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Top 7 Interview Questions
By Sunder Ramachandran
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Interviews are designed to test our knowledge, skill sets and attitude. While your career is at stake in an interview, preparing for an interview can often save you from a heart-burn at the interview table. Here's a list of the 7 most asked interview questions and sample answers to help you create a smashing impression in the interview.
- So, tell us about yourself?
Undoubtedly the most frequently asked interview question. It's a question that most interviewees expect and the one they have the most difficulty answering. Your answer should be in alignment with your career objective which means that you shouldn't respond with comments about your hobbies, spouse, or extra curricular activities
1. Start with a brief introduction. Talk about skills that are key to the position applied for.
Sample - During my 2 years' of experience as sales executive, I have mastered the ability to prospect, generate business leads, and motivate my team members to reach targets.
2. Provide a summary of your recent work history. Keep your response limited to your current experience. Don't go back more than 2 years.
Sample -Most recently, at The XYZ Corporation, I was challenged with turning around a stagnant territory that ranked last in sales. I developed an aggressive sales campaign that focused on winning new accounts and nurturing the existing client base. Within six months my sales team and I were able to increase sales by 40%.
3. Tie your response to the needs of the organization. Demonstrate how your experience and skills are transferable to the open position.
Sample - I have learnt about the challenges your I.T department is facing and my background in developing software for leading companies will add value.
4. Ask an engaging question. By asking a question you gain control of the interview. Doing so will alleviate the stress you may feel to perform.
Sample: What strategies are currently underway to reduce the employee turnover and improve morale?
- What's your greatest strength & weakness?
Highlighting strengths & accomplishments
Use specific examples to highlight your accomplishments. Explicit numbers, results and outcomes. Generic words are meaningless unless backed by data. For example, instead of using the word "significant," use a number or percentage. Strengths that you can highlight:
Long term approach
The one question candidates love to avoid is, "What is your greatest weakness?"
Do not give superficial answers like "I'm a workaholic" or "I'm a perfectionist." These are boring and predictable answers and interviewers are used to hearing. They can even comeback and say, "That doesn't sound like a weakness. Now why don't you tell me about a real weakness?" So state a true weakness that doesn't have a major impact on your ability to do the job
Sample: If you are applying for a non -managerial role
"In the past, I've had some trouble sharing responsibilities with others. I felt I could do things better and faster myself. This sometimes backfired because I'd end up with more than I could handle and the quality of my work would suffer. But I plan to take courses in time management and effective delegation"
"I am weak in accounts and had a tough time when I was asked to work on a project with the Finance team. I have enrolled in an online program on basic Finance to overcome this."
- Question 3 - Why did you leave your last job?
If you left your last job under less-than-ideal circumstances, you probably dread the "Why did you leave?" question that almost always comes up at job interviews. Here's how to handle it.
Never lie. If you were fired, don't say you quit. A background check will reveal this lie easily. Don't say anything negative about your former boss, coworkers or company. Any negativity, frustration or anger will only reflect negatively on you.
Sample - If you were fired for not adhering to a company policy.
"I was asked to leave for violating a company policy that I feel wasn't communicated to me clearly. I should have taken the responsibility to read all of the company policies and ask questions about those I didn't fully understand. That will be the first thing I do in my next job."
Any employer would love to hear stories about how employees take responsibility for their actions and learn from their mistakes. Make sure they understand that what happened to cause you to leave your last job was the exception, not the rule. Provide references or letters of recommendation to verify that your job performance is above par.
- How would you……? (Problem solving question)
The interviewer isn't looking for a "right" or "wrong" answer. They are more interested in understanding your thought process. Show your ability to think logically and demonstrate problem-solving capabilities by:
1. Ask questions to confirm exactly what the interviewer is looking for.
2. Explain how you would collect the information and data required to develop a solution.
3. Tell how you'd use the information you gathered to develop and analyze alternative courses of action.
4. Share your solution or recommendation, explaining how you feel it's the best option based on the info you were given
- Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
The aim of this question is to test your foresightedness and also gauge if you plan for the future.
Stick to professional goals and aspirations while answering this question. The interviewer does not want to hear about your dream vacation that you plan to take in five years or the industry that would like to be in. Talk about company related objectives. This is an opportunity for you to show that you want to succeed in the company and are keen to create a career path there.
Sample Answer: As your company has a strong performance based culture, in five years time, I see myself playing a key role in the company's marketing initiatives in the role of a Brand manager.
- Why should we hire you?
Being specific and highlighting your strengths versus the competition is the key here. Stay away from generalities like 'I am the best' or I am very hard working and dedicated" etc.
Talk in quantifiable terms that will make you stand out and pinpoint the qualities you have that are truly valuable to the company. Give real examples that show them you are best-suited for the job.
Sample Answer: In the past, I have implemented projects on attrition management helping bring down the employee turnover rates by 4%. I believe this experience of mine and knowledge will add value as employee retention is amongst your company's top priorities.
- Why do you want to make a career in ... (Sales, I.T, HR etc)?
The interviewer wants to learn what you know about the chosen career. Knowledge about the domain and the job shows the interviewer you are interested and demonstrates initiative on your part.
Sample Answer: I have always been a people's person and counseling is a skill that comes naturally to me. Being armed with a Master's degree in H.R, I believe a job as an H.R executive will give me an opportunity to put my natural skill sets and education to practice.
Sunder Ramachandran is a Managing Partner at W.C.H (We Create Headstarts) Solutions - [http://www.wchsolutions.com], a Training solutions organisation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Article Submitted On: October 30, 2006