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How to Answer Common Job Interview Questions

A previous article advised hiring managers about some essential questions they should ask during an interview. If you are the interviewee, you should be prepared to answer those and other questions. If you anticipate some of the possible questions, you'll be better prepared to answer them:

Why do you want to work here?

This is probably something you thought about when you first heard of the job opening, but you probably looked at it from the perspective of what you would gain by having this job.

When you answer it in an interview, approach it from the hiring manager’s perspective. Don’t answer by saying what you personally love about the job or the company. The hiring manager doesn’t care about what you love. They care about which person will do the best job. They care about which person will be a problem solver for them and make their professional life easier.

Answer the question instead by pointing out the specific duties of the job and how your abilities will meet and exceed expectations. Say that you want this job because you enjoy performing the duties this job requires. If there are elements of the company that you respect, spell those out as another reason you’d want to work there. Conclude with a statement like “and the fact that I love this type of work means I’ll put in extra effort whenever necessary.” Make it about them, not about you.

What was your greatest achievement in your current job and what did you learn from it?

When answering this questions, try to use an example that specifically relates to the job you are interviewing for, since showing applicable skills will help you stand out from the competition. Provide critical details but don’t ramble. A common theme to answering all these questions effectively is to look at it from the employer’s perspective. If you can show that your skills are applicable to their needs, you’ve effectively answered this question.

What was your greatest disappointment in your past job and what did you learn from it?

An interview is about putting your best foot forward and you can do so by answering this question honestly and thoughtfully. Think about a situation where a disappointment presented a chance to learn and grow. If possible, make it applicable to an experience you may have if you were offered this job. The best case scenario is if you can provide an example of what you learned and how you successfully applied that knowledge in another work related situation (and will apply it moving forward).

Tell me about a disagreement you had with your boss and what was the outcome?

Watch out for the trap in this one. The hiring manager is looking for someone who can handle professional disagreements with maturity. Don’t bash a previous or current boss or company. Think about a situation where you were able to reach a respectful compromise with your boss. One where you were able to come to an agreement and each changed their course of action. Spell out the details of that disagreement but don’t get personal. If the situation was one where you couldn’t reach an agreement, point out how though you both disagreed, it didn’t affect the working relationship between your boss and you. Be as professional as possible in answering this question.

Why should we hire you?

This is the question you’ve been waiting for. The one you most want them to ask. Because it allows you to sum up your job qualifications and make your final closing pitch as to why they should offer you the job. Be strong and specific in your answers, and don't forget to focus on the company, not yourself. You should have your response ready before the interview. This is the best opportunity to present yourself, make the most of it.

Do you have any questions for me?

Do your homework. Make sure you ask about the company and the job, without sounding ignorant. Ask the interviewer what their expectations of the job are and how they would define a person’s success in this role. Interviewing is a two way street. You are evaluating this opportunity as much as the company is evaluating you. When you’ve run out of questions, ask them if there is any information they still need about you for this job. It allows you to refocus their attention on why you may be the person they need to hire.

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