Practice answering the questions below to provide better and clearer answers, increase your confidence, and reduce stress when interviewi

Practing answering common interview questions will help you remember the skills and experiences you have had and find the words to speak about them clearly ahead of time. After practicing outloud with yourself and people you trust, your confidence will increase. In turn, this will lower your stress during an interview and help you be a better interviewer. The benefits of practicing are multifold.

Tell me about yourself. How would you describe yourself?

This is the most common opening question. If you are ready with a one to three minute self-presentation; a well organized statement of skills, experience and major strengths, you are miles ahead of the majority of job seekers. Strive to balance what you want them to know with what will make you marketable. Indicate positive attributes that the employer would want you to have. Examples: friendly, honest, punctual, efficient, organized, responsible cooperative, hard working, creative, dedicated, intelligent, energetic, cheerful. Never indicate anything negative like “hate being told what to do” or unorganized.

How would your friends describe you?

Here’s your chance to do a little subtle selling of your attributes. You can say that your friends would describe you as honest, pleasant, able to get along with others, a team player. 

Why did you leave your last job? Or Why do you want to leave your current job?

If it was a legitimate reason, be brief and honest. State that the company had a layoff and your didn’t have enough seniority. Maybe you had to miss a lot of work because of illness or an operation. Say so, but assure the employer that your health is fine now. Whatever the reason, a single explanation will do. If it was an unsatisfactory reason (for example, you were fired), explain in a positive manner how the situation was or has been corrected, perhaps you didn’t have reliable transportation and that has since been resolved. Remain respectful of the employer. If you were fired for medical reasons, explain that you received professional care. 

Why do you want to work for us? Or Why do you want this job?

You better have done your homework. It’s important to know a little about the company and the position you are applying for. If you want to work there because it’s close to home or the schedule fits yours, say so. These are important reasons. If it’s close to home, this indicates that you aren’t likely to call in because you can’t get a ride. It’s also okay for a job to be challenging. If the job is too easy, you might become bored and quit. Maybe you want this job because there is a learning opportunity within it. 

Why should we hire you? Why would you be better for this job than someone else?

Reiterate how your accomplishments and skills match the requirements of the job. Prior research of the employer’s job description would be helpful in this matter. 

What do you think of your current or former boss/employer?

NEVER “bad mouth” a former employer or the people with whom you worked. New employers want to feel that you are able to get along with others and that you are going to be loyal. If you didn’t get along with your co-workers, remain vague about why- saying they sucked is a sure way to lose points.

What are your greatest strengths?

This is an area where you get to show what you know and prove to the interview you are the best candidate for the job. Your answer might be “I believe in planning and managing my time and yet I can still work under pressure.”

What are your greatest weaknesses?

One effective strategy is to address a minor weakness that has actually been turned to your advantage; one that you have already corrected. For instance, “I have a difficult time asking for help when I have too much to do. I feel a strong impulse to always get it done myself because then I know it is being done correctly.” This indicates the ability to work alone, and the desire to do it right.

What makes you lose your temper?

This is a good question to use strategy to your advantage. It’s best to say that, like everyone else there are things that ‘anger’ you at times, but that you are not one who is prone to ‘lose your temper’. You could illustrate that, when you feel angry or upset, you channel your energy into solving the problem, rather than losing your temper. 

What kind of salary are you looking for?

A good answer might be “What is the normal range in your company for a position such as this?” This allows you to learn what the employer is willing to pay. You can then negotiate further.

Give me some examples of your creativity, problem-solving ability, initiative, willingness to work hard, and/or reliability.

This is a good question to consider in advance. Be prepared with an example of a problem you have solved, a special project that required extra time and other significant examples of your qualifications.

What are your short, medium, or long-range goals?

Tie your answer to goals that could conceivably be realized in the company with which you are interviewing. Limit your goals to just the short and medium range. Be realistic. A good reply is oriented toward growth in one’s job through learning, experience, and accomplishments. 


Pre-Employment Inquiry Guide

SubjectMay AskMay NOT Ask
AgeAre you a minor (under the age of 18)? May I have proof that you are 18 or over?When were you born?
Ancestry or National OriginNo QuestionsWhat is your language ancestry or national origin?
ArrestsNo QuestionsAny inquiry relating to arrests.
BirthplaceNo QuestionsWhere were you born?Where was your husband/ wife born?Where were your parents (or other close relatives) born?
CitizenshipAre you a citizen?  Do you intend to become a citizen?Are your parents/husband/wife citizens?  Are you/your parents/husband/wife naturalized or native born citizens?  When did you /they become citizens?   It is also illegal to require a birth certificate or naturalization or baptismal records before hiring.
Convictions or Criminal RecordHave you ever been convicted of a felony? Within the last 5 years have you been convicted of, or released from incarceration for a misdemeanor which was not a first offense for drunkenness, simple assault, speeding, a minor traffic violation, an affray, or disturbing the peace?Have you ever been arrested? Have you ever been convicted of a misdemeanor?
DependantsNo QuestionsDo you have any children? Do you intend to have children?  What child care arrangements have you made?
DisabilityNo Questions*Do you have a handicap?  Are you disabled?  Do you have a disability?  What kind of disability do you have?  How sever is your handicap?
EducationWhat school, college, or vocational program did you attend?  Graduate? Cannot use to determine an applicant’s age.
FamilyApplicant’s ability to meet specific work requirements such as specific work schedules, travel, and attendance.Specific inquiries concerning spouse, spouse’s employment or salary, children, child care arrangements, or other dependents.
Height / WeightBeing a certain height or weight is not considered a requirement unless the employer can show that an employee with an ineligible height or weight could not do the work because of height or weight.)All inquiries which are not based on actual job requirements.
Marital StatusWhat is your marital status?  BUT only if both sexes are asked.Are you married, single, divorced, separated, engaged, or widowed?  What is your maiden name? 
MilitaryAre you a US veteran? What is your military service history?Why were you discharged? Requests for discharge papers.
OrganizationsAre you a member of any organizations which advocates overthrowing the US Government?Requirements that the applicant list all organizations, clubs, societies, and lodges to which he or she belongs.  Nothing which indicates the religion, race, or national origin of its members.
PregnancyInquiries which are made to males or females concerning any anticipated absences and expected duration of employment (see also Disability.)All questions about pregnancy, medical history concerning pregnancy and related matters.  All questions must be able to be asked of both genders. (See also Disability).
RaceNo Questions*What is your race? Or require that a photo accompany applications.
RelativesNo QuestionsWhat does your wife, husband, mother, father, or any other relative work?
Religion or CreedNo QuestionsWhat religious denomination, church, or synagogue do you belong to?  What are your religious obligations?  What religious holidays to do you observe?
ResidenceMailing address and telephone number.Do you live with your wife/ husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/partner?  Do you own your own home?
Sex or GenderNo Questions unless commission has granted Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ) for the position.No question unless the commission has granted a BFOQ.
Sexual PreferenceNo QuestionsWhat is your sexual preference?  Are you a homosexual?

*Except for affirmative action purposes only
Source: Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination And UMASS.