Types of Interview Questions

The types of questions you will encounter during an interview as well as interviewing style will vary from company to company. Some questions focus more on your background, experience, abilities, and technical skills, while others focus more on your character and cultural fit.

Regardless of what type of question you are asked, the best answers are those that recount your previous experiences where you showcased the qualities or results that they are looking for.

Plan for your interview by anticipating the different types of questions you may be asked and use the T-chart to brainstorm experiences in your past where you clearly demonstrated these abilities.

Traditional Interview Questions

Traditional interview questions often focus on your work history, experience, skills, personality, and work style. You should be prepared for commonly asked interview questions ahead of time. You’ll want to have answers for the following thought out – not scripted – but thought out:

  • Why did you leave your last job or why are you looking to leave your current job?
  • Tell me a little about yourself.
  • What are some of your weaknesses?
  • What would your past supervisor or co-worker say about you?
  • Why should we hire you?

Behavioral Interview Questions

Behavioral interviewing is based on the belief that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Questions will be focused on specific instances from your work history. Many questions may begin with, "Tell me about a time when…" Instead of answering the question with a hypothetical situation, use the specific instances you brainstormed ahead of time and tell your story using the Problem-Action-Result (PAR) format. Start with a problem that you faced, discuss what action you took to solve it, and explain what the result was.

Even if you’ve not had a situation that is exactly like what the interviewer is asking, share a situation that has relevance to the question.

Challenging Questions

You should also be prepared to answer questions about your background that may be challenging.

  • Termination – In addressing a termination, you’ll want to explain the situation as a learning experience and a poor fit. Resist the temptation to speak poorly of your former employer. Employers do not appreciate applicants who speak ill of their current or previous employers. Speak with humility about the experience, what you’ve learned, and describe how you will leverage what you learned going forward. Keep in mind that the purpose of the question is not to judge you for being terminated, but to determine how you handle negative experiences and challenging situations.
  • Relocation – If you’re relocating, stress any connections or roots you may have to the new city to reassure them that you’re not just looking anywhere and might be a risk to leave soon. You also need to convince them that you are not just looking for an interim job until you find a permanent job you like better. If the position requires several interviews, make yourself available and make scheduling as easy as possible for them.
  • Long periods out of work – Stress what you’ve been doing to keep your skills sharp such as volunteering, attending continuing education courses, and participating in professional associations. Most of all, conduct yourself with confidence. Be excited to get back into the workplace and contribute to their organization.
  • Career change – If you’re changing careers, focus on transferrable knowledge, skills, and abilities. Capitalize on your strengths that can be quickly and easily leveraged in the new career. Make those connections as easy as possible for the employer to see by sharing examples that can illustrate your skills and relate them back to how those skills would be applied in the new career.

These can be difficult situations to address, but by preparing for them ahead of time, you’ll know what to say, say it with conviction, and make the employer clearly see why you are the most qualified candidate for the position.