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Personal Ice Breaker Questions Used in Interviews
What are you interested in outside of your career?
This gives employers the opportunity to learn about your personality. Be honest and casual with your answer. Talk about your hobbies, your family and other aspects of your life you find important. Don’t try to tailor the answers of this question to the job you are applying for.
Do you feel you have strong opinions about others?
Interviewers ask questions like these to start gauging how you will fit in with your coworkers. This question can be used to reveal your sense of responsibility or loyalty by discussing specific attributes or behaviors you find helpful or unacceptable, like lying.
What do you do to help balance life and work?
Employers understand you already have a social life. They want to see how you will fit into it. Make it clear that work will be one of your priorities, but if you have other responsibilities like family that would affect your job performance in anyway make that clear. This will avoid misunderstandings later if you need to take time off.
Name some things you use for inspiration.
This question can be used to see what motivates you. You can talk about general things like music or more specific things like the love and support you get from your family. Try to stick to topics that could positively affect your performance in the position you are applying to.
What kind of games do you like to play?
This question paints a picture of what kind of challenges you like to take on. Do you like strategy games like Monopoly? Perhaps you prefer athletic activities like football. Be honest and clear in explaining your choice.
How would you describe yourself to a stranger at a party?
This is a way of asking the standard “tell me about yourself” question but removing some of the formality. Think of this like a dating profile blurb. Give a summarized version of what you consider your personality to be without coming off as needy or pushy.
What is the most recent book you have read?
Interviewers like questions like these because it shows whether or not some of your other responses have been truthful. If you don’t read much for pleasure, that’s fine. You just don’t want to mention having read a classic novella recently if you’ve never read it at all.
What is the last movie you saw? Did you like it?
This is a great question if interviewers want to help you relax, but you can still use it to your advantage. Give specifics about why you did or didn’t like the movie to show interviewers how you analyze things. Do not go out of your way to be critical, however.
If you could choose anyone famous, alive or dead, to have coffee with, whom would you pick?
Here is another question designed to get a feel for your personality. Pick someone you honestly believe it would be fun to get to know and explain your choice. Steer away from people that can be controversial, but don’t feel like you have to pick someone that would impress the interviewer either.
Name someone you admire. Why did you choose them?
It doesn’t matter who you pick, but don’t pick someone you know little about just because they sound good. You need to be able to back up your answer with honest reasons or it will look like you lied to try and give a more impressive answer.
Common Questions Relating to the Business
How did you find this job?
This question is at the end of most applications today. Businesses want to know what job postings are successful so they know where to post and what tools to avoid in the future. There is no right or wrong answer to this question.
What do you know about our business?
You should have looked up any information readily available on job posting sites or the company’s website. You don’t need to parrot the complete history of the company, but being aware of what the business produces, the name of your potential supervisor and other relevant details are helpful.
Do you use our business?
Interviewers want to know that you are familiar with their company before you will be working for them. If you don’t use their products, that’s fine. Just explain in a polite way why you cannot or do not. For example, if you are applying to a cable company, you may live outside their service area.
Do you have family or friends that work here?
Some positions do not allow family members to apply if they already have family working there. Some others offer bonuses to current employees if they refer new members. Be aware of these policies before you apply to avoid wasting your time interviewing for a job you are not eligible for.
Why are you interested in this position?
Be honest in discussing what aspects of the position are appealing to you. Talk about things you would be doing on the job instead of bringing up benefits like the salary to make it clear you want to do a good job if you are hired.
How long do you plan on working here?
Employers need to know whether or not they will need to fill a position again. Keep your answer relevant to the length of the type of position you are applying for, including being honest about whether or not you hope to be taken on full time if you are applying for a temporary or internship position.
What are your long-term salary goals?
Tailor this answer to the salary you expect to be offered initially. Most public businesses have a great deal of their salary information available online. Research this so you can give answers that match what your company is able to pay you should you advance.
Are you hoping for advancement within the company?
You do not necessarily have to give a positive or negative answer here. Just don’t take it to extremes. Don’t say a position is ideal for you to work in for years if you don’t believe this to be true, but don’t go out of your way to say you want a position similar or above that of the person interviewing you either.
If you were to recommend this position to others, what would you say?
Talk about what attracted you to this position. The location might be a convenient commute, the benefits ideal for someone in your family situation, or the work suited to the job training you already have.
What would you do if we hired you?
If you have other offers that you are waiting on, you will need to mention them, but not in a way that makes it sound like you prefer them to the position you are currently in an interview for. This is also a good time to mention when you could start if you are hired.
How many hours are you looking to work?
Be clear whether or not you want to work part time or full time. Keep the hours mentioned in the job application in mind so you do not give an answer that is off-base from what the company is looking for.
What level of compensation do you expect?
If the job application mentioned a specific salary amount, do not make it sound like you will not accept it. You can also talk about non-financial aspects like an encouraging working environment that are essential to the appeal of a job.
What kind of experience do you have in this field?
Mention any similar positions you have worked or volunteered in to let the interviewer know what experience you already have. Employers want to know they will not have to spend extra time training or babysitting you if you are hired.
What unique attributes can you bring to the company?
This question can be difficult to answer. Be sincere in your responses, mentioning attributes like your ability to work well with others or past experience that has helped prepare you for this position. Focus more on the “attributes” part of the question rather than the “unique” to avoid your answers getting too far off base.
Do you have education or training relevant to this position?
Any degrees you have earned, exams you have passed or certifications you hold will be helpful to you here. If the application mentioned a specific degree or certification requirement, mention those first.
Would you be willing to travel?
Do not make commitments here that you are not truthfully willing to take on. Don’t apply for positions that require frequent travel if you are not capable or enthusiastic about doing so.
Do you meet the application requirements?
If the job posting mentioned specific work or educational requirements you should meet and you do not, this is your time to explain how other aspects of your career experience balance out these shortcomings to make you eligible.
Could you be overqualified for this position?
This is becoming more of a common problem for interviewees. If you have significantly more experience or training than the position calls for, make it clear that this will not affect your job performance or your expectations regarding salary. Employers need to know that you are comfortable and willing to do the job assigned to you.
What are your goals for the next five years?
You don’t necessarily need to say that your goals revolve around the job you are applying for, but your career should take up much of the answer to this question. Employers need to know whether or not major events in your life such as weddings or having children are forthcoming so they are not blindsided by this information when it happens.
What was the name of your most recent employer?
Be very specific about your answer, giving the name of the company and the person you answered to on a regular basis. Have contact information for your supervisor ready if the position you are applying for has asked for references. Also, make sure your old supervisor is comfortable acting like a reference before you pass out their contact information.
What was the most recent position that you held?
Again, be very specific. Give the exact job title you used and explain what it means if it’s technical. Talk about what responsibilities you had on a day-to-day basis to paint a clear picture of what your experience is.
What level of compensation did you receive?
Be honest about your salary level as well as any benefits you considered essential to your earnings. If the compensation you received at your previous position is much higher than the salary at the position you are applying for, make it clear that this will not be an issue.
Did you receive any promotions or raises?
If you did, and the raise or promotion was directly related to the quality of your job performance, make this especially clear. Employers want to know that you worked hard at your old position and are willing to do the same for them.
Why are you leaving your current position?
If you try to conceal a negative aspect about your termination, it is likely that your new company will find out about it anyway and be displeased about your dishonesty. This is your chance to tell your side of the story if something negative happened at your old job. Take advantage of it.
What have you been doing since your previous term of employment?
With so many people unemployed today, it is not uncommon to see those applying for jobs that have not worked in some time. If this applies to you, make it clear that you have been busy since you were last employed. Sometimes non-traditional work experience can be incredibly relevant to the position you seek.
Have you ever been fired? Why?
The interviewer will probably contact your previous employers, so it is best to face this question head on. If it has been years since the incident at hand, make it clear that you have grown from the experience and do not anticipate similar issues popping up in the future.
Have you ever opted to resign from a position? Why?
Explain your reasoning here clearly, but do not go out of your way to speak negatively about your past job. Employers take this as a sign that you will not be loyal or kind when talking about their business in the future.
Describe the average week at your previous position.
This gives employers a chance to see what kind of schedule you are used to. Discuss any regular meetings, training or checkpoints that you had. Paint a picture that you were busy and stayed active, but not so much so that it seems artificial.
How many hours did you usually work?
If you normally worked significantly more or less hours than the position you are applying for, explain why you are looking to take such a radically different schedule.
Common Questions about Your Previous Work Environment
Discuss aspects of your position that you appreciated/where you would have liked to see improvement.
It is important to keep the response to this question balanced. Mention an equal number of positives and negatives so it looks like you are giving a fair critical analysis. If the negative aspects prompted you to leave your job, imply that the company you are applying for is more favorable in these areas.
What mistakes did you make on the job?
No one is perfect, so it is important to be honest about what shortcomings you might have had. Don’t make it sound like you constantly made mistakes or needed help, but give an honest example about a time when you should have acted differently. Use your best judgment on whether or not it is appropriate to make your example funny.
How did you learn from them?
This is your opportunity to show your potential employer that you grew from a negative experience. Make it clear that the mistakes you made early on were corrected and will not have any bearing on your ability to perform successfully at your new position.
What was your first job?
First jobs are often thankless and require more hard or demeaning work. Let your employer know you were willing to get your hands dirty, but it doesn’t hurt to make it clear you are thankful to have moved on. If you are older and concerned that will hurt your job chances, try to avoid giving a response that will sound dated or put an emphasis on your age such as talking about how long ago you worked there.
If you were able to relive a portion of your life, what would you choose?
This can be as fun or as introspective as you wish. You can talk about a time in your life that made you especially happy or a time you wish you could do over, but do so in a way that does not sound bitter about where you are now.
What would you change?
This gives employers a chance to see how your reasoning has grown and changed. Be honest but do not make your response so personal that the interviewer could not relate or might feel uncomfortable about the details you have chosen to reveal. Think about how you would feel if a person gave this response to you before answering.
How do you define success?
Not all success is financial or career related. Give an answer that could apply to many aspects of your life, or talk about wanting to feel appreciated or like you did a good job. Employers want to think you appreciate your job, but don’t necessarily want to hear that your life revolves around it.
Would you consider yourself successful?
This is another question that can be difficult to answer. Don’t just think about your career, but every aspect of your life. If you honestly don’t feel successful talk about what you are doing to improve and what you think would change this for you.
What do you think of as your greatest accomplishment?
As always, honesty is the best policy. Don’t try to change your answer based on what you think they want to hear. There are no wrong answers as long as you present your reasoning and make it clear that you strive to make similar accomplishments today.
What has been a great disappointment in your life and how did you handle it?
These kinds of questions provide a lot of insight on how you react when things don’t go your way. Be honest about how you felt but also make it clear that you moved on and used this situation to better yourself later. You don’t want to look like you never got over this difficult situation.
Current Working Environments
What type of working environment do you work best in?
Talk about the level of supervision you like to have, the noise level you are comfortable with, the kind of encouragement or feedback you like or any other ideals you consider essential to your work experience. Employers understand you have expectations of them as well, so lay out these needs to give them an idea about what they are.
Are you comfortable taking work home if necessary?
You should have an idea of whether or not this is necessary before you apply. If you understand that this is part of the job, make that clear. If you are unsure why you would need to take work home, get an explanation so you can give an honest answer.
What kind of schedule would work best for you?
Do not give a schedule that makes it sound like you will be on break more than you will be working. Keep your answer relevant to the job you are applying for, only mentioning breaks you want if they are necessary, such as medical needs. If these issues are present, explain how you will ensure that they will not affect your job performance.
What kind of pace are you most comfortable working at?
Employers need to know that you can handle the workload they have for you. Make it clear that you can work quickly, but do not like to rush when that means you could miss key details or make errors that might not be able to be corrected in time.
Are you willing to work overtime?
Don’t assume the answer to this question should be “yes.” There are times that you might need to help out with a big project, but employees that are constantly taking overtime might be costing the company money in overtime pay, making them unappealing candidates. Keep your answer relevant and give specific examples of when overtime would be ok for you.
What is important to you in a job?
This is similar to describing your working environment. Keep this response general, talking about the kind of atmosphere you like to work in, but also mention things like a supervisor that is understanding if issues come up at home or coworkers that are friendly. Make it clear that you are not demanding and will fit in well at your new office.
Have you ever worked in a position where you felt you were not given enough to do?
If this applies to you, describe how it felt to be underused. Explain what level of work was asked of you and why it wasn’t enough. Also mention what you did to try and fix the situation so it is clear that you didn’t settle for a subpar work environment.
How do you determine your priorities when you have multiple projects?
At some point on the job you will need to juggle your responsibilities. Talk about how you usually meet your goals without bringing up options like asking for extensions or eliminating portions of the project. Do not be afraid to say you will ask for help if you need it.
Are you comfortable with strict deadlines?
In some jobs this is essential to the success of the company. Make it clear that you can handle your responsibilities, but also use this question as an opportunity to learn exactly what kind of deadlines will be required for you to meet so you can anticipate the needs of your company ahead of time.
Do you check your messages while on vacation?
Answer this question carefully. Do not make it sound like you will cut your vacation short for your job if you are not willing to do so, but don’t make it sound like you will take off and leave them hanging if they need your help. If you don’t or cannot respond to certain messages while you are away, provide examples of ways your employer could contact you if it was necessary.
What tasks require teamwork to be done well?
Employers need to know you can work with others, but also that you will not depend on others to get your work done. Give specific examples to the work environment at the position you are applying for as well as examples of how you would contribute to the overall success of the team.
How do you react when your schedule is interrupted?
You need to show that you can stay on task but not that you are inflexible about it. Give examples as to how you would save your place or remind yourself of what you were doing so you can get back to work when you have an unexpected interruption.
How do you react to a coworker you do not get along with?
There is always at least one person in the office that is difficult to deal with. Make it clear that you will not start a confrontation with this person and you will be willing to work with them when necessary.
What do you do to attempt to motivate your coworkers?
You want to sound like a team player, but not like you are trying to be the boss. Keep examples general, like staying positive even when everyone is starting to get worn out or helping a coworker out when they have too much on their plate.
When you disagree with instructions from your supervisor, how do you handle it?
This will happen at some point on the job. You should not have to perform a task you are uncomfortable with, but you don’t want to sound like you will be argumentative when you don’t get your way. You are both adults, make it clear that you can correspond at the adult level when there is tension.
If a coworker is not doing their fair share, how do you handle it?
Don’t sound like you are going to constantly tattle on your fellow employees. Remember, they have been there longer than you and therefore are more loyal. Also avoid answers that make it sound like people walk on you. Instead, talk about how you would use this situation to better determine how to divide work in the future to avoid these kinds of issues.
Give an example of a time you misjudged someone.
First impressions are almost always wrong. Make it clear that you understand this and will not let incorrect judgments color your ability to get along with or work with someone later. With questions like these, it is always important to emphasize what you learned from the experience.
What do you do to help those unfamiliar with technology understand it better?
Talk about how to use general vocabulary that will not sound condescending when you speak to someone about something they do not understand. This question could apply to coworkers or customers, so be sure to phrase your answer the same way.
How do you prefer to communicate with your manager? Coworkers?
Make it sound like you are flexible and easy to get ahold of, but if you have a specific method of contact you prefer, make that clear too. There is no point in having your boss send you emails during a crisis situation if it is unlikely that you will get them in time.
How do you define teamwork?
It may seem easiest to give a standard answer here, but you will need to phrase the answer to include the items the interviewer appears to be looking for. You want to make it clear that you can work as part of a team, both taking on your fair share and expecting the same from others.
Common Questions Regarding Your Supervisor and Managing Experience
What was your supervisor like?
Like most of these kinds of questions, being very negative is a bad idea. If there was an overwhelming negative trait, bring it up, but also bring up aspects of their supervising style you appreciated so you give a fair impression.
What do you expect from a supervisor?
Be careful here. The person who is interviewing you may very well be the person who will be supervising you. Give reasonable expectations while also making it clear that these expectations are only to help you perform your duties on the job well.
What characteristics make a good or bad manager?
Again, avoid saying anything that could offend your new manager. Talk about leadership qualities that offices need. When mentioning negatives, talk about what might affect your responsibilities on the job rather than focusing on characteristics that could be taken personally.
What kind of decisions are you comfortable/uncomfortable making?
Make it clear that you will not be running to your supervisor every time something goes wrong, but also convey a sense of responsibility to your manager. Employers need to know that their employees will be up front and honest when something is wrong so it can be fixed right away.
What kind of decisions do you believe should be referred to a supervisor?
Any decision that might result in you overstepping your boundaries should be referred to a supervisor first. Make it clear that you will usually have an idea of what to do, but understand when it is and is not your job to speak on the company’s behalf.
Have you ever worked in a supervising position?
Explain how your past experience working as a supervisor would impact your ability to work well in the job you are applying for. If you have never worked as a supervisor and are applying for a managing position, give examples of other situations where you were in charge so it is clear you are qualified.
How did you handle this responsibility?
If you are not applying to a supervisor’s position and you are uncomfortable working in this role, be honest. Employers want to know that you are confident enough to do what needs to be done without necessarily being asked but they also don’t want to think that you will undermine their authority by trying to manage where it is not appropriate.
Have you ever postponed a decision? Why?
This will shed light on what kind of decisions you are and are not comfortable making. Give an honest example but also discuss what you would do differently if presented with a similar situation to show you have thought about the results of your actions.
Have you ever been asked to do something you were uncomfortable with on the job?
Use this as a base to set the tone for what your morals are. Make it clear that you want to do good, honest work if you are employed by this company. Don’t mention specific examples of things you don’t like to do that could conflict with your ability to work in the position you are being hired for.
If you were CEO of this company what would you change?
Tread lightly here. You don’t want to offend the company by saying they are doing a lot of things wrong, but you don’t want to kiss up and say they’re perfect. Explain how you would apply your own managing style to continue the success the company already has.
Stress and Difficulties
Do you work well under pressure?
If you are applying for a fast-paced job, this is essential. If you do not handle stress well, talk about what you can do to contribute when there is an upcoming deadline or other situation where you will be under pressure so you can still be productive.
What do you do to manage stressful situations?
Employers need to know that you are able to diffuse situations that are stressful. Any answer is acceptable as long as you make it clear that you will be able to finish the task at hand successfully and on time.
What pet peeves do you have?
Make it clear if there are behaviors that are unacceptable to you, but not in a way that sounds nitpicky. Try to frame your answers in a way that sounds like you appreciate good work and think less of those that try to avoid their responsibilities.
Discuss the last time you were angry? What happened and how did you handle it?
Everyone gets mad on the job sometimes. Describe what you do to avoid being upset and make it clear that you can still conduct yourself with dignity and work with those who are essential to the project, even when feelings are bent.
How do you handle situations where you have conflicting priorities?
This will happen occasionally. Think about what responsibilities would have to take priority in order to be able to address all of the tasks you need to handle. Don’t say you would drop one priority in favor of another unless it was absolutely necessary.
Do you like to take risks?
Find a good balance here. Make it sound like you are willing to try new things every now and then, but still have an air and understanding of what your responsibilities are. Never imply that you would engage in behaviors that would put the company at risk.
What is the worst job you can imagine holding?
Avoid giving any examples that might apply to the company or person you are talking to. Mention an example that might make you feel unfulfilled or would ask you to perform activities that are against your moral code rather than using examples that are too hard or boring.
What aspects of this position are you looking forward to most? Least?
Employers want to know why you are here and they want to know that you are looking for something more than a paycheck at the end of the day. When bringing up the aspects you like least, focus on something you will need to work at to do it well instead of something you just don’t like and make it clear that you anticipate these feelings to improve over time.
What will you do if you are not hired?
Don’t make it sound like it doesn’t matter if you get the job or not, but don’t act like you will be absolutely devastated either. Interviewers are probably looking at several candidates. Promise to act with dignity if one of them winds up being more suitable than you.
Do you thrive in a fast-paced environment or would you prefer a calmer atmosphere?
Tailor your answer to the work environment you are going into without being dishonest. If you are not the type who thrives on fast-paced activity make it clear that you can still handle this kind of work environment when it becomes necessary.
Common Questions about Your Work Style and Follow-Up Information
Can you work without supervision?
Sometimes your boss will be out of town or will need to work with someone else. Make it clear that you will stay on task and can handle your responsibilities even if someone is not constantly looking over your shoulder.
Do you work better in groups or independently? Which do you prefer?
Think about what you will have to do to get your work done in this position. Do not imply that you can’t handle either work environment, but be honest about where you work best so your employer can set you up with tasks that you can thrive with.
When your workload becomes heavy, how do you handle it?
At some point you will wind up with more work than you think you can handle. Instead of doing a subpar job just to get it all done, describe strategies you have for managing your task load and getting yourself back on track.
How would you define good customer service?
This is important even if you will not be working in a customer service role. Employers need to know that you work well with others and understand that you are here to make the company more productive and successful. Courteousness, respect and understanding are always good talking points here.
If a client asks for something that is not possible, how do you react?
You don’t want to promise services that your company cannot or does not provide, but you don’t want to sound like you will be unreasonable. Talk about what suggestions you would provide to a customer so they can still get the service they need from you.
What is your dream job?
Don’t say “this one” unless it’s true. Talk about what your ideal position is honestly, and relate how those aspirations apply to the position you are interviewing for. Bring up examples of things about your dream job that are similar or relevant to what you will be doing, but only if they are honest and apply without appearing forced.
Is there anything else you would like to know about this position or business?
If there is any information you could not find or you are curious how certain aspects of how the business is run will affect you, now is the time to ask. Questions like these allow you to appear interested and eager about the position. Avoid asking anything that could come off as demanding or condescending, like how much your manager makes or why a company has been performing poorly lately.
Do you have any further questions?
If you do not, make it clear that the questions or concerns you had have already been addressed. If this question is posed early in the interview, make it clear that you will bring up any questions you have if you have not yet asked any.
Do you have anything else you would like to add?
Anything that you feel is important to understanding you as a person or your ability to perform at this job should be mentioned here. This is usually your last opportunity to sell yourself before the interview is over, so take full advantage of it.
When would you like to start?
You hope this question is posed in the context of being offered the position, but don’t assume this if it has not been expressly stated. Let them know you could start as soon as they need you, but don’t offer a date that would be difficult for you if you still need to wrap things up at your old position or have outside obligations that need tending to first.
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