Continuing on with my job interview tips, lets discuss some common interview questions that I’ve gotten over the years.  As some of you know, my career experience has been in the engineering field which may vary from other careers in terms of interviewing.  However, I can see these interview questions being fairly common in many careers.

If you are going through the job hunt process now, hopefully this post will help you get partially prepared for your next interview.

Here are some common job interview questions:

  1. What are your strength/weaknesses? These are always tough questions, but remember to stay positive, even for the weakness part.  Use weaknesses like, you have a tendency to work too hard, or that you are a perfectionist.
  2. Tell me about your work experience thus far? This part can easily be scripted and should flow nicely.
  3. Explain how your work experience applies to the position advertised.  Take parts from your experience and try to piece it together to explain how you will benefit the company.  Remember, the interviewer wants to see how you will add value to the company.
  4. Tell me about problems you’ve had at work (technical and social) and how did you over come them? Think about a scenario where you had challenges but overcame them with some creativity and perseverance.  Employers are seeing how well you think on the fly and how you deal with problems as they come up.
  5. If you were in [a certain scenario], how would you handle it? Before the interview, consider some of these scenarios that they could ask that relates to the position.  For example, I once applied for an “Occupational Health and Safety” type job, and one of their questions was “How would you deal with an unruly union member?”  Really..  how would you?
  6. Do you know anything about [insert industry key words here]? This is an easy one, simply do detailed research in the field that you are applying to.  For example, if you are applying to an oil and gas job, make sure to know all the ins and outs of the oil and gas sector.
  7. What do you know about our company? Another easy question as most companies have websites that detail their operations.  Due diligence is required before any job interview.
  8. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Be honest, what are your career aspirations?  Employers are looking to see if you will grow with the company.

What common questions have you seen in your job interviews?

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Oh interview questions. Here’s my favorite: “Give me an example of a situation where you had to fire a friend”

By the way all of these questions are relevant to the business/accounting fields as well..

I’d recommend avoiding the cliche “I work too hard”. You want to differentiate yourself in an interview. There are many ways to be clever with in answering that question. A favorite answer I heard interviewing someone was, “I get frustrated by people who come to work not wanting to work.”

Yeah, don’t ever use “I work too hard” as a weakness. It’s probably the worst response you can give. I interviewed someone to replace me when I was leaving my last job, and they gave that response to my question. I told them to pick a real weakness.

I tend to go with an actual weakness that isn’t a big deal. Personally, I can’t get photocopiers to do what I want unless its make one copy on 8.5×11.

Incidentally, the best answer I’ve heard to that question is Kryptonite.

“Use weaknesses like, you have a tendency to work too hard, or that you are a perfectionist.”

Yeah, saying you are a perfectionist is a cop-out. One tip I had is to give a weakness, and then give an example of how you work to overcome that weakness. For example:

“I tend to get distracted by side projects and lose track of the big picture, which is why I make heavy use of Outlook’s calendar and tasks sections to keep myself organized on and on track.”

It shows that you have a real weakness, but also that you have taken steps to overcome said weakness, which I am sure is what employers are really looking for in that question.

Even “I am a perfectionist” is considered cliche now. But this is one question that will stump me. It is hard to put a positive spin on something negative. I like Oil Baron’s idea. I have seen many slackers and am currently working alongside one. Makes my blood boil. Kryptonite would be a fantastic response if you deem interviewer(s) will be receptive to it. It shoudl also be followed by the actual response. To be on the safe side, I would avoid humor during an interview.

Here’s a true interview story I have. It was 1996 and the HR interviewer asked me where I’d be in 5 years time. I looked at her and said “You mean where will I be in the 21st century?” She started to laugh and asked if she could use that one. Suffice it to say, I got the job.

How about “What salary do you expect?” This can be a tough one to deal with!

Yeah I usually used the “perfectionist” or some derivative but I’ve noticed its been getting more of a an “eyes glaze over” response lately, seems everyone has caught on to it.

I’m thinking of switching to “I need to be challenged to remain motivated” or similar. Thoughts?

A lot of questions are behavioral questions which I hate. For example, name me a time when you failed at something. Name me a time when you overcame a challenge, etc. questions like that. Difficult but they want to know how you took step, thought out the situation, and what you learned post situation.



A couple of suggestions on how to answer that question.
(1) avoid refering to a weakness in reply, instead refer to it as an area that can be improved, or something to work one.

(2) Always be prepared to spell out how you work around it or are improving it. Similar to Xenko’s response, employers aren’t really looking to hire someone who’s perfect (doesn’t exist), but instead are looking for someone who can acknowledge that they need to do a bit of work in an area and are working towards it.

Megan: How about “What salary do you expect?” This can be a tough one to deal with!

Tough? That’s the most difficult question of all :)

And hey, FT where’s mah props for yesterday’s “blog reply in a comment” :)

Honestly, your list is better. I’m in IT and you’ll see the same questions there. Based on the friends I’ve talked to, much of this question set is pretty much universal. Of course, now that it’s well-documented, it’s like a course where they tell you the exam questions before the actual exam date. Might as well memorize as many of the answers as possible.

“Do you have any questions?”

I’ve always used this question to ask similar interview questions to the interviewer. I’ll ask questions regarding management style and day to day processes.

Another thing ot remember about interviews:
To an employer, the interview is to see if you are a right fit for the company… but for you, the interview is to see if you want to work for that company. This has helped me create the mindset that interviews are not bad/stressful things.

for Question number one, never show a true weakness. Instead, turn a weakness into a strentgh, but with stealth:

“I went through this phase of procrastination which, while under control now, taught me to work well under pressure and with tight deadlines.

I do not agree the first answer. The answer is so outdated, becasue the interviewer will think you are so “fake”. The interviewer may even say: this is your strength. Please give me another example of your weakness. If you don’t have a great answre, you screw up.

“What is your biggest weakness?” question is clearly a dreaded question and there’s no shortage of opinions on how to address it. Here’s my take on how to address this question without coming across as fake:

I had that exact question on my interview and it stumped me and I was silent and as I was trying to think of a respone, the panel said that we could come back to the question. After the last question…the panel came back to the weaknes question and I was still silent….I got the position.