While there are many possible questions you might be asked during a job interview, you can anticipate some likely areas of inquiry and prepare accordingly. Generally speaking, employers will want to find out if you have the knowledge and skills needed to fill the open position. Gathering information about the job prior to the interview will help you field such questions. The job posting you responded to should be a good reference in this respect. Your prospective employer will also be interested in getting some sense of your personality, how you handle challenges, and how you will fit in with their current team.
In addition, you can count on being asked questions about your work history and your future career goals. It is a good idea to review your résumé before an interview so that you can talk comfortably about everything you have included. You should be prepared to discuss each position on your résumé, as well as any gaps in employment history. An interview is also a good opportunity for you to ask questions about the position and the company in general. Doing this will help you determine whether it would be a good choice for you, should you be offered a position.
Another possible opening question is “Why do you want this job?” Again, this is a good time to talk about the ways in which your experience and abilities mesh with the job requirements. For example, if you are applying for a cashier position, you might mention your people skills and the way you thrive in a fast-paced environment. Being presented with this question is also a good opportunity to share what you know about the company. Displaying knowledge about the employer and what they do communicates your enthusiasm to the hiring manager.
If you are currently employed, you can expect to be asked why you are looking to change jobs. A good strategy for addressing this question is to mention some of the things you have accomplished at your present job while stressing that you are ready for new challenges. You should avoid discussing things such as office politics or personality clashes if possible. If you are currently unemployed, you will likely be asked to explain why. If you were downsized , you should emphasize the elimination of the position itself, taking care to focus on your own value as an employee. If you survived several rounds of cuts, be sure to mention this. If you were fired, it is best to be honest, although you should avoid adding negative commentary about your past employer. Instead, you can present the situation as a learning experience.
Your interview may include questions about your biggest professional accomplishment or your biggest failure. When asked about your biggest accomplishment, you should choose something that, while personally enriching to you, was also beneficial to your employer. It is also a good idea to choose something that is related to your prospective employer's goals. Being queried about your biggest failure may be a bit trickier. Career experts suggest that you choose a real failure but one that was not based on a serious error in judgment or character flaw. They also recommend that, when possible, you use an example of a team failure. Whatever you choose to use as an example, it is important to demonstrate insight about the situation and explain how it provided an opportunity for reflection and growth.
Prospective employers will often ask you to describe your strengths and weaknesses as an employee. Again, it is smart to choose strengths that are most pertinent to the job you are seeking, and you should be prepared to give concrete examples of your strengths in action. Instead of saying “I'm good at organizing,” you might briefly describe the mail-tracking database you designed and implemented. Traditionally experts have recommended that, when asked about weaknesses, you should reply with a strength in disguise, such as “I'm too much of a perfectionist.” Others have argued that honesty is a better policy and that you should admit a job-related weakness. If possible, downplay the admission by explaining strategies you have used to counter it. If you tend to be shy in groups, for instance, explain how rehearsing comments for meetings has made you more comfortable speaking in such settings.
Finally, most employers will ask you about your career goals, both in the short and long term. Questions on this subject will confirm that you are thoughtful about your career, and they will also give the employer an idea of your intentions with regard to the company. You should frame your answers in terms of your prospective employer, indicating the kind of track you would like to follow within the company and the contributions you will make at various stages. It is also a good idea to mention aspects of the company that make it especially appealing as a long-term employer. You should avoid discussing personal goals unrelated to your career.
Before your interview you should do a thorough job researching compensation in comparable positions in your field and geographic area. With this information in hand, you will be better prepared to ask for and get what you are worth. Generally speaking, if you are asked about your salary requirements during an interview, you should avoid quoting a specific number. Instead, emphasize your willingness to negotiate based on the total compensation package.
Alternately, if you feel strongly about a particular salary range, you can mention these numbers, again emphasizing your willingness to consider the overall offer. This way, if you are seeking substantially more than the employer is able to offer, you can avoid wasting everyone's time in fruitless negotiations.
There are a number of questions you can ask a potential employer that will help you gain useful information and signal your interest in a career with the company. Topics include the position itself, possible career paths within the organization, and the company's overall culture and development.
A good starting point is to ask about employer expectations for the first months of employment, as well as challenges you might face in the job. If you are offered the job, this information will be invaluable. In addition, the way in which the employer tackles these questions will give you clues about the health of the company. A hiring manager should be able to convey a realistic picture of the job, even while emphasizing the positive.
Many prospective hires find it helpful to ask how success is measured in the position. This question shows your interest in being successful, and the employer's answer will reveal both company expectations and the metrics the company emphasizes, which can help you determine whether or not the job would be a good fit for you personally. If success is measured by how many new clients you bring in, and you are great at relationship building, for example, you may have found a good fit.
It is smart to ask a few questions about the kinds of opportunities the company provides for continuing education and professional enrichment. Some companies will help finance an employee's education after a certain amount of service. You might also be able to attend seminars and classes that help you keep your skills relevant and help you stay abreast of trends in your industry. Asking about these types of opportunities indicates your interest in growing within the company and may reveal the company's plans for the future, which can help you gauge the company's health and competitiveness in your industry.
One thing you might want to address toward the end of the interview is any lingering reservations your prospective employer may have about your background or qualifications. Opening up this discussion will give you a chance to address any concerns and will also provide an opportunity for you to express your willingness to learn and improve your skills.
Finally, you should always ask about the next steps in the interview process. This will signal your continued interest in the position and is a way for you to gauge how many people you are competing against for the job. Furthermore, asking about the next step will help you get a sense of the timeline so that you have an idea when you will hear back and when and how to follow up yourself.