What questions can I ask an interviewer?
Prepare for the 33 most common interview questions
The job market is highly competitive and most of the candidates who make it to the interview are qualified for the job. Even if you have submitted a suitable résumé with a meaningful cover letter, you need a plan to successfully master the interview.
If the company invites you to an interview, prepare properly. Take another look at the job advertisement and job description and make sure that you are prepared for the interview questions. You can set yourself apart from the competition that is more experienced than you by being all the more motivated. This is about showing your passion for the company and the vacancy.
Only one candidate will be employed after the interview. If you prepare properly for this, you will be the one.
Common interview questions and answers
Every interview is as unique as the people involved.
However, certain questions are asked in every interview, regardless of the industry or vacancy. If you know these common questions, you have a clear advantage - because you are prepared to answer them satisfactorily.
Can you tell me something about yourself?
CAUTION: This is the first most frequently asked question. Many candidates answer here too sprawling. Keep your life story short and sweet in about 2 minutes and leave a structured impression.
IMPORTANT: The recruiter would like to get an impression of you and find out how you would fit into the company.
It's a warm-up question, so don't lose a few points early on. Limit your responses to work-related issues and don't waste time on irrelevant information. Briefly address four topics: your early years, your education, your professional career and your work experience.
What makes you different from others?
CAUTION: This question is similar to "What are your strengths?" Don't fall into the trap and compare yourself to other candidates. You and the interviewer are the only people present in the room.
IMPORTANT: This question tests how well you are selling yourself and whether you can meet the needs of the employer. Think about your most important achievements and remember what the employer asked for in the job description.
Which of your achievements / accomplishments / skills best fit the job description and needs of this company? What are you good at Emphasize your talents.
Your answer should summarize the three most important criteria:
- Identify the company's challenges and needs.
- Share what you can do to support the company.
- Explain how you will support it.
What do you know about the company?
CAUTION: This question is intended to exclude candidates who are desperate for any job, but not necessarily that one job. Here the interviewer can find out whether you are interested in the company and whether you share common values and have a passion for them.
IMPORTANT: In your answer, let it be known that you have researched something. Show that you are prepared. If you are asked this question, it will also be asked of the other candidates.
Most of the other candidates are likely to give a comprehensive answer using information they found as the first results about the company name in a search engine. Of course, you should also know this basic information, but you can also impress the interviewer with important company data.
With just half an hour of research, you can surprise the interviewer with your answer. Do a little more research to find out information about the product / service, market share versus competitors, annual earnings, future goals, top company achievements, and facts about the CEO and the team you will be working with.
Leave a lasting impression and show that you know why you want to work for this company.
Why did you quit your current / last job?
CAUTION: Even if you didn't get along with your former boss, direct supervisor, or just didn't like the industry - avoid ruining the company. You will immediately lose credibility and trust.
IMPORTANT: This question is intended to determine your values and the reasons for your career goals. You may also get questions like, "What did you like best about your previous job?" or: "What did you like the least?" posed.
The recruiter wants to find out whether your termination is a corporate or personal decision and why it came about.
Be positive in your answer and formulate your sentences with an "I" instead of "She". Be honest, but don't mention personal conflicts, even if you can't get along with the team, for example. It's good to talk about change without changing your career goal. Plus, if you can show how this company is also helping you meet your career goals, then you've got this answer right.
What are your strengths?
CAUTION: This is a simple question, but if your strengths do not match the key points in the job description, you will likely not be eligible for the position.
IMPORTANT: Highlight those of your strengths that also cover the most important points of the job description. So if you are applying for a position in digital marketing, your strengths should also be in digital marketing. When applying for a position as a graphic designer, your design skills should be highlighted. Orientate yourself with your strengths to the needs of the company.
But also mention other of your strengths. The better you sell yourself, the more you will be wanted - but you shouldn't get arrogant about it. Be factual about your strong communication skills, social strengths, or teamwork - these are some of the most desirable qualities in any employee.
What are your weaknesses?
This question tests your honesty. It should help to minimize the number of candidates. Professional HR managers don't ask this question because it's awkward - and professional HR managers should never ask questions they wouldn't want to answer themselves.
Have you ever thought about how the interviewer would react if you asked them about their weaknesses? Well, it's a common question, unfortunately, so be better prepared for it.
CAUTION: This question is tricky because it is not positive. The worst thing you can do is turn one of your strengths into a weakness. For example, saying that your weakness is to work hard and care too much.
Although many applicants believe that this answer is good self-promotion, it has been shown that interviewers tend to rate honest and open applicants better.
IMPORTANT: The honest answer wins. Don't be arrogant - you can't twist this question so that you get out of it as a winner. Just make sure you don't choose your worst quality, one that you least dislike about yourself. Rather, choose a trait that bothers you, but which only slightly conflicts with your abilities and your motivation.
Which of your characteristics doesn't catapult you out of the room straight away, but is simply a bit uncomfortable?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
CAUTION: The recruiter wants to know what your professional goals are and how committed you are to the company. He / she looks for clues as to whether you are sticking with it for the long term or just looking for a layover until something better comes along.
IMPORTANT: The truth is, of course, that a lot can happen in the coming years - but the company is still investing money, energy and time in hiring and training employees. Five years is a long time and most employees usually change companies earlier. Still, you should show honest intent and want to stay long enough to be considered a good investment.
Talk about your long-term vision and think about how the company and this position will help you achieve your career goal.
Can you work under pressure?
CAUTION: Stress can make people very unhappy. So the interviewer wants to know how you deal with it. If you respond that stress is bad for you or that you are never stressed, the interviewer will believe that you just cannot handle stress.
IMPORTANT: To answer this question, an example from a previous stressful situation and an explanation of how you dealt with it will help. Do not refer to irrelevant or generic situations like "I was very stressed doing multiple tasks on tight timing." Don't dwell on how you feel in stressful situations, rather emphasize how you cope with such situations.
Also, keep in mind that getting the right amount of stress can also help and encourage you to be more productive. Stress can help you get your job done faster and better understand the outcome.
Stress can provide you with energy, and energy is the key to productive work.
How much do you want to earn?
CAUTION: This is a sensitive subject. The recruiter wants to know if the company should pay more or less than the average salary.
IMPORTANT: If you want to make more money, try this seller tactic: Never mention a number until the hiring manager says how much the company can pay.
By the way, you should do this during the entire interview, align your expectations with those of the recruiter. In this case, the following strategy will help to maximize your profit:
- Research the average salary in that particular market and compare it to your previous salary.
- Research the average minimum salary in the market.
- Use these numbers to answer the question "How much do you want to earn?" If the recruiter states that only the minimum can be paid - what the heck? It's a low-end company, after all.
Most companies stop paying a new employee on the first day. So don't expect the company to go on a high salary unless your reputation precedes you. Companies can't pay a lot just for you to take on their challenges. If you can solve the company's day-to-day problems, then you literally earn more. That's what a probationary period is all about.
If the interview goes well, you can negotiate the career path and checkpoints for a raise. But this usually only happens in a second conversation.
Difficult and tricky interview questions
In addition to the most common questions, HR managers ask a few additional questions to find out a little more about you and your personality and to check how you react in certain situations. Are you a team player? How would you describe a boss?
There are a few common questions, but many more, that will be asked to put you through the paces. Here you can practice dealing with it.
What is your dream job?
The recruiter checks how well the idea of your dream job matches the position and the company. This question also helps the recruiter to assess your ambitions and motivation.
Although the employer is always looking for an employee with the right skills, it is also important to know what motivates him / her. So ask yourself:
- What motivates me
- What is my passion
- Which of my skills can I use to achieve my dream job?
Before the interview, take another look at the job description to find out what interests you most about the position. Then, in your response, focus on the present and the future and give a few examples.
Your most important successes and failures are measures against which your performance is measured. The interviewer can use this information to determine how much experience you have. Don't talk about conflict, talk about how you deal with extreme situations.
The difficult colleague
Questions such as, "Give an example of a time you had to work with someone you didn't get on well with.
The recruiter may ask you these questions to test your ability to work in a team. At the same time, she / he may already have a colleague in mind who is problematic (but productive) and whom you may not be able to get along with. Smile and be positive.
Questions like: "What does a good manager describe?" "What is an expert?" "What are the main characteristics of successful people?"
Professional recruiters ask this question to understand who your role models are and whether you have these qualities yourself. The HR manager can find out even better which of the candidates is the most professional and most promising.
Questions like: "Describe a situation in which you had to do several things at the same time. How did you deal with it?"
Everyone has times when a ton of work is piling up and you don't have a lot of time to get it done. Therefore, the ability to multitask is one of the most desirable (but not always rational) skills of an applicant. This question is an excellent opportunity to cite an example from your workflow that shows that you can prioritize time-pressed tasks and get them done quickly and reliably.
What is your idea of hard work?
Hard work doesn't mean working as much as possible. It's a productive way to get work done in the shortest possible time. There are many ways to increase productivity. The best way to explain it is with an example like, "I start with the toughest task and finish the less urgent things."
How would you describe yourself with one word?
If you had to describe yourself in just one word, which one would it be?
With this question, the recruiter would like to find out what is important to you. That one word tells him so much about you that he / she can assess whether you can fill the vacancy.
Would you choose us?
Questions like: "Do you have any other interviews?", "Would you choose us?"
If this question comes up at the end of an interview, that's a good sign.Stay positive about this company and ask about the next step in the application process.
How would you deal with an angry customer?
This question aims to learn more about how you deal with stress and responsibility. There are always angry customers, you just have to be able to deal with them. Just think of how you calmed down the last angry customer and explain it - of course in a way that the company will end up doing well in the end.
Why do you have a gap in your resume?
Gaps in the résumé are okay and the recuiter will rate a business start-up or maternity leave positively. The only problem with the loophole is if it goes unexplained. Because this creates space for misinterpretations.
Do you have anymore questions?
If you don't ask questions, you are showing a lack of enthusiasm.
It's actually the best interview question. Now you have the chance to show your intellect, your logic, your energy, your knowledge and above all your enthusiasm for this position. A list of the best questions to ask at this point can be found in the next chapter.
Asking questions in the interview
In other words, how do you respond to "Still have questions?"
This is the best part of an interview because now is your chance to show your interest, creativity and knowledge.
Many suitable applicants with the necessary professional experience fail on this question because they do not ask any themselves. That's a pretty big mistake because it suggests disinterest.
Think of asking questions as a bonus, especially if you didn't do well during the conversation. You can take the opportunity to make up points again. A few clever questions that impress the interviewer, for example, can make up for a lack of work experience.
Ask as many questions as you want - the conversation won't end until you stop asking. If you can add a few minutes to the conversation with clever questions, then you should take this opportunity to show that you are the most interested and passionate of the candidates who want to work for the company.
Clever managers hire people with motivation and passion - and not those with the most professional experience.
Asking questions in the interview: about you and the applicant
When you finally hear, "Still have questions?" It is time to show your interest and your intellect.
Show an interest in what the company is looking for and how you can help the company solve its problems. At the beginning of the interview I already talked about a candidate: yourself. The following questions will give you an idea of what a good applicant should bring with him from a company perspective.
Here is a list of questions you can ask:
What skills, qualities and experiences make an ideal candidate for the company?
When answering, make sure that the keywords that are in the job description and that you have worked out on your resume fall here.
If you were to rank everyone who has filled this position in the past, who was the favorite and why?
With this open question, it is the interviewer's turn to put the cards on the table and indicate what the potential new colleague is looking for.
Do you have any concerns about my qualifications?
This question is great because it is brave. You ask indirectly and politely: "What do you think of me?" But you also show that you have confidence in your abilities and strengths. The HR manager, on the other hand, has the opportunity to express his / her concerns.
TIP: The biggest problem is usually a lack of knowledge. Here you can see how quickly your future supervisor can adapt to new situations and whether you can learn from him / her.
Does the company offer further training opportunities? How is employee performance measured?
With this question you announce that you are eager to learn and want to educate yourself in order to achieve your career goals - but also to develop yourself further with the company.
Why am I of interest to you as an applicant?
A great way to get positive feedback. The recruiter will list the strengths that he / she thinks you have and that are relevant to the position.
Asking questions in the interview: about the vacancy
Since you are applying for a specific position, it is very important to ask explicitly about it:
How has this position evolved since it was introduced?
This will give you more information about your predecessors in the company and give you a better understanding of the career opportunities the position brings with it.
Who filled the position before me?
With these direct questions, you will find out relatively quickly whether your predecessor was fired or promoted, quit or retired. This gives you further insights into the company structure and allows you to find out how good the relationship between colleagues is.
Asking questions in the interview: About the company and the employees
Here is a list of useful questions to ask the person you're talking to:
Which competition gives you the most headache?
You should ask this question if the recruiter has not spoken about the competition beforehand. Talking about the competition is essential for any business to deal with. You also show that you are interested in the company's problems / challenges and want to do your part to solve them.
How do you think this position will develop over the next 4 years?
With this question, show your interest in long-term career goals in this company.
Can you tell me something about the team?
With this question you will find out more about the colleagues with whom you will work in the future.
Where do you see this company in 3 years?
This is a good question for your future direct line manager. He / she will tell you about his / her assessment and vision and you will remind him / her of the goals of the company at the same time.
If you could change one thing about this company, what would it be?
You will learn where your future supervisor sets his / her priorities and he / she will tell you about the challenges he / she is worried about.
What is the key to the success of this company that may not be visible at first glance?
The recruiter should proudly report on the essential components of the company: it could e.g. be the managing director, a clever 4-year plan, a well-thought-out financial budget or a strong team. In any case, the answer should be positive.
What is the next step in the application process?
This last question is a must. Finally, it shows your interest in the vacancy and the company. Even if you didn't have the feeling during the interview that it was going well, you can make up for a lot with good questions in the end.
A good interview
Think of the interview as a conversation, not an interrogation. And during this conversation the recruiter will try to find out if you are more suitable for the position than the other applicants.
Remember: it is not the most experienced applicant who will get the job, but the one who brings the most to the company. In the highly competitive job market there are many who fight hard for a job - and if you are not prepared, you are no competition. So once you have the interview invitation, take your time and prepare adequately for it.
Don't lose heart if it doesn't work out right away. Only those who can fail can also win. And if you succeed on the very first attempt, you have probably also had a bit of luck. If you're not one of them: just keep going.
Look out for companies that also meet your goals, write a suitable application and then prepare for the interview. It's just a common process and not the end of the world.
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