How to Answer 6 Popular Interview Questions (With Examples)
Hats off to you! Your resume, cover letter, thank you note, and LinkedIn profile pushed you through every black hole that was put in front of you. The hiring manager likes you and wants to talk to you. You have an interview! Now, you need to get back to work to prepare for the interview.
Prepare for the Interview
2. Kill the nerves (or at least control them)
3. Follow the dress code
4. Be ready for the questions
Begin With Research
I know you all came here wanting to just get answers to your questions, but you can't truly answer those questions until you know a little about the company. How do you research a company to adequately answer questions in an interview?
- Read the job description. You may feel like you've already done this. Let's face it, you've applied and the only way you did that was to look over the job description. Did you TRULY read it though? Take notes on what they're looking for in a candidate, what you'll probably be doing in the role, and any questions you have about the role itself. Don't they always end the interview with, "Do you have any questions for me?" This is your beginning.
- Go to the company's website: Read the "About Us" page and become familiar with the products and/or services they offer. Pay special attention to anything new they've just rolled out. You can bring that up in the interview when you're answering questions (e.g., I have experience doing this which will help me facilitate the new thing you just rolled out.)
- Google the company. Does this research thing feel like it's going too far? Honestly, how much do you really need to know about this company? You don't even work there yet! Googling them will reveal any news stories, press releases and/or legal issues they may be facing, to name a few. Don't you want to know if the company with whom you're about to talk is facing some major law suit? Maybe they're in the news because they adopted a local highway and have instituted a new "Corporate Social Responsibility" initiative.
- Look them up on LinkedIn. Did you know that if you look up a company on LinkedIn, you can see people who work there? You may be thinking, "So, what." Well, if you scroll through just a few pages of the 53,134 employees who work at The Coca-Cola Company, you may just find the person who'll be interviewing you. Wouldn't it be GREAT to walk in that door feeling like you know him or her just a bit?
Next: Nervousness and Filler Words
Everyone has some nervous tics. These are things like bouncing your leg, twiddling your thumbs, even using filler words (“uh,” “and,” "like," or “uummm”).
It is important to practice talking about yourself and practice answering the common questions everyone has come to expect; this would be a good time to break out the video camera and watch yourself answer the questions, and see if you notice any distracting behaviors or filler words.
If you notice that you use your hands a lot when you talk, try to train yourself to fold your hands in your lap. This actually serves two purposes. You can keep from over-using your hands and you can apply a little pressure to your legs to keep them from bouncing when you talk (I'm a leg bouncer).
If you find yourself using those filler words, train your brain to stop talking. A 30-second pause may FEEL like forever, but it really isn’t. In fact, the interviewer expects you to pause occasionally; it shows that you are diligent enough to consider your answer before just blurting something out. No one is perfect and no one has all the answers on the tip of their tongue.
Third: Oh My Goodness! I have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to Wear!!
Should you wear a suit? Should you wear a dress? Remember the old saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” What you’re wearing and how you carry yourself is your first impression during an interview. The goal is to make the hiring manager “see” you in the job.
The general idea is to dress a couple of levels above the dress code of the position for which you’re applying and play it cautiously. According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, there are four different types of business attire. These four types range from suits with ties and pantyhose with closed toe pumps to khaki pants and button-down shirts.
It is NEVER appropriate to wear shorts, a t-shirt and flip-flops to an interview ... even if you’re applying for a job delivering pizza.
Now Who's Ready to Answer Some Questions?!
Below are some questions that will allow you to shine. You’ve researched the company and you know the description of the job for which you’re applying, so give yourself a chance to list some strengths you have that are pertinent to the job. Some examples of good answers are shown in italics below.
1. Tell Me About Yourself
Oh, the dreaded ice breaker question they all ask.
DO NOT focus on personal information when answering this question. The hiring manager doesn’t want to know about your kids or that you’ve been happily married for 6 years. But he or she might be glad to hear the answers to the more specific versions of this question below.
How did your professional life begin?
How long have you been doing this?
What is one major thing you’ve discovered? For example:
I received a PhD in Plant Science from the University of College Cork in Ireland. For the last 9 years, I've been heavily involved in research and group collaboration regarding microbe interactions that can affect crop yields. My second focus has been how to exploit antimicrobial peptides to control plant diseases.
What additional opportunities have been presented that you wouldn’t have had outside of this career?
My work has granted me the opportunity to manage projects (which has allowed me to mentor undergrads). I've co-authored patents (one of which centered on technology that was licensed by agricultural tech companies for commercial use). I perfected practical, hands-on lab skills.
What do you want to do with what you know?
Ideally, I'd like to be able to not only continue with the practical side of research but also have a leadership role that will allow me to demonstrate expertise to a team of researchers.
2. Why Should We Hire You?
Because not only do your personal beliefs and goals align with company beliefs and goals, but your skills align with the duties listed in the job description.
I have the right combination of qualities, personal characteristics, education, and experience that will lend to success in (*NAME OF POSITION*). After researching (*NAME OF COMPANY*) and learning more about the role and company, my interest in this position has only been solidified. That strong interest backed by a solid, well-rounded education in accounting and global finance coupled with my experience as an Investment Analyst make me perfectly suited for the role you seek to fill. You want someone who can analyze global markets and mitigate investment risks. There won’t be much of a learning curve for me as I already have improved the ROI on diverse portfolios in recent years.
3. What Is Your Greatest Strength?
My greatest strength is leading team members through successful career progression. When I first started at (**NAME OF RECENT POSITION**), I was asked by my boss to train a new hire. At first, I struggled a bit because I'd never trained anyone before. I was honestly nervous that I wouldn't be able to adequately impart the information correctly. I was certainly not interested in messing up someone's chance to shine. But, I leaned on my leadership skills and suddenly I realized my new hire was not only getting the material but excelling. After about 6 months in her role, she was promoted.
4. What Is Your Greatest Weakness?
I think my greatest weakness centers around the fact that I hate confrontation and have found myself compromising my position on a subject in order to keep the peace. This can create a problem because there are times when you have to tell people something they don't want to hear. I've been working hard to overcome it. I've been practicing being more assertive without coming across as difficult or aggressive. In the spirit of fairness, I take the time to listen to each set of ideas and focus my words or criticisms in a way that ensures they are constructive. I'm able to offer actual solutions and not just a compromise to keep the peace.
5. What Are Your Salary Expectations?
The answer to this question opens the door to finding out what's included in their compensation package. Under NO circumstances should you give them an actual dollar amount that you seek.
While my research shows that this position should average an annual salary of (**look at salary.com, glassdoor.com**), the actual dollar amount I seek is negotiable. I understand that "salary" (**you can do air quotes here if you like**) is made up of many variables and is only a part of the compensation package I'll receive in my position as (**NAME OF POSITION**). My experience, education, knowledge, hard skills, and soft skills indicate that I am well worth the compensation package that you will offer. How do you break down compensation?
5a. What Is Your Desired Hourly Rate?
You will have to do the research to get the numbers that are relevant to the position you're applying for and the state in which you live.
Sadly, my research shows that Transition Care Coordinators in New York are paid about 5% below the national average of $40,000. With that said, the Louisiana average is right at $38,500 per year which mathematically breaks down to $18.60 per hour at 40 hours per week. Of course, compensation (and use the word "compensation" specifically) isn't all about dollars and cents. The job description didn't really indicate what type of compensation you all are offering, only that the position is full time. How do you break down compensation?
This "what is your desired hourly rate?" question can be tricky. If you'll notice, you didn't actually answer the question. You just said what the average is and then put it back on them. That's the main idea here, but don't bring up salary unless they do.
The SIXTH Question
I didn't forget the title of this article is "How to Answer 6 Popular Interview Questions." The 6th question we're going to discuss could technically be its own article, and I may do that one day.
6. What Questions Do You Have for Me?
Would you normally get that deer in the headlights look in your eye and say, "None?" Well, not anymore. You're still not going to bring up salary, and don't ask about vacation time, benefits, or 401K either. Instead, ask one or more of the questions below. You're showing an interest in the position by asking any one of them. Just remember, in the resulting discussion, to always come back to how you can help the company.
- What was the most important question you asked me during this interview? This will give you an idea of where the hiring manager's head is and it'll alleviate any butterflies you may have in your stomach if you don't feel you answered a question very well, especially if the question that's most important to him/her isn't the one you have butterflies about.
- What is the most important quality the person filling this role will have? If you've kind of talked about this during the interview (I've seen it happen), then phrase it like this "I know we sort of covered what characteristics you want your employee to have, but which is the most important? Here you're trying to find out if they want to the person to be organized or can multi-task or whatever. It gives you a chance to reiterate how well suited for the position you are.
- What are some of the company's goals in the short term and long term? Basically, you're trying to ascertain if they have goals, if their goals are lacking anything or if they have ambitious goals. It can give you a bit of insight into the health of the department and the company/organization. It also gives you a chance to indicate how you could help them achieve the goals. Always, always, always come back to how you can help them.
- Do you have any reservations about my qualifications? I'll be honest, this one is hard for a lot of interviewees to ask, but it's powerful. The reason for this question is obvious, you just take a deep breath and ask it.
- Where do you see the person you hire for the role in 6 months or a year? Interviewers love throwing that, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” question at candidates, so give it back to them. It’ll show you whether there are advancement possibilities.
An Example Conversation
You: "Where do you see the person you hire for the role in 6 months or a year?"
The Interviewer: "This company has seen a lot of growth because of our foray into the world of e-commerce. I would hope the person I hire for this role shows some dedication to learning more than the position so that I can move them to (*some role with an increasing scope of responsibility*)."
Your response: "That sounds fantastic, I would really enjoy being in an environment that allows for growth and promotion. I've always been that jump-in-with-both-feet type of person who not only learns my role but learns the roles of others if for no other reason than to be cross-trained in case a colleague takes a day off. But I really like the sound of being in an environment that allows me to demonstrate my abilities as a team member and showcase how well I work in order to take advantage of any possibilities for advancement and achievement."
" ... remember to always come back to how you can help the company."