Every interview will be different, but there are some questions that you can almost guarantee will be asked (after all, everyone reads the same books on interviewing). Typically, the interview format will have a chronological work-through of your education and work history, followed by a general set of questions. You will find some of these questions below, along with some guidelines for your answers. As always, be honest in all your answers. It is OK to put a good "spin" on them - demonstrating how you’ve learned and grown as an employee. Here are some questions you’re likely to encounter:
Why are you leaving your current position?
Avoid criticizing your current company. No matter the circumstances behind your leaving, try to find a positive way to express your desire for a new challenge.
What can you bring to this organization? Or, more bluntly… Why should I hire you?
Here is where your company research pays off. Make sure that you speak about the skills that you possess that will most help the company in achieving its goals, not your personal goals (although, ideally, these two things will coincide).
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
This is, admittedly, one of the toughest questions to answer. The interviewer uses this question to assess your ability to think strategically – do you have a plan for your career and the ability to set goals? Is it in line with their goals for this position?
What is your greatest strength?
Again, this is a tough one to answer. People generally do not like to appear as if they are bragging, but this is the time to do it. Make sure that you tailor your answer to the company that you are interviewing with. If one of your greatest strengths is your ability to lead a team, explain how that strength applies to and will benefit the company.
What is your greatest weakness?
This question is designed to test your ability to assess yourself. The best way to answer this is to describe an actual weakness and the steps you have taken to overcome it. "Like most people, speaking in front of large groups of people makes me uncomfortable. Early on, I recognized that this could hinder my career growth and I decided to take classes on public speaking from the local community college. While I still don’t love to speak to an auditorium full of people, my presentation skills have improved quite a bit." This approach demonstrates your ability to face a challenge, determine a course of action, and take steps to remedy the problem.
What are you looking for in a new position?
This is the question that you should have asked yourself before you began your search for a new position. Describe the type of challenges you have excelled at, the types you are seeking, the types of skills that you would like to learn or refine, the responsibilities you would like to take on, and the type of environment that you prefer to work in. Remember that these answers should align with the position for which you are interviewing.
What accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction?
The interviewer asking this question is trying to find out about both what motivates you and whether you have accurately portrayed your worth to your current employer. Think of something that you did at work that you are really proud of, and tell the interviewer about the experience. Include why the accomplishment was significant for you and your employer and what you learned from it.
What is the worst mistake you’ve ever made at work, and what did you learn from it?
Be honest, explain the situation, how you handled it, and the lessons you learned. If everything worked out okay, show a sense of humour about the situation. It may have seemed tragic at the time, but is probably fairly amusing in hindsight. Companies expect employees to make mistakes, and the interviewer is trying to gauge your ability to respond to criticism, take responsibility, and learn from a difficult situation.
What did you enjoy least about your last position?
This question is hard to answer, because you want to try to avoid speaking negatively about your current employer. Use this to your advantage: "At my last position, there was a lot of emphasis on working independently, and I prefer to work as part of a group. One of the things that attracted me to your company specifically was your emphasis on teamwork and collaboration."
Other typical questions may include variations of:
Of course, there will be additional specific questions asked of a Vice President of Sales which will differ from those asked of a Technical Architect. Think about the potential questions, the reasons they would be asked, and PREPARE. Write down answers first and refine them, then work with a friend and answer these questions out loud. There is simply no substitute for good preparation.