Tackling Standard Interview Questions

One of the most productive ways to prepare for an interview is to anticipate the questions you’ll be asked and practice your answers aloud. This exercise is one aspect of a mock interview, a process which emulates the interview experience as a whole.

While it’s impossible to predict every question, you can make an educated guess by reviewing the available information. Consider, for instance, the job description. Do you notice repeating key words or specialized tasks? Studying the description thoroughly will clue you in to what employers find essential about the role.

You can also take a look at your resume as if you were reviewing it for the first time. What questions would you ask based on the information provided? If you have any gaps or you’ve jumped around in different industries, employers will notice and inquire.

Below we go over a handful of standard, more broad questions to anticipate and explore how you can formulate your answers.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Most interviews begin with a prompt or icebreaker. The open-ended feeling of this question can lead to some serious rambling, so it’s important to have your answer memorized. And remember one of the key phrases here is “a little bit.” Don’t give a full run down of your family history or all your major life milestones. A more effective approach is to pitch yourself for the job. Talking a little bit about your past experience, why you love the industry, and what you can bring to the role sets the tone for the entire interview. This is your first chance to really show why you’re the best candidate.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

This question is about as old as the interview process itself, but some employers still ask it. One of the better things not to say is that you’re a perfectionist—it’s trite. Digging deeper for a more personalized response shows you’ve really considered the question. And if it seems tricky, that’s because it is. You don’t want to admit your biggest weakness, but you also don’t want to say nothing about you needs improvement. When answering, keep in mind the job itself. If you’re applying to be an office manager, don’t say your weakness is organization. Putting a positive spin on your answer shows continuous professional development. 

Why do you want to work here?

Researching a company should provide you with information on things like their stated mission, partnerships, goals, community involvement, or company practices. What about these factors speaks to you? Does the company mission align with your values? Do they have a reputation for promoting from within? This is a big picture question that can have a multi-part answer. Employers ask it to see not only if you’ve done your research—an interview must—but because revealing why you’re excited to join demonstrates your goals, work ethic, and aspirations. 

What is your ideal work environment?

Employers are looking to see how you’ll fit in with the company culture. It helps keep morale and productivity high. When answering, think beyond the actual work space. Don’t mention that you want your own office or you like the temperature cool. Instead focus on management and team styles. Do you want a boss who checks in a lot? Would you prefer a team that collaborates regularly? How much communication do you require? When answering, incorporate both the conditions you thrive under and how those fit in with the company culture. If the employer has said something in the interview about how their days are structured, you can loop that into your answer as well.

Do you have any questions for me?

Always respond with a “yes”. Asking questions at the end of your interview could make or break whether or not you get the job. It’s that important. Before the interview, write out a list of five questions that you think show your understanding of the position and the company. You don’t need to ask all five, but it’s a good number to have on hand in case any of your questions are answered organically in the interview. Try to ask at least two questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” reply from the interviewer.

Do you want to practice your answers before an interview? It’s a good idea. You can visit a no-cost Goodwill Career Center and ask a career advisor for assistance. Call 602-535-4444 to find a center near you or visit our locations page. Good luck with your job search!




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