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Interviewing

Interviewing for a job requires a lot of preparation and practice.

The information below explains the different of question types, and gives you some common questions and example answers to learn from.

Use these questions to think about the answers you would give if you were asked the question in English job interview.

 Open Questions       Double-Barrelled Questions
 Closed Questions    Behavioural Questions
 Hypothetical Questions    Final Questions
 Leading Questions    Summary

Interviewing for an English-Speaking Job

 

Your resume has been successful, and now they want to interview you. Well done!

Interviewing for a job is different in many cultures.

The questions and example answers below are typical of what you might be asked in a job interview in Canada, Australia, England, or the USA.

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!!

DO NOT memorize the answers - the key to successful interviewing is to be prepared for the questions, and have a mental outline to follow for each answer.

 Open Questions

When you are asked an open question, the interviewer wants general information, not a yes/no answer. You may need to give examples and/or details.

Tell us a little about...
What did you...?
 

Example Questions and Answers:

Q: Tell me about your education.
A: Well, I graduated from Tokyo University with a BA in business and then did a one-year postgraduate diploma in accounting. 
 

 

Q: What did you do in your last role? 
A: My main responsibility was looking after the company's largest clients, but I also assisted in developing new business. 
 

 

Q: Why do you want this job? 
A: I've been looking for a job where I can use my creative skills and work with people. I've heard good things about your company. 
 

 

Q: Why did you study medicine? 
A: When I was in school, biology was always my favorite class. My mother was a nurse and I always loved hearing stories from the hospital. I knew one day I would be a doctor. 
 

 

Q: What are your career goals? 
A: Eventually, I'd like to manage a large team of sales people in a company that's involved in environmentalism and the green movement. 
 

 

Q: How would your best friend describe you? 
A: He would say that I'm loyal and a very good listener. I think he would also say that I'm very social and usually in a good mood. 
 

 

Closed Questions

 

The interviewer wants specific information. It is generally a yes/no answer, but you can add a short comment.

Have you ever...?
Do you...?
 

Example Questions and Answers:

Q: Are you a self-starter, able to work without constant supervision? 
A: Yes. I enjoy the freedom of working alone. 
 

 

Q: Have you ever worked for yourself? 
A: No, I haven't had the chance to do that yet, maybe one day. 
 

 

Q: Do you enjoy working in a team? 
A: I do. I like the support and creativity that you get from a group. 
 

 

 Hypothetical Questions

 

Interviewers ask these questions to see if you can 'think on your feet' and are resourceful. Before you start to answer, think about the question and take some time. This shows you are considering the situation. Give good examples of what you would do.

If you...?
How would you...?
Imagine...?
 

Example Questions and Answers:

Q: If you had a conflict with a colleague, what would you do to resolve it? 
A: If there was a problem, I would ask the person who is upset to go out for coffee so we could talk about what was wrong, and come up with a solution together. I would do my best to resolve the problem quickly so it doesn't get any bigger. 
 

 

Q: If you had a problem and did not know the answer, how would you find the solution?
A: In my last job I sometimes had to find answers to IT questions. I would often go on the Internet and look for blogs on the topic I needed to learn about. I enjoy learning new things, so research is actually one of my hobbies.
 

 

Q: Imagine you have a deadline and you are running out of time. What would you do?
A: I'm not afraid to ask for help when I need it. I would probably approach my manager and explain the problem and ask for extra resources. If it was a strict deadline and I couldn't get extra help, I'd work as fast as I could get the job done. 
 

 

Q: If you could design the perfect job, what would it be? 
A:

TIP:
Be careful it is not too different from the role you are applying for!

That's an interesting question. My perfect job would involve creativity and independence. I would be working with people but not managing them. It would be a role in which I could make decisions without worrying about budget restraints.
 

 

'

 Leading Questions

 

A leading question generally points to what the interviewer wants you to say. They are not good questions for an interviewer to use because they are helping you with the answer! Give examples and short answers. Do not answer with yes/no only.

Example Questions and Answers

Q: A good manager is a strong leader. What could you bring to this team? 
A: The last team I managed had many of different personalities, so I really developed my relationship skills. I expect the team I would lead here would be similar, so I feel I'd make a good leader. 
 

 

Q: This role requires strong communication skills. Are you are a good communicator? 
A: Some of my friends might say I talk too much, but I'm a very open communicator. I always try to think before I speak so that I don't regret things I say later. I also have strong writing skills, which I feel would be an advantage for this position. 
 

 

 Double-Barrelled Questions 

 

In a double-barrelled question, two or more questions about the same topic are asked in one question. You have to pay attention to what the interviewer is asking. You can take notes to remind yourself.

You can also ask the interviewer to repeat the question - but do this before you start to answer. Answer one question at a time, giving examples.

Example Questions and Answers

Q: Have you ever managed a project? If so, did you also manage the team? 
A: To answer your first question, yes I have managed a project. In fact, the last thing I did for my previous employer was create a new database system. Regarding the second question, no, I haven't managed a team. This is though something I would like to do in the future. 
 

 

Q: Looking at your resume, you take a lot of personal development courses. What was the last course you took, and why did you take it? 
A: The last course I took was Excel level 3. I had started using Excel spreadsheets more regularly, so I wanted to upgrade my skills. 
 

 

Q: Has there been a time when you felt extremely stressed in your role, and if so, how did you deal with it? 
A: I think everyone experiences stress in the workplace at some point. I remember a time about 3 years ago when I was doing the job of 2 people. I actually hated getting out of bed in the morning. I realized that I had to do something, so I started running to relieve my stress. It made a huge difference and going to work became more enjoyable again. Exercise is very important for a busy lifestyle
 

 

 Behavioural Questions

 

Behavioural questions use your past experiences to predict how you will act in the future.

Prepare examples of how your experience has helped you to build skills and how these can benefit the role you are interviewing for.

Be honest about your mistakes since the experienced interviewer will be looking for "progress" and "growth", not a perfect employee.

TIP

When answering behavioral questions, use the STAR approach

SITAUTION / TASK  

What was the problem, challenge or situation?

ACTION

What your action was and how did you decide that action?

RESULT What was the result of your action and your assessment of its result?

 

Example Questions and Answers

TIP
In English-speaking countries, it is normal for the interviewer to ask you a question that has a negative answer. You need to demonstrate that you are mature enough to identify your weaknesses, and are aware of how you can improve in your work skills.

Q: Give me an example of a time when you set a goal, but you could not achieve it. 
A: Last year my manager asked me to reduce the budget by 20%. I tried many different strategies, but in the end I only reduced it by 10%. However, I believe it was a good outcome because I didn't want to lower the quality of our customer service. 
 

 

Q: Can you give me an example of when you showed initiative and took charge
A: I remember when a colleague was having a difficult time learning a new software program. She was embarrassed to tell our manager that she was having trouble, so I went to the training department and explained her situation. It turned out another employee was also struggling, so they set up a training day for all of us. I actually learned a lot, so it was a good outcome. 
 

 

Q: What tools do you use to keep organized? 
A: Being organized is very important to me. Like many people, I use a Blackberry for emails and appointments. I also write a daily 'to do' list so I have a visual of the tasks I need to achieve for the day. 
 

 

Q: Tell me about a situation where you had to deal with an angry customer. 
A: During the summer sales period this year, we were unable to deliver enough stock to a large department store. The purchasing manager was very upset because she placed the order 3 months in advance. The best thing I could do at the time was offer to send a similar product at a 10% discount. She agreed, and in the end that product sold better than the original order. So, everyone was happy! 
 

 

Q: Give me an example of a time when you had to motivate others. 
A: A few years ago, the travel company I was working for had a very bad sales period. Nobody was earning commission and 2 people were retrenched. As the supervisor, I had to think of ways to make the staff more enthusiastic. I came up with a shared commission structure that required everybody to work as a team. It was successful because people felt like they were working together, not against each other for the same business. In fact the management team is still using that structure today. 
 

 

 Final Question

 

This is a very popular question that is often asked at the end of an interview. This is the final point where you can 'sell' yourself. You should already know the answer to this question.

Never say you plan to be in the same role in five years - this does not show very much ambition.

Do not talk about your personal life goals, only talk about you career goals. Think about the role you are applying for and where you can develop from this position.

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years? 
A: I know I will still be in sales. A role like this one will give me more experience as a sales manager. In five years I imagine myself in the position you are in, or running my own business. 
 

 

 Summary

 

So, now you understand the types of questions an interviewer might use.

Here are some final things to think about for an interview in English. 

  • Think about the employer's needs first.
  • Emphasize how you will help achieve the company's goals.
  • Describe your accomplishments in quantifiable words.
  • Explain how your skills and attributes will benefit the organisation.
  • Don't downplay your accomplishments or attribute them to luck.
  • Be specific in your answers. Avoid rambling or going off on a tangent.
  • Ask for clarification if you are unsure of the question.

 

     Good luck!