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Answering Interview Questions

During a job interview, you will be asked about your qualifications, experience, and attitudes. Being prepared is the best way to make sure you ace an interview.

All interview questions try to get the same information: Why should we hire you?

Your task is to answer each question in a way that convinces the potential employer that you are the right person for the job.

Read below for some common interview questions.

  • Tell me about yourself. This question is often used to break the ice. The important thing to remember is to keep the answer brief and make sure your response relates to the job.
  • Why have you chosen this particular field? Answer this question in a way that shows your enthusiasm for and dedication to your career.
  • Why are you interested in working for this company? How do you think you will fit into this operation? State the positive things that you have learned about the company and how they fit with your career goals. This shows the employer that you cared enough about the interview to prepare for it.
  • How do others describe you? This is another way of asking "How do you think you will fit in?" You can prepare for this question before the interview by asking friends and/or people you have worked with how they would describe you.
  • What are your strengths? Or, if you were hired, what ideas/talents could you contribute to the position or our company? These questions give you an opportunity to sell yourself as the best candidate for the job. Be sure to show how your strengths could be used on the job and could benefit the company.
  • Give an example of how you solved a problem in the past. It is important to be able to show the process that you go through when presented with a problem. State the problem and describe the steps that you followed to reach the solution.
  • Give an example of a time you were able to contribute to a team project. If your work experience did not involve working on a team, use examples of teamwork from other aspects of your life, such as family projects or community activities.
  • What is your major weakness? Answer this in a positive manner by showing how you overcame a specific weakness. For example, "In the past, it was difficult for me to accept criticism from my peers. I have learned to value and solicit this input, however, and it has improved my job performance."
  • What have you done to develop or change in the last few years? This is a good opportunity for an ex-offender talk about positive changes. Use this question to show that you are willing to be challenged and to improve. Employers also are looking for people who are willing to continue learning. Talk about formal and informal educational opportunities that you have pursued. Mention books and periodicals you have read that are related to your field of interest.
  • Where do you see yourself in three years? Telling the interviewer, "In your job!" is not a good idea. Instead, indicate that you hope to acquire sufficient skills and knowledge within that time to make a positive contribution to the company.

What's Legal?

All questions that you are asked in an interview should focus on your qualifications and your ability to do the job.

Some questions are illegal for an employer to ask before a conditional offer of employment. These questions include:

  • What is your age or date of birth?
  • What is your sexual orientation?
  • What church do you attend?
  • What is your national origin?
  • Are you married, widowed, divorced, or separated?

Title I of the American Disabilities Act (ADA) lists these additional prohibited questions:

  • Have you ever been hospitalized? If so, for what condition?
  • Have you ever been treated by a psychiatrist or psychologist? If so, for what condition?
  • Is there any health-related reason that you may not be able to perform the job for which you are applying?
  • How many days were you absent from work because of illness last year?
  • Are you taking any prescribed drugs?
  • Have you ever been treated for drug addiction or alcoholism?

If you think that you were asked an inappropriate or illegal question during an interview, talk with your job coach or Parole Office. They will help you decide if you should seek any legal action.

Source: Adapted from Creative Job Search, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

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