Most people make two devastating mistakes when they
are being questioned in an interview. First, they fail to listen to
the question. They proceed to annoy the interviewer either by
answering a question that wasn't asked, or by giving out a lot of
Second, and more important, they attempt to answer questions with
virtually no preparation. The glibbest person on Earth, even the
most skilled debater, cannot answer questions off the cuff without
damaging the chances for success.
What follows are twenty questions that various surveys have
indicated are asked most often, regardless of the job
classification. Study them carefully, develop strong responses, and
your candidacy will receive prime consideration.
1. Why do you want to work here?
Because you have done your homework on the company, you know
exactly why you want to work there. So they want you to get it
started. Just organize your reasons into several short, hard-hitting
sentences like "You make the best product on the market today. Your
management is farsighted enough to reinvest the company's profits so
that you will soon be the leader in this category."
2. Why should I hire you?
The interviewer does not want a lengthy regurgitation of your
résumé. They do not want a barrage of facts and figures. They are
interested in testing your poise and confidence. So give a short,
generalized summary like "I have the qualifications to do the job
that needs to be done and my track record proves it."
3. What interests you most about this position?
Give a truthful but brief answer like "The challenge" or "The
future," "The environment" or "The competitiveness." This response
will force the interviewer to ask you to explain, giving you yet
another opportunity to demonstrate your profound knowledge of the
4. Would you like to have your boss's job?
By all means, "Yes!" Ambitious, hungry people are always
preferred over those who would settle for a safe routine. If you
sense that this answer may threaten your interviewer's security, you
might add "when I am judged qualified" or "should an opening develop
in several years."
5. Are you willing to go where the company sends you?
This is probably being asked because they intend to ship you off.
If you answer "No," you may not be hired. If you answer "Yes,"
understand that once you are a trusted employee, you may not be able
to exert any leverage to avoid those less desirable out of town
6. What kind of decisions are most difficult for you?
Be human and admit that not everything comes easily. But be
careful about what you do admit. "I find it difficult to decide
which of two good employees must be let go." Or "It is difficult for
me to tell a client when he's running his business badly."
7. How do you feel about your progress to date?
Never apologize for yourself. "I think I've done well, but I need
new challenges and opportunities." This is a good time to drop hero
stories. "No one in my company has advanced as fast as I have. I
think you'll agree that I've accomplished quite a bit in the last
8. How long will you stay with the company?
A reasonable response would be, "As long as I continue to learn
and grow in my field."
9. Have you done the best work you are capable of doing?
This is best answered with some degree of self-effacement. "I
would be lying if I told you I was perfect, but I have always
tackled assignments with all my energy and talents."
10. What would you like to be doing five years from now?
To answer this question, make sure you know exactly what can or
cannot be accomplished by the ideal candidate in your shoes. Too
many job hunters butcher this question because they have not done
their homework and have no idea where their career will lead them.
If you see yourself at another company, or in another department of
the company you are interviewing with, then tread lightly. You can't
afford to tell your interviewer that you think you'll be more
successful than they.
11. What training / qualifications do you have for a job like
Deliver a short, fact filled summary of your two or three most
important qualifications. "I have a background in accounting. I've
demonstrated proven selling skills. I'm capable of handling several
12. Why do you want to change jobs?
This is one of the first questions interviewers ask. Be sure you
are ready to answer it satisfactorily. If you are currently in a
dead-end position, locked out of advancement opportunities, explain
this. The interviewer will understand. If your job has become
routine, void of learning experiences, say so. If you feel your
present employer is losing ground to competition through no fault of
yours, the interviewer will also accept that. If you say that your
salary is too low, you'll become suspect. If you say that you hate
your boss, you might also end up hating the interviewer. If you say
you are bored, they'll view you as just another job hopper. Be
13. Why were you out of work for so long?
If there is a time gap in your résumé, be prepared to explain
what you were doing during that time. If you don't satisfy the
interviewer's curiosity, you won't get hired. Try to explain very
positively what you learned or accomplished during the hiatus and
the interviewer will warm to your candidacy. For example, "I took
several courses to strengthen my skills in . . . ," or "I used this
time to re-examine my goals and reached this conclusion . . ." The
interviewer must have a positive explanation!
14. Why have you changed jobs so frequently?
This question is crucial. In fact, an unsatisfactory answer to
this one is among the top reasons why candidates fail to get the
jobs they want. Convince the interviewer that your job hopping days
are over. If you feel it was a mistake leaving previous jobs so
soon, say so, and at the same time remind the interviewer that your
performance was never in question. Honesty is appreciated. If
something in your personal or business life has recently changed and
would affect your future stability, come right out with the facts.
15. Have you ever hired or fired anyone?
You are being asked this question for two very important reasons.
First, to determine whether you are capable of performing these
duties. Second, to determine if your previous experience was at a
high enough level to include hiring/firing responsibilities. If you
have no experience, you must convince the interviewer that you can
perform in these areas.
16. How have you helped sales / profits / cost reductions?
Have your hero stories ready and be willing to prove that you
have made significant contributions in one or more of these basic
areas. Keep your explanations short and try to include specific
17. Why aren't you earning more at your age?
This is a current favorite which can frighten the wits out of an
unsuspecting candidate. One of the following responses should cover
your situation: "I have been willing to sacrifice short term
earnings in order to gain valuable experience," or "I have received
(been promised) company stock (or other benefits) in lieu of a
salary increase," or "I was reluctant to gain a reputation as a job
hopper, preferring instead to build my career on solid, long term
achievement." These work.
18. How many people have you supervised?
Similar to the "hired/fired" question. The interviewer is trying
to determine the depth of your experience. Do not exaggerate!
19. What are the reasons for your success?
It is best to keep this answer very general, permitting the
interviewer to probe more deeply. Offer a short list of positive
character traits that describe YOU. "I like to work hard." "I get
along with all kinds of people and I know how to listen." Or "I pay
close attention to details, I know how to watch costs and I can keep
difficult customers smiling."
20. What kind of experience do you have for this job?
Summarize four or five key areas of experience which you know you
can bring to your new job. Demonstrate how each one will help the
interviewer's company solve their problems. For example, "My
experience in new product introductions will be very helpful to your
entire marketing effort," or "My industrial design background will
strengthen your sales force capability in dealing with large
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