Top 10 Questions to Ask in an Interview

Top 10 Questions to Ask in an Interview


When it comes to being a part of an interview process, the prospect of being involved in such an exercise can be daunting for both the parties involved, i.e. the interviewee and the interviewer. This is because there is a unique set of expectations that hang on the shoulders of both these parties. The person appearing for the interview, might be nervous / worried / apprehensive about the interview panel and also the kind of questions that might be asked therein. For the most part, he / she has to grapple with the expectation set upon him by his family and friends of clearing the job interview and securing the job. And when it comes to the interviewer / interview panel, they are faced with the even more rigorous task of choosing the right kind of talent for their organization. Depending on how important the job position is for the company, coupled with how fast it needs to be filled, the interviewer is that much worried about finding the right person for the job, in all aspects.
A lot has been written about how an interview, ranging from how tough an interview can get, the kinds of interviews that one can expect, the various possible dos and don’ts that one should be careful about, to the various types of questions asked. And when it comes to the kinds of questions one can expect, this is where the interview panel really have their work cut out for them, because there are only so many questions you can ask to determine how well an applicant fits a job description. Be it a fresher or someone with work experience, here are some of the top questions asked in almost every interview around the globe:

10. Why did you leave your previous job?

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For those applicants who possess relevant work experience, this question can be very important for the interview panel. This is because if an applicant already possesses such work experience that suits the requirement of the current job he is aspiring for, it makes sense for the interviewer to probe into the reasons that prompted the applicant to leave his previous job, and thus, a company that was probably similar to the one he’s looking to join. The significance of this question increases if the company where the applicant holds experience is a rival to the company he is looking to join (Take for example, the case of TCS and Infosys in India, both software giants). Asking such a question might help the interview panel in getting to know if the previous organization left him / her wanting in any aspect, and they could in turn leverage their offering to include that, thus making the job more attractive to the applicant. This question, when asked, also gives the interviewer insight into whether the reason cited by the applicant is justified, sensible, or otherwise. It is also important because the former gets to know whether the latter left the company on an amicable note or not.

9. Could you give us a run-down of your past experience?

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This is of course a very important and much – asked question in any interview, regardless of whether the applicant is a fresher or one with experience. This is because the interview panel needs to know how the applicant’s past experience might help him / come in handy if he was offered the current position, and it also shows if the experience that the applicant holds is even relevant / useful or not. Many times, misunderstandings crop up between the applicant and the interviewer regarding this very topic, and unless the applicant explains what he did in his previous job in detail, clarity will not be brought to the table. And when it comes to freshers, they are not exempted from this question – they might not have corporate experience, but of course, their extra-curricular activities and clubs that they were a part of in school and / or college (debate /sports / cultural committee) all speak for the kind of person they are, and whether or not they take initiative.

8. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

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Now this question has been asked so many times, it’s almost standard format to do so. And while the world now knows for a fact that they will surely be asked this question during an interview, the funny part still remains that this is one question where more than 65% of all job applicants (whether first – timers or returning candidates) mess up on, and thus, fail to convert the interview! From the interviewer’s point of view, the logic behind asking this question is pretty simple and straightforward: first, they want to see whether you have any of the qualities that they’re looking for in the job, and second, they want to see how honest the applicant is when it comes to his / her own strengths and weaknesses. Trust me, HR professionals in the corporate and fed up of the standard, formulaic answer to this question (team – player / professional / attention to detail, and all that). They want to see how honest you are, and whether you can even make your weaknesses work for you in the long run!

7. What is it that you are looking for from our company?

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All the job applicants should actually be looking forward to this question in their interview, because it actually gives them a chance to clearly state and lay down three important things about themselves, which can really turn the tables in their favour (if they are honest, that is): what their objective (in terms of what they are looking to learn and accomplish) is when they join the company, what are they looking to make their major takeaways while working for the company, and how they actually expect the company to help them in fulfilling their own personal goals while also being an advocate for the company. If stated well, you can really turn the interview in your favour, but instead, most applicants mess this question up by giving clichéd, run-of-the-mill answers that leave the interviewer unimpressed and wanting.

6. How effective are you while working in a team?

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“Sir, I extremely enjoy working with people from all walks of life. I am a people person”. This is just one of the many answers that HR professionals and recruiters get all across the globe, when they shoot this question to potential applicants, and trust me, this is not the answer they’re looking for. When they ask this question, the applicant is actually expected to list down instances from his previous job or college (in case of a fresher) where it could be seen that he worked efficiently in a team, and got work done faster. And to those applicants who prefer working on their own, those who are self-motivated, and feel bogged down while working in tandem with others and not at their own pace, fret not! This is where you should make it very clear to the person across the table that while you have nothing against working with a team, you just prefer working on your own, because that is when you deliver the best results and are the most productive. Trust me, if you tell this to your recruiter you’ll earn brownie points for your honesty.

5. Could you list instances where you took up initiative?

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This is a question where every applicant has a chance to shine and show his recruiter how much of a fit he is for the job he is applying for and the kind of value addition he can make to the company and its work processes. How, you ask? Well, the reason why recruiters ask this question to potential applicants is because, depending upon the authenticity of the answer, they can sort out the doers from the planners, and the achievers from the talkers. If an applicant can prove with examples that he likes starting things, and remains committed to them till the end, he is elevating his sense of self-worth both in his eyes as well as in the eyes of the recruiter. This is the time when applicants are supposed to show that they worked hard, spearheaded unique projects (for which they possibly got rewarded later), and also made their team members get along with each other. Saying so will obviously leave a mark in the mind of your interviewer, because everybody likes a hard-working guy with results to show for himself, don’t they?

4. What attracted you to this job?

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Now when it comes to this question, luckily or unluckily, there is no set answer, for the trigger to have applied for a particular job is obviously different for different people. Your recruiters ask you this question to see whether you’re in it for the long – run, whether you believe in making a career out of your position in that company, and how inclined are you towards building a relationship with that company, if you are offered the job. And trust me, this is one question where you cannot afford to lie. You have to be honest, because we all know what happens when you end up getting stuck in the wrong job, when you lie in order to get in, possibly because you were desperate for a job that paid the bills. Yes, if you want the job because of the company’s repute, fat pay check, or even because the job location is really convenient for you, say so. If not, the charade that you put up, saying that you’re in it for the learning, and the growth opportunities (when you’re actually not), will cost you dearly!

3. Do you have any questions for us?

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This is where your recruiters turn the tables on you and ask you, the applicant, whether you might have any questions for them. This question is normally asked towards the end if the interview, after they’re done grilling the applicant. The purpose of this question is to mainly see what kind of takeaways the applicant has from the interview, and what still motivates them about the job. And like the previous question, this too, has no set, standard answer. Depending upon how their interview went (the kinds of questions they were asked), the applicant might have a series of questions, regarding some issues where he / she would like a little more clarity, for example his job location, the duration of his training, his roles and responsibilities, performance appraisal periods, and so on. Sometimes, an applicant may also ask about the company’s plans to enter a new region or business area, and the possible (if any) repercussions for him and his job. The point is, do ask questions, don’t just sit there, you never know what impression your recruiter might form if you don’t actually ask him / her anything.

2. Could you tell us something about yourself?

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It is common knowledge that everybody appearing for an interview will surely prepare for this question, because it will surely be there in its many disguises. Hence the number two position for this question on this list. The applicant needs to take special care to not parrot on about his entire life, right from his kindergarten education to the last seminar he attended at his workplace. Such information is already there in his resume for his recruiter to see. So, instead of boring the latter with mindless jabber, use this question to showcase your abilities and strengths, with adequate importance on your background, to show how good a fit you are for the job. In doing so, you even set the tone of the interview, since ninety percent of the time, this is the first question asked!

1. Why should we hire you?

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Plain and simple, this is a question where all applicants bust forget beating around the bush, get straight to the point, and sell themselves. This is because, in most cases, the recruiter will have most probably already made up his / her mind about you – you might already have got the job, but they might just be pushing to see how much really want or deserve the job. And if that is not the case, you might’ve not got the job, but depending on how earnest and effective you are in answering this question, you might as well convince your recruiter to give you a chance! So, take proper care to avoid clichés and anything that is formulaic and run-of-the-mill. Be different, and answer this question in an attempt to leave a mark on the recruiter’s mind.