Question 1. “Tell me about yourself?”
The broad nature of this question makes it difficult to answer in a quick and relevant fashion. If the context is not clear, you need to find out more about what the interviewer is hoping to learn about you by asking such a question. In such a situation you could ask, “Is there a particular aspect of my background that you would like me to elaborate on?” to help you to find the appropriate focus and avoid pointless rambling. Whichever way you decide to answer this question, make sure that your answer ultimately conveys some relevance to your professional aspirations and achievements. Your answer should also demonstrate, or refer to, one or more of your key qualities or achievements in action – for example honesty, integrity, being a team player, etc.
Amusing anecdotes that also highlight the above qualities can also be an effective way of answering this question. In short, your answer should make the connection between both your personal and professional lives, such as, “I put my heart into everything I do, whether it be sports or work. I find that getting along with team mates – or professional peers – makes life more enjoyable and productive.”
Question 2. “Why do you want to work here?”
To suitably answer this question you will need to have researched the company and the position you are applying for. It is also important to emphasize the attributes of the company that you see both on their website and when you enter the building.
Also, cap your answer with reference to your belief that the company can provide you with a stable and productive work environment and that such an atmosphere will encourage your best work – “I’m not just looking for another pay check. I enjoy my work and I know that your company has an excellent reputation. I also share the values that make this possible, which should enable me to fit in and complement the team”.
Question 3. “Why should I hire you?”
This answer should be short and to the point. It should highlight the areas of your background and experience that relate to current needs and problems. It can also be a good idea to recap the interviewer’s description of the job and describe in detail why you satisfy that criteria.
Finish your answer along the lines of, “I have the skills you need [itemize them], I’m a team player, I take direction and I am motivated to be productive member of this company”.
Question 4. “What did you like/dislike about your last job?”
At this stage the interviewer is looking for compatibility issues. If a trial lawyer says he/she dislikes arguing a point with colleagues, such a statement will only weaken – if not immediately destroy – his/her candidacy. Most interviewers start the initial interview with an introductory statement about the company. Pay attention; that information will help you answer the question. In fact, any statement the interviewer makes about the job or corporation can be used to your advantage.
Criticizing a prior employer or employee can be a read flag for the interviewer that you might be a problem. Keep your answer short and positive. As a rule of thumb, you are allowed only one negative about past employers, and only then if your interviewer has a “hot button” about his/her department or company. For example, the only thing your past employer could not offer was “the ability to contribute more in different areas”. Then you can continue with, “I really liked everything about the job. The reason I want to leave is to find a position where I can make a greater contribution. You see, I work for a large corporation that encourages specialization of skills. Working here, in a smaller environment, will allow me to contribute far more in different areas.” Tell them what they want to hear – replay the hot button.
On the flip side, if you interview with a large company, something like “I work for a small company and don’t get the time to specialize in one or two major areas” will be just as effective.
Question 5. “What would you like to be doing five years from now?”
When answering this question, it is important to remember that all roles these days require teamwork and communication. These two skills, and the behaviors that emanate from developing them, will allow you to broaden your opportunities in your work environment.
The safest answer to this question is focused around a desire to be regarded as a qualified professional and team player.
Question 6. “What are your biggest accomplishments?”
It is important to keep this answer job related. If you don’t want to sound too modest, you may begin your reply with: “although I feel my biggest accomplishments are still ahead of me, I am proud of my involvement in… when I made my contribution as part of that team and learned a lot in the process”.
Question 7. “Can you work under pressure?”
It can be tempting to give a simple “yes” or “no” answer to this one, but this reveals nothing and you will lose the opportunity to sell your skills and values. Actually, this question often comes from an unskilled interviewer, because it is closed-ended, meaning it does not give you the chance to elaborate. Something along the lines of, “Yes, I usually find it stimulating. However, I believe in planning and proper management of my time”, is suitable and effective.
Question 8. “How do you take direction?”
The interviewer wants to know if you are open-minded and can be a team player. This type of question can also be seen as, “how do you accept criticism?”. Your answer should cover both areas; “I take direction well and recognize that it can come in a variety of different forms. I think it’s important to accept all direction and criticism as there are always other considerations I am not aware of and taking on such advice will allow me to grow as a professional.”
Question 9. “Do you prefer working with others or alone?”
This question is usually to determine if you are a team player. Before answering, however, be sure you know whether the job requires you to work alone – then respond appropriately.