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Top Interview Questions (or How to Anticipate What You’ll Be Asked)

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Top Interview Questions

Once you’ve analyzed the job description and understand the key competencies for the job, you can anticipate a majority of the questions you will face in the interview.

To do so, however, you must learn to think from the perspective of the interviewer. It is her job to help find a suitable candidate for this position. Hiring the right person will make her job (and thus life) easier and make her look good to her bosses. So what does she need to learn to conclude you’re the best candidate on which to take a chance?


1. Are you qualified to do the job well?

At minimum, you must have the experience and training to handle the day-to-day duties of the position. It’s not enough to have an impressive résumé — many résumés are exaggerated or even falsified. Your interviewer will want to probe to verify your background, learn more about the details, and identify any potential gaps.

Remember that you are likely being evaluated in relation to a number of other strong candidates. Beyond the minimum qualifications, your interviewer will be looking for what makes you different and how you can contribute in this specific role at this specific organization.

Sample Questions About Qualifications

•Tell me about yourself. Here’s your chance to kick off the interview with a concise sales pitch that highlights what makes you the best choice.

What are your strengths and weaknesses? Your interviewer will be looking for strengths that will help you shine in the job and weaknesses that won’t be handicaps.

•Walk me through your resume. Be prepared to describe each position concisely, with emphasis on the experience and responsibilities most relevant to the opportunity at hand.

•Tell me about a time when you… Behavioral questions are designed to draw out the details of how you’ve handled specific scenarios and projects in previous positions. Past behavior will give your interviewer a good idea of future performance. These questions will focus on competencies such as teamwork, problem solving, leadership, communication, and time management.

•What experience do you have with X? Often, interviewers will ask specifically about your experience with a particular type of project, process, or technology.


2. Are you a good fit?

Your interviewer also wants to get a sense of your work style and personality and understand your compatibility with the company culture, the work environment and the other personalities in the department.

If you get this position, your interviewer will likely be working closely with you. Part of her decision will be asking herself, “Can I see myself working late nights under pressure with this person?”

In some cases, your interviewer will also be selfishly wondering, “Can I see this person outshining me or taking over my job?” She may hesitate to hire someone who could be competition for promotions, raises, and glory. You must demonstrate that you’re a team player and not in too much of a rush to get promoted — or angling for your boss’s job.

Sample Questions About Fit

Why are you interested in this position? Your answer will reveal a lot about your work preferences and interests. Have you done your homework about the organization? Are you sincerely interested in the opportunity as a long-term fit?

Why are you looking for a new opportunity now? Your interviewer will want to understand why you’ve decided to leave your current situation (or why you have recently left). The answer could reveal potential performance or attitude problems or a mismatch between what you want and what the company offers.

•What is your ideal work environment? The hiring manager wants to know if you can fit in and thrive within the company’s culture.

•Tell me about a time when you… Behavioral questions can help an interviewer understand your personality, how you think, and how you have approach conflict or difficulty in the past.

•What did you like/dislike about a previous position? This question is will help the interviewer clarify your work preferences and areas of interest.


3. Are you a risky hire?

Your interviewer knows that a bad hire will reflect badly on her skills as a manager. If she hires you and you don’t perform, she will have to pick up the slack or deal with the consequences. She wants to avoid this at all costs (especially if the person in the role previously was not a good fit).

At the same time, your interviewer wants to make sure that you are truly interested in this job and likely to stick around if the company invests time and money in hiring and training you. If you give the impression that you consider yourself overqualified, or that you don’t see a long-term career path at the company, you raise the red flag that you will quit as soon as a better opportunity comes along.

Your interviewer also wants to know that you have integrity and a strong work ethic. Will you be a dependable employee? Have you ever been fired? Have you caused conflict in previous positions?

Sample Questions About Risk

Why did you leave each of your previous positions? The interviewer will be looking for danger signs here. Have you ever been fired? Do you have a history of short tenures or conflicts with managers?

•Explain any short job tenures or long gaps in employment. If you were in any previous positions for less than year, you must explain why. The interviewer wants to make sure you’re not a flake or a job hopper. If you have been out of work for an extended period of time, you will be asked about it. In a difficult job market, gaps are common and easily explained. However, even if the gap is understandable, employers want to hear that you have been proactively seeking opportunities and improving your skills.

How have you handled conflict in the past? This may be asked as a behavioral question such as: “Tell me about a time when you had to work with a difficult manager/customer/coworker.” The hiring manager wants to know that you can professionally handle disagreements and/or personality differences on the job.

•Where do you see yourself in five years? This question is designed to draw out your long-term career goals. Many candidates find it difficult to predict the future and stumble over this question. Generally, interviewers just want to find out if you are likely to stay and grow with the company if they invest in you.

In addition, there are some common themes that come up again and again in interviews for specific job types. We have spent years working with clients interviewing for jobs in various industries and with recruiters and human resources managers from companies of all types.

As a result, we have developed a database of hundreds of common questions. We have designed Big Interview to make it easy for you to predict which of these questions are most likely to come up in your next job interview.

Owen Wilson on a funny job interview in You, Me and Dupree

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Written by

Pamela Skillings

Pamela Skillings is co-founder of Big Interview. As an interview coach, she has helped her clients land dream jobs at companies including Google, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan Chase. She also has more than 15 years of experience training and advising managers at organizations from American Express to the City of New York. She is an adjunct professor at New York University and an instructor at the American Management Association.

14 Comment to Top Interview Questions (or How to Anticipate What You’ll Be Asked)

  • Eric Naseem

    Great article. I wonder if I can scribble all of this on to my hand before my interview (sarah palin-style).

  • Sean

    Great tips, its pretty much impossible to prepare an answer for every possible question, but by knowing the common questions and remembering to focus your answers around your strengths you can be very well prepared.

  • Those are solid HR interview questions. I’ve been asked most of those at least once during my various interviews. However, I think that as you progress through your career, you will end up being asked more field specific questions, and it’s important to be able to show off your knowledge in specific areas as well.

  • Kim Rawks!

    I really hate those “why did you leave so & so” questions. One of my most recent positions was a structured layoff. I was given 30 days notice then 30 days full severance pay. Despite that, employers at interviews still seem doubtful. I want to tell them “it is possible to be let go without having done anything wrong!” Fortunately my former manager gives me stellar references.

  • Emily Dillingham

    Where do you see yourself in five years? Perfect ‘kiss up’ question. “Being a valuable team member of your company, ma’am!”

  • Zain

    What problems do you anticipate while working
    in our company?

  • Zain

    What problems do you anticipate while working
    in our company?

  • Zain

    What problems do you anticipate while working
    in our company?

  • Zain

    I fill up the job questionnare. any one help me in this matter?

  • Zain

    I fill up the job questionnare. any one help me in this matter?

  • Zain

    I fill up the job questionnare. any one help me in this matter?

  • Zain

    I fill up the job questionnare. any one help me in this matter?

  • Zain

    I fill up the job questionnare. any one help me in this matter?

  • Zain

    I fill up the job questionnare. any one help me in this matter?