While it is impossible to know beforehand which questions will be asked at an interview, it is possible to have a basic knowledge of the kinds of questions typically asked in interviews.
Working with a friend or family member to practice answering interview questions, like “What is your greatest weakness?” and “Describe your greatest strength,” may help to relieve any concerns you have and to prepare you for an interview. If you prefer, practice in the car or in front of a mirror. Allowing yourself the opportunity to stumble over words and ideas before the interview will help you answer with poise at the actual interview.
Provided below are a number of interview questions regularly asked during interviews, which can help you prepare.
How You Think
If we could form a perfect job for you within this organization, what would be some of the primary characteristics of this job?
What criteria would you use to determine success? How should a company determine success?
Describe your most rigorous intellectual challenge to date.
These questions, like many interviewing questions, might require some foreknowledge of the organization (in terms of mission and structure), and, in turn, will tell an interviewer whether you adequately researched their company as well as the position for which you are interviewing.
“How you think” questions can be used to elicit information about what you value and prefer in terms of a professional workspace. In answering these questions, while it is important to be honest, it is also important that any answer be realistic and within the confines of the original question. Think and tread carefully, and be sure that any answer you give is, if needed, informed by research.
In answering these questions it is important not to be excessively philosophical. Be clear and concise. The interviewer is not asking for an explanation of your worldview; rather, he or she is trying to gain some understanding of what motivates you; if you view things in the short-term or long-term; how you process information; and in which kind of organizational structure or environment you work best.
In addition to this, keep in mind the position for which you are applying when answering questions such as these. For example, if you are asked “How do you define success?” and the position is not numbers based, you might answer, “Success to me means I have achieved the goals set by both myself and management. In my previous position, deadlines and quality of projects were of high importance. I managed to turn in completed projects early with little to no supervision needed, which earned me the reputation as the ‘go-to guy’ when the executive team needed a quick turnaround on special projects.”
What do you like most about working with others? What do you like least?
What does the word "service" mean to you?
Describe some of your strategies for dealing with difficult people.
Questions used to gauge an interviewee’s interpersonal skills are some of the most important questions an interviewer has in his or her arsenal. Your answers should demonstrate that you can communicate ideas clearly and with tact. Furthermore, bear in mind that an interview itself can be used to determine whether an applicant possesses adequate people and communication skills. If your resume touts your communication skills and contains language such as “excellent interpersonal communication skills” or “superb written and oral communication skills” make sure your performance in an interview confirms and validates what appears on your resume.
For example, if you were asked “How do you handle conflict?” you might respond, “Everyone is faced with conflict in one way or another, and when faced with that type of situation I try to put myself in the customer's/client's shoes to better understand their perspective. It is important to listen to their point of view, so you can understand how the situation is affecting them, which in turn makes finding a solution that works for both of us easier.”
Organization and Attention to Detail
How important are details to you? Why or why not?
Are you naturally an organized person? If not, what steps do you take to organize yourself?
How important has organization been to your past positions?
It goes without saying that some people are more organized than others; however, these questions go beyond the mere issue of whether you keep your desk nice and tidy or prefer “structured chaos.” Your answers to these questions tell a potential employer whether you are trustworthy, if you will be able to handle the work you are assigned, and whether your approach to the duties of your position will sacrifice quality for quantity.
If organization and detail are not your strong suits, it is important that you, in answering these questions, make an effort to accentuate the positive. For example, if asked, “Are you naturally an organized person? If not, what steps do you take to organize yourself?,” you might answer, “No, however, I have always gone out of my way to create a structured work environment and create concrete deadlines for myself, both of which have helped me to keep my work organized and on point.”
Playing as a Team
Describe a situation in which you sacrificed your immediate needs for the greater good of a team.
Have you participated in any team activities? What were they and what did you learn from them?
Regardless of whether you believe the old adage, “Two heads are better than one,” teamwork and working as a team is a predominant feature of today’s corporate environment (there are; however, positions that require very little interpersonal communication, e.g. data-entry jobs).
Even if you work best at an individual-level, it is important that you be able to effectively function as part of a team and, at times, doing so might involve having to forgo recognition or a willingness to, as the above question implied, “sacrifice your immediate needs for the greater good of the team.”
The previous information was found in: Leifman, Howard et. al., Vault’s Guide to Resumes, Cover Letters, and Interviews (New York: Vault.com, 2009). Additional valuable information can be found there as well.