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Answering Traditional Interview Questions

Before attending your interview you should think of the questions you might be asked, in today’s market place you will be expected to answer traditional questions and behavioural based questions. When answering questions a golden rule to remember is “Honesty is the best policy”, answer questions as honestly and precisely as possible. And remember preparation will significantly help reduce stress and enable to feel confident in your answers.

The consultants at Inspire Selection guide you through 'traditional' interview questions and suggest ways to answer them.

Typical 'traditional' interview questions and some example responses

Tell me about yourself

  • Keep your answer to one or two minutes; don't ramble. Give a brief outline of where you are from, and where you want to be going .
  • Use your CV introduction as a base to start .
  • Respond in a way that leaves no doubt that you are well adjusted, stable and positive.
  • Say only positive statements

What do you know about our company?

  • Show that you have done your research, know what their products are, how big the company is, roughly what their annual revenue is, what reputation it has within the industry and on the street.
  • Know the company's history, image, goal, and philosophy.
  • Project an informed interest and let the interviewer tell you some more detailed aspects about the company.

Why do you want to work for us?

  • Don't talk about what you want; first talk about their needs, what you can do for them.
  • You wish to be part of their company project.You would like to solve their company problem and relish the challenge.
  • You can make a definite contribution to specific company goals: identify its management talent, etc.

What would you do for us? What can you do for us that someone else can't?

  • Relate past experiences that represent success in solving previous employer problems that may be similar to those of the prospective employer. Stay positive

What about our position do you find the most attractive? Least attractive?

  • List three or more attractive factors and only one minor unattractive factor, aspects to pick up on could include, office location, company reputation, the chance to work with esteemed colleagues.

Why should we hire you?

  • Talk about the knowledge, experience, abilities, and skills you possess. Be very positive and confident in your reply, not vague.

What do you look for in a job?

  • Mention that you are looking for an opportunity to use your skills, to perform and be recognised. The opportunity to further develop your skills and that you want to continue learning.
  • Avoid vague answers such as, "I enjoy working with people, I relish challenges in my work"
  • Relate it to the job to which you are applying "I am especially interested in producing a software solution to your problem"

Please give me your definition of a... (the position for which you are being interviewed).

  • Keep it brief, actions and results oriented

How long would it take you to make a meaningful contribution to our firm?

  • Suggest that you're confident that you'd make a difference quickly after a little orientation and a brief period of adjustment on the learning curve.

How long would you stay with us?

  • A good answer to this could be 'as long as we both feel I'm contributing, achieving, growing etc'.

Management and Experience Questions

What is your management style?

  • Think about your management style and be prepared to talk about it. Management styles could be 'open door', 'coaching'

Are you a good manager? Give an example. Why do you feel you have top managerial potential?

  • Keep your answers, achievement and task oriented, emphasise management skills-- planning, organising, controlling, interpersonal, etc. Describe relevant personal traits.

What did you look for when you hired people in the past?

  • Explain how you look for skills, initiative, adaptability

Did you ever fire anyone? If so, what where the reasons and how did you handle it?

  • If have had experience with this explain how it worked out well. Describe how you spoke to the person and explained precisely but tactfully where they were underachieving.

What do you see as being the most difficult task in being a manager?

  • This could be getting things planned and done on time within the budget. Or perhaps ensuring a diverse team works towards the same goals and outcomes.
  • Be postive, do not imply that these are insurmountable difficulties.
  • Give examples of how you overcame the challenges.

What is your biggest weakness as a manager?

  • Be honest, explain a situation but always end on a positive note.

 Industry trend questions

Why are you leaving your present job?

  • Do not be negative
  • Explain how it no longer provides a suitable challenge and it is time to move on.
  • Talk more about the 'pull' factors - what is attractive about this new role, industry, organisiation.

How do you feel about leaving all your benefits?

  • Explain how you feel that the challenge and satisfaction this new role will bring outweighs any benefits lost.

Describe what you feel to be the perfect working environment.

  • Talk about a working environment that suits you - such as somewhere where people are treated as fairly as possible.
  • if you know about the company's working environment discuss that and how it is attractive to you.
  • Ask questions about the working environment.

How would you evaluate your present firm?

  • Be positive - do not burn any bridges, you can talk about them being an excellent company which afforded you many fine experiences.
  • Mention the postivive parts of this new role/organisation/industry and why you'd like to move.

Quantifying your experience and accomplishments

Have you helped increase sales? profits? how?

  • Imply that there have been many occasions, then concentrate on describing one in detail.
  • Quote percentage profit increases facts and figures.

Have you helped reduce costs? How?

  • As above, mention that you have, describe how using facts and figures.

How much money/profit did you account for?

  • Be specific and recount a particular contract with targets and budgets.

How many people did you supervise on your last job?

  • Be specific - remember to remain positive. Think about teh new role and how many people you will be supervising if this is wildy more or less explain how you will meet that challenge.

In your current or last position, what features did you like the most? Least?

  • Be positive and think of some solid examples.
  • Relate your response to what the new job can offer

In your current or last position, what are or were your five most significant accomplishments?

  • You could refer to the key accomplishments already identified in your CV.
  • Be prepared to explain in more detail.
  • Remember to stay honest and specific

Your work style and habits

If I spoke with your previous boss, what would he say are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

  • This is always a difficuklt question and one you need ot be prepared for
  • Emphasise your skills - don't be overly negative about your weaknesses; it's always safe to identify a lack of a skill or experience as a shortcoming rather than a personal characteristic.

Can you work under pressures, deadlines, etc.?

  • Explain that you are confident that you can, give examples of when you have and that you are not afraid of these challenges and that you understand that it is a way of life in business.

In your present position, what problems have you identified that had previously been overlooked?

  • Keep it brief and prepare to discuss a specific example, be sure to say how you overcame the problems.

Don't you feel you might be better off in a different size company? Different type company?

  • Explain why you are interested in the job. Reiterate how your previous experience lends itself to the job you are applying for with this company.

How do you resolve conflict on a project team?

  • A way to answer this could be that you first discuss issues privately and tactfully. If the problem is not resolved then action would need to be taken which could mean removing a member of the team in a severe case.
  • If you have a specific example of how you have done this effectively - use it.

What was the most difficult decision you ever had to make?

  • Keep this work related and positive, attempt to relate your response to the prospective employment situation.

Salary questions

How much are you looking for? How much do you expect, if we offer this position to you? What kind of salary are you worth?

  • Do your research and know whar the market rate is, you could answer with a question, i.e., "What is the salary range for similar jobs in your company?"
  • If they don't answer, then give a range of what you understand you are worth in the marketplace.
  • if you are not confident giving a direct answer you could say "My understanding is that a job like the one you're describing may be in the range of $..."

Personality questions

What was the last book you read? Movie you saw? Sporting event you attended?

  • Talk about books, sports or films to represent balance in you life.
  • Stick to something fairly mainstream or classic

How would you describe your own personality?

  • Be honest and positively describe your personality in the workplace..
  • Use words like balanced, fair, honest, reliable, friendly, outgoing, contentious

What are your strong points?

  • Present at least three and relate them to the interviewing company and job opening.
  • Tailor your answer to meet the needs of the employer. "I see myself as a goal orientated individual..." discuss how in your previous role you achieved above projected results.

What are your weak points?

  • Don't say you haven't any. Try not to cite personal characteristics as weaknesses, but be ready to have one if interviewer presses.
  • Try to transform your response and the question into strength. "I'm the kind of person who likes challenges and gets involved. Some people may see that as butting in, but I'm sure it could be looked at as a strength because I like to make sure the job gets done correctly."

You should also be prepared to answer questions about your health, more technical questions related to your qualifications, research or current job, plus any interests you have mentioned on your CV or application form.

Posted on Monday Apr 2