Your heart is racing. Your palms have become sweaty. You can barely sleep a wink. Your mind is overwhelmed with the thoughts of that someone.
Is it love?
Nope! It is your first interview! And that special someone is your interviewer.
But one thing is common. Much like love, you want it to be the one!
And if this is your first foray into that conference room, you are like a baby taking his first steps. Unsure, nervous and totally inexperienced.
However unlike your parents who probably held your hand and clicked away the Kodak moments, we are here to help you prepare for those seemingly benign, but all too important, interview questions. So read on and you will only get wiser and not a second older than five minutes. Well, maybe a few seconds more if you need to close the Youtube video of the talking cat.
So here are a few commonly asked interview questions, not necessarily exclusive for freshers, but certainly handy to rehearse well before your first interview. Remember, it’s not an improv. It is better to speak confidently rather than go “ummm…er…” (Read tips to improve your communication skills)
How to answer the 10 common interview questions for freshers
Q1. Tell us something about yourself.
No one’s asking you about the pros and cons of bipartisan politics. Just something about yourself! And it is not like you are in grave danger of revealing your darkest secrets. Of course you are not going to tell them that your favorite movie is not Shawshank Redemption, as you’d like to claim. It is actually Prem Ratan Dhan Payo!
So why is this so intimidating? Well, ‘coz if you are not prepared, you run the risk of failing on the one question that sets the mood for the rest of the interview.
This question is a classic psychological trap to test how you perceive yourself. You could start with your educational background, where you’ve been brought up, some bit about your parents- the usual facts. But you should be quickly transitioning to your strengths as pertaining to making you a valuable future employee.
Here’s an example.
My name is Gabbar Singh. I was brought up in a village in Chambal. My parents instilled in me the values of honesty, integrity and non-violence. I have always cared for the underprivileged and have helped them several times to organize community festivals like Holi, giving food and aid to small communities. I have even raised money to help out ex convicts, thus giving them a second chance at life. I believe in compassion and helping others. That’s the kind of person I am.
– Says Gabbar, while applying to become the next Thakur of Ramgarh
Emphasize the good you have done, the good you can do and focus on all your positive traits. As a tip, it is always a plus to use strong words like I believe, determined, always, excellent instead of I think, I could, sometimes, maybe or okay. Okay?
Q2. Tell us your strengths and weaknesses.
Don’t brag and yet don’t hold back completely. There are the strengths that no one should ideally have any grounds to question you on. For example, unless they have proof of deceit, there is no reason why someone should challenge your claim of being honest and with-integrity.
And then there are the strengths that have to do with skills associated with the job at hand. Be careful there. Only state the ones you are fairly confident in. You can even vaguely scale your knowledge of the skill.
For example, you can say Expert in Coding in Python, Cobra or whatever if you think you can handle any level of counter question on that particular skill. You can say Experienced if you are fairly good but not completely confident enough to handle any question thereto.
Always a good idea to say you are a fast learner. Nothing sounds more like music to an employer’s ears than that.
As for weaknesses, it is better to not show them your cards. And unlike Poker, you are not going to feign a bad hand. Just take one of your good qualities and spin it as if it is a bad thing. I work too hard and my family doesn’t like that. Or say something completely irrelevant like I have a sweet tooth. Like that would matter at your job! Oh well it might if you are applying in a bakery.
However you may want to state your qualities, make yourself desirable as a candidate and approachable like a good coworker.
Q3. Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
If all goes well, sipping a Pina Colada, on a Caribbean cruise. Nope! They want to know your career goals. It is hard for most fresh graduates to look that far ahead when they are still quite unsure about everything else. The best way to answer that is to talk in a bigger picture and leave it somewhat open ended.
Whatever you do, never say in five years I see myself taking your job!!
You could say, for example, that your current goal is to become a part of the Management team (Read these tips to get promoted). You may even want to add a few garnishes of how you want to use your own time to train yourself in skills that may help you become better at your job.
It is not a good idea to give the impression that you would be looking for a way to move away from your hired post, right away. Keep your response aligned with the current post. In other words, you are going to work hard and grow to become more valuable to this company. That has a nice sound bite!
Of course you have to educate yourself well in advance of the possibilities the company offers. That brings us to the next question.
Q4. Why do you think this company is a good fit for you?
You need to know what the company does, what its values are, how it has been performing, and any other relevant detail you can get. Then frame the answer in a way that highlights how only this place can help you grow, giving you the opportunities and an excellent platform to reach the career goal you mentioned in the previous question. There are buzz words we all know of. Just be careful to not make your response sound hollow.
I want to join this school because teaching students is the best way to learn and grow.
That’s good but that says nothing about why that particular school.
Instead saying something like this school is well known for being student friendly, creating opportunities for them to excel in their field of choice and producing some of the most creative and successful alumni, in this country. I want to be a part of the process that drives excellence. It will also give me an avenue to grow as a teacher.
Q5. Why do you think you are a good fit for us?
What have you got to offer to this excellent organization? Why should we bother to take you on?
And again, play your strengths to them. There is no need to sound like you are the answer to their prayers. You just have to be confident in your ability to contribute well and better than what they can already perceive from your qualifications. It is your desire and passion that counts here. These are typical interviewee emotions that they are looking for. Try to get specific, if you can.
And most of all know the company values and emphasize how they resonate with you. Borrowing the example from the previous question, you probably shouldn’t refer to children as brats, if you want to get hired in that teaching position. The school cares for the children. You should too.
Q6. Could you explain the shortcomings on your resume?
It is natural to have a few blemishes in your past and sometimes you just have to include them in your resume (Also read resume writing tips). And it is also quite natural for an interviewer to be curious what happened there. So there is no need make up a fib.
Suppose you have a few D’s or an F or two scattered around. You can simply tell them that you were unprepared, didn’t like the course content or that you were still finding your calling. You can add that you are serious about your career and have learnt the consequence of slacking off.
Just don’t blame someone or something else for it (Read manipulation tricks of coworkers). That would be juvenile and a bad glimpse at what you might do if you fail at work.
Q7. Are you a team player?
However much of a disdain, you may have, for mankind, this is not the place to let it out. Most jobs are not meant to be handled alone. Not unless you mime.
Yes is always a safe response. But you don’t need to stop there. You can articulate a response showing that you recognize the importance of team work in an office. Much like the team events you have been a part of until then. No cooperation means no result. Sing to them if you have to.
Ek chidiya, anek chidiya
Post 80’s kids will never know what that is. Just Google Doordarshan, you millenials!
Q8. How would you handle a disagreement with authority?
Tied to the previous question but not quite so. While you may work great in a team there is still a possibility that you end up having a disagreement with someone. Management would really like to know whether they would have to babysit or, you know, manage you all the time!
Give an instance from your past. How did you handle a difference of opinion with your teacher, perhaps your parents or anyone you are/were accountable to? Did you decide to not speak up and hope that metabolism alone would take care of that unsettling feeling you are calling acidity?
‘Coz any sensible company would probably not want that. The appropriate response would be to express your concern and dialogue it out. May just turn out that the authority was in the wrong and the company benefitted from your suggestions instead.
Q9. What is your salary expectation?
Millions! No seriously, if you are not looking to replace Tata you should probably quote something reasonable. And how do you know what that is? Just look up will ya’? Know what they are likely to offer before you walk in.
If you are a fresher, they will probably not even bother to ask. But just on the off chance they do, know the number and say something close to it. Maybe a little more. At least they’ll know that you didn’t just walk in while wandering around.
Q10. Do you have any questions for us, our company?
This is code for The End and could be the last chance to leave a good impression. So ask something intelligent. Not how long are the lunch breaks! It will show a healthy curiosity in the company’s future.
Ask about expansion plans. Or even whether they have any expectations from you before you join. For instance do they want you to familiarize yourself with any tool, to get a head start. Or if you want to close back from where it started, ask them to tell you something about themselves!
You probably understand that what happens inside the interview room is a combination of factors, mostly beyond your control. These are only some of the more popular questions for freshers gathered from the experiences of the have-been-interviewed. While you can never really predict the outcome of those minutes, you can only prepare yourself for the knowns (Also read effective interview skills to learn the techniques to look confident).
Ignore the sweaty palms and the occasionally erratic heart – not unless you start feeling shooting pains in your left arm! Calm down, make eye contact, smile and picture them naked if you have to. Oh wait! No that’s for stage fright!
Take it easy. If it doesn’t go well, maybe this wasn’t it. Just call it a one day stand and keep looking for your one true job.
P.S. While we’re on the topic of interviews, if you ever plan to apply to the top business schools in the world to get a leg up in the race for the best international jobs, check out this video.
It explains how elite universities – like Harvard, Stanford, ISB, Cambridge, Oxford and others – conduct interviews: Interview preparation for the world’s best MBA (Video)