Questions during an interview
During an interview, you may expect both situational and behavioral questions.
These types of questions often begin with "Tell me about a time when...". Responses to situational questions are meant to reflect how you handle a particular circumstance using your experiences as an example.
Behavioral questions tend to begin with "What would you do if...". Such questions are often hypothetical and look for how you think through scenarios and why.
Use the STAR approach
To guide your answers for both situational and behavioral questions, consider using the STAR approach.
This strategy allows you to have a concise response that addresses the key points to prevent rambling and potentially losing your audience.
Situation – Briefly describe the situation to set the scene for your story (2-3 sentences)
Task – Describe the task you were assigned or what you were trying to accomplish
Action – Describe the action that was taken (pay particular attention to what you did). Here is where you want to answer their specific question.
Result – Make sure you end with the positive result as the conclusion to your story
Questions employers like to ask
Review our list of legal and illegal interview questions.
- Tell me about yourself.
- This is a job interview, not a psychological or personal interview. The interviewer is interested in the information about you that relates to your qualifications for employment, such as education, work experiences and relevant projects.
- Why did you choose to interview with our organization? or for this position?
- Not having an answer is a good way to get crossed off the candidate list, and is a common pet peeve of interviewers. Research the employer before your interview; attempt to find out about the organization's products, locations, clients, philosophy, goals, previous growth record and growth plans, how they value employees and customers, etc.
- Tell us about your relevant experience, skills, or strengths. Provide examples.
- What are your proudest accomplishments?
- Why should we hire you rather than another candidates? What makes you unique/What can you offer us?
- Stress what you have to offer the employer, not how nice it would be to work there or what you want from the employer.
- What area do you hope to grow in or improve in?
- How do you work on a team? What role do you play in a team?
- Do you prefer to work under supervision or on your own? What do you look for in a supervisor?
- What did you enjoy most about your last employment? Least?
- Give an example of a situation in which you provided a solution to an employer.
- How do you think a former supervisor would describe your work? How would colleagues describe you?
- What motivates you most in a job?
- Where do you want to be in five years?
- The interviewer is looking for evidence of career goals and ambitions rather than minutely specific descriptions. The interviewer wants to see your thought process and the criteria that are important to you.
- What other types of positions are you considering?
Questions to ask employers
You should always prepare questions ahead of time to ask at the end of your interview. It's common for employers to give you about five minutes to ask a few questions. These should be questions you can't simply find the answers to online. Asking good questions shows that you're interested in the position, you're thinking about how you'd fit into the role, and demonstrates you've done your research. Here are some examples you could use.
- What kinds of assignments might I expect the first six months on the job?
- How do you expect your company to grow throughout the next year?
- In what ways is a career with your company better than one with your competitors?
- Does your organization encourage further education?
- What do you like best about your job/company?
- Is this a new position or am I replacing someone? What qualities are you looking for in the candidate who fills this position?
- What characteristics do the achievers in this company seem to share?
- Where does this position fit into the organizational structure?
- What is the next course of action? When should I expect to hear from you?
Practice on your own with StandOut - virtual mock interviewing platform
The UW is pleased to offer StandOut, a virtual mock interviewing platform, to help improve your interviewing skills. Visit https://uw.standout.com to log in with your UW NetID, and then follow the steps to create your StandOut account and access the practice interviews. Click on "Practice" in the menu and watch the first video, Welcome to Standout for a quick introduction.
- This platform allows you to practice and record interviews through your webcam and microphone.
- You can use pre-structured interview questions according to your field/industry.
- When finished with a mock interview you can review your recorded responses and re-record any that you’d like.