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How to Answer 101 Job Interview Questions

We get questions every week from people who are facing an interview that they’re nervous about or struggling with and who want help for how to answer interview questions.

We looked around on the internet and found that no one else has anything that I thought was as helpful as it could be.  Mostly, I found lots of short, quick answers that don’t tell you why the interviewer asks that question, what they really want to know, how to think about your answer and be strategic about it.  So we decided to do that…plus give you suggestions for how to best answer job interview questions.

So we put together 101 blog articles that support 101 questions that give you the best way to think about the questions and how to form your answer.

Here are a few:

How to Answer Interview Questions – Q7 — Describe yourself to me in one word.

How to Answer Interview Questions – Q41 — Tell me about yourself.

How to Answer Interview Questions – Q72  – What salary are you looking for?

We’ve got them all inter-connected so they are easily searchable.  In other words, you can find every question from each question, no matter where you land.

Come over to Career Confidential and see and learn more about how to answer interview questions.

 

Always ask questions in your job interview

You might be thinking: “I have to ask questions? I thought I was supposed to ANSWER questions at an interview.” You do have to ask questions if you want the job. But which questions?

While there are many questions you want to ask, there are two questions you must ask at every interview, every single time:

  • “What are you looking for?” or “What does your ideal employee look like?” is the first question you must ask, and you want to ask it as early in the interview as you can manage. The answer to this question will help you orient your presentation of skills, abilities and experience towards their specific needs. That’s how you can be super-effective with your time. Rather than talk about your technical abilities to a hiring manager who is looking for a ‘people person’ you will be able to rank your social, customer service skills slightly above your technical skills and have a better interview.
  • The second ‘must ask’ question comes at the end of your interview. Before you leave, you must find out if the hiring manager sees any reason they would not hire you. Or, to put a more positive spin on the question, you will ask something like: “Can you see me as being successful in this role?” This question is asking, or closing, for the job. The answer you get will allow you to address any shortcomings or concerns the interviewer has about your abilities to do the job. Very often, it’s something simple that’s easy to clear up. It’s hard to ask, but it’s important.

Besides the two ‘must ask’ questions here is a list of other questions that will help you stand out and improve your chance of getting the job offer:

  • Ask about the future of the company; this shows your long-term interest in working for them and gives you clues about your own future
  • Ask why the position is open
  • Ask how they determine if an employee is ‘successful’
  • Ask what a typical day looks like for a person in this position
  • Ask what are the biggest challenges this position presents
  • Ask what characterizes a successful employee so you can explain how you embody those characteristics

All-in-all the questions you ask in an interview are just as important as the answers you give.  It’s necessary to remember that having both the right questions and the right answers will help you stand out from the rest and get you the right job.

Be ready for every interview with your research, questions, and answers when you check out this Ultimate Guide to Job Interview Prep.

This article was written by Career Coach Peggy McKee of Career Confidential

How to write a job interview thank you note

What are the building blocks of a good thank you note?

What are the building blocks of a good thank you note?

Many people have heard that they should send a thank-you email to an interviewer, but a surprisingly large number of job seekers don’t bother. They’re wasting the perfect opportunity to show that they respect the interviewer’s time, that they’re enthusiastic about and highly interested in the job, and that their skills are a perfect match. You stand out with your good manners AND you get one more shot at selling yourself for the job. What could be better?

As far as thank-you letter format is concerned, you can keep it simple. But don’t just send a short email that says: “Thanks for the interview. I appreciate the time you took to interview me. I am very interested in working for you and look forward to hearing from you about this position.” You’ll still stand out from other candidates, even with this short note, but you’re losing a prime opportunity to boost your chance of getting a job. A longer email allows you to point out a key substantial item or two in your favor.

Always begin with the pleasantries: mention how you enjoyed talking to them, additional thoughts about how you and your skills are a great fit, and what you learned from the interview that makes you even more enthusiastic about working for the company. Be specific.

Send a thank-you note even if the job interview didn’t go so well. The thank-you note provides the perfect opportunity for damage control. Don’t write a book, but feel free to address issues like misconceptions and things you forgot.

Be sure to send a personalized note to everyone you spoke with about the job. For example, if you were interviewed by a panel, make sure you send a message to each person on the panel.

Here’s an example of an effective thank you letter format.

Dear Mr. Manager:

Thank you for meeting with me today to discuss the _____ position. I’m now even more enthusiastic about the prospect of working with you at [the company name]. I am more convinced than ever that my skills in [succinctly insert a few skills here] are a strong match for what you need to accomplish the challenges and issues we discussed. [You can mention specific challenges here.]

I also believe that my experience is A, B and C would bring an additional advantage to solving these challenges and providing solutions. I am really looking forward to discussing this with you again. I’ll call you on Friday to discuss setting up the next step.

Sincerely,

Your Name

Don’t forget: The most successful job-seekers send a thank-you letter soon after a job interview—within 24 hours. To get it there that fast, you have to send it by email.

If you can send a strong thank you note like this within a day of your interview, you will be making the smartest follow up move you can make.

If you need more help, get my podcast on Following Up After the Interview.

This post was written by Career Coach Peggy McKee of Career Confidential.

Ask questions of your own in the job interview

job interview questions

Here’s a tip that you should always keep in mind:  Never leave all the question asking up to the interviewer. You always want to ask questions during your job interview. There are three reasons for this:

  • It helps you uncover information you can’t get anywhere else…who’s a better source than the person hiring for the job?
  • It helps you have a more relaxed and productive conversation. The key word here is ‘conversation’. Asking questions will make it feel less like you’re in an interrogation.
  • It shows that you researched the company when you ask informed, thoughtful questions.

But don’t just randomly ask any question. You’ll have a better shot at the job if you know what questions to ask an interviewer.  Avoid questions that show your ignorance about the company, or questions that ask for basic information that you could have Googled.

Here’s a look at the top 5 questions to ask your interviewer.

  1. What does your ideal candidate look like? This should be asked near the beginning of the interview, and will give you a strong idea of specifically what type of person the interviewer is looking to hire. It allows you to find out specific desired skills that might not be in the description (who knows who wrote the description or when they wrote it?). Once you know what the manager really cares about hearing, you’ll be able to talk up those related skills you have.
  2. Is there any reason why you wouldn’t offer me this job? This is a hard question to ask and takes a lot of nerve to do. But it’s the only way you’re going to find out if there’s any doubt about hiring you. And it will provide you with the only chance to directly address those doubts and clear them up. Job seekers who ask this question increase their chances of getting hired by 30 percent.
  3. How does this position fit in with the company’s long-term plans? This question opens the door to possible discussion of business strategy, and can give you another chance to sell yourself by showing how your strategies will help the company in the long term.
  4. What are this position’s biggest challenges? Every job has a downside. This question gives you a chance to learn about the downsides without looking like you lack confidence. You can also use the downsides to your benefit by showing how you’ll use your skills to handle the challenges.
  5. Here’s what I see myself doing in the first 3 months on the job.  I’d like to go through it with you quickly and get your input.  OK, that’s not really a question.  But it is something you have to initiate, because most hiring managers won’t ask to see your 30-60-90-day plan.  But once you get that discussion started, the quality of your conversation skyrockets, and they can start to really see you in the job.  They see your knowledge of the job and their company (even if it isn’t completely perfect—that’s OK), they see your strategic- and critical-thinking skills, and they see that you are a go-getter who WILL be successful.  It’s very powerful to have that on your side in the interview.

Make your interview prep easy with our free Job Interview Prep Kit.

This post is from Peggy McKee of Career Confidential, a website dedicated to helping you get a job fast.

Best telephone interview tips

phone interview tips

Before you get to go to the face-to-face interview, you’ll probably have to go through a cheaper, easier (for them) phone interview to prove you are worth the time, trouble and expense of a longer conversation.  Here are the top phone interview tips to make sure you get your chance to prove your worth in person.

1.  Concentrate on your voice.  Sound confident, express yourself clearly and think about sounding like someone who looks and acts professional.  Without body language, professional attire and your physical demeanor, the interviewer only has your voice to judge you by and how you handle yourself verbally.

2.  Have all of your notes in front of you.  You should always have your resume, cover letters, names of references, and key points you want to add right there at your disposal.

3.  Prepare for interview questions.  Know what kind of questions you will be asked in this short format interview before they call.  Remember, this is not the same as a face-to-face interview and the questions are likely going to be more general.  They are probably looking at your resume as they speak to you and verifying the information through questions like, “Tell me a little about your experience.”

4.  Watch your language.  Avoid using sarcasm or making jokes in which your body language and facial expressions are required.  They cannot see you and what may seem funny to you with your quizzical expression may not go over well at all with the person who cannot see you on the other end of the line.

5.  Stand up while you talk.  Your posture and movement will affect your enthusiasm and your voice will project better.

6.  Focus on the interview.  Don’t busy yourself with other things in your environment.  Just because they can’t see you doesn’t mean they won’t be able to tell you’re distracted.

7.  Use a landline to avoid having any issues with poor reception.  If you have to use a cell phone, be sure the phone interview is set up for a time when you know you will have access to a quiet place that is guaranteed to have a good signal.  There should be minimal distractions and outside noise such as barking dogs, nearby construction or the beeping of car horns.

8.  Never use your speakerphone.  We often talk on speakerphone to keep our hands free to drive or do other things.  This level of distraction is not what you need during an interview that is your gateway to a face-to-face meeting with a hiring manager.

9.  Don’t get too chatty or talk yourself in circles.  The interviewer is likely taking notes as you speak and may not be focusing on responding to all your points. These silent moments are not your cue to continue babbling on.  Be comfortable with the silent moments and allow the interviewer to make the next move after you have finished answering the question completely but concisely.

10.  Ask for the next step, just like you would in a face-to-face.  When the interview is wrapping up, let them know what times and dates you are available for a face-to-face interview. You will be able to get an immediate impression about how you stand at the end of the phone interview if you ask this.  It commits them to deciding if they want to proceed with the process or not and will give you idea about how they felt about the conversation.

Click this link => to get 10 minutes of essential phone interview tips.

Always follow up your job interview with a thank you email

Say thank you after the interview.

Writing a thank you note after an interview might be the one thing that sets you apart from the rest of the candidates and gets you the job. But, sometimes finding the words to say ‘thank you’ can be difficult; let me give you a few thank you quotes for your note to make it easier.

Since hiring managers usually make decisions fairly quickly, you’re going to want to communicate your appreciation and interest even quicker- within 24 hours, so your best option is to send a ‘thank you’ email.

Remember to keep your email businesslike. Don’t make common email mistakes like sending it from an unprofessional-sounding email address and reference the interview in your subject line.

For example:  Follow-up to our July 23rd interview or July 23rd interview follow-up

Both examples leave no question as to the subject of the email.

The Salutation:

Address a male interviewer as follows:  Dear Mr. __(last name)__:

If the interviewer was a woman, use:  Dear Ms. __(Last name)__

Do not use Miss or Mrs.; however, if the interviewer uses the title of Dr., then use that title, regardless of the interviewer’s gender.

Start the body of your note with some form of “thank you.”

Personalize and use one of the following quotes to begin your thank you note:

  • I appreciate the time you took yesterday to talk to me about __(the job title)__.
  • Thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet with you yesterday.
  • I really enjoyed our conversation today.
  • Thank you for meeting with me yesterday to discuss your open position.

Develop that thought with one of the following comments:

  • Everything I learned made me even more excited about working for ____company.
  • I would like to reiterate my interest in working for you (or the name of the company).
  • Our conversation reaffirmed my interest in working with you (or the name of the company).

Expand on something said or learned; repeat how your skills will fill the needs of the company.

Modify the following thank you note quotes to fit your specific situation:

  • Our conversation reaffirmed my belief that my (list two or three specific) abilities would be an asset in dealing with your ________________ (some situation/job need).
  •  I can see that my past experience in (specific area) would be beneficial in solving your issues with _________(some situation/job need).

You can also address any faux pas from the interview or bring up an issue you forgot to mention.

  • Since I did not have a copy of (some paperwork) with yesterday, I am attaching a copy to this email.
  • One thing, I did not have a chance to tell you is__________ (something that pertains to the job or a skill that solves a problem).

Close with some comment about continuing your relationship:  

  •    I am really looking forward to discussing this with you again. I'll call you on Wednesday to go over the next steps.
  •   If you have any further questions, I would be happy to meet with you again. Feel free to call me at 555-555-1212.  If I don’t hear from you by X-day, I’ll call you.

What I DON”T want you to do is say something like, “I look forward to hearing from you soon.”  That is a weak ending that leaves it too open-ended and takes away any power you have to make things happen.  You can and should be more assertive than that.

The final line should be “Thank you, once again” and close with Sincerely, and your name.

Remember to personalize these thank you note quotes for your specific job interview, send the note off quickly, and you’ll improve your chance of landing that perfect job.

Want more information?  See this article on Sample Thank You Notes for Job Interviews

This post is from Peggy McKee of Career Confidential, a website dedicated to helping you get a job fast.

What to wear to your job interview

Do you know that most people develop a lasting impression of you and what you’re like based on the first few seconds of meeting you? That’s way before you’ve said anything important…you’ve barely said “hello.” Some of that impression is based off your body language and handshake, true, but the rest is based off how you look—what you’re wearing.

Your interviewer is even more focused on you than most people.  They’re really looking for clues to base their hiring decision on.  So, when you really want that job, it’s important to keep ‘professional’ at the top of your mind when dressing for the interview. A good rule of thumb is to dress one step above what you would be expected to wear on the job.

Suit

For men, this means wearing a full suit rather than coordinates. A full suit shows respect and attention to detail. The suit should be dark in color over a white shirt. The tie should be conservative.  At the first meeting, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Besides color, women need to also consider whether a skirt suit or a pants suit is more appropriate. While most hiring managers prefer women in a skirt suit, they tend not to penalize women for wearing a pants suit. It’s important for both men and women to remember that the suit should be professional and comfortable.

Comfortable, in this case, is not synonymous with “comfy” which implies sloppy. Since what you wear reflects your attitude, “comfy” clothing will reflect a relaxed attitude that could hurt your chance of getting the job. What comfortable should mean:  clothes that fit; that allow you to move easily and not feel restricted. You do not want to adjust your clothing during an interview.

Accessories

Your interview outfit doesn’t end with the suit. Coordinating shoes are also important. Women should wear low heels with closed toes and sensible hose and men should wear clean, black leather shoes with black socks. Never wear tennis, or sports shoes. Hiring managers also notice if your shoes are clean and well-cared for.

As for accessories, you want to keep your look conservative: men- a muted tie is a ‘must’ and a watch is appropriate, but remove earrings and facial piercings. If you are emotionally attached to your beard, keep it closely trimmed and neat. If, however, you have had several interviews but haven’t been offered a job, you might want to consider a clean-shaven look and see if that makes a difference.

Women, be sure your jewelry is not too flashy: earring posts or simple hoop earrings are fine, but be careful of other facial piercings that could be distracting and get in the way of landing the job.   Speaking of distractions…absolutely NEVER show any cleavage.

When deciding on how to dress for an interview, remember to leave off wearing cologne or perfume. “Clean” is the only smell that should emanate from you during an interview.

Being ultra-prepared (good resume, 30-60-90-day plan and brag book) and appropriately dressed for the interview means the hiring manager can concentrate on your skills and abilities, and you’ll have an excellent chance of landing that DREAM position. Your appearance says it all.

This post is from Peggy McKee of Career Confidential, a website dedicated to helping you get a job fast.

Ask questions of your own in the interview

To get the job you want you need to do more than sit in the interview answering questions fired at you by the hiring manager. In order to be more effective in selling yourself for the job, don’t be afraid to ask questions yourself.

Why?  Because the job search is a sales process in which you are the product and that hiring manager is the buyer.  And you’ll never make a sale without understanding the wants and needs of your customer.  And you can’t understand unless you ask.

There are certain key questions to ask in an interview that can give you a big edge and present you as the most thoughtful, strategic- thinking candidate.  Your choice of questions can mean the difference between being one unmemorable face is a line of hundreds of job seekers, to providing you those golden nuggets of information you can use to present the hiring manager with the information she’s most interested in hearing.

Knowing the right questions to ask in an interview can give you big clues as to what the hiring manager is hoping you’ll say so she can hire you.

Near the beginning of the interview, ask: What are you looking for in a candidate? What does your ideal candidate look like? The answer to this question will help you find out what the hiring manager really cares about hearing. Then you can sell to those specific points.  Everything they list, you bring up something from your background that illustrates your skill with it or otherwise corresponds with it and answers that need.

Here’s a secret: There’s one crucial question that could increase your chances of getting the job by 30 percent. Near the end of the interview ask: Can you see me being very successful in this role? Is there any reason why you wouldn’t offer me this job?  This is called closing for the job.

Asking this type of ‘closing’ question takes nerves of steel, but the payoff can be huge. This is your only way to find out if there’s any doubt about hiring you. And if there is, you can clear up that doubt right away.  If you leave while they still have doubts, you can kiss that job goodbye.

Here are a few other questions to ask in an interview and the reasons why they’re so great.

  • Can you describe a typical day for someone in this position? This can help you understand what would be expected of you, and it can also help you tailor the information you provide to best show you’re the person for the job.
  • Looking ahead to the next couple of years, what are the potential growth areas that people in the company are most excited about? This can let you known if there’s room for growth, if the company is stable and if there’s the possibility for advancement. If there’s room for growth and advancement, you can present your skills in such a way that you’ll show the hiring manager you’re there for the long term and be a great asset to the company .
  • If you were to narrow the field to two final candidates, with equal skills and experience, how would you choose one over the other? The truth might be that the one with the lower salary might be chosen. And the hiring manager may not tell you this. But you could still find something worth knowing.

The bottom line (literally) is:  Asking questions helps you uncover information you need to know in order to sell yourself for the job.

Guest post from Career Coach Peggy McKee of Career Confidential

How to answer common phone interview questions

Hiring managers don’t necessarily want to spend a lot of time, money and energy interviewing every potential candidate face-to-face. So most of them fall back on the practical: phone interviews.  Do well with the phone interview, and the hiring manager will probably decide you’re worth that extra effort of an in-person meeting.  Do a poor job, and you’re out.

While you’ll never be able to fully  guess all the phone interview questions you’ll be asked, there are several that hiring managers like to ask.  Here are a few of the more common questions.

1.  Tell me about yourself. Interviewers often lead with this question, and no, it isn’t an ice breaker to try to make you feel more comfortable. Keep personal information out of your answer and start selling yourself for the job.  Start with your education, hit a few highlights from your experience, and always keep in mind the job description.

2.  Why did you apply for this job? The interviewer wants to gauge your level of interest. Here’s a good way to answer the question: “This job is a great fit for me. My skills and background in XYZ mean that I’d be successful in this role, which would benefit us both.”  Talk about how you meet their qualifications and exceed them in some way.  (By the way: Make sure you listen carefully to the name of the company when you receive a call, especially if you’ve applied for several jobs. You don’t want to accidentally refer to the wrong company or job position.)

3.  Why do you want to leave your current job? Or Why did you leave your last job? Don’t get defensive with this question even if a less friendly interviewer makes it sound accusatory. All the company wants to know are the reasons why you’re unemployed or looking for different work. Here’s an effective and positive way to answer the question. “While I enjoy the work environment at my current job, I feel that my role isn’t challenging enough. I’m looking for an opportunity to better use my skills. I believe that the position of [mention position] at [company name] will allow me to do this.”  Keep it positive and clear that you’re running to this job, not from your old one.

4.  Where do you see yourself in 5 years? It depends on the company (big companies have room for advancement; small ones might not…answer accordingly), but you can always talk about how you expect to have developed your skills and have contributed in a meaningful way to this company.

5.  Why should we invite you for an on-site interview? This is another version of:  Why should we hire you?  Your answer could be something like this: “I really believe that I can contribute to the success of [company] and that my personal skills and values match [position] perfectly.  When we meet in person, I think you’ll clearly see that I’m a good fit for the company.”

See these extra tips for how to ‘cheat’ in a phone interview, and make sure to get my phone interview podcast.  You’ll do great.

- Guest post from Career Coach Peggy McKee of Career Confidential.

Send a thank you email, not a note, after your interview

Having survived the interview, you would be dead wrong to think your mission is now to just sit and wait. While it can be said that good things come to those that wait, when it comes to job searches, being bold has even greater rewards.

The most common mistake job candidates make is not following up the interview with a Thank You email. This often overlooked courtesy is too great an opportunity to sell yourself for the job one more time and stand out from your competition.

Format:

Sending a thank you note to follow up after a job interview remains a fundamental necessity to a successful job search, but the delivery method has changed. While every hiring manager surely appreciates a beautiful hand-written note and may even be impressed with the fancy art museum stationary you chose, it has become necessary in the fast paced modern world to send an email rather than rely on snail mail. Hiring decisions can be made very quickly, and you have to move quickly, too.

Recipients:

Who should you send a note to? Go back to your interview and make a list off the people you spoke with. You should have gotten the business cards of the people you interviewed with, whether that was just the hiring manager, a panel of managers, the HR representative, your future co-workers, everyone.

Just be sure to send an individualized note to each person that addresses what you spoke about with them personally. Do NOT send the same ‘form’ letter to everyone. They will compare notes. It will give them the impression you don’t care and your conversation with them was not very memorable…not the impression you want to give.

Content:

Show some gratitude for them taking their time to speak with you. Remind them how your skills will benefit them, take the opportunity to clarify or expand on something you talked about in the interview, and say when you’ll follow up with a phone call. Tailor the content to your experience (like you did with your resume). For example, you can give them feedback on an issue discussed in the interview that you had time to think about and possibly add to a question they posed that you might not have been able to answer completely at the time. If you want to send an attachment of your updated 30-60-90 Day Plan, the simplicity of the email format allows this where a handwritten note does not.

They took the time to talk to you, now you need to take the time to thank them. Doing so will not only prove that are thoughtful, eager, and thorough, but that you are a candidate that stands out from the crowd and will probably continue to do so after being hired.

Click the link to get more tips to follow up after the interview.

Thank you email tips for after your job interview and additional job search tips and tools can be found at Career Confidential.

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