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QUESTIONS INTERVIEWER MAY ASK YOU, AND SUGGESTIONS FOR RESPONSES

Tell me about yourself.

This is an open-ended question often asked to “break the ice.” Keep your response brief (less than two minutes), and focus on highlights of your educational and work experiences. You may want to start with your most recent accomplishment, such as getting your college degree, and continue in reverse chronological order. Limit disclosing personal information to that which relates to the job – that is, you may mention knowledge and skills you possess, but only those the employer is most likely seeking for the job.

Which college course or courses have you enjoyed the most, and why? The least? Why?

For the courses you liked the most, discuss those that allowed you to develop knowledge/skills the employer is seeking for the position, if possible. Or, choose courses that allowed you to grow intellectually and/or interpersonally – such as a course that allowed you to develop the ability to view things from different perspectives, or the opportunity to work as part of a team on a special project.

For the courses you liked the least, you may state that there were no courses you disliked; that you enjoyed all of your courses because you learned something in each. Or, you may choose a course that does not relate to the position – such as algebra if you are interviewing for a social work position. Be able to explain why you disliked it – even if just to say that algebra is a subject in which you have little interest. However, still try to end on a positive note – for example, by stating that although you didn’t particularly like algebra, the course did allow you to improve your critical thinking skills.

Name three of your greatest strengths.

Remember to answer this question based on how it is asked. If the interviewer asks for three strengths, name them – for example: “Communication skills, organizational skills, and problem-solving skills.” The interviewer may ask another form of this question: “Name three words your co-workers would use to describe you.” In this case, your response should consist of three words: “Organized, detailed, and determined,” for example. Also, be able to provide examples of how you’ve successfully applied these strengths to resolve a problem situation.

What is your greatest weakness?

Design your response so that your weakness is really a “positive” in disguise. For example, you may refer to your tendency to approach a task or project with the attitude, “If you want it done right, do it yourself,” but then you find that you are not managing your time effectively, nor delegating appropriately so that your subordinates are learning responsibility on the job. Then, describe a situation in which you did NOT take this approach, and the positive results that occurred from your new approach. OR, you can approach this question from a personal or professional growth perspective. For example, you may tell the interviewer that “organization” is not a natural strength, but that you have worked on improving this ability and even developed some techniques to overcome this weakness (and then provide specifics regarding this).

Tell me what you have learned from your involvement in extracurricular activities.

Focus on the knowledge and skills required for the job in responding to this question. Also, if you were involved in community service projects, and/or served on committees as part of membership in a student organization, discuss these experiences and what they taught you (team work, leadership skills, communication skills, ability to plan and organize activities, etc.).

Which of your work experiences has been most rewarding? Why? Least rewarding? Why?

Again, relate positive work experiences to the requirements of the job for which you are interviewing. In other words, focus on the knowledge/skills you acquired in a past job and describe how such knowledge and skills will allow you to be effective in this position. As for “least rewarding” experiences, NEVER say anything negative about a former employer. You may indicate (as with the “favorite courses” question above) that you have learned something from each job you’ve held, OR, if a job did not offer opportunity for you to learn or grow professionally, you may relate this information to the interviewer.

Why do you have a gap in employment from_____to_____?

College students can always explain a gap in employment as a deliberate move to spend more time focusing on their studies.

Describe an accomplishment, and how you achieved it. What does “success” mean to you?

Choose to describe an accomplishment that demonstrates setting of goals, commitment to and perseverance in achieving that goal. OR, choose to describe an obstacle that you overcame, and the process for overcoming it.

Regarding your definition of “success,” let your response reflect your values – that is, what basic attitudes you have toward life, yourself, and others.

Do you work well under pressure?

Answer in the positive: “Yes, I work very well under pressure. In fact, pressure can force a certain energy that can be the driving force for getting things done. It can also be the source of creativity in solving problems.” If the interviewer takes the question a step further and asks, “How do you manage in a high pressure situation?” you should respond with an explanation of how you effectively prioritize and manage your time.

Describe the ideal relationship between a supervisor and a subordinate.

Again, let your response reflect your basic core values, then provide a specific example of a positive relationship you’ve experienced with a former, or current, supervisor.

You should also answer this question from a supervisory perspective, that is, with yourself in the role of supervisor, if you have had such an experience. If you haven’t, you may still address the approach you would take if you are placed in a supervisory position over others.

Where do you see yourself five years from now? What are your career goals?

Be careful with your response to this question. DO NOT describe career goals which will take you away from the current job opportunity. In other words, do not state that you plan to pursue an advanced degree if you know (or don’t know) whether this is what the company/organization with which you are interviewing is expecting, or if they can provide adequate reward for such an accomplishment. Instead, use this question as an opportunity to emphasize your strong desire for a career path with THIScompany.

What do you know about our company/organization? Why do you want to work here?

This frequently asked question begs you to DO YOUR HOMEWORK in researching the company/organization THOROUGHLY before interviewing.

What do you have to offer to this position/company that would “set you apart” from other applicants?

This question presents a great opportunity for you to highlight, in a summary statement, what you have to offer. Of course you cannot know the qualifications of the other candidates. You should prepare for this question by carefully listening to the interviewer describe the position, the company, and the qualifications sought, which he/she will most likely do at some point during the interview. Then, at the conclusion of the interview, you can refer to this information in your summary statement by describing specifically the qualifications you have to offer fit what they are seeking.

APPROPRIATE QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO ASK DURING THE INTERVIEW

You should refrain from asking questions until the interviewer asks you for questions (this opportunity usually takes place at the conclusion of the interview). An exception to this “rule” may occur if you do not understand, or need clarification of, a question you are asked during the interview, in which case you may ask the interviewer to explain. Following are some appropriate questions for you to ask – and DO ASK QUESTIONS – this shows interest and initiative!

  • What qualifications do you think are necessary to be successful in this job?
  • What majors do you usually hire?
  • Could you describe the training period/program?
  • How would I be supervised? How would my performance be evaluated?
  • What are the opportunities for advancement?
  • What is the organization’s policy regarding continuing education/training?
  • Does the company encourage participation in professional organizations?
  • When can I expect to hear from you regarding your hiring decision?

INAPPROPRIATE QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO ASK DURING THE INTERVIEW

  • DO NOT initiate discussion of salary, vacation, or benefits during the first interview.
  • DO NOT push for an early decision by mentioning the other opportunities you have awaiting you.
  • DO NOT ask for feedback on your interview performance.