Preparing for Job Interview Questions

When you go to a job interview, you can expect to be asked all kinds of questions, from straightforward mundane queries to bizarre and open-ended conundrums. The interviewer is focused on finding out about your skills and experience, whether you can do the job, whether you play well with others, and whether you'll fit in with the overall culture.

Here are some questions you might be asked:

  • Why did you leave your last job? If you're looking for a better opportunity, say so. If you were forced out, say it was time to move on, without any more explanation — skip the agonizing details. You should never bad-mouth a former employer or coworker; it's a sign of disloyalty, immaturity, and a lack of professionalism.
  • Do you have the educational background to do this job? Even if you have a degree in French and the job is to design software, explain that college taught you to think analytically and how to find answers to your questions. Although the question focuses on your formal education, don't forget to mention other training you've taken or skills you've learned outside of school that might be relevant.
  • How do you get along with other people? The interviewer might phrase this question in a more personal light, asking you to describe an experience in which you worked in a team to get something done. Reassure the questioner that you are a team player and work cooperatively with others to get the job done well and on time.
  • What are your greatest strengths and your greatest shortcomings? This is a common question to ask because it tells the interviewer not only about your skill set, but about your self-awareness, honesty, and modesty. It's important to give an honest answer without creating a negative impression. Be aware that the interviewer might dig deeper, asking you to tell about a time when your strength or shortcoming has come into play on the job.
  • Why are you interested in this company? Here's where your homework pays off. Show your knowledge of the goals and current market position of the company by explaining how they appeal to you and how much you want to be part of an exciting company with a promising future.
  • What would you do if you discovered that a coworker was breaking the law at work? Depending on the nature of the company, you might be asked about specific unethical behaviors, like taking bribes from a supplier or stealing supplies from a storeroom. Prove you know how businesses work by saying that you would document the activity in writing and immediately report it, but that you would not accuse the coworker directly.
  • What do you do in your spare time? What are your hobbies? Impress the interviewer with how well-rounded you are by describing your interests and activities — real ones — except for your involvement in political or religious activities. Your politics and religion should not be part of a job interview.
  • If you were a (tree, animal, car, painting, planet), which would you be and why? This is just one of a number of questions that seem completely unrelated to the job you're applying for but that give the interviewer insight into your ability to think on your feet, to express yourself clearly, and to evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses.

Although it's difficult to prepare for questions outside the scope of the job you're applying for, it isn't impossible. Take some time before the interview for self-examination, considering where you've been, where you want to go, and what type of person you are, and the answers can come easy.