Answers to Commonly Asked Questions
Ten Tough Interview Questions and Ten Great Answers
Tell me about yourself.
It seems like an easy interview question. Its open ended. I can talk
about whatever I want from the birth canal forward. Right?
Wrong. What the hiring manager really wants is a quick, two- to
three-minute snapshot of who you are and why you're the best candidate
for this position.
So as you answer this question, talk about what you've done to prepare
yourself to be the very best candidate for the position. Use an example
or two to back it up. Then ask if they would like more details. If they
do, keep giving them example after example of your background and
experience. Always point back to an example when you have the
Tell me about yourself does not mean tell me everything. Just tell me
what makes you the best.
Why should I hire you?
The easy answer is that you are the best person for the job. And don't
be afraid to say so. But then back it up with what specifically
For example: You should hire me because I'm the best person for the job.
I realize that there are likely other candidates who also have the
ability to do this job. Yet I bring an additional quality that makes me
the best person for the job--my passion for excellence. I am
passionately committed to producing truly world class results. For
example . . .
Are you the best person for the job? Show it by your passionate
What is your long-range objective?
Make my job easy for me. Make me want to hire you.
The key is to focus on your achievable objectives and what you are doing
to reach those objectives.
For example: Within five years, I would like to become the very best
accountant your company has on staff. I want to work toward becoming the
expert that others rely upon. And in doing so, I feel Ill be fully
prepared to take on any greater responsibilities which might be
presented in the long term. For example, here is what I"m presently doing
to prepare myself . . .
Then go on to show by your examples what you are doing to reach your
goals and objectives.
How has your education prepared you for your career?
This is a broad question and you need to focus on the behavioral
examples in your educational background which specifically align to the
required competencies for the career.
An example: My education has focused on not only the learning the
fundamentals, but also on the practical application of the information
learned within those classes. For example, I played a lead role in a
class project where we gathered and analyzed best practice data from
this industry. Let me tell you more about the results . . .
Focus on behavioral examples supporting the key competencies for the
career. Then ask if they would like to hear more examples.
Are you a team player?
Almost everyone says yes to this question. But it is not just a yes/no
question. You need to provide behavioral examples to back up your
A sample answer: Yes, I'm very much a team player. In fact, I've had
opportunities in my work, school and athletics to develop my skills as a
team player. For example, on a recent project . . .
Emphasize teamwork behavioral examples and focus on your openness to
diversity of backgrounds. Talk about the strength of the team above the
individual. And note that this question may be used as a lead in to
questions around how you handle conflict within a team, so be prepared.
Have you ever had a conflict with a boss or professor? How was it
Note that if you say no, most interviewers will keep drilling deeper to
find a conflict. The key is how you behaviorally reacted to conflict and
what you did to resolve it.
For example: Yes, I have had conflicts in the past. Never major ones,
but there have been disagreements that needed to be resolved. I've found
that when conflict occurs, it helps to fully understand the other
persons perspective, so I take time to listen to their point of view,
then I seek to work out a collaborative solution. For example . . .
Focus your answer on the behavioral process for resolving the conflict
and working collaboratively.
What is your greatest weakness?
Most career books tell you to select a strength and present it as a
weakness. Such as: I work too much. I just work and work and work.
Wrong. First of all, using a strength and presenting it as a weakness is
deceiving. Second, it misses the point of the question.
You should select a weakness that you have been actively working to
overcome. For example: I have had trouble in the past with planning and
prioritization. However, I'm now taking steps to correct this. I just
started using a pocket planner . . . then show them your planner and how
you are using it.
Talk about a true weakness and show what you are doing to overcome it.
If I were to ask your professors to describe you, what would they
This is a threat of reference check question. Do not wait for the
interview to know the answer. Ask any prior bosses or professors in
advance. And if they're willing to provide a positive reference, ask
them for a letter of recommendation.
Then you can answer the question like this:
I believe she would say I'm a very energetic person, that Im results
oriented and one of the best people she has ever worked with. Actually,
I know she would say that, because those are her very words. May I show
you her letter of recommendation?
So be prepared in advance with your letters of recommendation.
What qualities do you feel a successful manager should have?
Focus on two words: leadership and vision.
Here is a sample of how to respond: The key quality in a successful
manager should be leadership--the ability to be the visionary for the
people who are working under them. The person who can set the course and
direction for subordinates. The highest calling of a true leader is
inspiring others to reach the highest of their abilities. I'd like to
tell you about a person whom I consider to be a true leader . . .
Then give an example of someone who has touched your life and how their
impact has helped in your personal development.
If you had to live your life over again, what one thing would you
Focus on a key turning point in your life or missed opportunity. Yet
also tie it forward to what you are doing to still seek to make that
For example: Although I'm overall very happy with where I'm at in my
life, the one aspect I likely would have changed would be focusing
earlier on my chosen career. I had a great internship this past year and
look forward to more experience in the field. I simply wish I would have
focused here earlier. For example, I learned on my recent internship…
…then provide examples.
Stay focused on positive direction in your life and back it up with