Common Interview Questions

By:  Nate Broadus, Catalyst Connection

Going on a job interview can be an intimidating experience.  Preparation can set those nerves at ease.  One way to prepare for an interview is to review questions commonly asked by employers and think through your answers prior to going to the interview.  Below are a list of common interview questions that can assist you in that preparation.

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1. Tell me about yourself.

○ Employers want to know about you professionally. Talk about your work experience and add a few positive, personal phrases like “I am ambitious and dedicated to my work” or “I am a fast learner.” ​ ​Do not mention personal, private details such as your age or family structure at this time.

2. What experience do you have in this field?

○ Be straightforward and factual. Relate any experience you have to the current job you’re applying for. Mention the tools, technology, and equipment you can use.  Don’t be afraid to mention experience that was gained outside of conventional work. If you are self-taught, or gained experience in a nontraditional setting, mention that.

3. Why do you want to work here?

○ Be specific. This is where your research of the company ahead of time comes in handy! Look up the organization’s values, mission, vision, and/or goals and let them know you want to work here because you value the same things they do and think you’ll fit in well in their company culture.  Being able to quote a company’s core values will go a long way towards landing you the job!

4. Do you prefer to work alone or in a group?

○ Your answer is both. You want to be flexible for the employers. Also, elaborate on your answer. ​“I can focus and be responsible on my own, and I can collaborate with my coworkers.”

5. What would your former employer (or former coworkers) say about you?

○ Be sure to mention things that make you stand out and show them your passport! “He/she would give me high marks for productivity, always being on time, and cooperation with my coworkers.”

6. If you made a mistake on a job, how would you handle it?

○ Make sure you mention that you would inform your supervisor. Let them know that you would fix the mistake and learn from this so that you don’t repeat the error.

7. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

○ Make sure you say something about the company. They want to know that you will stick with your job.​ “I see myself more skilled and professional and growing in my field.”

8. Why did you leave your last job/Why are you leaving your current position?

○ Be honest but don’t put the company and/or your supervisors and coworkers down or try to make them look bad and you look better. Talk about a specific quality that this job has that you previous job didn’t have. For example: ​“Your company values learning and growth in employees and I’m looking for a place I can continually improve my skills.”

9. Tell me about your conviction.

○ Explain very little about the actual crime. Show remorse, accountability for your actions, and growth. Revisit your worksheet on the conviction question for your specific situation. 

10. What is your greatest accomplishment?

○ Be specific and give details. This can be something personal as well, as well as professional.  Don’t be afraid to speak confidently about yourself.  Something that may seem minor to you can be incredible to a person who has never experienced it before.  Be confident!

11. Describe a difficult work situation and what you did to overcome it.

○ Make sure not to put anyone down or show a major weakness that employers don’t want to see.

12. What was your favorite job?

○ Choose the job that is most similar to what you’ll be doing or one that you can relate the skills you’ve done before to the skills needed for the position you are applying for.

13. What pay rate are you looking for?

 ○ Do your research and have an idea of what they’re paying. ​“I understand that you start at $XX/hour, and I think that’s fair.” ​ If you don’t know the pay rate, it’s OK to ask.​ ​“What is the starting pay range for this position?”

14. Are you willing to work overtime? Nights? Weekends?

○ The more flexible your schedule is the better. Be honest about childcare and other obligations. The right answer is the honest answer! Do not mention going to see your parole officer as an obstacle to working. Work out an arrangement with your PO before starting.

15. What are your greatest strengths?

○ Focus on your strengths pertaining to your work.​ “I work well under pressure and I’m able to think quickly and make positive decisions.” ​ Or,​“I’m driven and enjoy hard work. I don’t require constant supervision to complete my work with a high degree of quality.”

16. What do you consider your weakness or what you can improve upon?

 ○ Be honest! We all have one area of our lives or ourselves that we could improve or make better – no one is absolutely perfect in every way. Examples might be: Public speaking, interviewing, confronting others with your concerns, not being a morning person, lacking patience, etc. Example: “In the past I’ve struggled with __________. However, I’m really good at ______________. I’ve taken the following steps to overcome this weakness_________________ and _________________. And here’s an example of a time when I overcame this: (Tell happy/positive story).” ​ You can also say “I’m still working on it, but I’ve come a long way.”

17. Why should we hire you? 

○ Revisit personal traits or work history that are relevant to this work and demonstrate enthusiasm about the job! Remember: The #1 reason people aren’t successful in an interview is because they haven’t convinced the company why they are the best one for the job, better than all the other candidates! So convince them that there is no one better for this position than you…because there isn’t! 

18. Do you have any questions for me? 

○ Always have at least two. This is a chance to get to know the employer and the business. They want to talk about themselves and know that you’re interested.

○ Hint: My favorite question to ask is “What is your favorite thing about working here?”

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