By Edward A. Denison
The following answers are provided as samples only. It is important to rework them personally, since memorized text-book responses do not appeal to employers as much as genuine, well thought-out answers.
- Tell me about Yourself
- to put you at ease
- to learn from you why they should or should not hire you.
- to find out if your mind is on what you can offer the employer or if it is on personal concerns that may interfere with your work performance
- to learn a little bit about your background.
Briefly touch on the following three areas:
- your qualifications and experience related to this position
- your attributes, including your ability to get along with others
- some appropriate personal information to indicate stability and a well-rounded character. For example, personal interests, community involvement and fitness
Be prepared for further questions from the interviewer about the interesting points you have made.
"In terms of my work experience I offer a solid _______________ (name your field) background that includes ________________________ (give a brief qualifications benefit statement). In terms of my personal attributes I am __________________ and _______________ (mention a few of your attributes) and I really enjoy this field of work. On a personal note I ___________________(name a physical activity), I ______________________ (name a hobby or interest and enjoy _____________ as a (family/community) activity. I (we) have settled in this area and I'm looking forward to working for an organization such as this."
- Tell Me About Your experience with This Type of Work
To find out if you can do the job or not.
- If you have done this work, state where and give examples of your achievements.
- If you have done related work, or had related training, say so and list your transferable skills indicating your interest in this position and willingness to learn.
- If you have not done this work, mention work-related attributes and skills and quickly indicate your interest in on-the-job training. If eligible, describe wage subsidy possibilities.
If you have specific experience:
"Yes, I worked at _________________ (name(s) of companies from ____________(date) to _____________________ (date). The duties I performed were ________(name duties) and my achievements were _________________________ (name special results/achievements.) My training in this field includes _____________ (summarize training)."
If you have no specific experience:
"My background includes __________________________ (name related transferable skills, training). I'm quick to learn, I take pride in meeting the goals and standards of an organization and once trained in your specific _____________ (product, service, procedures), I feel I would be an asset to your firm."
- Why Do You Want to Work Here?
- To find out what you know and like about the organization and if you would stay.
- To see if your work qualifications fit their requirements and approach.
- To find out if you are genuinely interested in contributing to the company or only want the security, benefits or prestige they offer.
- Describe what you know about the organization. If you can honestly compliment the company on such points as its reputation, service, produce, location, growth, quality or appearance, do so. Indicate the interest and care you have put into collecting background information.
- Indicate your liking for the work you do and how your skills match their requirements.
- Make "you" statements, not "I need" statements.
(If you can give specific, honest examples)
"Your organization has a reputation for ______________________ (give examples) and I'm really interested in utilizing _________________ (your occupational field) skills here and growing with the company."
Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?
- To discover any problems you have that would be a reason not to hire you.
- To assess your attitude towards employers, supervisors, policies, organizational changes, or difficult situations.
- Find something positive to say about your former company (its product, service) and its personnel.
- Briefly and matter-of-factly state your reason for leaving.
- If you left on good terms or have a good letter of reference from your last job, say so.
- If you left on bad terms, keep in mind that your interviewer may check references. Mention what the employers appreciated about you, some of your work achievements and the good relationships you still have with some personnel, and the opportunity you seek for new challenges and career growth and contribution.
Check your reasons for leaving your last job from the following possibilities
- If you left on good terms
for business reasons:
- The company went out of business
- Our department was moved to another province
- There was new ownership with a change of staff
- The company down-sized due to merger/economy/other
- It was seasonal work
- The hours were reduced
- The contract ended
- There was a change in government/municipal/company policy
for personal reasons:
- To look after the family
- To attend to a one-time medical matter that is now taken care of
- To re-assess my career
- To find a position that required less travel time and time away from my family
- To take advantage to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to such as travel
- If you left on bad terms:
- There was a company re-organization and my job description changed
- We just didn't see eye to eye
- It was time for a change
- I did a career evaluation and realized that the position I am applying for is really where I need to be at this point in time
- The company was taking a new direction and this offered an opportunity to re-evaluate my own career goals and development
- For reasons of company confidentiality I am not at liberty to discuss this. However, I want to assure you of my excellent work record and personal performance level and integrity. Here is a copy of my most recent performance evaluation/reference letter.
- What Kind of Salary Do You Need?
- To find out how close you come to what they are willing to pay and if you are realistic about current salary ranges and rates.
- To get an idea of your own sense of self-worth.
Suggestions and Examples:
- Politely say:
"I'm really interested in finding out what salary range you are offering."
They will often share this information
Express your interest in working for them and request more specific information about the job description if you need it, stating that your responsibilities will influence the salary.
"I'm negotiable and ready to discuss an amount which is fair to both of us, and takes into account my responsibilities and qualifications."
- If the employers are obviously interested in hiring you, or insist on an answer name an amount or range that you know is realistic. Know what you need to make your personal monthly budget. Ask about benefit plans, raises and opportunities for training and promotion.
How Much Were You Absent from Work In Your Last Job?
Find out if they can depend on you to be at work
Suggestions and Examples:
- If you had an excellent attendance record, say so. Show enthusiasm and liking for the field you are in.
"I've had an excellent attendance record. I take pride in my work and know that my contribution is needed."
- If you had poor attendance and it was due to something now dealt with, briefly explain this to the employer. Indicate that you are committed to having a reliable work record. Mention positive reference and previous good work or school records.
- If you had an excellent attendance record, say so. Show enthusiasm and liking for the field you are in.
How Is Your Health?
To find out if you will miss work, or perform poorly, costing the employer money and time.
Do not mention anything that will interfere with your work performance:
- If you have excellent health, say so. If you are over 45, or if your health may be in doubt, briefly mention any positive points you can make about your fitness, stamina and ability to cope with pressure. Indicate a positive work attitude.
- If your health is poor, or you have an obvious handicap, or you missed work in the past for physical or mental health reasons, put any doubts to rest by assuring the employer that you are ready for work. If appropriate, have employment and medical references available. Also, ask to demonstrate your ability to perform your work if it is a physical handicap or if you give the appearance of not being able to do the work. If you are eligible, mention a wage subsidy.
When Are You Available for Work?
To find out how soon you can start To find out if you have other commitment
- If you are free to start immediately and if you are keen to work for the company, say so.
- If you are working and need to give notice, state the length of time you need.
What Are Your Greatest Strengths?
- To discover reasons for hiring you
- To find out how well you know yourself
- To find out if you believe in yourself and are confident that you are the right person for the position
Briefly mention that besides the work skills, training and/or experience that you would contribute, you also offer job-related qualities such as (list your attributes.) If possible, and if there is time, be ready to back these attributes up with specific illustrations, for example, a time at work when you met a tight deadline.
- What Are Your Weaknesses?
To discover if you are wrong for the job due to such reasons as a lack of experience or training, poor people skills, refusal to follow orders, poor attitude, laziness, and inability to cope with pressure, to name a few.
- Describe a positive attribute that you know you have, For example, state that it's important to you to meet deadlines; maintain high standards; satisfy the customer; maintain the equipment; or see that all messages are answered. Then continue with a statement of reassurance such as: "I have to really make myself be patient (diplomatic, firm) when I see that this is not happening." Be ready to describe such a situation and how you effectively handled it.
- Honestly state an obvious weakness or handicap, then describe factors that compensate for it. Remember that once you have raised a doubt you have to explain it immediately.
- If you genuinely cannot think of any weaknesses, tell the employer this:
"I'm so enthusiastic that I want to do 100 things at once, so I have to sit down and make a list of priorities and plan a schedule. That always works well with me." "I'm eager to have computer training, so I'm enrolling in evening courses for next term."
What Was Your Last Employer's Opinion of You?
- To find out how you perceive your relationship and performance with your former employer.
- To compare your opinion with that from the last employer
- To find out reasons to hire or not hire you
- Indicate if you had a good relationship with your employer and mention some of the employer's qualities that you admire. If you have a good written reference or performance evaluation, quote it and have it available. Mention positive facts that the employer had mentioned and would probably say about you.
- If you left on bad terms, mention that you did not see eye-to-eye on some issues. Then mention the positive aspects of your performance that the employer would likely agree were true. For example, your punctuality, quality of work, ability to deal with the public, or others. Mention any positive facts about the employer or product, and omit reference to the negative ones.
What Are Your Long-range Goals?
- To discover whether you will stay with the company
- To find out what it is that you really want
- To identify your career plans
- To see if your goals fit in with the company
Keep your answer work-related, with this company in mind. State your interest in and commitment to staying and growing in this field of work.
- What Kind of Machines or Equipment Have You Worked With?
To find out if you can fill the job requirements and operate their equipment.
Name the job related equipment you can operate giving specific types, brand names, categories, sizes and where and how you used it. If you have not operated the equipment they have, assure them of experience on similar types and express a willingness to learn.
- Can You work Under Pressure or Tight Deadlines?
To find out your attitude to pressure and your ability to deal with it.
Suggestions and Examples:
- Reply to this with "yes" if that is true to you.
- Say that:
"I know pressure and deadlines are a part of work and I enjoy meeting realistic goals and challenges."
- Give job-related examples from your past experience to show how well you coped with pressure. Describe what you consider normal deadlines and pressures for the type of work you would be doing.
- If you cannot cope with pressure, first state some positive strong points (for example your thoroughness, cheerful attitude, punctuality) then add that you prefer knowing deadlines will in advance and work better in that situation.
- Are You Thinking of going back to School or College?
- To find out if you will not be staying very long. (Employers invest time and money in locating and training new employees which they do not want to lose.)
- To discover your career plans and ambition
- If you plan to stay in this field for quite a while, state this.
- If you are going back for more education full-time, be honest. State when this would happen, then assure the employer of advantages of hiring you such as your ability to learn quickly, reliability, productivity, compatibility and honesty.
- If you are going back for courses that are on our own time, say so. Give assurances that it will not interfere with productivity. Let the employer know if the courses are work-related and that you are eager to upgrade your skills and stay up-to-date.
- Indicate readiness to take any training or upgrading offered or recommended by the employer. Some organizations pay for training.
- What Is Your Greatest Achievement?
- Discover if you are able to recognize and share this information.
- Provide even more reason to hire you and get your talents working for them.
- Briefly describe a work-related achievement that shows your knowledge and expertise in the field, or in dealing with people or problem-solving. Give specifics about the situation. If you are new to the work-force or are re-entering it, take an example from school, volunteer or part-time work, or recreational challenges. Then show how the skill is transferable to this job. It might, for example, demonstrate quick-thinking, flexibility, leadership, creativity or dedication.
"When I was with _________________ company, I increased the rate of (customer return/productivity/bottom-line profit/accident prevention/produce protection/other) because of my ________________________ (give reasons.)"
- How long have you been out of work? How often have you changed jobs?
- To find out if you have a work-ready attitude
- To find out if you area poor risk who will not stay on
- To see if you are settled, able to cope and be reliable, and get along with others
- State the length of time it has been since you left your last job, then, if it is true, point out that you have been working diligently at a full-time professional job search, doing career planning, interviewing people in the field and staying up to date with industry trends. Be careful about mentioning volunteer or family work too much in case the employer gets the impression that it will take all your time even when you are working.
- Explain any good reasons you had for changing jobs so often. These could include moving, the recession, cut-backs, or a health or family concern (such as child or elder-care) seasonal or contract work, or other reasons.
- Illegal Questions
Except where there is a genuine occupational requirement, it is discriminatory and contrary to the Human Rights Act 1 for a person or an employer to refuse to employ or to dismiss a person, or to discriminate against a person with respect to any term or condition of employment because of the person's
- place of origin
- political belief
- martial status
- physical or mental disability
- sex (including sexual harassment and pregnancy), or
- conviction for a criminal or summary conviction charge that is unrelated to the employment
It is also contrary to The Human Rights Act for an employer to pay less to one sex for work that is similar or substantially similar to work performed by the other sex.
If you are asked an illegal question it is important not only to know your rights but also to be able to respond to the question with dignity and assertiveness. If it is an employer you want to work for, indicate a willingness to demonstrate your suitability for the job without compromising your rights.
Respond with a counter question
"Could you tell me how my (age, marital status, place of birth, religion, etc.) might have any bearing on the job I am applying for?"
"That's a very interesting questions. I'd be happy to answer it if you could tell me the reason for asking it."
If the employer does not mention a topic but you feel it could be an unstated concern, you may want to tactfully bring the subject out into the open and put doubts to rest.
Examples of Answers
(If you choose to answer)
- How Old Are You?
- Older Worker
Mention: experience, fitness, flexibility, current knowledge, maturity, stability, no child-care commitments, common sense, reputation and business/client contacts. There may be an objection that you are over-qualified, or may expect a higher salary or pension. Mention (if it is true) that, at this point in your career, job-satisfaction is a higher value for you than a higher profile, higher paying position and this is what you want to be doing
- Young Worker
Mention: flexibility, pride in punctuality and work performance; energy, eagerness to learn, any good attendance, sports or academic achievements at school; reference from previous employer, paid or volunteer
- Older Worker
- Are You Married?
- If yes and you have children assure the employer that you have reliable child-care with a back-up for emergencies, that you do not take company time to make private calls, and that you pride yourself on punctuality.
- If yes and you have no children, assure the employer that you both hope to stay settled in the area
- If no, assure the employer of your reliability and some community involvement. Emphasize that you are free to do overtime and travel for the company, if that is true for you.
- How long have you been in Canada? Where are you from?
Immigrants: Relate your answer to current Canadian markets, trends and knowledge and the employer's immediate needs
- If you are a Canadian Citizen, or have been here a while, tell the employer .
- Mention your Canadian work experience or training, ideally in this community or province. If it is in another province, in the United States, United Kingdom or in an overseas organization with North American affiliations, mention it as well.
- You may have excellent overseas credentials from a superior academic or technical institution that would impress an employer. This information will likely be unfamiliar to the average Canadian employer.
- Try to attend a Canadian upgrading or refresher course from a recognized training institution. Join a North American Association for your occupation if there is one.
- Mention your up-to-date, current occupational and market knowledge. Include your study of related by-laws, codes, acts and government regulations as well as product and service knowledge and trends.
- Talk about your transferable skills with confidence. Mention your ability to learn quickly. Mention work challenges that you have successfully met that would likely occur in Canada.
Reference - The Canadian Human Rights Commission, 320 Queen Street, Place de Ville, Tower "A", Ottawa, ON K1A 1E1
- What Would You Do In "This" Situation??
Assess your ability to handle unexpected questions
Assess your ability to judge and handle real life situations
Learn of actual experience you have had
Discover if you are aware of company policy and government rules
- Mention your commitment to follow company guidelines and to consult your supervisor where appropriate.
- Describe a time when you successfully dealt with such a situation.
- Describe related situations, experience, skills, attributes.
Samples of questions an employer might ask
- What would you do if you discovered another employee was (stealing from the organization; breaking important safety rules; breaking confidentiality)?
- you saw a customer stealing?
- two different supervisors gave you conflicting instructions?
- fellow employees kept interrupting your work to discuss personal problems?
- a customer became angry and threatened violence?
- What Questions Do You Have?
Indicate interview almost over
Find out what you are interested in knowing
- Keep questions brief and watch for non-verbal signals from the employer that it is time to end the interview.
- Be confident but not demanding or self-seeking
- Show that you have listened to the employer and that you have already researched the company
Sample Questions to Ask at an Employment Interview
These questions should be asked, if not previously raised in the interview.
- I'd be interested in learning more about __________________ (some aspect of the company's operations.)
- What are the main duties of this position?
- What characteristics do you look for in people doing this job?
- Is this a new position? (If it is not, perhaps ask why the other person left)
- Who are the personnel I would be dealing with in this position?
- What opportunities are there for advancement?
- Does your company have branches elsewhere? D
- o you have any plans for expansion?
- What area does your market cover?
- When will you be making your decision?
INTERVIEW QUESTIONS TO ASK
- What is the first problem or issue that needs the attention of the person you hire?
- What other problems need attention right now?
- Why is this position vacant?
- What are the main responsibilities of this job?
- What authority would I have? What budget?
- How many staff?
- Any vacancies right now?
- What can you tell me about other key people I would have contact with?
- What major challenges do you see facing this industry and this company in the years ahead?
- Do you feel this organization is financially sound?
- Might it be sold in the foreseeable future?
- (To the prospective boss) What do you see as your future within this organization?
- (To the prospective boss) What qualities do you look for in a subordinate?