Interview common questions + answers and general tips

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Jonny
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29 Dec 2005, 11:24 am

Got an interview coming up soon. Got a bit of time to prepare so I will hope to make the most of it.

I think I've got stuff like body language and appearance sorted. But what i fear most (and id imagine with most other people too) is to come up with an intelligent enough answer without sounding too false or nervous, this is why i need to be 100% prepared and confident about myself.

I realise there is an infinite amount of questions they could ask, but they will all have common themes and i guess if i cant find the answer in my head there on the spot ill have to answer it indirectly but with something related (a bit like most interviews i see on TV in fact).

Ok, this one really messes me up. "What are your weaknesses?" Ive read alot about this, they say although you admit a weakness you will have to follow it up with a positive note. But the thing is all the examples ive read such as - 'Im too much of a perfectionist', 'I dont know when to quit working on something' are to be honest not bad answers because it is a weakness but also good trait to have in a working environment. But .... far too cliche and cheesy. I am the ANTI-cheese. If those words came out my mouth in an interview i would seriously just bash myself on the head. And im guessing the interviewers have heard these replies about a thousand times. Can anyone think of any other good replies ? Ones which are not so cliche.

Also how do you discuss salary ? Ive never had to do this before. There is a bracket for the job but it says new employees will get minimum salary. The thing is im just a tiny bit overqualified for the job and the pay is a bit lower than i want. I dont want to sound rude and say "the pay sucks, gimme more!".

What kind of questions should i ask ? The company is probably one of the biggest organisations in UK they are basically on the news all the time (mostly bad news, lets just say its a public sector service). But should i ask more questions about the job itself ? I dont really want to get into a discussions about the company, i mean its just a lowly IT job and im not sure ill make any difference to decisions being made.



egghead
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29 Dec 2005, 1:56 pm

How about, "I am lousy at telling jokes?" That can lead into how you are a more serious and sincere person.

If they want a personality trait, like if they ask you, "What is your weakest personal trait?", then something like, "I take things too seriously." This is a good thing unless you are interviewing for a clown position, yet you can be honest about being a bit more concrete with things than the average normi. This also usually translates into being a reliable worker, you can say something to that effect. Good luck.


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29 Dec 2005, 2:23 pm

egghead wrote:
How about, "I am lousy at telling jokes?" That can lead into how you are a more serious and sincere person.

If they want a personality trait, like if they ask you, "What is your weakest personal trait?", then something like, "I take things too seriously." This is a good thing unless you are interviewing for a clown position, yet you can be honest about being a bit more concrete with things than the average normi. This also usually translates into being a reliable worker, you can say something to that effect. Good luck.


Ooooh. I like it. I'm remembering that one. I can't really remember the successful ones I've used. All the interviews over the years kind of blur together. Although I do usually say the thing about being too focused on a problem because its true, I can't let it go until its fixed.

With regard to salary. They may tell you this is what we're paying, take it or leave it. If you want to try to negotiate up in that situation, you have to be willing to risk not getting the job and tell them you can't do it for less than x. They may be bluffing or they may hire someone else. Most employers I've had have asked me at some point in the interview what I want for salary. They know that you will usually ask for less than what they are actually willing to pay. The trick to answering this is to remember that you are effectively negotiating your pay raise, you may not get another one. You should go for the wince factor. This is the dollar (popund, euro, whatever) value at which you go "eeesh, I hope they don't say no", this will be a little lower than the "what, are you freaking nuts! get out of my office!" level. Also, be aware that it is customary to pay you more than your last job. You should be very safe asking for 10% pay raise over your last job (unless of course you were let go under questionable circumstances).

Good luck!



julieme
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29 Dec 2005, 11:47 pm

In answering questions, try to imagine the characteristics the employer wants or idealizes. If there is a website for the employer - look for a mission statement or list of group values.

Where I work the current mantra is "imagine, solve, create, lead" . In this enviroment
a good answer to the weakness question is

I get very involved in developing new ideas and have to work really hard at staying balanced during the creative process. I quite honestly need to schedule sleep, meal breaks, etc or I get too hungry and tired to be useful.

As for salary negotiations, if you have skill and can deliver value beyond starting level, there is no reason not to ask for more. Let the employer point out how useful you can be (you'll have to prompt and help a bit)

you : What role would you expect me to play in the team?

Employer: Blah blah

you: well it sounds that I'd be starting in a mid range position and could add a lot of value with my knowledge of and demonstrated skills. Based on what I have to offfer -- xx seems fair enough.



Good luck.. By the way if it is a public position - do you have access to published salary norms?



Jonny
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31 Dec 2005, 9:49 am

Great stuff, i particularly like "I take things too seriously".

Ok here is another common one which i find difficult to answer -

"Tell me about yourself". So they just want me to discuss my educaion and experience ? If so how should i word it ? Anyone got an example response ?

"What do you do if you are unlikely to solve a problem/complete a task in time?"



Ronin
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03 Jan 2006, 1:17 am

Jonny wrote:
But what i fear most (and id imagine with most other people too) is to come up with an intelligent enough answer without sounding too false or nervous, this is why i need to be 100% prepared and confident about myself.

Prepare as much as you can, but remember that it is OK to be nervous. Interviewers know it is stressful, and going to interviews even if you don't want the job are good - practice never hurts.

Quote:
Ok, this one really messes me up. "What are your weaknesses?" Ive read alot about this, they say although you admit a weakness you will have to follow it up with a positive note.

Yes - the idea is to show something bad but end with how you are working to change it.

You might find this link helpful - tech related questions. In my area, the HR questions (greatest weakness, etc) aren't so common because interviewers are more interested in skills and knowledge. Questions on how to motivate yourself and others did come up a fair number of times though.

Quote:
Also how do you discuss salary ? Ive never had to do this before. There is a bracket for the job but it says new employees will get minimum salary. The thing is im just a tiny bit overqualified for the job and the pay is a bit lower than i want. I dont want to sound rude and say "the pay sucks, gimme more!".


Unless they state it (most employers do; I'm wary of those that don't), I ask.
Chances are they'll offer more than the new hire rate for you, but just in case always go in with two figures - comfortable and minimum. Both in annual salary and hourly rates. Be ready to play up why you deserve the higher wage if they try to lowball you - things you've accomplished, certifications/etc.

Quote:
What kind of questions should i ask ? ...I dont really want to get into a discussions about the company, i mean its just a lowly IT job and im not sure ill make any difference to decisions being made.

Salary/Wage, Benefits, what the corporate culture is like, dress code, hours of work, education benefits...



Jonny
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21 Feb 2006, 6:38 am

More questions for you guys :p

Once you have learnt all the skills for the job what then motivates you to continue ?

Where do you see yourself in 5 years ?

Also any tips on researching a company ? I mean ive read the websites, what else do I need to know ? Im finding it hard to think of some questions to ask about the company itself, Ive never been a businessey type person, so im not sure what they expect to be asked.



Aspen
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21 Feb 2006, 8:24 am

Ronin wrote:

You might find this link helpful - tech related questions. In my area, the HR questions (greatest weakness, etc) aren't so common because interviewers are more interested in skills and knowledge. Questions on how to motivate yourself and others did come up a fair number of times though.



That link has a lot of good information. Thanks for posting it.

Jonny: From http://www.techinterviews.com/index.php?cat=1

Quote:
3. What do you know about our organization?

Research the target company before the interview. Basic research is the only way to prepare for this question. Do your homework, and you’ll score big on this question. Talk about products, services, history and people, especially any friends that work there. “But I would love to know more, particularly from your point of view. Do we have time to cover that now?


If you can't find enough information about the company you are interested in online, you could look for more information in the library.


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Jonny
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21 Feb 2006, 1:32 pm

Thanks Aspen.

Apologies to Ronin for missing that link :lol:



BeeBee
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22 Feb 2006, 11:52 am

Quote:
Once you have learnt all the skills for the job what then motivates you to continue ?


Whats your honest answer, Jonny? We can help you polish it, if need be. I say that the desire to find a better, quicker, cheaper way to do the job is my motivation.


Quote:
Where do you see yourself in 5 years ?


This one is harder. I'd say that I hope to have more responsiblity within the company based on their satifacation with my work.

BeeBee



Jonny
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24 Feb 2006, 6:47 am

BeeBee wrote:
Quote:
Once you have learnt all the skills for the job what then motivates you to continue ?


Whats your honest answer, Jonny? We can help you polish it, if need be. I say that the desire to find a better, quicker, cheaper way to do the job is my motivation.

BeeBee


I was asked this question and I said something about continually learning new things, but he was more interested in what motivates me after the learning. I really didnt know what he wanted to know, i just started going on about building good team relationships and being in a good team motivates me, and he still looked like he didnt get the right answer of me. I said "sorry I wasnt really answering the question" and then he said "no, thats ok, its good to talk it through".



Vastarien
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01 Sep 2007, 1:41 pm

I've never had any patience with that stupid "Where are you in 5 years" question. As if it actually matters?!
I've always wanted to say one of two things to this : "Well, if I'm lucky, I'll still be here in the same position, doing what you hired me to do, and if I'm not lucky, I'll be on the corner begging for pennies." or this other answer "In 5 years I will likely be annhilated in the flames of apocalypse, along with everyone else." "Tell me about yourself" is another jerk-off question. Gee, Mr. Interviewer, do you really care? I'll tell you what you need to know about me in 3 lines. I won't steal from you, I won't kill anyone if I get fired, and I won't expose the corruption of your CEO on the nightly news. That's it. sorry, but those kind of idiot things just cheeze me off. Good luck with your search.



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03 Sep 2007, 6:40 am

Yeah, how would I know where I will be in 5 years' time. Anything could happen. To me, it is an unanswerable question. Now if they said "where do you HOPE to be in 5 years' time", it would be much easier to answer.

When they say "tell me about yourself", it's like "where do you want me to start?". It's too vague and too easy to get into trouble with.


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