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Crack these 11 common job interview questions!

Last updated on: August 24, 2011 16:37 IST

Crack these 11 common job interview questions!

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No job interview questions can be taken lightly. Every answer you give, reveals an aspect of your personality. Language and communications expert Preeti Shirodkar lists out the 11 most commonly asked questions in any job interview and how you can tackle them right.

Though seldom recognised as such, an interview constitutes an interaction, the flow of which can be directed by the interviewee and need not be completely left to the discretion of the interviewer.

It is important to understand that as much as the interviewee is in need of a job, the interviewer is looking for an apt candidate for the post -- one with the right attitude, one capable of blending into the culture of the company and one who is equipped with the basic skills and knowledge set that is required for the job.

Paradoxically, this person may not be one with the highest qualifications. This is so because most organisations require a specialised skills-set that no course may necessarily offer. Moreover, it is easier for an organisation to train employees in deficient skills than attempting to change their attitude.

Considering that an interview is a brief interaction that would serve to direct the course of one's career, it is important to be well prepared to face it.

Preparation for an interview would involve gathering documents, gathering information, preparing a list of questions, updating one's knowledge, dressing appropriately, arriving early and carrying oneself with poise.

So too, understanding the objective behind a question can help eliminate redundancy, resulting in a better idea exchange.
Largely an interview covers five major areas personal data, general information, technical information, information about the company and some tricky questions.


Preeti Shirodkar is an Assistant Professor at Mumbai Education Trust

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Areas Tested: Personal Data

The first question that is usually posed to a candidate is

Question: Could you tell us something about yourself? or Introduce yourself.

Objective: This question proves confusing, as most of what one desires to say is already before them, as a part of one's resume.

However, this question can direct the course of the interview, since an interviewee can use it to his/her advantage, by highlighting those areas/ aspects, which s/he desires to be questioned about, since they comprise achievements/core competencies. 

Moreover, it is useful to lay emphasis on those aspects of one's knowledge/skills set and achievements that are likely to prove most beneficial to the company. For example, if the job that requires extensive travelling, one's familiarity with varied languages and cultures would prove valuable.

Reply: While introducing oneself, it is important to draw upon and reflect creativity and factuality, without boastfulness or dishonesty.

A creative introduction arrests the attention of the interviewer.

The areas that one needs to cover are name; final qualification/multiple qualifications (or the penultimate and final qualification, if they are disparate); work experience, if any; major achievements (including projects, co curricular and extracurricular activities); languages known (if it would provide an edge in the given situation); one's strengths and hobbies, though not necessarily in that order.

Don'ts: Abstain from boastfulness; never say 'myself, so and so' -- this is grammatically incorrect; do not begin every sentence with I; do not reveal family background unless specifically asked or unless it has a specific bearing on the job, since the family you belong to cannot define your knowledge or skills set; do not show off your contacts, as it can be seen as an attempt to put unwarranted pressure on the interviewer(s).


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Question: The other areas assessed under personal information are projects, work experience, family background (rarely), expectations from the job/company, plans for the future (Where do you see yourself five years from now?)

Objective: The aim is to assess the skills set acquired, the temperament and achievements of the person and how deeply the person has thought about his/her future.

Don'ts: Never give a general answer like 'in a higher management position' etc., as this shows a complete lack of planning and thought. Care should be taken however that one's plans are plausible and not unachievable/mere pipe dreams.


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Areas Tested: General Information

Question:  One may be asked numerous questions that can give a feel of a candidate's local/global awareness, i.e. they reflect the candidate's knowledge of and ability to analyse and comment on current issues.

Objective: While checking out the interviewee's reading habits, it also evaluates his/her awareness about the fact that local and global events are bound to impact every institution/organisation.

Don'ts: Desist from engaging in guesswork.


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Areas Tested: Technical Information

Question: An important area of evaluation is testing an interviewee's subject knowledge. Testing of this area is directed at reflecting the knowledge of and ability to analyse and comment on the candidate's area of specialisation and possibly some other areas, related to the candidate's knowledge and skills set.

Objective: A key area, this is an assessment of the competencies/talent that can be drawn on by the company and the area(s), where training would be unavoidable.

Don'ts: Don't ignore preparing by brushing up and updating one's knowledge set. It is also important that one does not have to answer in the negative (I don't know) for these set of questions.

On the other hand, it is equally important not to bluff, as this may be easily caught and would reflect very badly on you.

Moreover, to cover up one lie, one would have to engage in another, resulting in creating a very poor impression of the self, since it is for one's knowledge and skills that one would essentially be hired. 


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Areas Tested: Information about the Company

Questions: Though comparatively few, the questions in this area cover the organisation's work area, their USP/ reasons for their success, their annual turnover, the main people in their organisation, their chief rival(s) etc.

Objective: The idea is to test the candidate's keenness for joining the company.

Don'ts: One should not be unprepared in this area. Information can be gathered through annual reports, publications of the company, the internet (however it is preferable to validate this information or then stick to their official website) or interacting with an employee/people from the industry/academia, who are likely to be in the know of things or in a position to find out authentic information.


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Areas Tested: Tricky Questions

Question: Are you/would you be ready to relocate?

Objective: Your willingness to serve at various locations, where the company might benefit the most from your talent.

Reply: 'Yes' if you actually mean it; if you refuse though, always offer a valid justification. In today's context being a woman, being married etc. are not considered valid reasons.

Don'ts: Never simply say a 'no', without an adequate/valid reason; so also do not say a yes, just to get the job, if you are likely to refuse a transfer later, simply because it can be held against you.


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Question: Are you willing to put in longer hours/work on holidays?

Objective: To assess your interest and commitment.

Reply: It is important to show willingness/interest by answering in the affirmative; however, it is worthwhile adding that one would maximise one's contribution and fulfil expectations, in the regular working hours, but would be willing to wait and contribute, if and when unexpected work appears or when things go wrong.

This shows that one is committed to performance and does not equate productivity with the overtime one puts in.

Don'ts: Don't say 'yes' if you mean 'no'.


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Question:  What salary do you expect?

Objective: To assess your awareness about the industry as well as where you place yourself in the salary bracket that your profile covers.

Reply: Asking for a thirty percent hike is the general trend. Moreover, your stated expectation should be accompanied by a brief but pointed explanation as to why you deserve it (on the basis of your knowledge and skills and not merely whims).

Don'ts: Don't quote an astronomical/unjustifiable figure; never quote a blanket figure, rather quote one that is in tune with one's talents and the industry/company, where a person has applied.


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Question: Would you leave the job if you get a better offer/higher salary?

Objective: To assess your commitment to the company and your keenness about the profile/organisation.

Reply: Learning and not money is the primary concern of any professional. So, if I were to be given adequate challenges, the scope to grow and a fair compensation, there is no reason why I would leave.

Don'ts: Do not say a definitive 'yes', as this shows a lack of commitment to an organisation. On the other hand, a definitive 'no' is bound to sound untrue.

 


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Question: Are you willing to take up additional responsibility?

Objective: To find out whether you are flexible or are a stickler for a profile.

Reply: Definitely, if it is in keeping with my knowledge/skill set or if it will provide me the scope to learn something useful. (This would give you the flexibility to refuse unproductive expectations later).

Don'ts: One should not flatly refuse to take up greater challenges. So too, one shouldn't leave the scope for random work being dumped on oneself.


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Question: What are your weaknesses?

Objective:  This question attempts to find out how well aware you are about your lacunae and what you are doing about them. It is thus important to not merely list out one's weaknesses but also what one is doing to address them so as to either get rid of them or reduce their impact.

Reply: These can be two or three skill or personality deficiencies, but one's which will not majorly hamper one's efficiency in the profile that is being offered. (Thus while not being able to network/being shy may be an acceptable weakness in a back office finance employee, it would not do for a marketing/HR professional). This should also be accompanied by an action plan that one has already undertaken/proposes to undertake, to address these deficiencies.

Don'ts: Never say that you don't have any weaknesses, as nobody is perfect, so the underlying statement appears to be that you are not aware of them. So too, do not list really flippant/stupid sounding areas of weakness (like I can't get up in the morning, I am lazy etc.), since they can prove counterproductive. It is also important not to lie about either the weaknesses or what one is doing to address them.

 An interview like any other assessment/examination is a battle of wits and it is thus important to remain calm and focussed, in order to be able to give one's best.

Essentially, it is imperative to be honest, as a bluff whenever caught will have a highly negative impact and can tarnish one's reputation in the industry.

One should thus never lie, exaggerate or hide one's inadequacies. More so, it is necessary to provide an explanation/justification for one's claims, admit to one's inadequacies and provide an action plan, while living up to the commitment of ironing them out. After all, one spends a great deal longer of one's waking hours and life at one's workplace, rather than at home.



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