Responses to Interview Questions


Responses to Interview Questions 

An interviewer has the task of discovering what kind of person and worker you are in the short time period of an hour or even less. Therefore, the questions asked by the interviewers are fairly standard from one interview to another since all interviewers are trying to obtain the same type of information. On the following pages, these typical questions will be listed with a description of how you should answer each one.

1. Tell me about yourself.

This question is directed at finding out about you as a person, as well as about your job skills. The employer needs to know that you can do other job and also that you will be able to get along with other people working for the company.

Check with your resume. Try to include a balance of information, including information about your experience and skills as well as information which provides a picture of you as an individual.

Remember to relate any personal information back to the job you are applying for. Always link the two, pointing out how well you will be able to do the job.

Mention information such as the following:

1. Your interest and experiences related to the job.

Emphasise hobbies that may be job related, such as drawing, building gadgets, designing your clothes, doing seasonal work as a fruit picker, fixing cars, etc. Also include non-job related interests such as membership of clubs and organisations, or special hobbies. You can mention these to show you get along well with people and that you are an interesting and informed person. 

Contact with, or knowledge about the employer.

If you have seen or met the interviewer before, or Lave read or heard favourable comments about him/her say so.

If you know someone in common or know someone working for the company, say so.

3. Your past work experience.

4. Your training or education.

5. Your strong interest in working for the company and working in the type of occupation you are applying for.

2. Have you ever done this kind of work before?

Never say "No" to this type of question, as no two jobs are exactly alike and you probably would not have applied for the position if you hadn't had some experience or some reason for thinking you would be able to handle the job. Tell him/her about:

1. Your past experience related to the job.

2. Your education and training related to the job.

3. Non-paid experience related to the job.

4. You are a quick learner (give examples of this).

As an example the interviewer might ask you where you have worked as a bookkeeper and you haven't, but you could mention facts such as you kept some books as part of your previous job as a secretary, you maintain an exact book of records of your family expenses, you have completed a bookkeeping course in high school, you're good with figures, and you're sure you could learn the necessary details quickly.

3. Why do you want to work here?

In other words, will you be satisfied with your job? Will you want to stay? Reassure the interviewer with positive comments about the company such as:

1. The good reputation the company has.

2. Its fairness to its employees.

3. The company has the kind of job you're looking for.

4. You like this kind of work and feel you can do a good job.

This is also your opportunity to show you have done your "homework" and that you know something about the company.

4. Why did you leave your last job?

That is, were there any difficulties? People leave jobs for many reasons, and you should only mention those that are favorable to you.

Some of the common reasons for leaving a job are that the company had a cut-back or a lay off, it was a seasonal job, it was a temporary job, it was only part-time, it was only a good job while you were in school, it required too much travel away from home, the company was not doing well and could not keep up with the award wages or standard salary level

Other contributing factors may have been that you wanted to go into a different line of work for which you were well qualified and were more interested, in or that your company had a reorganisation and no longer required the position you had.

Avoid saying you were fired, but whatever reasons you give point out that the job for which you are being interviewed does not have the same problem that led you to leave your last job. For example, it's not as far to travel or the hour's suit you much better, etc. Emphasise the positive aspects of your last job, as this will make you sound like a loyal and appreciated employee.

If the employer asks "Why have you been unemployed for so long?" or "Why have you been unemployed since .........................................................?”

It is important to answer in a positive way.

The interviewer may not be confident in his/her judgment and may reject you if he/she thinks other interviewers have also rejected you.

The interviewer may also be asking this question simply to gain further impressions of you.

Briefly, explain your circumstances and then go on to talk about your strengths and the reasons why you want the job. The idea is not to dwell on information that the interviewer may find negative, but to move the discussion on to your positive points and why you are well suited to the job.

5. What kind of salary do you need?

The best thing to do here is to avoid mentioning any specific figures until you have been offered the job. Otherwise, you may give the employer the idea that you will work for less than they were willing to pay, or you may end the interview right there if your figure is too high.

Tell the interviewer that you would work for whatever the company thought was a fair salary, that their usual set rates would be suitable, or the award rate would be suitable (if an award applies).

After the interview is over and you have definitely been offered the job. You can then decide whether the salary is high enough. If it is not, don't  knock the job back straight away. Instead, try to negotiate with the employer to increase it or gain some assurances that a rise will follow a good initial work performance

6. Why should we hire you instead of someone else?

Quickly list the skills and attributes you have that will make you a valuable employee. You may have mentioned some of them before, but this is like a summary for the interviewer who doesn't want to think for him/herself. Eg: "I’m efficient", " I don't have to be supervised", I'm not a clock watcher", "I'm dependable and don't take time off', I am fast and accurate. 

7. How often were you absent from work, in your last job?

An employer wants to be able to depend on his/her employee being present, and this question is designed to determine whether he/she could depend on you. If you were absent a good deal because of some reason, tell the interviewer what the reason was and why you feel that it will no longer be a problem, "I'm in great health and don't expect to be taking any -days off'. In answering this question, stress what your past reliability has been and give assurance of your future reliability.

8. How is your health?

Unless you have a medical condition that will interfere with your work answer this question with "My health is excellent" or "I have no health problems that will interfere with my work". If you have a health problem, or disability, obtain a letter from your doctor stating that your disability does not require extensive treatment and does not interfere with your general ability to work.

If your disability is apparent, mention the problem before the interviewer does, since he/she may feel embarrassed about discussing it and yet maintain a bias because of it. Be sure to stress what you can do, rather than what you can't do. Give examples of how your health problem/disability has not been a problem for you in the past.

9. When are you available for work?

When you are asked how soon you can start work, state "as soon as possible". Many factors may be causing you to hesitate about committing yourself, but now is not the time to mention them Take your time to think about whether the job and its starting date suit you - away from the interview. If they don't, you can say so when you are offered the job. At the interview you should always sound keen.

10. What are your greatest strengths?

This question is similar to "Why Should You Get the Job Instead of Someone Else?" Mention your skills, reliability, experience, enthusiasm, efficiency, ability to get along with others etc. If asked "What is your single greatest strength?" mention your personal reliability but also add that you have several major strengths and go on to mention them.


11. What are your greatest weaknesses?

Do not describe any possible weaknesses when asked this question. If some weaknesses exist, such as lack of experience you surely intend to overcome them, so there is no reason to draw attention to factors that will probably not occur. Mention nothing negative. In stead, respond by telling him/her that you have no weaknesses that will prevent you from being an excellent employee. You might also state once again briefly your strongest points at this time.

12. What five words would you say describe you best?

Of course select your five best attributes (eg: reliable, conscientious, friendly, honest, co- operative, hard working, energetic, skilled, experienced, responsible, respected, enthusiastic, dedicated, likeable).

13. What was your last employer's opinion of you?

If you have a reference from you last employer, then this is the best answer you can give to this question.

If not then try to think of something positive he/she may have had to say about you. If you and your last employer didn't get on very well, then you could mention those aspects of your work that lie/she didn't complain about.

If you were fired, you may consider not mentioning that particular job unless of course you are specifically asked. You may be surprised to learn that your employer had a high regard for some of your abilities even though you were fired. The interviewer may or may not contact your last employer, however, assume the best and mention only those qualities that you feel the employer liked.

14. What are your long term goals?

A similar question is "What kind of job do you hope to have in ten years?" Or "What are your future plans?" The employer is really asking "Are you going to be satisfied working with this company?" Or "Do you just see this job as a temporary stop over?" So you should try to assure the interviewer of your intention to stay with the company, which, of course,  you will, if the job proves to be satisfactory to you.

15. What kind of machines or equipment have you worked with? What kind of equipment can you operate?

Be very specific in mentioning the exact names of the machines you have operated, if you can recall them eg "The Acme Model 85 Arc Welder". Then go on to mention all the different types of machines or equipment you have used eg: "I can operate word processors and complicated copying machines, electric or manual typewriters and I can operate a switchboard". If asked about a machine you haven't used before, describe similar machines you have used and how you had no difficulty learning to operate them.

16. Can you work under pressure or tight deadlines?

This question indicates that your job will involve working under pressure and deadline, so reassure the interviewer by giving examples from paid or unpaid activities that involved deadlines and how well you performed when a large rush order suddenly had to be filled, how you managed to prepare for three final exams in one day in school, or how you handled a crisis when your boat was caught in a storm. Mention several examples, stressing how capable you were in rising to the occasion, that you did not mind the stress and possibly enjoyed it.

17. How old are you?

In asking this question, the interviewer is usually expressing some concern that you are either too old or too young for the job.

If you are an older person stress that you are:

  •         flexible
  •         willing to take directions from younger staff
  •         settled in the area and unlikely to move
  •         capable of mature judgment and good common sense
  •         in possession of many different job skills and so adaptable to changing job requirements
  •         punctual and reliable and have been for years

If you are a younger person stress that you are:

  •       looking for a permanent job
  •       not returning to school
  •       planning to stay in the area
  •       reliable, punctual and rarely ill
  •       quick and eager to learn
  •       not in possession orally bad work habits
  •       eager to prove yourself
  •       willing to accept criticism or suggestions because you know you have much to learn



8. Are you thinking of going back to school, university or college?             

An interviewer will usually ask this question only of a younger applicant, as he/she is concerned that the person will not stay in the job for long. You should reassure the interviewer by mentioning considerations such as your desire to work for a few years, or that work is very important to you, or that you have no desire to continue schooling and what you want is to build a future for yourself, or that you will take courses only at night.

19. Are you married?

When the interviewer asks whether you are married, he/she is usually concerned that your marital status may present a problem in your job. In general, the fear is that a married person may be too tied down by family responsibilities to be flexible or dependable on the job, and a single person may be too unreliable. The answer you should give involves assuring the interviewer that your married or single status will not cause any interference with the job. Furthermore, your answer should include a statement of the advantages for.the job or being single or married.    

If you are married, you can point out that:

1. You are not going to be changing jobs because you have family responsibilities.

2. You are established in the area, and your family likes it here.

3. You can travel and work overtime since your marital partner knows that is part of the job and accepts that fact. 

4. You are working and will not need time off from work if they are You have made arrangements for the care of your children while sick. This point is sometimes raised with single parents with young children.

5. Your marital partner has a permanent job and wants to remain in the area.

6 Talk about your marital partner and children, stating what kind of job your partner does and what your children's ages are and what school they attend. The interviewer may know your partner, be interested in his/her type of job, or have children the same age, thereby establishing a common area of interest between you.


If you are single, you can point out that:

1.You can travel in your job or work overtime without restriction since you have no family to tie you down.

2. You like the area and have friends and relitives here and intend to stay.

3. That marriage will not cause you to move.

20. Are there any questions that you have?

This is often the final question that an interviewer will ask and is often asked merely as a gesture of courtesy. Do not attempt to obtain complete information about the job at this point, since you may unintentionally give the impression that you are not sure you really want the job. Wait until you have definitely been offered the job before asking questions about retirement benefits, chances for advancement, public transportation facilities, salary and so on. This information may be critical for you in making your decision, but wait until you have been offered the job to ask about them.