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Practice Interview Questions with Answer Guidance for the Traditional Interview

Lesson 15 Module 6

Traditional Interview Questions - Three Categories

The following are 25 interview questions that you may be asked in a more Traditional Interview. There are literally hundreds of possible interview questions and that would be impossible to include here. By preparing for these you'll have a structure you can use for all similar questions.

These questions are grouped into three categories. Click on each tab below to select one of the categories. When you click on any of the blue boxes for a question it will open and you will see two things about that question.

First is what I all Tips, Traps and Strategies. Beside that you'll see either a good sample answer or how to structure and tailor an answer just for you.

This page makes a good place to return and practice your answers. It's a good strategy to practice doing so out loud at least some of the time. 

Click on One of the Three Tabs Below to See Questions on that Topic

  • General Questions

  • Career & Job questions

  • Compensation Questions

General Questions

Tell me about yourself

Tips, Traps and Strategies

Beware, about 80% of all interviews begin with this “innocent” question. If you’re unprepared for the question, you will likely begin rambling, recapping your life story, delving into ancient work history or personal matters. Avoid this by preparing.

Best Answer

Start with the present and tell why you are well qualified for the position. Remember that the key to all successful interviewing is to match your qualifications to what the interviewer is looking for.
You must sell what the buyer is buying. This is the single most important strategy in job hunting.
Use the ‘Resume Mirror’ (this uses the job language) strategy to gather this information. Frame your answer around this information.

What are your greatest strengths?

Tips, Traps and Strategies

This question seems like a softball lob, but be prepared. You don't want to come across as egotistical or arrogant. Neither is this a time to be humble.

Prior to any interview, you should have a list mentally prepared of your greatest strengths. You should also have, a specific example or two, which illustrates each strength, an example chosen from your most recent and most impressive achievements.

You should have this list of your greatest strengths and corresponding examples from your achievements so well committed to memory that you can recite them cold after being shaken awake at 2:30AM.

Then, once you uncover your interviewer's greatest wants and needs, you can choose those achievements from your list that best match up.

Best Answer

You know that your key strategy is to first uncover your interviewer's greatest wants and needs before you answer questions.

If you're unable to learn that before answering this question think about your most significant accomplishments using the tips on the left.

Remember to structure you answer in a short one to two minute response using the STAR technique taught in another lesson. 

And from the prior question, you know how to do this.

What are your greatest weaknesses?

Tips, Traps and Strategies

Beware - this is an eliminator question, designed to shorten the candidate list. Any admission of a weakness or fault will earn you an “A” for honesty, but an “F” for the interview.

Don’t try to disguise a strength as a weakness. This is a overused strategy and HR and Hiring Manager’s are tired of hearing it and it will not serve you well.

It’s better to get a thorough description of your interviewer's needs before you answer questions as described previously. Assure the interviewer that you are confident you’re able to meet the critical performance outcomes for this. Then, quickly describe a top achievement using the SMART strategy..

Best Answer

“Based on what you've told me about this position, I believe I'd make an outstanding match. Based on (choose a key job need) I've been successful (describe something you've done that was similar and be sure to state it using SMART format)."

SMART = Specific, Measurable, Action Taken, Results Achieved and Time Required.

The goal is to tie something you've done with a key need of the job and describe it in ways that paints a positive picture in the mind of the interviewer.

What are your goals?

Tips, Traps and Strategies

Not having goals…or having only vague general goals and not having highly specific goals is not a good thing. 

Many hiring managers are strong believers in goal setting. (It’s one of the reason they’ve achieved so much). They like to hire others who are also goal setters.

If you’re vague about your career and personal goals, it could be a big turnoff to many people you will encounter in your job search.

Best Answer

Be ready to discuss your goals for each major area of your life: career, personal development and learning, family, physical (health), community service.

Be prepared to describe each goal in terms of specific milestones you wish to accomplish along the way, time periods you’re allotting for accomplishment, why the goal is important to you, and the specific steps you’re taking to bring it about.

But do this concisely, as you never want to talk more than two minutes straight before letting your interviewer back into the conversation.

What good books have you read lately?

Tips, Traps and Strategies

This may seem like a strange question. Unless you’re up for a position in academia or as book critic for The New York Times, you’re not expected to be a literary lion. But it wouldn’t hurt to have read a handful of the most recent and influential books in your profession, industry and/or on management.

Yet you don’t want to seem like a dullard who hasn’t read a book since Tom Sawyer.

Consider it part of the work of your job search to read up on a few of these leading books. But make sure they are quality books that reflect favorably upon you, nothing that could even remotely be considered superficial.

Finally, add a recently published best-selling work of fiction by a world-class author and you’ll pass this question with flying colors.

Best Answer

“ The most recent book I’ve read was ___ by ___. The reason I chose that book was ___. The key takeaways for me included (demonstrate that those takeaways are things that help you in your career and if possible, tie those to the specific job needs and/or the employer’s business."

What makes you angry?

Tips, Traps and Strategies

You don’t want to come across either as a hothead or a wimp.

Give an answer that’s suited to both your personality and the management style of the firm.

Here, the homework you’ve done about the company and its style can help in your choice of words.

Best Answer

If you are a reserved person and/or the corporate culture is coolly professional: 

“I’m even-tempered and positive person by nature, and I believe this helps me a great deal in my work. I hold my teammates accountable just like I do myself. I believe in open communication about expectations.” 

“If anyone or anything is going off track, I will bring it up for corrective action, but I try to do that in a tactful way without sounding impatient or angry. Good people appreciate that and aren’t put off by bringing this to their attention.”

If you are feisty by nature and/or the position calls for immediate corrective action. 

“From what you told me, ____ needs immediate attention. Am I understanding that correctly?

Based on that, I’d like to have a brief give-and-take discussion as to how I’d approach that. This will give both of us an opportunity to see how compatible our styles and strategies are. Are you open to doing that?”

(Then have a real business discussion about this issue(s)).

Who has inspired you and why?

Tips, Traps and Strategies

The two traps here are being unprepared and irrelevance. If you struggle for an answer, it seems you’ve never been inspired. If you ramble about your high school track coach, you’ve wasted an opportunity to present qualities of great value to the company.

Have a few heroes in mind, from your mental “Board of Directors” - Leaders in your industry, from history or anyone else who has been your mentor.

As always, prepare an answer which highlights qualities that would be highly valuable in the position you are seeking.

Best Answer

Be prepared to give examples of how their words, actions or teachings have helped inspire your achievements.

Here’s an example. 

“A person that was really helpful to me early in my life was my Uncle Jake. He was also my Scoutmaster and he challenged me to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout by age 14, which at the time was highly unusual and quite difficult.

I was able to meet that challenge and it taught me the value of setting goals, anticipating challenges and finding solutions. That’s something that I have found very helpful throughout my career.”

What was the toughest decision you ever had to make?

Tips, Traps and Strategies

The two traps as the prior question. It's being unprepared and irrelevance. If you struggle for an answer, it seems you’re not as self-aware as you should be. 

This is highly personal question and only you can provide a relevant example.

Describe the situation or circumstances, what happened, how you reacted, what you learned from the experience, and how you’ve applied this lesson afterwards. This can also include what you might have done differently.

As always, prepare an answer which highlights qualities that would be highly valuable in the position you are seeking.

Best Answer

“In my leadership role at ABC Company, we went through two years when our market was extremely depressed. This required a reorganization of the national sales team I had worked so hard to build over the last 5 years.

As part of that, I had to lay off 10% of my sales team. That was tough because everyone of them was a top notch sales pro and great team players. 

Here’s how I went about it and what happened…”

How do you respond to an illegal question?

Tips, Traps and Strategies

Illegal questions include any regarding your age…number and ages of your children or other dependents…marital status…maiden name…religion…political affiliation…ancestry…national origin…birthplace…naturalization of your parents, spouse or children…diseases…disabilities…clubs…or spouse’s occupation.

This includes questions about your age, being a single parent, returning to the workforce after a period of time, a lot of past jobs, member of ethnic minority group, etc.

Unless questions are directly related to your performance of the job. You can’t even be asked about arrests, though you can be asked about convictions.

Remember that illegal questions arise from fear that you won’t perform well. Sometimes they are based on illegal biases. The best strategy is to get the job and do an outstanding job.

Best Answer

If you are over 50 and are asked, “How old are you?” Put a big simile on your face and ask “is there a concern that my age my affect my performance?”

Follow this up by reassuring the interviewer that there’s nothing in this job you can’t do and, in fact, your age and experience are the most important advantages you offer the employer for the following reasons…

Another example: If asked, “Do you plan to have children?” you could answer, “I am wholeheartedly dedicated to my career“, perhaps adding, “I have no plans regarding children.” (You needn’t fear you’ve pledged eternal childlessness. You have every right to change your plans later. Get the job first and then enjoy all your options.)

What do you know about our company?

Tips, Traps and Strategies

The employer wants to know if you’re interested enough to research them. This is also about your diligence in managing your career. Not having done your research, will likely label you as lazy.

Conducting your research is the magic key to creating a compelling resume, acing your interviews and getting the best possible job offer.

Top people do their due diligence research every time, average people sometimes. Which are you?

Best Answer

“I spent several hours researching your company website, LinkedIn and Facebook profiles (others as well). I also looked at your LinkedIn profile along with several of your engineers.

My goals has been to understand more about your products, market position, and growth plans. The key things that caught my attention were (mention the top 3 to 4 things). That further stimulated my interest and I wrote down a few things that I’d like to know more about when the time’s right for us to discuss them.”

What questions do you have for me?

Tips, Traps and Strategies

You MUST ask good, intelligent questions to be taken seriously. Never pass up the opportunity to ask your questions.

Your questions should come from your research on the company as well as information you have learned about the job. They should cover all aspects of the opportunity, short-term and long-term career, compensation, your growth opportunities, learning opportunities, employer plans, employer culture, employer products/services, the outlook for the employer’s marketplace, etc.

Best Answer

Here is the one best question of all time. It can be used to get at the heart of the job early on, and can be confirmed again at the end of the interview process.

“If you hire me, what would I have done (accomplished) by the end of my first 12 months that would make you say you made a great hire?” 

The focus here is on done/accomplished. Once you know that, you can structure your interview discussions and salary negotiations with those things in mind!!


Want a Practice Interview With an Interviewing Expert?

Master the art of the job interview. Learn how an expert-led interview coach will help you with answering questions from every style of interview. Make your mistakes with your coach because mistakes with the real job interview ends your chances of getting the interview.

You'll hone your interview skills during mock interviews and get real-time feedback along with a plan tailored just for you so you can meet your career objectives.

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