The most common job interview questions you should prepare for

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Preparing for a job interview? One of the best ways to be ready is to anticipate the possible questions you may be asked and prepare for them. Although these may vary depending on the type of work that you do and the industry you belong to, there are common ones that employers ask to find out if the applicant is a good fit for the company. The following are some of these common questions and a few tips on how to answer them:

Tell me about yourself.

Many job interviews begin with this question to break the ice and start the conversation. What it is really asking is for you to disclose aspects of yourself that are relevant to the position. Instead of starting with a general description of your likes, dislikes and pastimes, concentrate on your education, training, professional experience, and your soft skills as they relate to the job you are applying for.

Example answer: “I am a seasoned salesman with more than 10 years of retail experience. I am a people-person. The best part of my job is that I get to talk to all types of people and have the opportunity to assist them in their needs.”

What are your greatest strengths?

This is your chance to sell yourself and show confidence. The best thing to remember when answering this question is to never to go overboard and to provide concrete examples that illustrate your strengths in direct relation to the job description.

Example answer: “I pride myself on my technical knowledge and strong customer service skills. In my five years as a computer technician, I have gained a thorough knowledge of computer issues and have learned to effectively resolve them. I also believe that my strong communication skills and customer-oriented focus help me work well with clients and team members.”

What is your greatest weakness?

Never say it’s perfectionism! This is a trite and overused answer. To answer this question, you can mention a weak spot that is not directly related to the job. But more than an actual weakness, and this is important – what the interviewer would be looking for are the steps that you are taking to overcome a certain flaw.

Example answer: (A writer’s answer) “My greatest weakness would be my mathematical ability. I have a difficult time with numbers! Whenever I need to calculate or use numerical data, I always make sure to give myself time. I allot a period to check, double check, and even triple check my answers to make sure that they are accurate. I am also taking a course on “interpreting numerical data” to learn better techniques.”

How do you see yourself in five years?

Your answer should reflect your career goals/plans and how having this job would fit this plan. You should communicate that you are a proactive and goal-oriented person. You can give a more general answer to this question because you are predicting a situation. Nobody is expecting you to be a psychic.

Example answer: “My goal is to find a company I where I can grow and take on new challenges over time. Ultimately, I’d like to assume more management responsibilities and get involved in product strategy. But most importantly, I want to work for an organization where I can build a career.” (taken from How to answer: Where do you see yourself in five years? by Pamela Skillings, big interview.com).

Tell us about a time . . .

Questions that start with this are usually behavioural questions. Interviewers ask them to get an idea of your skills and competencies based on certain situations and how you reacted to them. For instance, “Tell us about a time when you met a challenging situation at work and how you handled it” is a common variation of this type. The best way to answer this is to use the STAR technique. This stands for Specific situation, Task, Action, and Result. Remember to be succinct and straight to the point when you tell your anecdote and focus only on the relevant details.

Example answer: “I was assigned to lead the creation of our annual report and we were running on a tight deadline (Situation). Representatives of the company’s five divisions were tasked to submit their reports for me to consolidate. We were nearing the deadline when one representative told me he was swamped with work and would not be able to submit on time (Task). I spoke to him and suggested ways by which we could solve the problem. We agreed that he could share the task with another employee who could devote more time to it (Action). Our team was able to meet the requirements with time to spare and our company published the comprehensive annual report on time” (Result).

Why should we hire you?

Aside from reiterating your skills and experience, you can say that your temperament, aspirations and goals fit the company’s corporate culture. This where researching about the company will come in handy. For instance, if the company prides itself on providing prompt, high quality service, focus on these traits. Another important thing to mention here is how you can uniquely contribute to the company based on your experience and training.

Example answer: “I am punctual, dependable and can be counted upon to finish what I start. I get a great deal of satisfaction from knowing that I have done something well and on time. For example, at my present job, I was given different work orders every day. It was my responsibility to finish the orders and make sure they all met quality and safety standards within a specific deadline. On occasion, I had to familiarize myself with the product and the production process. I was always able to learn quickly and carry out my job responsibilities. Our company was known for making excellent processed food products. In 1990, it received an award for being one of Canada’s top companies in the field. I feel I can use the same skills and hard work to do well on this job too.” (taken from the Community Employment Services page, Woodstock, Ontario).

Do you have any questions?

Don’t ask about salary and benefits at this point. Also, don’t say “no, I don’t have questions.” Don’t waste this great opportunity to show the interviewer that you did your homework and researched about the industry and the company. Smart questions show that you have an in-depth understanding of the job and show your enthusiasm to contribute to the company. It is also your chance to see if the company is the right fit for you. However, limit your questions to two, or three at the most.

Example questions:
“I understand from the job ad that this position plays an important role in the company’s transition. What’s the most important thing can I accomplish in the first 60 days?”

“What kinds of processes are in place to help me work collaboratively?”

“Can you describe how a typical work day (or work week) for this job is like?”

“Do you have any hesitations about my qualifications?”

“What is the next step in this process?”

Sources: 10 questions you are sure to be asked in an interview (and how to answer them), Peter Harris, Workopolis; 35 toughest interview questions with answers, About Careers.com; biginterview.com; 10 job interview questions you should ask, by Joe Konop, Next Avenue contributor, Forbes.com.

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Community Resources

Read 5 best strategies to ace an interview for additional tips to help you prepare. Also read Nervous about your English? Tips to help you express yourself well in an interview.

If you need help in preparing for an interview, there are many employment assistant programs all over Manitoba:

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Quiz

The most common job interview questions you should prepare for.

The article mentioned several types of questions you might be asked in a job interview. For the questions below, select the option that summarizes the points mentioned in the article.

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