For any job interview, the overarching point you want to get across is why the prospective employer should hire you. The interview is your sales pitch that you are the ideal candidate for the job at hand. It is also a get-to-know-you conversation to show the company staff that they would enjoy working with you. So make your case and be likeable! Here are 11 questions to practice:
How much do you make?
This won’t be your opening question but you can count on compensation coming up early in the discussion. The company doesn’t want to waste its time if it turns out they can’t afford you. If you currently make more than the role advertises (for example, you are making a career change from a high-paying job) then focus on what you’re targeting for this role, so you can let them know that, yes, they can afford you. If you have been underpaid and don’t want the company to think they can get you cheaply, also focus on what you’re targeting for the role so that you keep the focus on the role at hand and not your low compensation. But you want to have something to say confidently and directly when the money talk comes up – don’t just wing it.
Tell me about yourself.
This also might be phrased as “Walk me through your resume” or “Walk me through your career” or simply “Why should I hire you?” It’s a common opening question where you get to summarize your background in order to point out the most relevant skills, expertise and accomplishments that make you the best hire. That second part is key – you want to highlight the relevant aspects of your background. You’re not just talking about yourself in general – that’s a date, not an interview.
What is your biggest strength?
Ideally you have already enumerated your strengths as you introduce yourself. But you may get a pointed question that asks you to choose one (or more) to specifically focus on. Pick your most relevant strength(s) for the job. Then give a specific example for each so that the interviewer can see exactly how your strength manifests itself in the workplace.
What is your biggest weakness?
On the flip side, you may get asked about your weaknesses. Here you pick a weakness that is NOT relevant to the job so that it’s clear it won’t impede your ability to perform. You also want to give a specific example to make crystal clear to the interviewer what you mean by your weakness, so that the interviewer isn’t left to imagine and possibly over exaggerate how bad the weakness might be.
What is your biggest accomplishment (or biggest mistake)?
Related to the strength/ weakness line of questioning, you may be asked for an accomplishment, or on the flip side, a mistake. While the strength or weakness is a quality or a skill, the accomplishment or mistake is an outcome that happened. Despite the subtle difference, this type of question should be handled similarly – pick an accomplishment relevant to the job and pick a mistake that isn’t so critical.
Give me an example of __________ (where BLANK is a key function of the potential job)
This line of questioning draws directly from the job description for the role you’re interviewing for. If a key part of the role is direct marketing, the employer may ask for an example of a successful email campaign. If the job requires managing a team, the employer may ask about your management experience and style. Go line-by-line through the job description and be prepared to give an example for each and every requirement.
Why do you want this job?
In addition to whether or not you can do the job, the employer will want to know that you want to do the job. Your motivation is very much under scrutiny in the interview process so you should have a genuine and excited response for why you want this job.
Why did you leave your last job?
Another way to gauge your motivation is by looking at past transitions. Why did you leave other jobs? Why did you make the career choices that you made? You will most probably be asked about your most recent job, but you may also be asked about every career decision you made. The interviewer is looking for what draws you toward and away from different opportunities.
What do you know about our company?
Yet another way to gauge motivation is by looking at how much preparation you did into learning about the company. When I recruited for a magazine publisher, I would ask candidates to list their favorite magazines that we published. I wanted to see how well they knew our products. If your interest is genuine you will know about the company and its industry, so the only right answer to this question is A LOT (and then proceed to share).
Where else are you looking?
Finally, motivation and genuine interest can also be gauged by how seriously you’re focused on the company’s industry and competitors. If you’re interviewing at a bank, but also a manufacturer and a leisure company and an energy company…, then your interests are all over the place. If you are pursuing diverse types of jobs, keep it to yourself lest you seem scattered and undecided. Let the employer know that you have eyes only for the role at hand.
What questions do you have for me?
The interview is a two-way conversation. This is your chance to learn more about the company and the role. Prepare thoughtful questions in advance. Having questions shows that you’re interested and curious. Having intelligent questions shows that you’re prepared and ready to talk business.
In addition to general interview questions, you may be asked specific technical questions or case-based questions (the case style of interviewing is most popular with management consulting roles, though other industries use this line of questioning as well). Research the company in advance – what types of interviews do they conduct? Will you be taking a technical test? I have recruited for companies that gave coding tests or analytical tests or asked for writing samples. Prepare for all types of interviews you might encounter.