Frequently Asked Questions – Job Interviews
In any job interview, there is a set of common questions that almost all interviewers will ask you in one form or another. The questions will typically relate to your education, work experience, knowledge, technical skills and your attitude. We have compiled a list of the most common interview questions with answers for your easy reference. Practice answering these questions and we can assure you that you will be able to answer these questions convincingly and confidently in a ‘real’ interview.
Be prepared for difficult questions that might crop up in the interview. These are questions that are ‘unexpected’ and hence will catch you off guard. What is important to remember is to not get ruffled by such questions and maintain your calm and answer them to the best of your ability with confidence. How you answer these questions will eventually determine your success or failure.
Note: These are only indicative answers/guidelines and hence the facts have to be modified as per your individual case. Please do not blindly memorize these answers and reproduce them in an interview! Once you have gone through all the answers thoroughly and understood the underlying principles behind those answers, you will be able to answer these questions on your own in a convincing and impressive manner.
Ø Tell me something about yourself.
It’s one of the most frequently asked questions in an interview: “Tell me about yourself?” Your response to this request will set the tone for the rest of the interview. For some, this is the most challenging question to answer, as they wonder what the interviewer really wants to know and what information they should include.
The secret to successfully responding to this free-form request is to focus, script and practice. You cannot afford to mess up the answer, as it will affect the rest of the interview. Begin to think about what you want the interviewer to know about you.
This question is also considered to be an ice-breaker. Its objective is to put you at ease as you are talking about the most comfortable topic which is – yourself. Helps you to relax and reduces your nervousness.
List five strengths you have that are pertinent to this job (experiences, traits, skills, etc.). What do you want the interviewer to know about you when you leave?
Prepare a script that includes the information you want to convey. Begin by talking about past experiences and proven success.
Practice with your script until you feel confident about what you want to emphasise in your statement. Your script should help you stay on track, but you shouldn’t memorise it — you don’t want to sound stiff and rehearsed. It should sound natural and conversational.
Even if you are not asked this type of question to begin the interview, this preparation will help you focus on what you have to offer. You will also find that you can use the information in this exercise to assist you in answering other questions. The more you can talk about your product – you – the better chance you will have at selling it.
For candidates with prior work experience
“I have been in the customer service industry for the past five years. My most recent experience has been handling incoming calls in the high tech industry. One reason I particularly enjoy this business, and the challenges that go along with it, is the opportunity to interact with people. In my last job, I formed some significant customer relationships resulting in a 30 percent increase in sales in a matter of months.”
Next, mention your strengths and abilities:
“My real strength is my attention to detail. I pride myself on my reputation for following through and meeting deadlines. When I commit to doing something, I make sure it gets done, and on time.”
Conclude with a statement about your current situation:
“What I am looking for now is a company that values customer relations, where I can join a strong team and have a positive impact on customer retention and sales.”
You can begin to answer the question as under:
‘My father works at J & J as a Production Manager. My mother is a home maker. I have 2 brothers. My elder brother is working in HDFC Bank and my younger brother is in his 10th standard.
I completed my Bcom from ABCD college securing 75%. I completed my 12th standard from the same college. I passed out of 10th std from Park Lane school.
I am very fond of reading fiction. I am interested in gardening and stamp collection.”
Ø What do you know about this company?
You will be able to answer this question if you are up-to-date about the organization w.r.t their nature of business, their competitors, etc. This information can be found on the website of the company. If you do not know the
website of the company give a google search as ‘website of ABCD Ltd’. You do not have to go into each and every detail of the company’s operations. What is important is to have a good idea about the company’s line of business, their culture, vision, etc.
Ø Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
One reason interviewers ask this question is to see if you’re settling for this position, using it merely as a stopover until something better comes along. Or they could be trying to gauge your level of ambition.
If you’re too specific, i.e., naming the promotions you someday hope to win, you’ll sound presumptuous. If you’re too vague, you’ll seem rudderless.
This question is generally asked to see how focused you are about your future. Your interviewer is looking for reassurance from you about your interest in making a long-term commitment to their organization. There is nothing ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in what you say here. It throws light about you – whether you have given some thought about your future, are you focused about what you want and what plans you have to achieve the same.
You can break up the 5 years into 2-3 parts and answer the question as ‘In the first 2 years as a trainee programmer I see myself learning as much as I can both in the technical aspects as well as soft skills. I guess then I will move up as a Group Leader and by the end of 5 years I see myself as a Team Manager.’
‘I am definitely interested in making a long-term commitment to this position. Judging by what you’ve told me about this position, it’s exactly what I’m looking for and what I am very well qualified to do. In terms of my future career path, I’m confident that if I do my work with excellence, opportunities will inevitable open up for me in this organization.’
Ø What are your strengths and weaknesses?
You will be able to answer this question confidently if you have spent some time reflecting on your strengths and weaknesses. You don’t want to come across as egotistical or arrogant. Neither is this a time to be humble.
Prior to any interview, you should have a list mentally prepared of your greatest strengths. You should also have, a specific example or two, which illustrates each strength, an example chosen from your most recent and most impressive achievements.
You should, have this list of your greatest strengths and corresponding examples from your achievements so well committed to memory that you can recite them cold even after being shaken awake at 2:30 a.m!
In order to assess your capabilities and the job market around you, you can do a SWOT analysis. SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.
Strengths and Weaknesses are ‘internal’ and refer to your personal strengths and weaknesses. For example, one of your strengths may be that you are very meticulous in your work. A weakness can be that you take a long time to take decisions.
‘Opportunities’ and ‘Threats’ are ‘external’ factors. An opportunity is when a software company begins its operations in your city and starts recruiting freshers. This creates fresh opportunities for you. On the other hand if the company decides to recruit only Post Graduates and if you are a Graduate then it poses a Threat to you.
We recommend that you devote some quality time in writing down your strengths and weaknesses.
Examples of strengths can be:
· Organizing and execution skills
· Planning ability
· Communication and Inter personal skills
· Self Starter and self motivated
· Setting up new processes, systems and corrective actions
· Strategic perspective
· Influencing ability
· Relationship building
· Customer orientation
It seems that these days most interviewers want to know what your weaknesses are. This is not an easy question at the best of times, but in an interview situation when you’re trying your best to impress it can be extremely trying and, if you’re not careful – dangerous.
As a general guideline, the 10 most desirable traits that all employers love to see in their employees are:
· A proven track record as an achiever…especially if your achievements match up with the employer’s greatest wants and needs.
· Intelligence…management “savvy”.
· Honesty…integrity…a decent human being.
· Good fit with corporate culture…someone to feel comfortable with…a team player who meshes well with interviewer’s team.
· Likeability…positive attitude…sense of humor.
· Good communication skills.
· Dedication…willingness to walk the extra mile to achieve excellence.
· Definiteness of purpose…clear goals.
· Enthusiasm…high level of motivation.
Four things to always avoid:
· Never say you don’t have any weaknesses.
· Never say something that’s really going to hurt you.
· Avoid clichéd weaknesses like ‘I work too hard’ or ‘I am a perfectionist’ as too many people use them.
· Never offer more than one weakness (unless specifically prompted) and be as brief as possible.
Note: Avoid making a long laundry list of your weaknesses. Keep it to a bare minimum of one or two. It is understood that every human being is a package deal of strengths and weaknesses. The recruiter is more interested in knowing your strengths which will benefit the organization. Underplay the weaknesses as no company will be interested in recruiting a person whose weaknesses far outweigh his strengths.
Ø Why do you want to work for this company?
Avoid statements like “I would like to work for this company as I have heard a lot about it’. Its too clichéd and predictable.
Don’t talk about what you want from the company. Indicate to them how you can contribute towards the growth of the company.
Suggested answer ‘I have good interpersonal skills which can be utilized effectively in the Customer Care division of this organization’.
Ø How would your friends / previous boss / colleagues describe you?
Do not go overboard in describing your positives that can inadvertently land you in trouble.
You can say ‘I think they would mention my traits as reliable, determined and a positive thinker’.
Ø What are your salary expectations?
When this question is being asked for the first time in the interview you can say ‘Salary is not the most important thing to me. Job satisfaction and growth opportunities that an organization can offer is much more important to me. I am more interested in an organization like yours and in meeting the challenges of the job than in the size of the salary package. I am sure that you will make an appropriate offer to me which taken into account my qualifications and skills’.
By giving this answer you are focusing on the job rather than on the salary. Moreover you have also avoided answering their question and committing yourself to a salary figure.
Answer with a question, i.e., “What is the salary range for similar jobs in your company?” If they don’t answer, then give a range of what you understand you are worth in the marketplace.
If the interviewer keeps insisting with the same question you can try this one “I am confident that the company will make a reasonable offer to me after taking into account my skills’. Here again notice that you have still not committed to any specific figure. Most of the employers would not like to push beyond this limit and will end up making an offer after taking into account your skills, experience and educational qualifications.
For maximum salary negotiating power, remember these 3 guidelines:
1. Never bring up salary. Let the interviewer do it first. Good salespeople sell their products thoroughly before talking price. So should you. Make the interviewer want your skills first, and your bargaining position will be much stronger.
2. If your interviewer raises the salary question too early, before you’ve had a chance to create a desire for your qualifications/skills, postpone the question, saying something like, ‘Money is important to me, but is not my main concern. Opportunity and growth are far more important. What I’d rather do, if you don’t mind, is explore if I’m right for the position, and then talk about money. Would that be okay?’
3. The #1 rule of any negotiation is: the side with more information wins. After you’ve done a thorough job of selling the interviewer and it’s time to talk salary, the secret is to get the employer talking about what he’s willing to pay before you reveal what you’re willing to accept. So, when asked about salary, respond by asking, “I’m sure the company has already established a salary range for this position. Could you tell me what that is?” Or, “I want a salary which is commensurate with my ability and qualifications. I trust you’ll be fair with me.’
Ø Are you ready to keep late hours?
This is a hypothetical question that may be posed to you to find out how flexible you are. In fact some companies have asked first time job seekers ‘We work all the 6 days in a week and sometimes pretty late in the night. Are you ready to keep late hours?’
It is possible that they do not work late everyday – but as and when the situation demands. The answer you give here will enable them to understand your attitude and commitment towards your job. Please remember that when you are at the threshold of your career, you must be ready to make some small sacrifices. In this case by working late you may not be able to spend as much time on socializing with friends and family. This will be a small sacrifice that will bear fruit in the long run in the form of your career growth.
Suggested answer ‘I fully appreciate my responsibilities in a job and will not have any problem working late if the situation so demands.’
Note that you have not told them that you are ready to work late everyday but at the same time you have come across as a very positive and flexible person who will rise to the occasion if the situation so demands.
Ø Are you willing to relocate?
Answer with a flat “no” and you may slam the door shut on this opportunity. But what if you’d really prefer not to relocate or travel, yet wouldn’t want to lose the job offer over it?
First find out where you may have to relocate and how much travel may be involved. Then respond to the question.
If there’s no problem, say so enthusiastically.
If you do have a reservation, there are two ways of handling it.
It is advisable that you keep your options open and your reservations to yourself in the initial stage of the interview, by saying, “no problem”. You strategy here is to get the best offer you can, then make a judgment whether it’s worth it to you to relocate or travel.
Also, by the time the offer comes through, you may have other offers and can make a more informed decision. And if you’re a little more desperate three months from now, you might wish you hadn’t slammed the door on relocating or traveling.
The second way to handle this question is to voice a reservation, but assert that you’d be open to relocating (or traveling) for the right opportunity.
The answering strategy you choose depends on how eager you are for the job. If you want to take no chances, choose the first approach.
Ø How has school/college prepared you for your career?
You may have an opinion on this. Some may feel that school/college has prepared them for their career whereas others may feel that it has not prepared them for their career. Whatever is your opinion, make sure that you have the necessary justification for your opinion.
Suggested answer ‘I believe that the discipline that I learnt in my school/college will play an important role in any job. For example going to school on time is the same as being at the office on time. Similarly the time management that we learnt at school/college will be vital while handling various tasks at the work place. We learnt at school/college to allocate time to various subjects in a methodical manner while preparing for tests or exams even if there were 2 tests/exams per day. This will help me to prioritize my tasks and manage my time better at the work place’.
Ø What was the last book you read?
Please answer this question only if you read books. It may be wiser to be honest and say that you do not have the habit of reading instead of lying as you can get caught if they probe further.
Ø If you get this job how long do you plan to stay with this company?
This is a question to check whether you are the steady type or a rolling stone. The organization is gauging whether it is worthwhile for them to recruit you and spend valuable time and money in training you.
Suggested answer ‘If the job is as challenging as it sounds in this interview and I am able to grow in the organization, I do not see any reason why I would not consider making a long-term career with this organization’.
Ø Why do you think we should hire you for this job?
You have been given a wonderful opportunity to ‘sell’ your skills to the interviewer. Talk about your strengths or skills that you can bring to the table which will benefit the organization.
Suggested answer ‘I am a self motivated person…I do not need constant monitoring. My friends keep remarking about how I never give up a task until I have completed them successfully. I am also very meticulous and good at planning. I am quite confident that I can contribute significantly to the organization with these skills and my technical competence in VB.Net and ASP.Net’.
Ø Which person has had the greatest influence on you, why? Who is you role model and why?
Role models are people whom you admire and want to emulate/imitate their behaviour and attitudes. A role model need not necessarily be a public figure or icon like Sachin Tendulkar or Shahrukh Khan.
Your role model can be your own grand mother or your parents or your best friend. What is important here is to be able to first of all identify a role model and be able to articulate as to why you consider that person your role model.
Suggested answer ‘My father has been my biggest role model. I would like to be like him when it comes to his strong values, easy going nature and the conviction that he has in the inherent goodness of people’.
Ø How do you work under pressure?
Working effectively under pressure is a very important aspect for any successful professional. It is quite easy to work under very conducive and ideal working conditions. The real challenge is when you have to deliver results consistently more often than not under pressure.
The suggested answer here is ‘Working under pressure is not very new to me. I have had to manage college schedule, tuition classes, my singing classes and the activities at the Rotaract Club. I used to be under constant pressure for time because of my varied interests and activities. I figured out that effective time management and good planning was the only solution and was quite successful in handling all my commitments’.
Ø Why did you leave or are leaving your last company?
The most obvious answer is ‘for better prospects’ or ‘for a better salary’. Avoid ‘for better salary’ as it gives the impression that money is your major motivating factor. A better way of approaching the same question would be ‘I am quite happy in my current job. But I am looking forward to opportunities which will utilize my skills more effectively’.
Ø Aren’t you overqualified for this position?
The employer may be concerned that you’ll grow dissatisfied and leave. As with any objection, don’t view this as a sign of imminent defeat. It’s an invitation to teach the interviewer a new way to think about this situation, seeing advantages instead of drawbacks.
‘Because I am very good at VB , I could start to contribute right away. There’s also the value of all the technical training that I have undergone. You’d be getting the value of all that without having to pay anything extra for it. The position you have here is exactly what I would love to do and will do my best to excel at it. I’ll be happy doing this work and that’s what matters most to me, a lot more that money or designation.
Most importantly, I’m looking to make a long term commitment in my career now. I also know that if I perform well in this job other opportunities can open up for me right here in your organization.’
Ø Why do you want to work at our company?
This question tests whether you’ve done any homework about the organization. If you haven’t, you lose. If you have, you win. Do not focus on how you will benefit by working for their organization. The common mistake here is to say ‘I will gain a lot of experience by working in your organization. I will get a very good salary if I work here. I have heard a lot about your company, etc.’
Instead, focus on how you will be able to add value to the organization with the help of the skills that you possess.
Ø I’m concerned that you don’t have as much experience as we’d like for this role.
This could be a make-or-break question. The interviewer mostly likes what he sees, but has doubts over one key area. If you can assure him on this point, the job may be yours.
Before going into any interview, try to identify the weakest aspects of your candidature from the company’s point of view. Then prepare the best answer to defend your case.
When the interviewer poses an objection like this, you should…
1. Agree on the importance of this qualification.
2. Explain that your strengths are greater than what is indicated in your resume because…
3. When this strength is added to your other strengths, it’s really the combination of qualifications that’s most important.
Then review the areas of your greatest strengths that match up most favorably with the company’s most urgently-felt wants and needs.
This is a very powerful way to handle this question for two reasons. First, you’re giving your interviewer more ammunition in the area of his concern. But more importantly, you’re shifting his focus away from this one, isolated area and putting it on the unique combination of strengths you offer, strengths which go in perfectly with his greatest wants.
Ø Tell me something negative you’ve heard about our company…
This techniques is commonly used by interviewers to see what the industry grapevine may be saying about the company. But it’s also a trap because as an outsider, you never want to be the bearer of unflattering news or gossip about the organization. It can only hurt your chances and sidetrack the interviewer from getting sold on your skills.
Just remember the rule – never be negative – and you’ll handle this one just fine.
Ø What motivates you?
Different things motivate people differently. Some people are motivated by money, some for the challenge the job offers, some for the designation, etc. Even if money is your single motivating factor, it would be inappropriate to say ‘Money motivates me’. This statement sends a wrong signal to the interviewer. It gives the interviewer the impression that you will be ready to jump from his organization to another the moment you are made an offer with a slightly higher salary and hence will be wary of recruiting you.