Sunday, July 26, 2009

Top 10 Job Interview Questions

Someone who has just graduated and has less than one year experience asked me to blog about the common job interview questions to be expected for fresh graduates or graduates that have less than 3 years of working experience.

First off, there are a few interviewing techniques that are being used at present, depending on the type of organization, position and job level. Most established companies or multinationals may already embarked on what we called competency-based or behavioral interviewing techniques to help determine how competent candidates are in the key areas critical for success. However, many have not migrated to that approach and still use the traditional approach in which questions were asked to help employers make decisions about candidates based simply on whether or not they like them. And some professional firms such as accounting and law firms may focus on whether the candidate meets their basic credentials in terms of qualification and grades.

In Malaysia, most employers use a mixture of competency-based and traditional methods of interviewing techniques. The following is a compilation of top 10 basic interview questions that you would expect, commonly found in your first interview.

1) Tell me about yourself.

Take this question seriously as it is usually asked at the very beginning – remember, interviewers almost made up their minds about you during the first five minutes. This question allows you to express almost anything and that’s the problem, because you have to make the decision on what the details to include and exclude about yourself. So, the right thing to do is to write down a summary of your career goals, qualification, experience and skills/talent before you attend the interview. A summary gives a bird’s eye view of the type of person you are projecting. It should be concise, yet contains all the information that’s needed, and should not come across as long-winded.

Tip: It’s best to stick with your “professional” history, i.e., do not include your goals of marrying before reaching 28 or having 3 kids after. View this question as an opportunity to “sell” your talent!

2) Why did you leave your last job?

Employers usually do reference checks before a hire. So, cheating or being evasive is not such a good idea. Nevertheless, it is equally a bad idea to tell-it-all when the reason of leaving is due to a fall off with your superior or colleague – for such cases, keep the explanation as brief as possible. Do not whine or criticize unnecessarily. The interviewer is not a place that you should find solace with and believe me, you won’t get much sympathy even if you are a true victim of company politics.

3) What are your greatest strengths?

Share your strengths by quoting past experiences. If possible, use the result of your past evaluation form to make your case stronger. A letter of testimonial would work powerfully here. An interviewer would be more convinced of what other people said about you than you blowing your own trumpet.

4) Why did you choose this career?

Pay attention to this question for any serious interviewer will ask this to establish the link between your motivation to apply for the job and the criteria of the position. If you apply for the job merely because there wasn’t anything available out there, you have just cut off your chances to be hired.

5) How would your superior describe you?

When was the last performance appraisal exercise? Do you have a copy of the results? If not, are you able to recall what was transpired? Highlight the positives and play down on the negatives but make sure you do not lie as a quick reference check will spill the beans anyway.

6) What is your greatest achievement so far?

There may be many achievements in the past but select one that gives you an advantage for the job that you are now applying. If possible, identify the competency for the applied job so that your example of the past achievement increase the likelihood of you repeating the same results in the future.

7) What do you see yourself in three to five years time?

Talk about in terms of growing together with a dynamic company or work towards a position of higher responsibility indicates to the interviewer that you are a serious worker that plans his/her career ahead.

8) Why should we hire you?

Talk in terms of your strengths and how you can contribute to that position with your experience and skills. The key is to show to the interviewer the confidence that you exudes but avoid “over selling” that portrays desperation. A brief summary should suffice and make sure your points jive well with the earlier questions on your career goals and a summary of who you are. As you would notice by now, some questions are inter-linked and you must ensure your answers do not contradict each other but rather, consistent throughout.

9) What can you tell us about our company?

It is a question to test your seriousness in working with them. A serious jobseeker would do his homework by doing some background findings. Finding out the background of the company has become easier now as most companies have a web presence.

10) What is your expected salary?

This usually takes place at the end of the interview. If you have put down the figure in your resume, the interviewer is likely to ask as a matter of confirmation. The interviewer is checking to assess whether the hiring of you would meet or exceed their budget. If you are not sure the market rate for the position now, it’s always wise to check around prior to the interview so that you won’t look like a fool asking either too little or be seen as over-demanding.

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