Practice Interview Questions
Prior to an interview, it’s always a good idea to go over some practice interview questions.
February 23, 2014
Prior to an interview, it’s always a good idea to go over some practice interview questions. After all, practice makes perfect.
Asking yourself such questions – or getting someone else to “mock” interview you – is a great way to think about the types of answers you’d like to give and allows you to review your resume in the process.
Below are some common interview questions by topic which you can utilize to practice. The list also details the reason the interviewer is likely asking the question, along with suggestions on approaching the answer.
Remember, this is just a guideline, as every interviewer is different!
Tell me about yourself.
So, what’s your story?
A great answer: Creates a short answer comprised of who you are, your biggest strength and how the company will benefit from this strength.
Note: This may me the most commonly asked interview question, yet the least prepared for. Never give your life story or over-share – the interviewer isn’t looking for every detail of your personality – he or she is allowing you to set the tone for the interview.
Coming back with a prepared response regarding your personal brand should be expected – but it’s not since candidates often neglect to prepare a response to the question. Doing so will likely set you apart from other potential job candidates.
Why did you choose this field?
A great answer: Focus on what interests you about the job field and how it relates to your skill set, stating specifics.
Note: Never say you “fell into it” or “you’re unsure.” Show your determination and drive with your answer.
What are you most passionate about?
A great answer: Gives your passion (examples: helping others, making a difference) and an example of how it’s incorporated into your life, both personally and professionally.
Note: This answer does not always have to be work-focused, but never give an answer that will leave your interviewer wondering whether or not your passion will impact your job performance.
What are your strengths?
A great answer: It’s best to respond honestly, staying focused on the positive. Also, back up your answer with experiences that demonstrate the skills you mention.
Note: This is your chance to elaborate on character traits you possess that qualify you for the job you’re interviewing for.
What is your greatest weakness?
A great answer: Names a skill that is unnecessary or inapplicable to the success of the job you’re seeking.
Note: You can answer this type of question a variety of ways. Overall, the interview is trying to assess whether or not you can identify and address personal qualities that may need improvement.
Mention a skill that’s not needed for the job you’re seeking: for example, a writer could say that he or she finds math skills challenging. This notes a weakness that will not impact his or her job performance.
Mention a skill that you’ve deemed weak but have improved upon: This shows the interviewer that you’re willing to work on short-comings – but, again, always choose a skill that isn’t pertinent to job performance of the job you’re currently seeking.
For example, when interviewing for an accounting position, you could mention that you found creative writing challenging in college but, with hard work at the writing center and plenty of rough drafts, you were able to improve upon a skill you never thought you’d obtain.
Turn a negative into a positive: For example, “I often take on more tasks than necessary which could easily be given to someone else on the team because I’m always eager to take on new challenges in the workplace.”
How would your coworkers describe you?
How would others describe you?
A great answer: Focus on positive attributes that speak to your abilities in working with others.
It’s also helpful to give an example of why you gave that response. For example you could say, “I try to be open-minded to others’ ideas. I know I’m perceived as such since my colleagues have come to me with new ideas for brainstorming sessions before taking the ideas to their managers.”
Note: This question aims to discover how you feel you are perceived by colleagues in the workplace. Answering with hard-working and diligent may seem positive, however, answers such as friendly, open-minded and a team player are better suited answers to this question.
Tell me about your best and worst bosses.
A great answer: I’ve been able to learn from each boss I’ve had. With great bosses, I’ve learn what to do and with challenging bosses, I’ve learned what not to do.
Note: Your interviewer is asking this in hopes to discover whether or not you blame or badmouth a previous boss, which you should never do. They also want to assess how you would likely handle challenging situations.
Describe your ideal boss/supervisor?
A great answer: Gives an example of a positive experience you’ve had with a previous manager.
For example, you could say, “My previous manager worked to understand each employee’s strengths and needs. In addition, he worked to have open communication with all employees, which I find extremely valuable in the workplace.”
Note: This question aims to learn more about the types of work environments you thrive in and whether or not you’d fit within the company’s environment.
Do you find any personalities difficult to work with?
Tell me how you’d handle working with someone difficult?
A great answer: Every personality is different and brings something to the table. While not all personality types are perfectly suited to one another, I always look for the common goals and work to collaborate to ensure productivity.
Note: It’s important to focus on how you can work with anyone, rather than listing personality traits you don’t like. Acknowledge that you’re aware life isn’t perfect and every person doesn’t get along with one another but you’re always willing to focus on the task at hand to achieve goals, regardless of a person’s attitude.
Do you work well with others?
Which do you prefer, working independently or with a team?
A great answer: If you prefer to work independently, you could say, “I do prefer to work alone, but always value feedback and input throughout my entire process.”
If you prefer to work with a team, emphasize why. Let the interviewer know you value collaboration and, through experience, you enjoyed the process as well as achieved better results while working with others.
Note: You should always be honest, but it’s important to note that you value the input of your colleagues no matter which method you prefer.
Are you stronger working under pressure or with time for planning and organization?
A great answer: It’s important to acknowledge that, in any work environment, there’s potential for either scenario and that you’re able to handle both.
Give concrete examples of times you were able to work under pressure as well as projects you had time to focus on with planning, preparation and organization.
Note: The interviewer is looking to assess your work style to determine whether or not you’d be a good fit for the position.
How do you handle stress and/or pressure on the job?
A great answer: Focuses on positive activities that relieve stress such as exercising, painting, etc. as well as noting positive personal skills such as prioritizing, organization and focus.
Note: Since all jobs have stress, your interviewer wants to know if you’re willing to acknowledge it, if you have realistic expectations regarding job stress and if you’re able to keep it under control.
Do you take work home with you?
A great answer:I prefer to get my work finished during business hours, however, if I’m on a deadline or, perhaps, in the zone, I certainly like to continue my focus on the task at hand.
Note: This question focuses on work-life balance. It’s important to be honest, because the interviewer is trying to determine whether or not you’d enjoy the type of environment at their company. It’s important to demonstrate that you’re up for putting in extra effort when necessary, too.
Do you find it difficult to make decisions?
A great answer: Here’s your chance to show you’re a self-starter, but acknowledge that you value others’ input as well.
Note:This question is asked to examine your comfort level and whether or not you constantly look to others for approval. Answer confidently, noting that you’re fine making decisions on your own but always value the opinions of others.
Tell me more about what you did at XYZ Company.
A great answer: Focuses on what your goals were and gives concrete examples of how you achieved them.
Note: The interviewer can read your resume, so they know what your previous job function was. They’re really looking to explore your accomplishments and whether or not you performed the job well.
Why are you leaving your current job?
A great answer: Focuses on the tasks you accomplished in your previous position – not on the negative aspects of your last job. For example, you could state that after you accomplished X,Y,Z projects, you found you were ready to move forward onto another challenge.
Note: Never speak negatively about your last job, boss or company. Rather, focus on what you accomplished and how you’d like to move forward.
What did you like about your previous job/internship? Dislike?
A great answer: When answering what you liked, give an example of a task you liked performing and follow up with examples of your success.
When answering what you disliked, focus on the positive. Name something you disliked that took you away from the overall task at hand and took place under unusual circumstances.
For example, you could note that your previous job had an excessive amount of data entry and, since it was a sales position, you would have liked to focus on your people skills and contacting clients.
Note: Always focus on tasks – not on specific people or the company. Also, if you name something you disliked at your previous job, state it in a way that shows you don’t mind doing the legwork – it was just an inordinate amount that you disliked because it took you away from accomplishing the overall goal of selling to clients.
Tell me about a challenge you had to face. How did you handle it?
A great answer: Gives a concrete example that actually took place, but focuses more on the positive outcome rather than a particular challenge.
Note: Always keep your answers focused on the positive ways you contributed to alleviating the problem, rather than who created the problem, the problem itself or how the problem occurred.
What’s your greatest disappointment in the workplace?
A great answer: Give an example that demonstrates you’re able to take responsibility, learn and grow from your previous mistakes.
Note:Never place blame or focus on self-deprecation. Instead, focus on the positive learning experience that came from a negative situation.
Which of your accomplishments are you most proud of?
A great answer: Give an example of a project or accomplishment you consider to be most significant in your career, up to the present. Credit those who helped ensure success in the project and detail how you contributed to the success of your example as well.
Note: Your interviewer is looking to gain insight into what you’ve accomplished, your work habits and how you work with others. In addition, they’re looking for indicators that you’ll be successful at their company.
Tell me about teamwork tasks you’ve experienced.
A great answer: Gives an actual example of a teamwork experience you enjoyed with a positive outcome.
Note: Your interviewer is asking this question to evaluate whether or not you’ve worked successfully on a team and whether or not you valued the experience. Most companies look for team players, so this is a great chance to show you’re able to do so.
Why are you interested in this position?
What do you know about the position you’re interviewing for?
A great answer: Describe what the position requires, listing personal skills you possess that would contribute to your success. Give examples of your accomplishments utilizing these skills, if possible.
Note: This question focuses on whether you know what the position entails and whether or not you’re ready to take on the tasks of the job.
He or she clearly knows the position you’re interviewing for, so they’re really looking to see if you’re aware and whether or not you have what it takes to thrive within the job.
What do you know about this company?
Why are you interested in working for this company?
A great answer: Talks about the company’s goals and philosophy aligning with your own, stating specific examples. For example, you could mention that you admire the company’s philosophy about environmental initiatives, which align with your own personal beliefs.
Note: This question aims to determine whether or not you’ve done your research, if you understand the goals the company is trying to achieve and whether or not you fit into and agree with the company’s overall strategic message.
What makes you a good candidate for this position?
What can you offer this company?
A great answer: Discusses your personal traits matching the job requirements. You could reference prior discussions on what the job entails and how your experiences (give examples) could lend to the success of the position and, overall, move the company in a forward direction.
Note: Never promise to solve all of the company’s problems but, rather, to perform the task and job to the best of your abilities.
Why should we hire you over other candidates?
A great answer: Focus on the qualities that make you a unique candidate. What sets you apart from all of the other candidates?
Note: The goal of this question is to learn what you feel sets you apart from others. Everyone’s answer will be different, since no two people are exactly alike.
What do you hope to accomplish in this position?
A great answer: State, in your own words, your understanding of the goals of the position you’re applying for, as well as your hope to contribute to the company’s overall success.
Note: This question is hoping to analyze whether or not you understand the goals of the position as well as the company.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?
A great answer: Think about this beforehand and answer honestly, mentioning both professional and personal goals.
Note: This question is asked to determine whether you think about and plan for the future and whether or not you see that company within your immediate future.
You don’t necessarily have to be at those places within that time frame, just demonstrate that you’ve given thought to your future and are driven to achieve your goals.
Also, never say “with your job” because you could risk alienating your interviewer!
What defines a success for you?
What does success mean for you?
A great answer: For me, success isn’t concrete. I would consider myself successful if I’m able to look back on previous years knowing I worked to the best of my ability to accomplish each task at hand, contributing to my personal and professional accomplishments.
Note: Your interviewer is likely trying to determine whether your goals are based in your personal or professional life, so it’s always good to note that you value a work-life balance (assuming you do). It’s always a good idea to focus your answer on how you’ve planned for the future, detailing your drive and your personal views on work/life balance.
How would you rate me as an interviewer?
A great answer: Talks about the positive points of the interview. If applicable, note that the interviewer was clear in describing the job opportunity, listened carefully, asked valuable questions and made you feel comfortable throughout the process.
Note: No matter how genuine the interviewer seems in learning your assessment of the interview and asking for constructive criticism, it’s always best to focus on the positive.
Do you have any questions for me?
A great answer:There are several approaches and, since you have the floor, you should take the opportunity to continue the discussion and ask some of the following types of questions:
- Questions pertaining to the job
- What additional skills or qualities they’re looking for in a candidate?
- Is there anything on my resume that you don’t see that you’re looking for in a candidate?
- Questions pertaining to the company’s future goals
- Questions regarding the current status and future of the industry
Note: Never neglect to ask questions! Hiring managers will see it as a red flag if you don’t have any questions regarding a potential job. Concentrate on job tasks, the company and you as a candidate – never on salary, benefits and vacation time.
Are there any tough interview questions you’ve been asked not on this list?