Basic Interview Questions I
1. "Tell me a little about yourself."
should take this opportunity to show your communication skills by
speaking clearly and concisely in an organized manner. Because there is
no right or wrong answer for this question, it is important to appear
"I attended MIT where I majored in Electrical Engineering. My hobbies include basketball, reading novels, and hiking."
"I grew up in Korea and studied accounting. I worked at an accounting firm for two years and I enjoy bicycling and jogging."
an easy going person that works well with everyone. I enjoy being
around different types of people and I like to always challenge myself
to improve at everything I do."
"I’m a hard worker and I like to
take on a variety of challenges. I like pets, and in my spare time, I
like to relax and read the newspaper."
"I’ve always liked being
balanced. When I work, I want to work hard. And outside of work, I like
to engage in my personal activities such as golfing and fishing."
went to the University of Washington and majored in English Literature.
I went to graduate school because I really enjoyed learning.
Afterwards, I started my career at Boeing as a web content editor. I’ve
been there for 3 years now. Although my emphasis is in writing, I like
numbers. I think solving logic problems and riddles are quite fun. I
also enjoy jogging, reading, and watching movies."
There is no
right or wrong answer for this question. Most important thing you should
remember is how you deliver the message. The example above shows a
short answer telling a little bit about the person. The answer went from
education to career, and then to personal interests all in a smooth
2. "What are your strengths?"
is a popular interview question. They want to know what you think of
yourself. Although this is a general question, there is a wrong and
right answer. The wrong answer is a generic answer saying you are
organized and friendly. Although it will not hurt you during the
interview, it will certainly not help you either. Answer this question
based on the type of job you are applying for.
"I believe my strongest trait is my attention to detail. This trait has helped me tremendously in this field of work."
"I’ve always been a great team player. I’m good at keeping a team together and producing quality work in a team environment."
having worked for a couple of years, I realized my strength is
accomplishing a large amount of work within a short period of time. I
get things done on time and my manager always appreciated it."
strongest trait is in customer service. I listen and pay close
attention to my customer’s needs and I make sure they are more than
Let’s say I am interviewing for a management position. You should mention traits that are important for managers.
couple strengths I have are planning and execution, and working with
people. I’ve always been very good at planning and detailing all the
steps. Even in college, I would spend time organizing my week and
planning a strategy to tackle each class or assignment. Executing a plan
has always come easy for me as well. I believe it’s due to proper
planning. I also work with people very well in a way where I use the
strengths of each individual in a team to produce the best results.
Because of my easy going personality, I’ve been told by my directs that
it’s easy to approach me."
If you are applying for an accounting
position, you should mention strong traits an accountant should have and
claim them to be yours.
"I’m very detail oriented, good at
managing time, and very honest. I always incorporate managing time and
being detailed together. By nature I’ve been detail oriented, and that
resulted in taking too much time on a particular task. After
incorporating time management into the mix, I found that my work and
efficiency increased dramatically. I plan better and produce higher
quality work in a time constraint environment. Finally, I’m a very
honest person. When I was working as a valet attendant during college, a
lady gave me a twenty dollar bill to pay for the three dollar fee. She
almost drove off the lot, but I stopped her and said here is your
change. My co-workers said I should have considered the change as tip,
but I know what I did was honest and right. You can fool other people,
but you can’t fool yourself. That’s what I believe."
example can seem a little wordy. But the power of an example is greater
than any great words you can string together. Everyone can claim they
are honest, but with an example, it is much more believable.
3. "What are your weaknesses?"
this answer, you should display a weakness that can be seen as a
strength. There are many types of answers that will work. Some answers
will be good answers for certain jobs, while the same answer will be a
bad answer for a different job. Select an answer that will work for the
position you are applying for. Here are a few examples.
might be bad, but in college I found that I procrastinated a lot. I
realized this problem, and I’m working on it by finishing my work ahead
"I feel my weakness is not being detail oriented
enough. I’m a person that wants to accomplish as much as possible. I
realized this hurts the quality and I’m currently working on finding a
balance between quantity and quality."
"I feel my English ability
is my weakest trait. I know this is only a temporary problem. I’m
definitely studying hard to communicate more effectively."
weakest trait I struggled with was not asking for help. I always try to
solve my own problems instead of asking a co-worker who might know the
answer. This would save me more time and I would be more efficient. I’m
working on knowing when it would be beneficial to ask for help."
think my weakest trait is my impatience. Whenever I work in a team and a
member is not performing up to my expectations, I can get impatient and
annoyed. I understand if they are working hard and their portion is
difficult, but sometimes a person can’t do the assignment due to
incompetence or laziness. A while back I would get frustrated and start
complaining, but I realized that I can help out by explaining things to
some people and encouraging lazy people by reminding them of deadlines. I
know it’s bad to be impatient, but I’m definitely working on it."
too detail oriented. I never want to leave anything out and I want
everything to be perfect. This is bad because it slows down my work.
Initially, I tried to work faster to compensate, but that only made me
sloppy. So I decided to put more emphasis on priority and planning. By
doing so, I’m hoping that I can make the proper decisions on what to
work on and what to intentionally leave out."
Both of these
examples show an answer that is acceptable. Although being impatient is
not good, it shows that you are a quick learner and that you like
efficiency. The second displays a person that is detail oriented, which
can be seen as a good trait. Finally, both answers identify the weakness
and show the actions of correcting it.
4. "What are your short term goals?"
question primarily depends on where you are in your career. A person
with 5 years of experience will have different short term goals than a
person with no work experience. I’ll give an example for both scenarios.
But first, here are some short answers.
short term goal is to find a position where I can use the knowledge and
strengths that I have. I want to partake in the growth and success of
the company I work for."
"I’ve learned the basics of marketing
during my first two years. I want to take the next step by taking on
challenging projects. My short term goal is to grow as a marketing
"As a program manager, it’s important to understand all
areas of the project. Although I have the technical abilities to be
successful in my job, I want to learn different software applications
that might help in work efficiency."
"My goal is to always
perform at an exceptional level. But a short term goal I have set for
myself is to implement a process that increases work efficiency."
short term goal is to learn everything I can about marketing. I want to
find a position where I can contribute what I’ve learned through
education and to gain real life experience. I believe the next couple of
years will be very important to me and my immediate goal is to learn
and become skilled in all aspects of marketing."
"My short term
goal is to get into a management position. The last five years of my
career, I’ve concentrated on learning and acquiring all the skills
needed to perform excellent work. Recently, I’ve taken more
responsibilities in management because I eventually want to become a
sales manager. I’m excited about the last few assignments I completed
because it involved working with vendors and partners while managing a
small group of workers. So I hope to be in a management position within a
year or two and I feel I’m doing a diligent job by volunteering for
extra work to gain more experience."
The first example is a
person straight out of school. Learning is a good short term goal to
have because it shows that you will be trying hard in your job. The
second example is more detailed because that person has several years of
experience. Anybody can say they want a management position, but this
candidate is taking it a step further by showing the steps he is taking
to achieve the short term goal. Thus, it becomes a stronger answer.
5. "What are your long term goals?"
question is asked to see how serious a candidate is about his or her
career. Some people might not know their long term goals, and some
people might have long term goals of becoming rich and retiring early.
Those are incorrect answers for this question. The type of answer you
want to give is an ambitious answer that shows you really love your
career. A good interviewer will read between the lines and find out if a
person is going to be a hard worker or just a mediocre one. Being
descriptive and shooting for a big goal is something interviewers want
"I would like to become a director
or higher. This might be a little ambitious, but I know I’m smart, and
I’m willing to work hard."
"After a successful career, I would
love to write a book on office efficiency. I think working smart is
important and I have many ideas. So after gaining more experience, I’m
going to try to write a book."
"I’ve always loved to teach. I
like to grow newer employees and help co-workers where ever I can. So in
the future, I would love to be an instructor."
"I want to become
a valued employee of a company. I want to make a difference and I’m
willing to work hard to achieve this goal. I don’t want a regular
career, I want a special career that I can be proud of."
long term goal is to become a partner for a consulting firm. I know the
hard work involved in achieving this goal, and I know that many people
fail to become a partner. That’s not going to stop me from working hard,
learning everything I can, and contributing to a company where I’ll
become a valuable asset. I know it’s not a guarantee, but becoming a
partner is a long term goal of mine, and I going to work towards this
goal throughout my career."
This example shows a candidate with a
big goal. This person identifies the difficulty of the goal and shows
the steps required to achieve this goal. Despite the difficulty, this
candidate shows he or she will not get discouraged with difficult
situations and will never give up. It is a short answer that goes a long
6. "What do you want to be doing five years from now?"
"Where do you see yourself in five years?"
This is a similar question to the short term question, but you should answer it a little differently. Here are some examples.
five years, I see myself as a valued employee of a company. I want to
be an expert at my position and start training to be a manager."
"In five years, I want to be a senior analyst. I want my expertise to directly impact the company in a positive way."
goal is to become a lead in five years. Although not everyone gets
promoted to this level, I believe I can achieve this goal through hard
"Although I really enjoy working hands on as a mechanical
engineer, I want to eventually become a manager. I want to continue
gaining experience, and after learning many different aspects, I see
myself in management."
"Five years from now, I
would like to see myself in a management position. I’m going to be
learning and gaining practical experience until then, but eventually, I
want to become a marketing manager. I know there are a lot of things to
learn, but I’m going to be working hard for the next five years. I
believe opportunities come to great workers and I’m going to try to be
one of them."
"Five years from now, I want to be a senior sales
manager. I’m currently training to become a manager, and if I continue
to work hard, I feel I’ll have a management position soon. After gaining
several years of experience as a sales manager, I want to be in a
position where I can train and provide my expertise to newer sales
Both answers display characteristics of working hard.
The second example also mentions that he or she wants to train newer
managers. This is a good answer because it targets one good trait about
upper management… the ability to train managers.
7. "If you could change one thing about your personality, what would it be and why?"
question is another variation to the weakness question. You can provide
a similar type of question unless it is the same person asking them. To
answer this question, think of a person you respect and the trait they
have that you really like. I used to have a manager that was very
patient and explained things very carefully. I really liked this trait,
so I’m going to provide the long answer by using this example. But
first, let’s look at some short answers.
get easily frustrated at people who don’t work very hard. But I know
people have different work styles and different work habits. So if I
could change something, I would like to be more understanding."
have high expectations and I have these expectations on others. I think
if I was more understanding, I could help other workers improve instead
of being disappointed."
"I would like to be more of a risk
taker. I always do my work and complete it at an exceptional level, but
sometimes taking a risk can make the work even better. I’m working on
this by thinking the issue through and weighing the pros and cons."
would like to be more of an extrovert. I’m a little quiet and a little
closer to the introvert side. I would like to change this because I
would appear more friendly."
"I wish I was
more patient with people. I remember a manager I had a couple of years
ago. He was very patient with everyone. Even workers that were not that
smart and failed to understand a concept to perform the job. I remember
thinking how can this person who can’t understand this concept continue
to work here. My manager took a different approach. He was understanding
of this worker and explained the concept in a different way. He even
explained how to view problems from a different perspective. That helped
this worker and in time that worker became a strong contributor. So if I
could change one thing about me, I would like to be more patient and
understanding. I’m taking the steps to change for the better by
remembering the actions of my past manager whenever I’m in a similar
This is a little long, but if you can speak smoothly,
it shows off your communication skills. Also, the content of the answer
is not that bad. They want a personality problem, and this answer is
showing impatience while indicating that you understand difficult
concepts easily. It also shows that you are working on correcting the
8. "What does success mean to you?"
are many things you can say. This type of question doesn’t have a wrong
answer. All answers will be correct. So the best answer is how good you
can make the answer. A mediocre answer will be something like
completing a project on time. You can say this, but add another twist to
make the answer a little better. Here is an example.
"To me, success means to have a goal, plan the steps to achieve the goal, implement the plan, and finally achieve the goal."
"Success means to achieve a goal I have set for myself."
"Success means to produce high quality work before the deadline."
"Success to me is knowing that my contributions positively impacted my company."
to me means completing a task and when looking back, thinking I
couldn’t have done it better. To succeed is to complete a task or
assignment on time in an excellent manner. But that’s only half of it.
The results should be good and the people involved should gain a
valuable lesson or experience. For example, if it was a group project,
and only two people out of four really did the work, I wouldn’t call
that success. If everyone participated and worked together providing a
valuable deliverable then it’s a success. So I think both the result and
the process should be great to call something a success."
answer is showing that you believe in delivering great quality work.
Moreover, it is implying how much you value team work. If you value
teamwork highly, then it is safe to assume that you would make a great
9. "What does failure mean to you?"
is quite simple. I don’t see many right answers so this is what I
suggest. You can believe in two of the following. One, you believe that
failure is not achieving your goal no matter what. Or two, you can
believe failure is only when nothing is learned from the failure. I
believe in the latter, but you don’t have to agree with me.
"Failure is when I do not reach my goal."
"I think to fail at something is making a mistake and not learning anything from it."
"To me, failure means to have a goal and not do anything about it."
think failure is not reaching your potential. If you do not use the
resources you have and the resources around you, that’s failure because
the work or goal could have been done better."
think it’s harder to fail than it is to succeed. The reason is, if you
fail in a project, you can learn a valuable lesson from your mistake.
Learning from the mistake will allow you to improve future projects, or
to simply not repeat them. Just because I believe this, doesn’t mean I
believe it’s acceptable to fail at a project, but just in case, I would
try to learn everything I can… even when the end result wasn’t that
good. So, failure to me means making a mistake and having learned
nothing from it."
Nobody wants a failure. So you can feel that
answering like this will be risky. However, this is a solid answer that
most people agree with. If the person doesn’t like this answer, then you
might not want to work for this person. Everyone fails and if you work
for someone who doesn’t tolerate failure, then you will be in a
difficult situation. Even vice presidents of large corporations will
believe that learning from mistakes is a valuable lesson. This answer
also states that you will do you best not to fail, but just in case, you
want to gain something from your experience.
10."Are you an organized person?"
can think that this question is stupid. Actually, I do. Everyone will
say they are organized. Who will admit otherwise? You should know that
everyone will say similar things. Take this time to be creative with
your answer. You can use these types of questions to leave a strong
impression with a creative answer. Or, if you are not creative, then the
best way to answer this question is with an example. Using a story is
more believable and easier to remember. Feel free to mix in a little
humor to make it more memorable.
"I’m a very
organized person. I like to know exactly what I’m going to do for the
day and the week. So I outline my tasks and organize my work load. By
doing so, I can organize my time and work better."
"I believe I’m
very organized. I like to organize my work by priority and deadlines. I
do this so I can produce the highest quality work in the amount of time
"I think I’m quite organized. I like my documents and
papers in a way where I can retrieve them quickly. I also organize my
work in a way where it’s easy to see exactly what I’m doing."
has always come easy to me. I naturally organize things like my desk,
time, assignments, and work without thinking about them. This helps me
tremendously during times when I’m approaching a deadline."
actually a very organized person. It’s funny that you mention this
because just the other day, my roommate wanted to borrow my suitcase and
saw my closet. He made fun of me for organizing my clothes by length
and color. I’m like that with everything. It’s just so much easier to
manage things. However, I’m not picky and don’t need to have things in a
certain way. I just want things to be organized. So yes, I consider
This example should only be done if you are
confident with your communication abilities. If you appear awkward or if
you sound like you are reading this type of answer, it could have a
negative effect. Instead, you should make a generic answer if you are
uncomfortable with this type of answer.