Bhuvana Sundaramoorthy has quite a list of common interview questions up on her site. I’ve given quite a few interviews, gotten a few job offers (including one which I accepted), and now have to conduct interviews and recruitment procedures at times. With this background, I differ on a few of the suggested answers she mentioned. Some suggestions of moi:
1. Always, always try to be honest. I once interviewed a fresh graduate for a position in our company; the moment she admitted to doing something slightly stupid, all of us on the board knew we had to hire her. Why? Because, for the position we wanted to fill, honesty was very, very important, and she had proved to be sincere and able to admit her mistakes.
Remember, if a company doesn’t appreciate an honest candidate that’s their loss.
Again, if you’re honest, you might realize that you are not such a great match with the company. Don’t get disheartened: if this is the case, you would probably not have enjoyed working there.
However, never “honestly” admit to being lazy, dishonest or a bad person. Just make sure you really are a good person.
2. Tell us about yourself:
This is your best opportunity to sell yourself. And if you don’t use it, it may be your last.
Talk about something that won’t be in your resume. Mention positive personality traits (this is what I did) such as an outgoing personality, problem solving abilities, being energetic/hardworking/sincere. Or mention some special talent, or interest in the industry/company. But make sure you’re telling the truth. You may be asked to back up some quality or interest which you mention, and even the best of qualities can be liabilities at times. For instance, you might mention that you are an extrovert, but the position might be one which is better suited to an introvert.
Often, interviewers haven’t had a chance to go through your resume properly. So make sure you mention your strongest points.
Just in case, carry a copy of your resume to leave with the interviewers.
3. What is your biggest weakness?
Don’t say “I don’t have any weaknesses”. When a candidate says this, it reflects badly overall. I assume that he’s trying to gloss over everything. This question really has no right answer, but try to mention something personal, or something that you’re trying to improve. You could mention that you find it difficult to wake up early; that you procrastinate, that you drink too much coffee (flippancy) or that you sometimes get nervous in front of large crowds, but you’re trying to improve your speaking abilities.
4. Mention a problem which you overcame.
Be prepared for this one, and have a good story ready. Make sure it’s true, of course. This question often shows that interviewers would really like to hire you, but you have to prove that you can contribute.
5. Are you applying for other jobs?
Say yes. If they press, mention at which companies, and that the interviews seemed to go well. But if you see that you are a good match for this company (see questions below to verify that), you’ll join this company.
During one interview, I was asked if I had received any job offers. I honestly said yes, mentioned the companies, and then stated that I was waiting for the job offer from the interviewing company, which I hoped to accept.
6. What kind of salary do you need?
Say “one which I deserve”. If you know the salary that they’re offering (most companies have pay scales) mention that, and say that you hope to be paid at the highest end of the scale. If you think that you deserve it, of course. I used to flippantly mention that “higher is better”, but that I knew their scale and was willing to accept it.
7. What irritates you about co-workers?
Mention negative traits: disloyalty to the company, discrimination, racism, etc.
8. Tell me about a problem you had with a supervisor
Be honest. Mention a small problem that you were able to solve. Everyone has problems when working with others, so don’t pretend you’re not human.
Of course, there are not “one-size-fits-all” answers.
Research the company, think about what you want, and try to present yourself and the benefits of the match as positively as possible.