Interviews need preparation. Some questions pop up time and time again — usually about you, your experience and the job itself. We have compiled a list of the most common questions, as well as included tips of how to ace job interviews like a pro.
Let’s get your preparation off to a flying start!
Most interview questions are based on your resume.
So you have done up an excellent resume and you have landed a job interview. How should you prepare for this interview?
Among other things, interviewers love to ask questions based on what you write in your resume, and it is of no surprise that resume-related interview questions are the most common type of questions asked in an interview.
Objectives of these resume-related interview questions include:
- To obtain more information on your background and experience
- To obtain a general idea of how suitable you are for the job that you applied
- To check if you have provided accurate information on your resume
- To clarify certain gray areas in the resume such as a gap in your work history, or why you left a previous company
Update your Resume and Be Familiar with It
Before you attend the interview, do read your resume thoroughly for 2 simple reasons.
Firstly, doing so boosts your confidence.
Secondly, it pays to be familiar with every detail. With this understanding, you must be able to justify every statement and have a supporting statement to justify the points that you raised in your resume.
Include only what’s relevant for the job that you applied
Your resume must be tailored for the job that you have applied for.
Read up on the company, its yearly performance, and understand the job description well before the interview. With this preparation, your answers at the interview can be customised to present yourself as an asset to the company.
If you are applying for a startup, you definitely want to understand how the founder thinks by knowing the 3 myths about starting your own business.
Here are the more commonly asked questions are based on your resume:
Tell me about yourself
This question is one of the most frequently asked questions in job interviews.
Most people tend to ramble about their life history – definitely a no-no.
Instead, keep your answer concise and short, and make it relevant to your profession, and most importantly, do not steer away from the information you have given in your resume.
What were your responsibilities in your previous job?
Be sure to know what you have written for your job application, especially if you have worked in similar jobs or have held similar positions in different companies.
Even if it was a small role, be sure to remark on how assuming the job position has impacted you, and how it has added to your skills and experience.
What are your career goals?
Remember what you have written as your job objective, and craft your answer based on what you want to do in this company, or what you are going to do with this new job.
How would you explain the gap between these 2 jobs that you held in the past?
Honesty is the best policy.
The best reasons would be taking a break to recover from a long-term illness, to nurse a sick family member or for maternity or paternity leave.
Doing voluntary work, or taking an extended break to travel with your family, is an even easier reason to give.
Basically, avoid giving the impression that you sat around doing nothing, or laid on your couch crunching chips and watching the television.
Why were you retrenched (or let go) from this company?
The rules here are – One, be honest. Two, do not badmouth the company that let you go. If there had been a problem, accept it, but do say that the problem doesn’t exist any more. Also say how you are now better equipped to handle professional relationship/work issues as a result of that incident.
Why did you change your role at this point in your career?
You must be careful to avoid coming across as a person without any career direction or someone who is jumping from one job to another in an aimless manner.
Instead, explain how changing your job will be beneficial to you (ie. learning new skills) and emphasize how happy or successful you are now after you have made a switch in your career journey.
In this sense, describe how your newly learnt abilities and skills have made you suitable for the new job at hand.
You have to be confident in your interview, and ensure that your nerves don’t get in the way of contradicting your nervousness.
Understanding what you wrote in your resume, and standing by it helps you to get through the first part of the interview.
Other Interview Questions that Recruiters are likely to ask
The first round of interview is usually with the HR Director who may ask the following the questions:
- What value-add can you bring to our company?
- Why do you think you are right candidate for this position?
- Why do you want to apply for this position?
- How do you relate your past work experience with the current responsibility of the position that you applied for?
The second round of interviews is likely to be with the Director or Department Head of the unit that you have applied for.
In this case, the following questions came from a Marketing Director:
- Why do you want to leave your current company, and why do you choose to join our company?
- In your opinion, who are our company’s major customers?
- If you were marketing manager of our company, how do you plan to market our company’s products and services?
- In terms of direct sales, what would be your plan and how do you plan to do it?
- How many years have you worked in your current location, and are you open to relocation?
Interview Questions for Google, for example:
To give a deeper understanding of how this set of questions can be applied to a real-life company, let’s take tech giant Google as an example:
- Why do you want to join Google?
- What do you know about Google’s current portfolio of products and services?
- If you are the Product Manager for Google’s Adwords, what would be your marketing plan for the next 5 years?
- How would you introduce yourself during a product seminar of Adwords?
- Who are Google’s competitors, and how does Google compete with them?
- What is your experience like after using Gmail or other Google services?
- What are some creative ways that you can think of to market the Google’s brand name and/or services?
What do you wear to the Interview?
Here’s what a reader who’s a college graduate asked us through our contact form:
I just finished my second semester at college so I need a job for many reasons. I applied to many places and a representative from Dominos Pizza called me today and told me that I have an interview tomorrow. What should I wear for this interview?
I have searched online and many websites suggest that I should wear a suits but I am applying for a position at dominos, not a law firm. I am 18 years old and this is my first interview but I have work experience from past summer jobs. Kinda nervous to be honest. Any suggestions and/or tips would be helpful. Thanks!
Formal business attire.
Even if the job only requires business casual on a daily basis, you should put your best foot forward and show that you are taking the interview seriously.
Start-ups, and other companies known to favour a startup culture.
Of course, do not forget to take note of your personal hygiene before the interview.
Recruiters have long complained that some employers have told them that some candidates showed poor levels of personal hygiene.
Thus, the least you could do is to take a shower, and brush your teeth.
Wear your Interview Attire at least once before the Interview
Your objective is to dress in a way that demonstrates that you are comfortable in the clothes you are wearing. You need to look like you are used to wearing a full suit, or formal business attire.
Research your industry, and prospective company, for the universal dress code. If you are not comfortable wearing this type of clothing, it will definitely show in your body language.
Thus, it is without any question that you will have to practice wearing these clothes before you go into the interview.
Tips for Men: How to Look Smart
- Wear a navy-blue or a black suit.
- Stay away from loud shirt patterns.
- Wear a long sleeve shirt that matches the suit. White is a popular color.
- Belt and tie has to match the suit. Wear dark socks.
- Wear conservative shoes. If they need a shine, do so.
- Avoid wearing any jewelry other than a watch.
- Hairstyles and any facial hair should be neat and conservative.
- Nails should be clean and trimmed.
General Tips for BOTH men and women
In general, for both men and women, professional attire should be conservative. This goes beyond avoiding low cut shirts, blouses or skirts that are too short (more below on what NOT to wear for the interview).
Colors should be on the subdued side, and your clothes should be wrinkle-free. Avoid clothing with stains and holes.
Your personal appearance should be equally neat. Make up, perfume, and aftershave should be just as subtle as your clothing choices.
Many women choose interview outfits that include a skirt: with a nice skirt, it is considered professional to wear hose.
Real Interview Story: Comment under Pressure?
I showed up to the interview dressed to the nines, post double shot latte, and mentally prepped only to be ushered to a hallway lined with chairs and a dozen other potential applicants already waiting their turn. I knew I needed something to make me stand out if I had any chance of securing the job.
When I was finally called up I walked into a nightmare. There were 6 tables in a U shape around a single chair in the middle of the room with 3-4 interviewers sitting at each of the tables. Someone pointed at the chair in the center and said, “Take a seat and tell us about yourself.”
As I took the seat I said, “Is this an interrogation, intervention or an interview?”
The room erupted in laughter.
Later, my boss (who was in the room) said that comment won me the job. According to her, it proved to the group that I could “speak publicly under pressure and still maintain an appropriate sense of humor.”
What you should NOT wear to the Interview – Do not make these no-nos!
Now that you know what to wear, it is still important to know what not to wear to the interview given the guidelines above.
For ladies, your skirt length should be below the knee, and should never go above the knee.
The ancient rules of looking modest applies to job interview where you want to appear professional. Comparing to men who are stuck wearing a full suit for the same interview, women are also expected to wear modestly, and in a professional manner.
If there’s one thing, being short and sweet certainly does not apply when it comes to picking your interview attire!
Try not to wear blouses, or tops of silk material.
Silk is one of the worst choices a woman could ever make, for the simple reason that silk does not allow your body to breathe.
Do you want to know what happens when you wear silk and you start to sweat?
The entire garment top becomes saturated with sweat, and it ends up sticking to your body like a wet blanket. This is very uncomfortable, not to mention calming your nerves before the interview.
Panythose should be flawless and conservative in colour. (Bring an extra pair with you in case you spot any tears on the way there.)
This is ideal for anyone with an uneven skin tone, or anyone who feels that they need them.
Try to hide, or remove any visible body piercing
This list includes any nose rings, eyebrow rings, lip piercings and so on.
Having a piercing on your face can really turn recruiters off. The people who are hiring right now are looking for a clean cut, and an image that emanates respectability.
Even without the piercings, keep the accessories to a minimum. You definitely do not want your own accessories to distract the recruiters even for a moment from you and what you are saying.
Put minimal makeup and ensure that it is conservative.
Put on some foundation, blush, concealer, lip gloss or colored chapstick and call it a day. Do skip the mascara if you can, especially if you feel that you might have to venture outdoors for some time (ie. taking public transport to the interview venue).
Sweating can ruin your mascara, and you would certainly want minimal damage in case something goes wrong.
Pick a base that matches your skin tone and blends well with your skin colour. It is disturbing, not to mention distracting, to see a candidate with a base that’s darker than their arm.
Use minimal cologne or perfume
As a general rule of thumb, job interviewees should avoid wearing fragrances for job interviews, but I have realised that some recruiters tend to miss out on this rule.
It is not uncommon of interviewees saying how their recruiter smelled of something strong in the room.
I once had an interview where the receptionist packed four of us into the small, cramped waiting area outside the director’s office.
Definitely not the place where you want to be, especially before an interview. Not to mention the strong perfume from two of candidates mixing into a toxic scent of sorts.
A fragrance can even be considered if it is applied too liberally or emanates too strongly.
Words of Advice from a Recruiter
“When people are dressed up, not only did they tend to act more business-like and show maturity, they also tended to feel much better about themselves.
You can’t go wrong showing up at the interview all dressed up.
However, do not look like you’re going to a prom or to an evening party. Do not apply too much perfume or jewelry either. You don’t want them to notice that.
Make sure that you look good enough and show that you are able to represent their company well in the future.”
For men, wear your best leather shoes.
Dressing for your interview goes beyond just picking clothes. Dress shoes will match professional attire far better than tennis shoes would.
You should wear the best pair of leather shoes that you have and you should make sure that they are polished to perfection.
Ideally, the leathers of your shoes should match the colour of your belt and your suitcase. These are minor details that recruiters, especially in the financial industry, take very seriously. You should look polished but not overly stylish. Find the right balance.
Conclusion: Avoid Distraction
In summary, these rules tend to have a common theme: Avoid distraction. Don’t wear anything that is going to distract your interviewers.
You always want to be dressed appropriately and not wearing anything that competes with “you” for attention.
Wear what is comfortable, yet looking fabulous and professional. So go ahead and ace those job interviews today!
About the Author
The Strawberry Startup is an ebook that teaches you how to reinvent the way you live, and start living the way you want by building your own business. This business is ideally founded on your interests and passion that will keep the creative juices flowing, and the profits coming in. Find out more about our ebook in this blog post here.