How to Mentally Prepare for Job Interview Questions

This page on job interview questions was updated on June 8, 2014.
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Don’t be caught off guard by predictable job interview questions!

Imagine being prepared for just about every possible question a job interviewer can throw at you! Not only would you be more relaxed and confident in the interview, but you’d have a chance to prepare really well thought-out answers to those questions. The following article includes most of the questions you’re likely to encounter in a job interview situation. It also offers some suggestions on attitude, interview strategy, and how to increase your chances of turning the interview into a job offer. Most of the time you only get one chance to make a winning impression in job interviews, and some people would argue that the first five minutes are all that matters. With that in mind, it’s best to leave nothing to chance, including details like arriving at the interview a few minutes early, making sure your interview suit is clean and pressed, and having a couple extra copies of your resume with you, in case the interviewer can’t find his or her copy, or (and this is a good thing to mentally prepare for) if you’re going to be interviewed by a committee or a series of interviewers.

So, we wish you the best of luck in your upcoming interviews; and invite you to share your interview experience with us if the advice on this page helped you prepare for those difficult questions!

Successful job interviews are like a good theatrical performance. If you convincingly act confident, enthusiastic, and prepared for those tricky questions, there’s a good chance you’ll be called back for an encore! The job candidate that gets chosen isn’t necessarily the one who’s the most experienced or capable; it’s often the job-seeker who has cultivated the ability to relax at job interviews — to “just be themselves” — to answer questions in a deliberate way, and to come across in interviews as if they really believe in themselves. With persistence and determination, almost anyone can acquire the skill to answer interview questions with confidence and composure. 

 

Know your answers to probable interview  questions before you walk through the door!

 

A highly recommended way to increase your level of comfort and confidence in the interview is by taking the time, a day or two before the interview, to mentally review your accomplishments and the high points of your resume. You should be able to rattle off your qualifications, your academic credentials, and your successful career experiences as effortlessly as reciting your own name, address, and phone number.

Update your resume before the interview, looking for ways to put the most positive spin on your career history and responsibilities. It’s always best to be totally honest, but, on the other hand, don’t shortchange yourself by understating or minimizing your career or educational accomplishments and fail to give yourself all the credit you deserve. For example: if you initiated and coordinated a successful project, don’t leave those details out of your resume and job interview. If you helped save your last employer $100,000, don’t hide that fact. If you developed a new, more efficient training technique that was implemented at your last job, don’t neglect to talk about that in the interview and include it in your resume. Make a list of and review all these achievements, so they won’t slip your mind when you need them most. Forgetting to mention any or all of those types of accomplishments could make the difference between being offered the job or getting passed over for it.

One key tactic for projecting a powerful, competent, and experienced image is by using action words to describe yourself and the work you’ve done. That technique also helps create a dynamic resume. Examples: “I coordinated … managed … initiated … supervised … produced … built … solved … recruited … formed a new department … provided leadership for …etc.”

A time-tested strategy for feeling and acting prepared for an upcoming job interview is to rehearse answers to typical questions that will probably be posed in one form or another. A fatal error that many job applicants make is to try to “wing it” when they respond to questions from job interviewers. If you mentally review your positive attributes, your accomplishments, and your strengths, before you shake hands with the job interviewer for the first time, you will appear more focused, organized, and articulate at the job interview than if you attempted to fly by the seat of your pants! (Don’t try that at home!) Bottom line: you need to know your answers to probable interview questions before you walk through the door! 

Assuming you’re qualified for the job — and if you cleared the first hurdle (namely, being invited to the job interview in the first place), chances are you are qualified — then the image you project, and how you present yourself, will make or break you! So smile, make lots of eye contact with the interviewer, have a firm handshake, act enthusiastic about the job and the company, and, perhaps most importantly, rehearse the answers to these common (and not-so-typical) job interview questions:

  • What are your strengths? 
  • What are your weaknesses?(What you say here can and will be used against you!) 
  • How would your current (or last) boss describe you?* 
  • What were your boss’s responsibilities? (Interviewers sometimes ask this question to prevent you from having the chance to claim that you did your boss’s job. Be ready for it!) 
  • What’s your opinion of them? (Never criticize your past or present boss in an interview. It just makes you look bad!) 
  • How would your co-workers or subordinates describe you professionally?* (Remember, now is not the time for modesty! Brag a little bit.) 
  • Why do you want to work for us? 
  • Why should we hire you over the other finalists? 
  • What qualities or talents would you bring to the job?* 
  • Tell me about your accomplishments. 
  • What is your most important contribution to your last (or current) employer? 
  • How do you perform under deadline pressure? Give me an example. 
  • How do you react to criticism? (You try to learn from it, of course!) 
  • Describe a conflict or disagreement at work in which you were involved. How was it resolved? 
  • What are two of the biggest problems you’ve encountered at your job and how did you overcome them? 
  • Think of a major crisis you’ve faced at work and explain how you handled it. 
  • Give me an example of a risk that you took at your job (past or present) and how it turned out. 
  • What’s your managerial style like? 
  • Have you ever hired employees; and, if so, have they lived up to your expectations? 
  • What type of performance problems have you encountered in people who report to you, and how did you motivate them to improve? 
  • Describe a typical day at your present (or last) job.
  • What are the last three books you’ve read? 
  • What do you see yourself doing five years from now? 

And finally, an interview question which is almost always asked, but is rarely responded to effectively is, “Do you have any questions?”! Most interviewers are not asking that final question just to be polite or because it’s a smooth segue to the end of the interview. More often than not, they’re expecting you to show at least some knowledge o
f the company or some genuine interest in the company’s future.

Your underlying message throughout the interview should be that you’re hard working, dedicated, results-oriented, dependable, organized, cooperative, a creative problem-solver, a good communicator, an effective project manager, a good delegator, and that you believe in doing things right the first time…or assigning tasks and projects to other people and following through to make sure that they do them right!

If you give some thought to the above questions, and rehearse them out loud, you’ll sound prepared, self-assured, and capable in the interview. Those are among the key qualities that make a job applicant stand out among the competition and create a dynamic impression. Always concentrate on putting your best foot forward, give yourself the benefit of the doubt, and above all: avoid sounding or appearing tentative in your attitudes, answers, or behavior. (If you imply that you don’t believe yourself, you can be sure that an interviewer won’t!).

Remind yourself that you’re not going to job interviews to win any humility contests! If you don’t sing your own praises at the interview, chance are, there will be no encore performance!

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