How to Answer the 10 Most Common Practice Interview Questions

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Here’s a common scenario: A very qualified candidate for a position sits down with an HR representative, and the first question is, “Can you tell me a little about yourself?” The candidate replies, “Well, I, uh … could you repeat the question?”

Although the interview has barely started, the HR rep is already mentally crossing the candidate’s name off the list. How can you avoid this disastrous opening scenario? It’s simple: Be prepared and practice the interview questions.

To help you get started, here are some of the most common practice interview questions that you can use to prepare for the actual interview. You can also get feedback from the professionals with our job success package.

1. Can you tell me something about yourself?

This open-ended question is easy to answer in social situations. But in a job interview, you need to be specific, so take time before the interview to think of relevant points about yourself as a potential employee. Remember, this is a crucial part of the interview. Studies have shown that the first two or three minutes of an interview are what make or break the candidate. Practice your response until you feel comfortable with it.

2. What do you know about our company?

Your response has to be better than, “I understand you sell insurance and annuities.” It’s critical that you research the company before the interview. Check their website, news outlets, and social media. If you know someone who works there, ask them about the company. During the interview, have ready two or three specific points to discuss, such as, “I understand the company is growing quickly and even opening a new branch in Seattle.”

3. Why did you apply for this particular position?

A vague response to this practice interview question won’t impress your interviewer. Again, do your research and be ready to connect your skills with the company’s mission. A good reply would be, “I grew up on a farm and majored in ag economics, so that’s been my passion. That’s why your crop marketing position really appealed to me.”

4. Why do you want to leave your present job?

Talking about your desire for career growth or relocation is a good idea; bad-mouthing your present company is not. Talk about your eagerness for new opportunities, but frame it such that you don’t look like a job hopper. Your present company may not have opportunities for advancement in your field. Or, as sometimes happens, you’ve been laid off or are facing cutbacks. Above all, be honest.

5. Under what conditions do you work best?

For obvious reasons, never say you prefer working alone. Your response to this practice interview question is important, because interviewers ask this question to determine how you will fit in with their company culture. A good reply might be something like, “I like working on a team for the interaction and to make sure I’m clear about objectives. But I have no problem working alone when it’s necessary to complete a particular task.”

6. There are gaps in your job record. Can you explain those?

If your resume has job gaps, the interviewer will notice and want to know why. Again, be honest and reply confidently. Hemming and hawing and trying to avoid a response will only make the interviewer suspicious. If you were fired, you need to acknowledge that, but do provide additional information: “I was let go from XYZ for performance reasons. It was a very good learning experience for me, and I went through job counseling and identified some weaknesses that I can honestly say are behind me now.”

7. What do you consider your greatest strengths?

This is where a practice interview can be invaluable. You want to create a response that showcases your best skills and abilities without coming across as too smug or too humble. Be honest about your strengths, and don’t just say what they want to hear. Provide some examples of how you used your strengths to successfully complete a project or solve a problem. Be specific: “Human relations skills” is pretty limp. “Effective and persuasive communications skills” provides much more insight.

8. What is one of your weaknesses?

In your practice interview, make sure you answer this question honestly. Don’t warp the question with a reply like, “I work too hard for my own good,” or “I’m obsessed with doing the best job possible.” You’ll only come across as phony. If the position requires experience with Adobe Creative Suite, you could say, “I know InDesign and Photoshop very well, but not Illustrator. I’ve started taking online courses to improve my Illustrator skills.”

9. What salary are you seeking?

You can’t avoid this practice interview question, but you shouldn’t give a specific dollar amount either. To best strategy is to match your education, experience, and skills with industry standards for the position and provide a salary range—but make sure the interviewers know you’re flexible. Keep your location in mind as well. In a large metro area you’re likely to earn more than in a mid-size city on the prairie.

10. Do you have any questions?

You can’t possibly cover everything you want or need to know in one interview. Your interviewer knows that and expects good candidates to be excited enough about the position to ask further questions. Ask about company growth and how long it’s been in business. Never ask about salary, benefits, days off, or whether they have free food on Fridays.

Practice won’t make you a perfect candidate, but it will get you a little closer. Answering practice interview questions is a good start. Ready to take the next step? Get career coaching or mock interview practice from the professionals.

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