Typical interview questions and best responses

View part 1
In the last article we looked at the basic job interview questions and responses. In this article we look a little deeper at more specific questions such as talking about experience, personality and work style and the often difficult questions about salary.

Quantifying Your Experience and Accomplishments

21. Have you helped increase sales? Profits? How?
  • Imply that you have done so on many occasions, then concentrate on describing one in detail.
  • Quote facts and figures.
22. Have you helped reduce costs? How?
  • Same as above.
23. How much money did you ever account for?
  • Be specific and recount a particular contract with facts and figures.
24. How many people did you supervise on your last job?
  • Be specific – the more the better, but don’t exaggerate.
25. Do you like working with figures more than words?
  • Be honest but positive.
  • Make it clear that you are confident and comfortable working with both
26. In your current or last position, what features did you like the most? Least?
  • Relate your response to what the new job can offer.
  • Don’t dwell on the negative aspects.
27. In your current or last position, what are or were your five most significant accomplishments?
  • You could refer to the key accomplishments already identified in your CV.
  • Keep it brief and use statistics if appropriate.

Your work style and habits

28. If I spoke with your previous boss, what would he say are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  • Emphasise skills – don’t be overly negative about your weaknesses; it’s always safe to identify a lack of a skill or experience as a shortcoming rather than a personal characteristic.
29. Can you work under pressures, deadlines, etc.?
  • Yes. Quite simply, it is a way of life in business.
30. In your present position, what problems have you identified that had previously been overlooked?
  • Keep it brief and be sure to say how you overcame the problems.
31. Don’t you feel you might be better off in a different size company? Different type company?
  • Depends on the job – elaborate slightly.
  • Reiterate how your skills, qualifications and previous experience lend themselvesitself to the job you are applying for with this company.
32. How do you resolve conflict on a project team?
  • First you would discuss issues privately and tactfully. If the problem is not resolved then action would need to be taken which, in a severe case, could mean removing a member of the team.
  • You would operate within the company’s disciplinary policy.
33. What was the most difficult decision you ever had to make?
  • Attempt to relate your response to the prospective employment situation.
  • Do not mention trivial issues e.g. whether to wear the blue or red tie to the interview.

Salary questions

34. How much are you looking for?
  • Answer with a question, i.e., “What is the salary range for similar jobs in your company?”
  • If they don’t answer, then give a range of what you understand you are worth in the marketplace.
  • You could also use your current salary as a base and say that you are looking to improve on this but be careful in case that lowers the wage they offer.
35. How much do you expect, if we offer this position to you?
  • Be careful; the market value of the job may be the key answer e.g., “My understanding is that a job like the one you’re describing may be in the range of …. “
36. What kind of salary are you worth?
  • Have a specific figure in mind… don’t be hesitant.
  • Avoid joking and saying that they couldn’t afford it!

Personality questions

37. What was the last book you read? Movie you saw? Sporting event you attended?
  • Talk about books, sports or films that represent balance in you life.
  • Stick to something fairly mainstream or classic.
38. How would you describe your own personality?
  • Balanced.
  • Fair, honest, reliable, friendly, outgoing, etc.
39. What are your strong points?
  • Present at least three and relate them to the interviewing company and job opening.
  • Tailor your answer to meet the needs of the employer e.g. “I see myself as a goal-orientated individual who in my previous role achieved above projected results.”
40. What are your weak points?
  • Don’t say you haven’t any.
  • Try not to cite personal characteristics as weaknesses, but be ready to have one if the interviewer presses.
  • Try to transform your response and the question into a strength. “I’m the kind of person who likes challenges and gets involved. Some people may see that as butting in, but I’m sure it could be looked at as a strength because I like to make sure the job gets done correctly.”
You should also be prepared to answer questions about your health, more technical questions related to your qualifications, research or current job and any interests you have mentioned on your CV or application form.

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