|COMMON INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
Basic Interview Questions I
1. "Tell me a little about yourself."
You should take this opportunity to show your communication skills by speaking clearly and concisely in an organized manner. Because there is no right or wrong answer for this question, it is important to appear friendly.
"I attended MIT where I majored in Electrical Engineering. My hobbies include basketball, reading novels, and hiking."
"I grew up in Korea and studied accounting. I worked at an accounting firm for two years and I enjoy bicycling and jogging."
"I’m an easy going person that works well with everyone. I enjoy being around different types of people and I like to always challenge myself to improve at everything I do."
"I’m a hard worker and I like to take on a variety of challenges. I like pets, and in my spare time, I like to relax and read the newspaper."
"I’ve always liked being balanced. When I work, I want to work hard. And outside of work, I like to engage in my personal activities such as golfing and fishing."
"I went to the University of Washington and majored in English Literature. I went to graduate school because I really enjoyed learning. Afterwards, I started my career at Boeing as a web content editor. I’ve been there for 3 years now. Although my emphasis is in writing, I like numbers. I think solving logic problems and riddles are quite fun. I also enjoy jogging, reading, and watching movies."
There is no right or wrong answer for this question. Most important thing you should remember is how you deliver the message. The example above shows a short answer telling a little bit about the person. The answer went from education to career, and then to personal interests all in a smooth flow.
2. "What are your strengths?"
This is a popular interview question. They want to know what you think of yourself. Although this is a general question, there is a wrong and right answer. The wrong answer is a generic answer saying you are organized and friendly. Although it will not hurt you during the interview, it will certainly not help you either. Answer this question based on the type of job you are applying for.
"I believe my strongest trait is my attention to detail. This trait has helped me tremendously in this field of work."
"I’ve always been a great team player. I’m good at keeping a team together and producing quality work in a team environment."
"After having worked for a couple of years, I realized my strength is accomplishing a large amount of work within a short period of time. I get things done on time and my manager always appreciated it."
"My strongest trait is in customer service. I listen and pay close attention to my customer’s needs and I make sure they are more than satisfied."
Let’s say I am interviewing for a management position. You should mention traits that are important for managers.
"A couple strengths I have are planning and execution, and working with people. I’ve always been very good at planning and detailing all the steps. Even in college, I would spend time organizing my week and planning a strategy to tackle each class or assignment. Executing a plan has always come easy for me as well. I believe it’s due to proper planning. I also work with people very well in a way where I use the strengths of each individual in a team to produce the best results. Because of my easy going personality, I’ve been told by my directs that it’s easy to approach me."
If you are applying for an accounting position, you should mention strong traits an accountant should have and claim them to be yours.
"I’m very detail oriented, good at managing time, and very honest. I always incorporate managing time and being detailed together. By nature I’ve been detail oriented, and that resulted in taking too much time on a particular task. After incorporating time management into the mix, I found that my work and efficiency increased dramatically. I plan better and produce higher quality work in a time constraint environment. Finally, I’m a very honest person. When I was working as a valet attendant during college, a lady gave me a twenty dollar bill to pay for the three dollar fee. She almost drove off the lot, but I stopped her and said here is your change. My co-workers said I should have considered the change as tip, but I know what I did was honest and right. You can fool other people, but you can’t fool yourself. That’s what I believe."
The second example can seem a little wordy. But the power of an example is greater than any great words you can string together. Everyone can claim they are honest, but with an example, it is much more believable.
3. "What are your weaknesses?"
For this answer, you should display a weakness that can be seen as a strength. There are many types of answers that will work. Some answers will be good answers for certain jobs, while the same answer will be a bad answer for a different job. Select an answer that will work for the position you are applying for. Here are a few examples.
"This might be bad, but in college I found that I procrastinated a lot. I realized this problem, and I’m working on it by finishing my work ahead of schedule."
"I feel my weakness is not being detail oriented enough. I’m a person that wants to accomplish as much as possible. I realized this hurts the quality and I’m currently working on finding a balance between quantity and quality."
"I feel my English ability is my weakest trait. I know this is only a temporary problem. I’m definitely studying hard to communicate more effectively."
"The weakest trait I struggled with was not asking for help. I always try to solve my own problems instead of asking a co-worker who might know the answer. This would save me more time and I would be more efficient. I’m working on knowing when it would be beneficial to ask for help."
"I think my weakest trait is my impatience. Whenever I work in a team and a member is not performing up to my expectations, I can get impatient and annoyed. I understand if they are working hard and their portion is difficult, but sometimes a person can’t do the assignment due to incompetence or laziness. A while back I would get frustrated and start complaining, but I realized that I can help out by explaining things to some people and encouraging lazy people by reminding them of deadlines. I know it’s bad to be impatient, but I’m definitely working on it."
"I’m too detail oriented. I never want to leave anything out and I want everything to be perfect. This is bad because it slows down my work. Initially, I tried to work faster to compensate, but that only made me sloppy. So I decided to put more emphasis on priority and planning. By doing so, I’m hoping that I can make the proper decisions on what to work on and what to intentionally leave out."
Both of these examples show an answer that is acceptable. Although being impatient is not good, it shows that you are a quick learner and that you like efficiency. The second displays a person that is detail oriented, which can be seen as a good trait. Finally, both answers identify the weakness and show the actions of correcting it.
4. "What are your short term goals?"
This question primarily depends on where you are in your career. A person with 5 years of experience will have different short term goals than a person with no work experience. I’ll give an example for both scenarios. But first, here are some short answers.
"My short term goal is to find a position where I can use the knowledge and strengths that I have. I want to partake in the growth and success of the company I work for."
"I’ve learned the basics of marketing during my first two years. I want to take the next step by taking on challenging projects. My short term goal is to grow as a marketing analyst."
"As a program manager, it’s important to understand all areas of the project. Although I have the technical abilities to be successful in my job, I want to learn different software applications that might help in work efficiency."
"My goal is to always perform at an exceptional level. But a short term goal I have set for myself is to implement a process that increases work efficiency."
"My short term goal is to learn everything I can about marketing. I want to find a position where I can contribute what I’ve learned through education and to gain real life experience. I believe the next couple of years will be very important to me and my immediate goal is to learn and become skilled in all aspects of marketing."
"My short term goal is to get into a management position. The last five years of my career, I’ve concentrated on learning and acquiring all the skills needed to perform excellent work. Recently, I’ve taken more responsibilities in management because I eventually want to become a sales manager. I’m excited about the last few assignments I completed because it involved working with vendors and partners while managing a small group of workers. So I hope to be in a management position within a year or two and I feel I’m doing a diligent job by volunteering for extra work to gain more experience."
The first example is a person straight out of school. Learning is a good short term goal to have because it shows that you will be trying hard in your job. The second example is more detailed because that person has several years of experience. Anybody can say they want a management position, but this candidate is taking it a step further by showing the steps he is taking to achieve the short term goal. Thus, it becomes a stronger answer.
5. "What are your long term goals?"
This question is asked to see how serious a candidate is about his or her career. Some people might not know their long term goals, and some people might have long term goals of becoming rich and retiring early. Those are incorrect answers for this question. The type of answer you want to give is an ambitious answer that shows you really love your career. A good interviewer will read between the lines and find out if a person is going to be a hard worker or just a mediocre one. Being descriptive and shooting for a big goal is something interviewers want to hear.
"I would like to become a director or higher. This might be a little ambitious, but I know I’m smart, and I’m willing to work hard."
"After a successful career, I would love to write a book on office efficiency. I think working smart is important and I have many ideas. So after gaining more experience, I’m going to try to write a book."
"I’ve always loved to teach. I like to grow newer employees and help co-workers where ever I can. So in the future, I would love to be an instructor."
"I want to become a valued employee of a company. I want to make a difference and I’m willing to work hard to achieve this goal. I don’t want a regular career, I want a special career that I can be proud of."
"My long term goal is to become a partner for a consulting firm. I know the hard work involved in achieving this goal, and I know that many people fail to become a partner. That’s not going to stop me from working hard, learning everything I can, and contributing to a company where I’ll become a valuable asset. I know it’s not a guarantee, but becoming a partner is a long term goal of mine, and I going to work towards this goal throughout my career."
This example shows a candidate with a big goal. This person identifies the difficulty of the goal and shows the steps required to achieve this goal. Despite the difficulty, this candidate shows he or she will not get discouraged with difficult situations and will never give up. It is a short answer that goes a long way.
6. "What do you want to be doing five years from now?"
"Where do you see yourself in five years?"
This is a similar question to the short term question, but you should answer it a little differently. Here are some examples.
"In five years, I see myself as a valued employee of a company. I want to be an expert at my position and start training to be a manager."
"In five years, I want to be a senior analyst. I want my expertise to directly impact the company in a positive way."
"My goal is to become a lead in five years. Although not everyone gets promoted to this level, I believe I can achieve this goal through hard work."
"Although I really enjoy working hands on as a mechanical engineer, I want to eventually become a manager. I want to continue gaining experience, and after learning many different aspects, I see myself in management."
"Five years from now, I would like to see myself in a management position. I’m going to be learning and gaining practical experience until then, but eventually, I want to become a marketing manager. I know there are a lot of things to learn, but I’m going to be working hard for the next five years. I believe opportunities come to great workers and I’m going to try to be one of them."
"Five years from now, I want to be a senior sales manager. I’m currently training to become a manager, and if I continue to work hard, I feel I’ll have a management position soon. After gaining several years of experience as a sales manager, I want to be in a position where I can train and provide my expertise to newer sales managers."
Both answers display characteristics of working hard. The second example also mentions that he or she wants to train newer managers. This is a good answer because it targets one good trait about upper management… the ability to train managers.
7. "If you could change one thing about your personality, what would it be and why?"
This question is another variation to the weakness question. You can provide a similar type of question unless it is the same person asking them. To answer this question, think of a person you respect and the trait they have that you really like. I used to have a manager that was very patient and explained things very carefully. I really liked this trait, so I’m going to provide the long answer by using this example. But first, let’s look at some short answers.
"I get easily frustrated at people who don’t work very hard. But I know people have different work styles and different work habits. So if I could change something, I would like to be more understanding."
"I have high expectations and I have these expectations on others. I think if I was more understanding, I could help other workers improve instead of being disappointed."
"I would like to be more of a risk taker. I always do my work and complete it at an exceptional level, but sometimes taking a risk can make the work even better. I’m working on this by thinking the issue through and weighing the pros and cons."
"I would like to be more of an extrovert. I’m a little quiet and a little closer to the introvert side. I would like to change this because I would appear more friendly."
"I wish I was more patient with people. I remember a manager I had a couple of years ago. He was very patient with everyone. Even workers that were not that smart and failed to understand a concept to perform the job. I remember thinking how can this person who can’t understand this concept continue to work here. My manager took a different approach. He was understanding of this worker and explained the concept in a different way. He even explained how to view problems from a different perspective. That helped this worker and in time that worker became a strong contributor. So if I could change one thing about me, I would like to be more patient and understanding. I’m taking the steps to change for the better by remembering the actions of my past manager whenever I’m in a similar situation."
This is a little long, but if you can speak smoothly, it shows off your communication skills. Also, the content of the answer is not that bad. They want a personality problem, and this answer is showing impatience while indicating that you understand difficult concepts easily. It also shows that you are working on correcting the bad behavior.
8. "What does success mean to you?"
There are many things you can say. This type of question doesn’t have a wrong answer. All answers will be correct. So the best answer is how good you can make the answer. A mediocre answer will be something like completing a project on time. You can say this, but add another twist to make the answer a little better. Here is an example.
"To me, success means to have a goal, plan the steps to achieve the goal, implement the plan, and finally achieve the goal."
"Success means to achieve a goal I have set for myself."
"Success means to produce high quality work before the deadline."
"Success to me is knowing that my contributions positively impacted my company."
"Success to me means completing a task and when looking back, thinking I couldn’t have done it better. To succeed is to complete a task or assignment on time in an excellent manner. But that’s only half of it. The results should be good and the people involved should gain a valuable lesson or experience. For example, if it was a group project, and only two people out of four really did the work, I wouldn’t call that success. If everyone participated and worked together providing a valuable deliverable then it’s a success. So I think both the result and the process should be great to call something a success."
This answer is showing that you believe in delivering great quality work. Moreover, it is implying how much you value team work. If you value teamwork highly, then it is safe to assume that you would make a great team player.
9. "What does failure mean to you?"
This is quite simple. I don’t see many right answers so this is what I suggest. You can believe in two of the following. One, you believe that failure is not achieving your goal no matter what. Or two, you can believe failure is only when nothing is learned from the failure. I believe in the latter, but you don’t have to agree with me.
"Failure is when I do not reach my goal."
"I think to fail at something is making a mistake and not learning anything from it."
"To me, failure means to have a goal and not do anything about it."
"I think failure is not reaching your potential. If you do not use the resources you have and the resources around you, that’s failure because the work or goal could have been done better."
"I think it’s harder to fail than it is to succeed. The reason is, if you fail in a project, you can learn a valuable lesson from your mistake. Learning from the mistake will allow you to improve future projects, or to simply not repeat them. Just because I believe this, doesn’t mean I believe it’s acceptable to fail at a project, but just in case, I would try to learn everything I can… even when the end result wasn’t that good. So, failure to me means making a mistake and having learned nothing from it."
Nobody wants a failure. So you can feel that answering like this will be risky. However, this is a solid answer that most people agree with. If the person doesn’t like this answer, then you might not want to work for this person. Everyone fails and if you work for someone who doesn’t tolerate failure, then you will be in a difficult situation. Even vice presidents of large corporations will believe that learning from mistakes is a valuable lesson. This answer also states that you will do you best not to fail, but just in case, you want to gain something from your experience.
10."Are you an organized person?"
You can think that this question is stupid. Actually, I do. Everyone will say they are organized. Who will admit otherwise? You should know that everyone will say similar things. Take this time to be creative with your answer. You can use these types of questions to leave a strong impression with a creative answer. Or, if you are not creative, then the best way to answer this question is with an example. Using a story is more believable and easier to remember. Feel free to mix in a little humor to make it more memorable.
"I’m a very organized person. I like to know exactly what I’m going to do for the day and the week. So I outline my tasks and organize my work load. By doing so, I can organize my time and work better."
"I believe I’m very organized. I like to organize my work by priority and deadlines. I do this so I can produce the highest quality work in the amount of time I have."
"I think I’m quite organized. I like my documents and papers in a way where I can retrieve them quickly. I also organize my work in a way where it’s easy to see exactly what I’m doing."
"Organization has always come easy to me. I naturally organize things like my desk, time, assignments, and work without thinking about them. This helps me tremendously during times when I’m approaching a deadline."
"I’m actually a very organized person. It’s funny that you mention this because just the other day, my roommate wanted to borrow my suitcase and saw my closet. He made fun of me for organizing my clothes by length and color. I’m like that with everything. It’s just so much easier to manage things. However, I’m not picky and don’t need to have things in a certain way. I just want things to be organized. So yes, I consider myself organized."
This example should only be done if you are confident with your communication abilities. If you appear awkward or if you sound like you are reading this type of answer, it could have a negative effect. Instead, you should make a generic answer if you are uncomfortable with this type of answer.
11."In what ways are you organized and disorganized?"
This is another variation to the previous question. This question is a little better because the question wants you to identify an area you are disorganized. Make sure to emphasize the organized portion of the answer. If you are truly an organized person, then it is really tough thinking about an area you are disorganized. So thinking ahead of time will allow you to make a good impression with a solid answer.
"I’m very organized with my time and work, but my desk is a little disorganized."
"Since I work with many files, I like to keep my desk organized. I always have everything in a certain place so I can find things easier. The area I’m disorganized is probably my computer desktop. I usually have so many icons everywhere. I should organize it a little, but I’ve never needed to."
"I organize my schedule the best. I’m used to many meetings so it’s important for me to be organized with my schedule and time. The area I need to improve is probably my file cabinet. I started to sort things alphabetically, but when I’m busy, I start putting things in there. It started getting hard to find things, but this is something I’m going to fix."
"Oh… that’s a good question. Well, I’m organized in almost everything I do. I’m very organized with my schedule and time. I like to work efficiently, and being organized with my time helps me. The area I feel I’m disorganized is probably my desk. I like to work fast and don’t keep my desk area as tidy as some people I know. This however doesn’t prevent me from doing my job well. You know some people can have files and paper all over their desk but some how know exactly where everything is located. I think I’m one of those people. However, if I know I’m having a client or a guest, then I would definitely make things more tidy."
This answer brings a little humor to the question. It lightens the mood and makes a person seem real instead of appearing to be perfect. However, if the job you are applying for requires constant customer interaction, then this answer will not be good. This answer would be better for an office job where not many people will see your desk.