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How to Prepare for Potential Job Interview Questions

Going to a job interview can be a harrowing experience, and not just because your livelihood depends on it. Every job interview has an element of unpredictability. You can control how you dress, and barring unforeseen circumstances, you can control what time you arrive for your interview, but you can’t pick and choose which questions an interviewer will ask.

Potential employers may stick to a pretty standard script, or they may hit you with a ridiculous question, just to see how you handle unexpected pressure. And, while you can’t control the whims of hiring managers, you can prepare yourself ahead of time for anything they might throw at you.

How to Prepare

Researching the company should be one of your top priorities when preparing for the questions you’re likely to be asked at a job interview. You should peruse the company website for information about the company’s history, current status, and future plans. Do an online search, and see what the media is saying about the company. Are there any recent awards, developments, or controversies?

Check out social media profiles for the company itself and some of its key players, and see what sort of information you can gather from those outlets. Are they struggling with certain aspects of the business, or trying to expand into new fields?

Search job placement websites and see if you can find any information about what the position you’re applying for typically pays, what the company culture is like, and how satisfied current and former employees are.

By filling your brain with information about the company you’re interviewing with, you’ll be able to answer their questions in a much more insightful manner.

The Dress Rehearsal

OK, so you don’t actually have to wear your job interview outfit for this one, but you can if you want to. Here’s what you’re going to do: make a list of the questions you feel they’ll be most likely to ask, and then prepare an answer for each. If you’re having trouble coming up with questions to put on your list, just do a search for “most common interview questions” and use those.

When crafting your answers, make sure they’re relevant to the position you’re applying for.

If you’re asked to share a little bit about yourself, they’re not looking for your life story. Your answer should be your elevator pitch – a brief description of what you do professionally with an emphasis on what makes you especially equipped for the job. You can say something like: “I have held various positions in data entry over the past 7 years, working with several different databases including Microsoft Access. I am meticulous about detail which resulted in a promotion to team lead at Company X. I love working in a high energy environment with driven people, which is why I was so interested to hear that your company is hiring.” Be sure to refer to the job description to help you craft your answer.

If they’re looking for teamwork, choose a work experience where you demonstrated your ability to collaborate and work towards a goal.

Whatever you do, don’t give them details about your personal life, political affiliation, or religious beliefs. Essentially, don’t inadvertently answer any questions they’re not allowed to ask you.

When they ask you about your biggest weakness, concentrate on something you’ve had to overcome, how you got through it, and the (job-relevant) lessons you learned in the process. The same goes for the question about past work-related problems. Sharing examples of your strengths and weaknesses is better than listing them out with no supporting details.

Discussing salary can be a tricky one, and you don’t want to tip your hand too early in the game, or you may end up leaving money on the table. It’s best to wait to discuss salary until you know they’ve decided you’re on the short list. A good idea would be to research what the position is worth and look at multiple salary calculators on the Internet. Ask around – ask mentors, former bosses, your parents’ friends, whomever. Once you’ve got a good idea of what to expect, frame the discussion as, “From what I’ve seen, this position is worth about Y amount. Therefore I’m looking for something in the X-Z range.”

We’ve covered a few of the most common questions, but you’ll probably come up with more. When you have your complete list of questions and answers, rehearse them a bit. Then, have a friend interview you. Let them throw in a few oddball questions, just to keep you on your feet.