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Old 08-21-2008
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Default Common Job Interview Questions: Prepare for the Expected

Common Job Interview Questions: Prepare for the Expected
Mary White
August 14, 2008

Have you ever been caught off guard by a job interview question? It is natural to be nervous during a job interview, and it can be particularly unnerving to be asked a question that you didnīt expect. The best thing you can do to prepare for your next job interview is to put some time into preparing answers to some of the most common and important job interview questions.

Can you tell me something about yourself?

No interview is complete until the interviewer asks this question. It is silly to go to an interview without preparing to respond to this question, because it is almost certain to be asked.

Before you decide how to respond to this question, it is important to consider why it is usually asked during job interviews. Most job interviewers believe that they can learn a great deal about applicants based on the way they respond to this question.

The first thing that you say in response to this question is generally believed to be a true indication of your self-concept. Whatever you choose to use to describe yourself to an interviewer tends to be the defining characteristic of how you see yourself.

If you respond to this job interview question by stating that you get along well with just about everybody, then the employer is likely to conclude that you have an extraverted, social personality. If you respond to the question by saying that you are very career minded and are focused on moving up in your career as quickly as possible, the interviewer will likely interpret your response to indicate that you are very ambitious.

Either of these responses can be viewed in a positive or negative light, depending on the specifics of the job for which you are applying. Your response should be honest, but you do need to be careful about how you answer, so you can be sure that what you are saying is sending the right message to the prospective employer.

Keep in mind that if you arenīt prepared to answer this question, your lack of preparation sends a negative message to the prospective employer. No matter what job you are applying for, being unable to answer this question sends a very clear message to the employer that you arenīt really interested in the job and that you donīt prepare properly for business situations.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

One of the main reasons that employers ask this question is to determine if the job you are interviewing for is consistent with your long-term career goals. One of the biggest expenses for most companies is the high cost of turnover. Employers want to hire people who have a high likelihood of succeeding and staying.


Keep this in mind when you prepare your answer for this question. If you are applying to work as a medical billing clerk in a hospital, it probably isnīt a good idea to tell the interviewer that you hope to be writing scripts for Hollywood sitcoms in five years. If this is your response, you have given the interviewer several reasons not to hire you.

First, by responding this way, you have let the interviewer know that you have no interest in a long-term career in this hospital, or any hospital. This sends a loud and clear message that you are not going to be committed to the job, and that you are not going to be a long-term employee. Medical billing is a detail-oriented, stressful job that requires a high degree of concentration. Someone who doesnīt want to work in medical billing isnīt going to be very good at it.

Additionally, the interviewer knows that you are probably going to be spending a lot of time actually writing scripts if you want to become a script writer. The interviewer might wonder if you will spend time that you are supposed to be doing medical billing work actually working on scripts.

You donīt need to lie and tell the interviewer that you want to be a medical billing clerk for the rest of your life. Ambition isnīt a bad thing. Just keep in mind that employers need to reduce turnover. An hospital administrator is going to be more likely to hire a medical billing clerk who sees themselves as a healthcare social worker or a nurse five years from now rather than one who wants to be a sitcom writer in Hollywood.

If you really do want to be a sitcom writer in Hollywood, your long-term career goals might be better served by seeking a different type of job anyway. It will be in your best interest to seek employment in publishing or media. That way, you will be getting experience related to the industry that you really want to be in. Youīll also be able to answer questions about where you want to be in five years truthfully, without hurting your chances of getting the job.
Mary G. White, M.A., SPHR is the Training Coordinator for Mobile Technical Institute & MTI Business Solutions, where she specializes in human resources, management, customer service, public relations, and marketing training.

She teaches open enrollment classes for MTI, provides on-site corporate training, and frequently speaks at conferences and association meetings. MTI also provides a variety of consulting services, including custom database development and website solutions.

White is the author of 101 Press Release Tips in the LifeTips book series. She also oversees Daily Biz Solutions and Daily Career Connection, free resources for professionals, entrepreneurs, job seekers, and those interested in changing careers.

White holds a Masterīs degree in Communication and a Bachelorīs degree in Business Bommunication. She holds active memberships in several professional and civic organizations, including The Mobile Society for Human Resource Management, Junior League of Mobile, and Business Network International.
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