In part five of our interview series, we share the most commonly asked interview questions. First, we’ll focus on questions you can expect the interviewer to ask. Second, we’ll provide some questions that you can ask the interviewer to help determine if the job is right for you.
Your Career History
Tell me about yourself.
Talk about your career! Give a brief summary of your experience and future goals. About five sentences ought to do it.
Why are you looking to change jobs? Why did you leave your last job(s)?
Do not bash your current employer. This is a sure way to leave a bad impression. Answers that point to a positive progressive career path are best. Perhaps you weren’t looking and we called you with what sounded like an excellent career opportunity.
What are your strengths?
Everyone has strengths in his/her career. Focus on the strengths you have that are directly related to the position for which you are interviewing. Recall recent reviews you’ve had and cite specific, concrete attributes & accomplishments.
What are your weaknesses?
It is best to identify a weaknesses you have as it relates to the stated requirements for the position – a skill, industry contact, or degree that you lack; or a difficulty they may expect in your ability to get up-to-speed on this job. You may want to follow this with how you would address the issue so that it will not impact your performance or their company goals.
Share with us an accomplishment that you are proud of.
Get specific. Have numbers ready. Have you increased productivity? Increased sales? Increased profits? Cut costs or downtime? Created programs? Remember your key three business accomplishments that will apply to the open position.
What have you done that shows initiative?
Talk about the projects or ideas that you have put into action and mention the positive influence they have had on the company. Mention the problems that you have identified and the solutions you came up with for each specific problem; always mention any positive results the action(s) had.
What would your boss say about you?
Can your boss depend on you? Do you take some of the load off your boss’s shoulders? Do you make him/her look good?
Your Management Style
What is your management style?
This is your chance to talk about your management philosophy. How do you delegate responsibility? Empower the people that report to you? Talk about your training methods and how you develop subordinates. (Cite examples of your employees who have been promoted.)
How do you handle difficult employees / difficult situations?
Employee empowerment and open, tactful communication is what most companies are committed to developing. Cite specific examples whenever possible. Did you have to fire a long-term employee or friend?
Are you responsible for department/company budget/P&L?
Be specific. How much money do you account for and where?
Your Future / Fit
What are you looking for in a new job?
Tailor specifics to what appeals to you in the role they have open. Is their company a place where you will have opportunity to build your career long-term?
What do you know/like about our company?
Here’s where you’ll be glad you did your homework about the company, their products, their financial situation, etc. Know their website well. Look for relevant press releases online or in trade publications. Check out company and executive profiles through websites like Hoovers.com and Linkedin.
What would be the first thing you would do if you got this job?
If you have listened carefully to what they are looking for you should have no problem answering this question. Unless they’re looking for a change-agent, do not be too aggressive or presumptuous in your response. Identify the areas that appear to be important to the company and address those issues by matching them up to your specific skill set and experience.
Where do you see yourself in 1 year? 5 years?
Be careful not to make it seem like you want to advance too quickly, they’re looking for a solution for a current need. It is healthy to mention general career goals you have set for yourself and general areas you would like to gain training in, especially if you can gain this training or goal from within their organization.
Why do you want this job?
This is your chance to “wow” them. Get them excited about you. You should be able to articulate clearly why this is an attractive opportunity to you—on both a professional and personal level to achieve maximum results. What was it initially about this job that caught your attention? What have you heard about this job/company since then that has increased your interest level?
Mention the three accomplishments at your previous employer that you are most proud of and relate these to what you could do for them. Be sure to include specifics on what you’ve done to make the company money, save the company money, and/or improve a process to impact the bottom line. On a personal side, talk about the area, community and lifestyle that will benefit you by getting this position.
What compensation are you looking for?
You should not ask about salary and/or benefits. However, if they bring up the salary subject, state the facts. DO NOT HEDGE, give them the EXACT amount you currently make in base salary. Feel free to mention what you are eligible for/received in bonus and/or overtime.
You are not required at this stage to say “what it would take”. If you are pushed, an appropriate response is “The reason I am here is about an opportunity, money is not my motive; but I am assuming that you will make me your most competitive offer.”
You may be overqualified for the position we have to offer.
A growing, energetic company is rarely unable to use its people’s talent. Emphasize your interest in a long-term association, pointing out that the employer will get a faster return on investment because you have more experience than required.
Questions To Ask The Interviewer
When the interviewer asks, “Now what questions do you have for us?” nothing is more lame than saying, “Uh, I don’t really have any, I guess.” So be prepared to ask specific, insightful questions that your research has unearthed. Making a list of questions you have regarding the company that your research was not able to support is also important. This will help you identify if this is the right position for you.
Good topics to touch on include:
- The competitive environment in which the organization operates
- Executive management style
- How well does the company’s vision line up with its actual activities?
- How have the organization’s goals changed over the past three years?
- What obstacles does the organization anticipate in meeting its current goals?
- What was the thinking behind a recent marketing campaign? A new product launch?
- Clarification on objectives and responsibilities of the position
- What would constitute success in this job?
- How would you know that it has been achieved?
- What is the desired time frame for reaching these objectives?
- What obstacles are commonly encountered in reaching these objectives?
NOTE: It is unwise to ask about pay or benefits at this time. It makes you seem more interested in what the organization can do for you.
The “ONE” question you must ask them…Your very last question of an interviewer should be: “Do you feel I have the qualifications necessary for this position?” Now, listen very carefully to how the interviewer responds. If they give you a resounding “yes”, you have done a good job of covering all the issues that are important to them.
If they say something like: “You appear to have all the qualifications we’re looking for, but…” Listen for that “but”, whatever comes afterwards is an area you need to re‑strengthen their view of your background. Try to go over again your strengths and experience in that area. It can make all the difference in the world.
At the end of your meeting, the interviewer should know why you are the right person for this position. The interviewer should be able to identify at least three relevant skills that you have highlighted during the interview. You should also highlight these points in the thank you letter that you send to the interviewer(s) after your meeting. If you are interested in the position, thank the interviewer(s) and express your appreciation. End on a positive and confident note by asking the key question: “What is the next step in your selection process?”
Plan to send a thank you letter via email within 24 hours of the interview, even if you determine a position is not right for you. The interviewer(s) may become a networking contact in the future, or they may consider you for a more appropriate position with their company. Respond to any requests made by the interviewer, for example, providing a copy of a certificate that they may require before making their final selection.
Line up your references and verify that they will be good ones.