Common Searches

How to Nail Common Job Interview Questions

There’s no way to avoid getting nervous for a job interview. It’s going to be stressful, and you’re going to worry about what they’ll ask and whether you had the right answers. This is unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared.

There are multiple typical interview questions that come up very often. It doesn’t matter whether you’re interviewing to be a software engineer or a project manager at a non-profit, you may encounter some or all of these questions. You only get one chance to make an impression on the hiring committee, so it’s important to put yourself in a much better position to succeed. Preparing for interviews begins with research, and the Career Services staff at Vista College can help you get started.

We’ve listed a series of common interview questions and show you the best way to approach them. While every interview and answer will be unique to you, preparing for these should help calm your nerves and give you some tested strategies.

Tell Us a Little About Yourself

This is a tricky question for two reasons. The first is that it is too open-ended to suggest an answer. It doesn’t give you a topic or direction. Instead, it’s a simple invitation for you to pitch yourself to your employer and you should treat it as such.

The other reason why it’s tricky is that it seems to suggest a personal answer, as if your employer wants to have a relaxed conversation about your Sunday morning routine. Rest assured, the hiring committee doesn’t want to hear about your golf score. They don’t want to know where you grew up, whether you have kids, or what you do for fun.

This question is an opportunity to give your “elevator pitch” — an overview of you as a professional and what you would bring to the company. You want to share this information in the amount of time it takes to ride in an elevator. If you’re timing yourself, thirty seconds is a good benchmark. If you get this question, give your elevator pitch. And if you don’t have one, preparing for your interview is the perfect opportunity to work on one.

What Do You Expect to Be Paid?

This is always a tricky one. Experts say that it’s not acceptable for the interviewee to ask about remuneration, but often you will be asked about your salary expectations. No matter how you prepare for and answer this question, it’s likely going to feel awkward.  The best way to deal with these feelings is to be well-prepared.

Do a significant amount of research into how much people in positions similar to the one you’re interviewing for are paid. You should know what a realistic salary range is for a position like the one you want, and don’t be afraid to be honest. You don’t even have to give one set number — you can also give a range.

Tell Us About a Scenario in Which…

This is the part of the interview where the hiring committee will ask you to tell them about a time when you did something. Sometimes it’s a time when you demonstrated leadership skills, or sometimes it’s about a time when you completed a complex project on time and on budget. Whatever the scenario, the hiring committee wants to hear a story about something you did at work that was a big success.

Job search experts recommend the S. T. A. R. system. S. T. A. R. stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Tell the committee about the problem or background to the project. Then tell them what you needed to accomplish. Once they understand the scenario and the task, tell them about the steps you took to solve the problem. Then, tell them about how you were successful and what accolades you received. This should be a relatively short story — no need to go on at length — but when preparing for the interview, the S. T. A. R. system can help you organize your thoughts.

Why Are You Leaving Your Current Job?

This is a delicate question that requires some finesse. Don’t be too honest about previous bosses or difficulties in your work situation. Do your best to speak with class and politeness about your manager and colleagues. Spin the answer into a statement about how you’re looking forward to a new challenge at the company for which you’re interviewing.

You may never be able to fully overcome the nerves that appear before an interview. However, if you study some common interview questions beforehand, you can be well-prepared and more confident in your answers.

CC Photo by gvahim

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