Monday, January 14, 2013


 When you are called for a personal interview, many types of questions spring across your mind, especially if you are an inexperienced job seeker.

Here are some tips on answering the most frequently asked questions in a personal interview:

Tell me something about yourself.

Go prepared for this question, as this is the most frequently asked question in the interview.

Answer it covering your work experience, educational qualifications and a little information about your family background.

Try to focus on key areas of your work while talking about your professional experience. This is an open ended question and can help you in taking the interview in which ever direction you want it to go.

You should know where to put a full stop to provoke the desired question from the interviewer. 

Why does this role interest you? Or why have you applied for this job?

Keep the focus of the answer to this question on your skills, experience and personal qualities.

Link the job requirement to your skills rather than talking about the challenges, career and progression.

Why do you think should we take you for this job?

Don't panic if you are asked this question. Make sure that you have understood the job profile well before you go for the interview.

Relate your qualifications and work experience with the job requirements.

If there are any new things that you are expected to perform in the new job, say that you are always open to learn the new things and take up the new challenges.

What motivates you at work?

You can say that competition and new challenges motivate you at work.

Why do you want to leave your present job or why did you leave your last job?

The reasons for switching the job could be numerous. The best answer to offer for this question is to say, “for better prospects”.

Now they can ask you another question, what do you mean by better prospects? To this you can say, better prospects in terms of experience, and exposure.

If you have been made redundant, put your words across very carefully. Your wrong words can give an impression that only you were the one whose position was made redundant, which hardly might be the case.

May be you can say something like, “Over last 8 months a lot of restructuring was going on in the company and 40 positions became surplus. One of them was mine but I have learnt a lot during my tenure at XYZ company and I am sure I can add a lot of value to a position like the one we are discussing about”.

What is your greatest strength?

Interpret this question as, what is your greatest relevant strength? Or why should we hire you? Tell them a strength that they want to buy. For this you will need to properly understand the job profile and keep your answer ready.

For example, if the job needs you to have convincing answers ready for the any type customer’s questions, you can sell “your presence of mind” or if you are required to change you sector or industry you can offer “your adaptability” as an answer.

It is important to keep ready at least 2 examples of the mentioned strength.

What is your greatest weakness?

Interpret this question as, why shouldn’t we hire you? There 3 ways to tackle this question. Judge the situation and use one of them.

First way: Use your sense of humour. If the interview is proceeding in the light way and you have built up a good rapport with the interviewer, you can get out of it by saying “Icecream”. Accompany it with a right body language.

Second Way: If you have to answer this question seriously, give a weakness which doesn’t relate to the job under discussion. For example, you can say, I have been using a camera since childhood but I still don’t know how to mend it. If it is spoiled, I will need to take it to an expert.

Third way: Understand the requirement of the role under discussion and say that others accuse you of having that weakness but you think that it is important for your work.

For example, if the job needs a detailed study and leaving a single step might need you to re-run the whole process say that “My colleagues accuse me of having a too much eye for detail but I have experienced that to do this work you need to go into details rather than cutting corners. I have worked with people following a shorter route and doing the whole exercise again, which I would not prefer to do.”
What is your greatest achievement?
The underlying agenda is to know what personal qualities were required to achieve it. Don’t go back too far to answer this question as this might give an impression that you have not achieved anything since then.

Find a relevant answer in the recent past for this question. If you are a fresher and have been a topper of your college or university, you can say that during the interview. 

Are you ambitious?

You can say that I am very ambitious in the way that I don’t like to get to get a feeling of stagnancy. I want that I should always be getting new experiences and learning new things.

What qualities would you look for, if you were recruiting someone for this position?

To answer this question, you need to analyze the requirements of the job profile before appearing for the interview.

The answer to this question would estimate your understanding of the role under discussion.

Are you speaking to some other companies? Or how is your job search going on?

This question gives you an opportunity to let the interviewer know that other companies are also interested in hiring you and gives you leverage while negotiating the salary.

You can say, Yes, I am in the final round of discussion with two other companies. Approach the interviewer as a “Problem Solver” and not as a “Job Beggar”.

Which companies are you talking to?

You can maintain your integrity by refusing to disclose the names. You can simply say, they haven’t notified these openings so I believe they would not like their names to be revealed.

At times, taking the competitor’s names might increase your chances of being hires. Analyze the situation and answer accordingly.

Are you ready to relocate?

You can say, for a right position and right company relocation should not be a problem. Do not close the discussion at the earlier stage by saying “No”.

You have stayed for a long time with your last company-Why?

Staying with the same company for too long may be considered as the candidate being un-ambitious.

While answering this question you can say, “Yes, I preferred to stay with them all this while because I was regularly adding value to my experience there and I was growing as a professional”.

You have switched many jobs-why?

Too much job hopping gives an impression that the candidate is unstable and unreliable but you can put this query to ease by saying that you switched jobs to broaden your experience.  

What was your biggest mistake?

There’s nothing wrong in admitting a mistake. A human being is bound to commit mistakes. This time it is advantageous to go back as far as possible in the past and find an answer.

The advantage of doing this is that a youngster is expected to commit more mistakes than a mature and seasoned person. This would give an impression that since that time you have committed mistakes but not that big.

Take the word “mistake” as liberally as possible and go back to your student life to answer this question. Probably you can say, if I could go back to my student life, I would have studied Biology instead of Math.

Why haven’t you got a job yet?

This question will usually arise if it has been sometime since you finished your studies and are still in the market without a job.

You can say that, I have been offered some tempting positions in the last few days but had to turn them down as I did not find them right for my candidature. You can follow it up with some examples.

You do not have all the experience we are seeking for this position.

To answer this question, you again need to analyze the requirements of the role properly and match them to your candidature.

If you meet most of the requirements, you can say that you have most of the qualities needed for this role and for the remaining you are always open to learning them.

You can follow this up with an example from your last job where you learnt and did things that you didn’t know earlier. Stay confident while answering this question.

Why do you want to quit your present job?

The reasons for you to quit the present job could be numerous, may be you don't get well along with your boss or your salary is too less but it’s not good to make derogatory remarks about your present company in an interview.

You can give a more practical answer like, my present company is not able to offer me further growth opportunities and I have a feeling that it’s the time for me to grow up in hierarchy and learn further.
Have you ever made a mistake at work? How did you rectify it?
Everybody makes mistakes, there's nothing wrong in admitting it. In the interview you can say that yes, there have been times when you have made mistakes and learnt from them.

Whatever you could correct yourself, you did that and for the rest you went back to your senior and took his help to sort it out.

What major problems did you face in your last role?

The agenda of this question is to understand if
• You caused the problem
• Could it have been avoided?
• Your attitude to solve it.

It is safer to mention a problem which was caused by an external party rather than the problems within internal parties.

May be you can take an example of the problem caused by a customer, vendor. Discuss what you did to solve the problem. If you took some leadership role also in the whole process, talk about it.

Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?

By asking this question, the interviewer wants to see, how ambitious the candidate is. You can say that, 5 years down the line I would like to see myself in a responsible position where I can make important decisions in the favor of company and the company treats me as its asset. I am sure that this company can offer me growth opportunities like this.

How do you feel about doing repetitive work?

You can say that I understand that every job has an element of repetitive work but I enjoy fulfilling all the aspects of my job with equal enthusiasm and give them my 100%.

How did you manage to attend this interview during your working hours?

Everybody knows that you would not ask permission from your boss to appear for an interview.

You can answer this question by simply saying that you have taken a off from the office to appear for this interview.

Would you like to work in a team or on your own?

The agenda behind this question is to understand if you are a team player or a solo performer.

It might be risky to choose any one of them as the role for which they are considering you might need you to be a team player but the career progression which they might consider for you down a year’s time may need you to handle a more autonomous position.

It is better to answer this question by saying that “I don’t have any such preference. I can comfortably handle both the situations, as the need arises.” Now back it up with examples where you successfully worked in a team and where you performed an autonomous role.

If your last boss was present here, what do you think he would tell us about you?

This is again a question which can be answered in two ways.

First way: If the situation is light, you can say that, “I am the diamond of his team, you must pick me up”. This needs to be accompanied by a right body language.

Second way: If the discussion is proceeding in a serious manner, you can pick up a formal appraisal he gave you and say that I think he would repeat it here.

Has your career developed as you had liked?

The agenda behind this question is to understand if there had been times of dip in your career and if you lay the blame for them on others. There’s nothing to be ashamed of if there have been short gap in your employment.

You can justify it by giving a convincing reason. Look at your qualifications and social environment and relate your achievements to them, to answer this question.

All the best



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