1. Tell us about yourself.
Good answer:
“I’m really energetic, and a great communicator. Working in sales for two years helped me build
confidence, and taught me the importance of customer loyalty. I’ve also got a track record of
success. In my last role, I launched a company newsletter, which helped us build on our existing
relationships and create new ones. Because of this, we ended up seeing a revenue increase of
10% over two years. I’m also really interested in how companies can use web tools to better
market themselves, and would be committed to building on your existing platform. This is
especially important as the government moves into more Web 2.0 initiatives.”
2. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Good answer:
“In five years I’d like to have an even better understanding of how this agency works. Also, I really
love working with people. Ultimately, I’d like to be in some type of managerial role at this agency,
where I can use my people skills and department knowledge to benefit the people working for me,
and the agency as a whole."
3. What’s your greatest weakness?
Good answer:
“I’ve never been very comfortable with public speaking – which as you know, can be a hindrance
in the workplace. Realizing this was a problem, I asked my previous employer if I could enroll in a
speech workshop. He said “yes.” I took the class, and was able to overcome my lifelong fear.
Since then, I’ve given lots of presentations to audiences of over a 100 high level executives – I
still don’t love it, but no one else can tell!”
4. What salary are you looking for?
Good answer:
“I’m more interested in the role itself than the pay. That said, I’d expect to be paid the appropriate
range for this role, based on my five years of experience. I also think a fair salary would bear in
mind the high cost of living here in New York City. Further, I think my education and background
can make me at the highest Step in my Grade.”
5. Why should I hire you?
Good answer:
“I’ve been an Executive Assistant for the past ten years – my boss has said time and time again
that without me, the organization would fall apart. I’ve also taken the time to educate myself on
some of the software I regularly use (but didn’t really understand the ins and outs of). I’m an
Excel wiz now, which means I can work faster, and take over some of what my boss would
traditionally have had to do himself. What’s good enough for most people is never really good
enough for me.”
6. What is your greatest failure, and what did you learn from
Good answer:
“When I was in college, I took an art class to supplement my curriculum. I didn’t take it very
seriously, and assumed that, compared to my Engineering classes, it would be a walk in the park.
My failing grades at midterm showed me otherwise. I’d even jeopardized my scholarship status. I
knew I had to get my act together. I spent the rest of the semester making up for it, ended up
getting a decent grade in the class. I learned that no matter what I’m doing, I should strive to do it
to the best of my ability. Otherwise, it’s not worth doing at all.”
1. "Tell me about yourself."
Let’s start off nice and easy with this seemingly innocuous question. It’s tricky – be too
general and you’ll appear vague or safe, be too detailed and you might throw the
interview off-track.
With a question like this, your best bet is to be fully prepared with your answer way
before the interview, since you know there’s a good chance it’ll be on the roster of
questions. “Highlight your strengths and leadership attributes and value you can bring to
the company,” says Coach LA.
Key tips:
Prepare your elevator pitch: In about 30 seconds, who you are, what
you’re passionate about, what kind of role you’re seeking. “This should be
about you and highlights of your career or student life and interests,” says
Coach LA. “And it shouldn't be about how old you are and who your
parents are, please!”
Don't stray. HR practitioner John Bondoc says it’s important to keep your
answer to that focused on the role. “Discuss info about you that matches
the post you are being considered,” he suggests.
Here’s an example from Jonathan to consider. "Im a passionate gogetter who wants to make a dent on the universe. I hope to achieve that
through this company, and I do (state your role).”
2. "What's your greatest weakness?"
This was one of the more popular questions raised real-time. Talking about a weakness
is tricky. The safe route might be to go with something completely inoffensive – like the
cliche “I’m a perfectionist, I have to get it right all the time!”
Recruiters know when you answer the question by picking a strength and downplaying it
into a weakness, or picking a textbook "weakness." Call a spade a spade, and describe
a true opportunity area.
Sincerity plays a key role here. Really think about what you need to improve on, identify
how you’re getting over it, and if that paved the way for some other skill to be
One might say, for example, that he isn’t a great listener – but discovering that led him
to be more conscientious asking for feedback.
“Be honest, not generic, to stand out,” says Kash Shaikh, founder of the Be Somebody
movement, a call to action to go out and chase your passion.
Key tips:
Be honest. A good answer to this question comes from a place of selfawareness. “Specify an event that happens consistently. For example, too
emotional, unable to meet deadlines,” suggests Jonathan. “But also say
you have resolved it. You realized the impact and have recognized the
No humblebrags (“I’m tired of winning all the time”)! It doesn’t work.
3. "Why should we NOT hire you?"
Jonathan, LA, and I were surprised that this was one of the most common questions
that popped up in this conversation. It’s likely an attempt to gauge how well you react to
an unforeseen question.
“We usually ask ‘Why we should hire you?’ and not the other way around,” says Coach
LA. “Maybe the interviewer just wants to see how quickly the candidate can think on his
Key tips:
Do not allow questions like these to throw you off – that’s what they’re
designed to do. Here are two strategies to attack this question:
o Answer the question. Coach LA says you can bring up a few things
that might cause employers to think twice, like lack of experience –
then countering that with a good quality, like being willing to
learn. OR:
o Challenge and counter. “I would challenge him and say “I prefer to
talk about positive things such as my strengths and how they can
add value to the company,” says Jonathan. Said nicely, this might
express that you aren’t easily intimidated and are focused and
4. "What's your impression of me?"
This does feel like another question designed to rattle, doesn’t it? Don’t shrink away.
Understand – this isn’t personal. It's not the best question to ask a prospect, either, but
again, they might be looking to observe your reaction.
Key tips:
Stick to observations. Instead of going for adjectives, opt for objective
things that you observed instead. “Talk about impressions on confidence,
choice of words of the boss,” writes Jonathan on Twitter. “Be constructive
and not judgmental in tone.”
Take a moment. Caught off guard by this or any other question? Resist
the urge to speak first, thinking as you talk. Take a few seconds to
compose yourself – you may come up with a passable answer in that time.
5. "What will you do if you don't get this job?"
This was another question that popped up during the conversation, and I imagine
it would be quite intimidating to answer this, almost as if one were already
anticipating a rejection. Just as in the last two questions, remain unfazed – this
isn't personal, and it's unlikely to be an indication that you won't get it.
"Show that you have a plan B and that you will continue to pursue other
opportunities for growth," writes Coach LA on Twitter.
The key here seems to be to show both passion and persistence – that you know
that you are interested in the field and the industry (not just in that particular
company) and that you will keep trying even if you aren't selected the first time.
6. "How long do you intend to stay?"
Don’t be pressured into giving an exact time period. You aren’t getting any
assurances or signed deals immediately in this interview – its very nature is
exploratory! So don’t feel like you need to commit a hard answer.
Here’s a great answer from Jonathan, tweeted during the conversation: “I
intend to stay as long as I’m engaged and productive with my job, boss and
Short and sweet. Direct, confident, and thorough.
7. "What can you offer as a fresh grad?"
You may not have much experience, but it doesn’t mean you have nothing to offer. “The
youth are energetic, more optimistic, more tech-savvy and creative. They will do beyond
ordinary means to get something done. These are qualities that make fresh grads an
important asset for the company. You cant easily get that from other generations,” says
Age shouldn’t obscure value.
Skills in navigating social media and new apps, for example, may come naturally to the
younger set. If this is true for you, take the extra effort to learn a little more, and you’ll
have something to bring to a working world that’s evolving daily at an incredible speed.
8. “What would make you resign from a company?"
Just say it straight, without the bells and whistles. It’s intimidating to talk about
things that will make you leave when you’re interviewing for a job you really
want. But being able to do so eloquently shows a company what you really
value – and it’s also good for you to know about these dealbreakers yourself.
Just a few examples from Jonathan: “A bad boss, a company that doesnt
value talent development, and a culture of inciting fear versus rewards to
make people work hard.”
Coach LA says, “Limited to no career growth/learning will be factors for me to
consider leaving the company. This shows your hunger to continuously grow
and develop as a professional."
Key tips:
Reapply. What were your key successes back when you were in school?
Did you pull off a big event, use social media to raise money, run an
organization? Soft skills learned here hold water in the working world. It’s
up to you to draw those parallels and show the interviewer what you might
be able to do for the company.
Specificity is key. When discussing projects you’ve done in the past,
make sure you discuss concrete results – pesos earned, followers gained,
pageviews racked up. the more specific you are, the more convincing the
9. "Do you have any questions for me?"
Before going into how to answer this question, here’s an important fact. Never say “no”
when you are asked this question. “There's no doubt candidates who ask questions
have a better chance at landing their dream job,” writes Jerome Ternynck, founder and
CEO of SmartRecruiters, on
In that article, he shares the best questions he’s heard from prospective employees,
including “What role will I fill?” and a follow-up, “Why does this role matter to the growth
of the company?”
Don’t ask the question for the sake of filling in that dead air. There must be something
you really would like to know. Is this role old or new? What’s the company doing
differently than others? What’s the company’s stance on an important issue that directly
impacts them?
Here are a few examples from Jonathan:
”How big is the team / Who do I report to?” This gives you an idea of your
boss's work scope and resources.
“If I succeed in this role, what is the career path I can take (managerial
role, assignment to a different country for international exposure, etc)?
“What is expected of me in my first 90 days?”
“Why was this role vacated?”
“What is the company culture?”
Aside from all this, you should be ready to describe situations in your working or student
life, including your proudest achievement, a time you disagreed with your teammates,
the biggest challenge you encountered in a project, et cetera. In these cases, establish
the necessary backstory, briefly say what you did, and most importantly (linger here) –
discuss the results.
Keep the energy up – the interviewer will sense tension and nerves (a wet handshake, a
too-soft voice, for example) and that might set the tone.
The conversation should flow between two people, so embrace spontaneous moments
– the bits where humor and lightness peek through.
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