Job Interview Questions
Job Interview Questions and Advice
Acing a job interview isn't just a matter of giving the right answer to a job interview question, but answering it the right way.
- Without coming across as over-caffeinated, be enthusiastic.
- Give them the answers that are all about them and the job.
- If you need a moment to think about a question, say so.
- Be organized in how you answer; don't ramble on.
- Avoid just giving yes/no answers, unless the question really is a “yes” or a “no.”
Questions about Your Background
Job interview questions are almost always about your experience, whether as a student or at other jobs. Use details that reflect how well your background fits into this job, especially if the match isn't that obvious. (For example, political science classes in college can be great for a marketing job since so much of it involves understanding and communicating with a particular audience.)
Questions you might expect:
- ”Tell me about yourself.” Keep answers specific and related to the job. Don't talk about where you grew up, your hobbies or personal topics unless they're relevant.
- ”Have you ever done [a specific kind of project]?” If the answer is yes, say so and describe its success. Don't boast: Most projects are team efforts. If the answer is no, say so, but explain the closest equivalent you have, or, if it's a minor part of the job, explain that you'd be willing to take classes or otherwise prepare.
- ”How do you like doing [such and so kind of work]?” If you like it, say so, and why. Don't focus just on your enjoyment but on being successful at it. If you don't, say so, but make it clear that you're willing to do it and that you've done it before and successfully.
Questions about You and How You Work
Job interviewers want to know about how good the personal fit will be. Many job interview questions will focus on how well you work independently, how well you work in teams, how well you meet deadlines, and how conscientious you are. Avoid giving pat answers or ones right out of books. Make the answer yours.
Questions you might expect:
- ”Are you a team player?” Say yes, and talk, if you can, out of a time you were in a difficult team situation and how you dealt with it. Anybody can work with a group of harmonious people who are all intent on getting along, have a lot in common, communicate well, and have reasonable deadlines. But if the problems were due to personalities, don't come across as complaining. If somebody expected everybody else to do all the work for him or her - put it as “had different capacities to contribute at the time.”
- ”Can you work independently?” Again, be specific about how you solved a problem and put things positively. For example, if your boss tossed you out to flounder on a project that was way beyond your depth, say "I didn't have the preparation time I would have liked.”
Questions about Salary
Most of us would feel more comfortable gargling Drano than asking about salary during a job interview, since there are so many pitfalls. Unfortunately, most often the first one to mention a specific salary loses some negotiating position.
If you're asked what kind of salary you want, see if you can get a clue by asking about the range for the position. Almost no organization would even dream of interviewing for a position without having a budget. The interviewer may say that it depends on experience, in which case, you can ask about the range for somebody with your background. If the range is below what you realistically want, say so, and ask whether there's room to negotiate, either on the salary or on benefits.
If the interviewer won't give you any information, then you have to guess. Ask for what you consider reasonable, adding that of course it also depends on benefits, career development opportunities and intangibles like job satisfaction.
Do You Have Any Questions For Me?
When the interviewer asks this, be sure you have something to ask. You can go back for clarification on something that the interviewer mentioned in passing or you might have questions that haven't arisen. You might ask about:
- Professional development opportunities like training or attending conferences
- Internal communications, such as company newsletters or web sites
- If they have any stories or examples that really demonstrate the organization's culture
Illegal Job Interview Questions
All questions about you during the interview must be related to the job and job functions. For example, an interviewer for a job in another state can ask about whether or not you'd be able to relocate, but cannot ask whether or not your family would be willing to move.
If you are asked an illegal question, you've got a dilemma on your hands, but you can buy time to think the situation through. If you think the interviewer asked the question that way as a genuine mistake, then go ahead and answer what you think the intent of the question is. Instead of answering the question “Do you have children?” say that your family responsibilities do not interfere with your work schedule, for example. Alternatively, you can ask “Why do you ask?” in order to clarify the job-related reason. You also have the option of refusing to answer.
Later, you can consider your options. If you don't get the job offer, you do have the option of legal recourse if you think your answer or your refusal to answer the question was the reason for being turned down. If you do get the job offer, then you'll want to consider whether or not you want to work for an organization where prejudices might be (or are clearly) accepted, or where those giving job interviews don't have the training or common sense to know not to ask such questions.