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Interview Questions



June 2013
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It is that period of the year when students are facing campus interviews. Some students get placed right at first attempts while others linger on. This doesn’t make anyone better or worse. It just means that for some students, the connection and fitment with an organization of relevance has not yet been established. No one needs to loose heart. Proper preparations would help in nailing the issue.

In an interview, candidates are usually tested on their knowledge, skills and behavioural stress. Preparations for an interview hence, need to be both physical and mental. Certain questions in an interview might sound cliché, but all communications in an interview are strategic and never without a purpose. Given below are 10 basic yet difficult questions in an interview. A paragraph following each question will help in understanding the purpose of the question and suggest how to tackle them with ease.

1.    Tell me something about yourself.
This question doesn’t require a verbal repetition of all that are mentioned in the CV. Rather it is meant to check on the candidate’s self-perception. The answer can touch upon one’s career objective, personal vision, background, etc. that reflects something specific that the interviewee wants the interviewer to know. The response needs to be well formatted in two/three sentences. The key here is to say things relevant to the job in question. Since this is the starting question in most interviews, a candidate has an opportunity to invite questions on the area of his choice and steer the interview in his favour by disclosing strategic details.

2.    Why should I hire you?
The interviewer wants to know what is there in a particular candidate that others don’t have. The interviewee should not hesitate to say that he is the best person for the job and then back it up with relevant reasons. These reasons can dwell upon his preparations for the job, his past experiences in something similar, link between his qualifications and experience and the job potential, his attitude and creativity, etc.

3.    Why did you switch jobs (if the candidate has job experience)?
This is a tricky question where the interviewer tempts the interviewee to talk about his problems with his last organization/s, and thus judge the positivity of his attitude. Efficient handling of this question lies in avoiding anything negative and pointing out what one has learnt from his earlier assignments and how he had prepared to use his previous learning for more responsible assignments to enrich himself further.

4.    What is your long term objective?
Here the interviewer wants to check the vision of the candidate and his commitment with the organisation. Hence, long term objective should not sound like something that the organisation or that particular industry cannot provide. Also, the answer should reflect the seriousness of the candidate while talking about his career. The goals need to sound achievable, backed with one’s preparations towards a sincere pursuit. Find that specific area where you would like to operate in future. It might be Sales, Branding, Distribution, Marketing Communications, etc. for Marketing jobs (find the available profiles in Finance, HR, etc.) and mention that you would like to base yourself in that space. Make sure that you have enough reasons to choose that area.

5.    What qualities do you feel a successful manager should have?
Successful manager is one who ensures team-achievements along with personal goals; if the team progresses the manager moves ahead. This is the baseline for this question. It can be elaborated with a personal experience. The answer should reflect one’s own qualities in being a successful manager, his openness, flexibility, focus and team spirit.

6.    What are your weaknesses?
One can pick a weakness that is showing on the CV; eg. The technical exposure in previous assignments was less which one looks forward to pick up in his new job. Or, one can speak of a weakness which sounds like a strength in the present organisation; eg. it can be mentioned that he is more a technical person and was left handling non-technical aspects, which brought learning but not satisfaction. Either ways the answer should show the interviewee’s intention and sincere attempts to overcome his weakness.

7.    Would you be willing to take a low salary to start off?
This is an out and out stress question. Salary is a delicate issue on which a deal often stands. Before appearing for an interview, the candidate should be clear about the salary range being offered. At the interview, he should be able to display his skills such that this question can be handled discreetly by proving that he deserves every bit of what he desires, and his skills can be put to good use by the organisation.

8.    Why is there a gap in your profile?
This question demands an honest yet tactful answer. Gaps might be because of physical illness, academic failure, shifting cities, associating oneself with short term educational courses or trainings, acquiring a job, etc. Gap is not exactly the issue; rather it’s important to understand what one did during that period of gap. The candidates should be prepared to show that the gap has relevance and it has been well utilized.

9.    What motivates you in a job?
Another tricky question that measures a candidate’s attitude along with his expectations from the job. The response to this can be money, job satisfaction, involvement with work, match between job and candidate’s profile, team spirit, etc and/or a combination of all. Naming money here is not negatively perceived if one can prove that he works really hard, fast and with efficiency to deserve his bucks.

10.    Did you achieve your targets in your last assignments?
Another stress question, which very well knows that not every time targets can be achieved 100%. A tactful answer would be to reflect a realistic picture and logically explain it, not however, at the cost of citing one’s under-performance or mis-performance. The answer should be honest, but it should show one’s commitment towards work with positive results; eg. One’s hard work fell flat one month because his predicted accounts failed to deliver, but in the next 2 months there were over achievements by almost 1.5 times.


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