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Know What to Say on a Job Interview

Interview Questions

Sample interview questions of the canned, common type are listed below. Answers are included; but, perhaps "suggestions for tailoring your answers" is a better way to put it, since personally-tailored answers are impossible to provide.

Practice answering these sample interview questions out loud to yourself, or ask a friend or relative to help you.

Don't feel that you have to answer right away. Interviewers know that you're nervous and expect you to think a bit; so, do think carefully before you answer an interview question.

But, don't hesitate too long or it'll appear that you're stalling. Interviewers will ask open-ended questions to see where you'll go with them, so try not to ramble while you're thinking of a real answer; think briefly and then answer.

You may download this free list of sample interview questions for personal use if you wish. The file is small and of a rich-text format (.rtf) file type, which is safe to download and suitable for most word processors. To download it, first read the Important! notice in the red box near the bottom of this page; it includes the download link.

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Sample Interview Questions with Answers

Q. Tell me about yourself.
A. This is the dreaded, classic, open-ended, common interview question and it's likely to be among your first. It's your chance to introduce your qualifications, good work habits, etc. Keep it mostly work and career related.
Q. Why do you want to leave your current job? (Why did you leave your last job?)
A. Be careful with your answer to this common interview question. Avoid trashing your other employers and making statements like, "I need more money." Instead, make general statements such as, "It's a career move."
Q. What are your strengths?
A. Point out your positive attributes related to the job. Good answers include the terms self-starter, team player, conscientious and hardworking. Give examples as you answer.
Q. What are your weaknesses?
A. Everybody has weaknesses, but don't spend too much time answering this question and keep it work related. Along with a minor weakness or two, try to point out a couple of weaknesses that the interviewer might see as strengths, such as sometimes being a little too meticulous about the quality of your work. (Don't say, "I work too hard." It's a predictable, common answer.) For every weakness, offer a strength that compensates for it.
Q. Which adjectives would you use to describe yourself?
A. Answer with positive, work-oriented adjectives, such as conscientious, hardworking, honest and courteous, plus a brief description or example of why each fits you well. Avoid mundane adjectives, such as nice and good.
Q. What do you know about our company?
A. To answer this common interview question, research the company before you interview.
Q. Why do you want to work for us?
A. Same as above; research the company before you interview. Avoid the predictable, such as, "Because it's a great company." If you answer with something like that, then at least go on to say why.
Q. Why should I hire you?
A. Point out your positive attributes related to the job, and the good job you've done in the past. Include any compliments you've received from management.
Q. What past accomplishments gave you satisfaction?
A. Briefly describe one to three work projects that made you proud or earned you pats on the back, promotions, raises, and so on; but focus more on achievement than reward.
Q. What makes you want to work hard?
A. Naturally, material rewards such as perks, salary and benefits come into play. But, again, focus more on achievement than reward and the satisfaction you derive from it.
Q. What type of work environment do you like best?
A. Tailor your answer to the job. For example, if the job requires you to lock the lab doors and work alone, then indicate that you enjoy being a team player when needed, but also enjoy working independently. If you're required to attend regular project planning and status meetings, then indicate that you're a strong team player and like being part of a team.
Q. Why do you want this job?
A. To help you answer this and related common interview questions, study the job description in advance. (Get the job description from the job ad or ask the HR department for a copy.) It's okay to ask questions while you're answering, as long as you know something about the job in the first place. Say what attracts you to the job. Avoid the obvious such as, "I need a job" or "I need the money."
Q. How do you handle pressure and stress?
A. Everybody feels pressure and stress to some degree, except for serial killers! So, don't indicate that you never feel them. Indicating that you whine to your shrink, kick your dog or slam down a fifth of Jack Daniels are not good answers either! Exercising, relaxing with a good book, socializing with friends or turning stress into productive energy, are among the better answers to this common interview question.
Q. Explain how you overcame a major obstacle.
A. Your interviewer is likely looking for a particular example of your problem-solving skills and the pride you show for having solved it. (See Behavioral Interviews for more sample interview questions like this and the one above.)
Q. Where do you see yourself five (ten or fifteen) years from now?
A. Explain your career-advancement goals that are in line with the job for which you are interviewing. Jokingly or otherwise, it's not a good idea to tell your potential new boss that you'll be going after his or her job! But, it's okay to mention that you'd like to earn a senior or management position.
Q. What qualifies you for this job?
A. Sell your skills, experience, education and other qualifications, especially those that match the job ad well. Avoid simply regurgitating your resume and cover letter as an answer to this common interview question; explain why.
Q. Why did you choose your college major?
A. The interviewer is likely fishing to see if you are interested in your field of work or just doing a job to get paid. Explain why you like it. Besides your personal interests, include some rock-solid business reasons that show you have vision and business sense.

Important! You may download, copy or print this list of sample interview questions only for your personal use. Reprinting it in whole or part in any media without explicit, written permission is a violation of U.S. or international copyright laws, whether or not you do so for commercial use. (Click the copyright notice below for more information.) However, you may link to it in good faith from your Web site without permission.

See also Common Interview Question Samples in the Interview Center, for examples of ineffective and effective answers to same. For more sample interview questions and answers from the Web, plus tips on the different techniques, how to act during interviews, questions to ask interviewers and much more, start at Interviews.

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