’s expected of you and that you’re keen to learn.

23. Are you primarily motivated by salary or opportunity?

The correct answer here depends on the point you are at in your current career. Those starting out on their career path should generally be willing to take a pay cut in exchange for training and development.

You may also be at a point in your career when you need a solid, reliable remuneration package and you’re not worried about advancement. It’s okay to say this.

Take some cues from the interviewer and get a feeling for what they want from an employee.

24. Do you like to deal with customers or stay in the back office?

Every job involves dealing with customers to some extent. Even if you’re not dealing with external customers, you still have to deal with internal “customers” – people from other departments who need your services.

It’s okay to say you prefer to do back-office work, but just be careful not to sound like you have trouble dealing with people. Talk about how you like to devote your attention to a task, for example.

If you are good with customers, this is a positive. Give examples of times you have provided top-class customer service.

25. Who is your role model?

Avoid mentioning any celebrities who might be controversial, such as political leaders or contemporary pop stars. Remember, you can talk about someone you know, like a parent or teacher.

The interviewer will ask why that person is your role model. Talk about a quality your role model has that you admire and how it inspires you.

The quality your role model has should be something you want your interviewer to associate with you: work ethic, entrepreneurial spirit or creativity, for example.

26. Who is the leading company in our field and what do they do right?

If you don’t know the industry very well, pick an obvious example that you feel comfortable talking about, such as Apple, McDonald's or Airbnb.

Try and find something you like about the company in question, whether it’s quality, customer service or price.

The purpose of this question is to determine how familiar you are with the industry. You will be better equipped to answer if you do a little research before the interview.

27. Who are our customers?

This is the most important question in any business. If you know the answer, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to help the company realize its strategic vision.

Whatever the company sells -- whether it’s hamburgers or houses -- it is aimed at a particular customer. So think about the company offering and see what clues they provide. Business or retail? Budget or luxury?

You won’t be able to answer this question unless you research the employer beforehand. Spend some time on their website. Better yet, buy something from them and become a customer yourself!

28. What industry news sources do you follow?

Interviewers want to be sure that you work to keep your skills sharp, especially in fields such as tech. Reading industry news shows that you stay connected.

Mention any magazines, blogs, forums, social media feeds or other outlets you’re familiar with. If you can talk about a recent article or post, it could make all the difference.

If you keep in touch with industry developments in other ways, such as talking to friends who work in the industry, you can mention this too.

29. Who are you and what do you do to relax?

When answering a question like this, steer clear of anything that makes you seem unprofessional. Drugs and alcohol are major no-nos. Things like video games and watching trash TV make you seem unambitious.

Sports and exercise are great answers, as are things like reading, crafting and attending cultural events.

If you have a noteworthy hobby then talk about it. It shows that you have an active and curious mind. It can also help you stand out from other candidates – the interviewer will remember you as “the one who collects rare vinyl” or “the person who makes stained glass.”

A related question is, “What is the biggest accomplishment of your non-working life?”

Who are you outside of work? What are your values? What matters to you? These are the things an interviewer wants to know when asking a question like this.

If they want to know specifically about your personal life, you’re free to talk about anything. This can include sporting victories, artistic creations, volunteer work or your relationship with your family.

If you can tie things into work, that’s great. However, it’s better to talk for a moment about who you really are, rather than trying to get the conversation back to your resume.

30. What previous experience do you have in this role?

Your resume contains most of the information about your experience, so this question is a chance to hear about your experience in your own words.

If the interviewer asks generally about your experience (rather than asking about something specific on your resume), then they’re asking what experience you have that’s relevant to this particular role.

That means the question is partially about how you perceive the requirements of the role. Research the job as much as possible before attending the interview.

31. What’s your motto?

Some interviewers may use this variation on the old “describe yourself in five words” questions. The goal is to put you on the spot in the hope that you might reveal something about your true self.

Good mottos can include proverbs such as “make hay while the sun shines.” You can also use a quote from a leader or thinker whom you admire, or something that a parent or teacher once said to you.

The interviewer will probably ask a follow-up question about how this motto influences you in daily life, so be prepared to talk about your motto in a little detail.

32. Would you be willing to temporarily relocate?

Some employers may want you to spend some time at another location in order to get training or to meet staffing needs.

For questions like this, you need to be positive and flexible, but don’t say anything that’s untrue. If you are unable or unwilling to move, you should let the employer know this right off the bat.

If an interviewer asks you to make some kind of major commitment such as relocation, it’s okay to ask for more detail and time to think about it. Even if they’re only asking hypothetically, this shows that you think things through before rushing into them.

Good Luck and God Bless!

Platinum Method

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