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It’s pretty rare to get a job or internship without having to go to an interview — and these days, competition is higher and higher for positions in nearly every field. This means you need to be on top of your game when you go in for an interview with a hiring manager or panel of interviewers.
Got an interview soon with your dream organization? Here are five of the most basic and frequently-asked interview questions you’ll want to master.
Why do you want this job?
If you can’t answer this, you’ll be out the door pretty fast. This is the most important question and your answer is the most important answer. You’ll want to focus on what you can provide for the company, not what the company can provide for you.
What will you supply that others might not? What life experiences lead you to do this type of work? Why are you the perfect person to join this company at this time? Make sure to have a passionate, comprehensive and compelling answer to this question that differentiates you from another applicant.
How would others describe you?
With this question, employers want to know more about your personality — but they’ll actually find out the most about you not necessarily by listening to what others would say about you, but by listening to the way you articulate how others would describe you.
Do you leave out anything negative? Do you include a few negative traits and then mention how you’re working on altering those traits? The latter is preferable because it means you’re honest and disclosing full information.
Make sure to amp up your best qualities and explain situations where you’ve displayed certain characteristics (i.e., “My best friend would describe me as compassionate and dedicated — when a large fire burned down part of our high school, I organized a group of students to find the funding to turn that space into a community garden/restore it to its original conditions/build a resource center.”).
Try to match each quality you mention with an example where you displayed said quality, as this makes for a more visual, memorable answer.
What would you do if a customer stormed up to your desk angry about one of our product’s features? What would you do if you discovered your co-workers were bad-mouthing you when you weren’t looking?
Situational questions are always hard because you can’t fully prepare for them; they’re often particular to the company and they often have multiple parts to them.
The best way to answer this question? Make sure you’ve heard every component (you can ask interviewers to repeat parts of long questions, which also buys you some more time to think of a response) and do your best to answer honestly.
If a question is very hard to answer one way or the other, you can admit that you’re conflicted, and explain your reasoning that would lead to each answer. Sometimes, employers ask these questions just to find out how you think, how you reason through a tricky situation, and that doesn’t always mean you have to have a definitive response.
Describe a scenario involving a project you could not complete. Why was that, and how did you reconcile it?
Employers know that applicants aren’t flawless, and that’s a good thing — it means you have made mistakes from which you’ve learned. Employers want you to be able to articulate why a project succeeded or failed, and to discuss the reasons why either outcome occurred.
If something went wrong in the project that rested upon your responsibility, they want to know what you did to address that shortcoming and how you’d prevent a similar scenario in the future. Virtually every job involves projects (large and small), so it’s a huge asset if you can come into an interview able to talk about your experiences managing or contributing towards projects.
Do you prefer to work independently or on a team?
This question is particularly common, and you’re going to want to show an ability to work in both situations. Rarely is a job ever 100 percent independent (even remote positions can require some amount of collaboration) or 100 percent collaborative, and you’ll want to explain why you enjoy both environments.
You might explain your team management and leadership skills in your answer to this question, and you’ll also want to drop in a few examples of projects you completed alone that were successful. If you can communicate versatility, employers will find you much more desirable than they would someone who hates working in teams and can only work alone.
The best way to prepare for an interview? Practice answering the questions with a friend who can pretend to be an interviewer. Answer them the way you would in the real interview, and ask your friend how you can improve. The more comfortable you are with the most basic interview questions, the less time you can spend stressing about your answers when the time comes (and the more time you can spend detailing your qualifications!). For even more of the most common interview questions, click here.