How To Answer The 13 Most Common Interview Questions

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Interview questions aren’t always so simple because employers are some tricky bastards. Just like getting responses on your resume from potential employers is tricky, employers say things for all sorts of reasons and sometimes its hard to know exactly what they’re trying to get at.  Relax. Just don’t be a smart-ass and try not to create any negative connotations when answering interview questions and you’ll be good.

But just because we know you’re going to go in there and have a panic attack, we’ve collected some of the common interview questions for you to think about ahead of time.

The same reason you need to think about what questions to ask before your interview is the same reason why some resumes get responses while others are thrown in the garbage. What’s that reason?

It’s understanding what potential employers want and showing them how you are the vehicle that gets them there by how you carry and present yourself (on paper and in-person).

1.  So, Tell Me About Yourself.

“Well, I burn weed, get wasted 7 nights a week, and sleep with someone new every Friday night.”  Yeah, it seems like asking this and expecting the truth is about as brilliant as asking a hooker if she has STD’s before purchasing.  The thing is, in their interview questions they aren’t just testing your confidence and communications skills, they are evaluating you as an investment, because that is what you are.  Tell them why you’re a worthy investment of their time and energy, mean it, and deliver.  If you can’t answer interview questions, how are you going to get the job done?

2.  What Were Your Duties in Your Last Job?

They don’t care that it was your obligation to clean the toilets on Fridays.  Pick the three most important, hopefully relevant, tasks you performed regularly.  Word it like a mission statement and make it relevant to the job at hand.  “I was responsible for creating and nurturing customer relationships,” is a playful spin on answers to these types of interview questions.  You might maen the same thing,  but at least you dressed it up to sound pretty.

The way you describe your responsibilities paints a subconscious picture of your worth—do you really want that picture to include you scrubbing the inside of a toilet?  List your most valuable contributions when answering interview questions and let them fill in the gaps.

3.  What is Your Ideal Work Environment?

If you’re applying for a job pouring cocktails in a back alley of downtown New Jersey, you’d better mention your fondness for slobbering barflies and mopping up vomit.  The trick is to make your “dream job” a symbolic representation of the job in question.

Don’t kiss too much ass, but put it in their mind that you’re a perfect fit.  If you do choose to say that all of the negative aspects of the job appeal to you when answering interview questions, it’s not going to be very believable so don’t overdo it.

Also, your reasons should be more idealistic and impressive than creature comforts and fringe benefits.  You don’t want to give the idea you are selfish.

4.  What Was the Biggest Project in Your Career For Which You Were the Catalyst?

Don’t start talking about your group effort to isolate and terrorize Jenny from Sales until she had a nervous breakdown and checked into a mental hospital.  They want you to answer interview questions like these with work-related projects here that were in the company’s best interest.  Answering interview questions such as this is your chance to demonstrate motivation and drive.

5.  What Would Your Ideal Employer Be Like?trouble answering interview questions?

“One that never comes to work.”  Just kidding.  The fantasy of an undisciplined workplace might be a nice thought, but you wouldn’t have a job long with that kind of chaos. And since they will be there to direct and guide you, they want to know what to expect of you.  Are you going to be a headache?  Is it all about you?  Rather than describe a boss, describe the kind of healthy working relationship that bosses dream about.  You don’t have to lie with these kinds of interview questions, because who wouldn’t want a perfect working relationship with their boss?

6.  What Do You Know About This position?

This is the time to show you know what you’re getting yourself into as well as illustrate your research abilities.  Talk about the duties involved and what they mean for the company as a whole.  It’s always good to relate your role in the company as part of a bigger picture because that is their perspective when you’re asked these types of interview questions.  Getting on their wavelength builds rapport.

7.  Do You Know Anything About What We Do?

Wow—they’re really giving you the chance to show-off how well you prepared when they throw these interview questions at you.  I hope you have.  It’s time to talk about the company and where they fit in the industry.  Also, touch on the relationship they strive to create with the greater public.  It’s important to convey a respect for their role and a desire to be a part of that when answering tricky interview questions.  Don’t dog on their environmental track record and all the baby pandas they kill—not if you want the job anyways.

8.  Why Did You Leave or Are You Leaving Your Other Job?

Not the time to say you’re boss was an arrogant asshole.  Everything should be framed positive.  You want to open up new career opportunities.  You’re intrigued by the future of the envelope industry.  Your want to ride your bike to work.  Don’t lie, but be tactful.

No matter how reasonable you reason for a less than positive exit, if you bash your incompetent boss, the mental seed will still be planted that it was your fault.  Employers identify with employers, not employees.  It’s human nature, so handle these interview questions with care.

9.  When Are You Available to Start?

“I don’t know.  I’ve got a lot going on this week, and next week my brother’s coming to town.  After that is St. Patrick’s Day and there’s a big party at my boyfriend’s place.  Can I call you next week and let you know?”  Even with a crumbling economy and lack of jobs, you’d be surprised at how many grads pull this shit.  Set yourself apart.

The best thing to do is ask them when they need you.  Even better, look them straight in their eye and say, “Right now.”  You’ll be surprised how often that gets you a job on the spot, so be ready to back it up.  Never answer interview questions with anything but the truth because it could bite you in the ass if they expect you to follow through right away.

10.  What are Your Biggest Strengths?

Develop a personal statement that outlines three of your biggest strengths, and use it when these types of interview questions are asked.  It will ALWAYS be asked in one form or another.  Just make sure it matches the needs of the company, and remember that it isn’t just about your strengths—it’s about your strengths matching their needs.

11.  Describe a Challenge You’ve Faced with a Colleague.

Don’t mention the fistfight you had with the baker when you used to bag groceries.  Tell a story that puts you and the other worker in a positive light.  Talk about a misunderstanding, but focus on how you overcame it with good communication.

It’s important to note that they know you have flaws you’re not revealing even if you frame everything positive, but constructing those mental associations will leave good thoughts that far outweigh their curiosity about the truth.  After you leave, it won’t be your answers to your interview questions that linger, it will be the emotions you crafted by placing images in their heads.  Negative connotations are not a good idea.

12.  Are You Okay With the Salary for this Position?

If you want the job and the salary is fair for the market, you should probably say yes.  This is a point where you better have done some research because you’re answer may decide your quality of life for quite some time.  If you want to be able to ask for raises later, mention that you are happy as long as the job fits your expectations.  Since they’ll probably dump enough extra work in your lap for another you, this gives you room to bitch later on.  Save that stuff for outside of interview questions, after you’ve scored the job.

13.  Tell Me About Your Biggest Weakness.

“I can be a bit of a perfectionist.”  “I can’t stand it when other people don’t work as hard as I do.”  Yeah, sure, Brown-noser.  Applicants have sat in that same chair feeding them that bullshit for weeks.  Try something different when asked these age-old interview questions.

Talk about how your strengths can work against you and how you deal with that.  Being original in your responses to interview questions will make you stand out in their mind more than anything else, and you don’t want to ever use a cookie cutter answer—it creates the impression that you are lazy and like to cut corners.

You can’t predict every interview questions that will be thrown your direction, but that’s okay because being able to think on your feet is a great demonstration of value as well.

But by preparing for these common interview questions you’ll walk into an interview feeling more confident and collected. Not only does your interviewer unconsciously read that in your body language and speech patterns but these kinds of feelings will keep you in a positive state of mind as well.

Learn to cultivate this state on demand, and even if these interview questions never come you will walk out a winner.

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