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Job Search Hell: Common And Unusual Job Interview Questions, And Their Answers


Hey RHU, with a new year and holiday seasonal jobs coming or at an end, I thought I would resurrect this post to aid any of our RHUers. This list was originally posted on: January 10, 2014


This was a class assignment at my career college: write several questions that interviewers might ask, and get good answers written down. Hopefully, these might help out job hunters (I got an A+, so that has to amount for something right?) I'm going to do my best to help by explaining what is expected in an answer, and then provide an answer that you might be able to personalize. Practice your answers so that they flow naturally when asked about. Don't sound like you're checking off a list or sound bored as a monotone robot. Relax and make sure it sounds natural.


Freddy skull hugQuestion #1: Can you tell me something about yourself?

Explanation: Ugh, the dreaded personal question right? Not so much. Interviewers don't care about favorite color or your siblings. Stick strictly to the information that a potential boss might seize upon as something that can benefit their company.

Answer: I found that my [transferrable skills: attention to details, love of helping people, handling projects, achievements] seemed to be useful when handling [position] things. While working at [location], these skills really came in handy when I helped to [example: get a display ready], [example: keep a section organized] and [example: helping "guests" complete their purchases]. I’ve enjoyed working with my strengths so much that I’ve been keeping an ear to the ground for opportunities in a similar position.


Question #2: Why did you leave your last job?

Explanation: Erk.... You can't say that your boss sucked (even if he did), that your coworkers were parasites (even if they were) or that you were fired because the company decided a newbie was cheaper to pay (even if that's what happened). Focus on why you would have left voluntarily or why you felt a change was necessary.

Answer: I was a [position] in [business name], but unfortunately, [Examples: it wasn't giving me any opportunities to develop any new skills/advance, the company was cutting back and, unfortunately, my job was one of those eliminated, I am interested in a job with more responsibility, and I am ready for a new challenge].


Carolanne book2Question #3: Tell me something about your education.

Explanation: Obviously anything before your last level of school graduation (high school or college) is unnecessary. State the name of your school, what field you graduated in, and skills that you learned there.

Answer: I am a [school] graduate in [town]. I acquired knowledge in [retail example: teamwork, organization, computer skills on a cash register, and working with Microsoft Office /// example medical profession: basic human anatomy, medical manager programs and medical law and ethics /// etc]


Question #4: Why should we hire you?

Explanation: God this one is universally loathed to the Nth degree. How do you sound competent without sounding arrogant, nor like a simpering wimp? Very carefully.

Answer: I fulfill all the requirements for the job. However, some other applicants also probably fulfill that. I have [example: a keen eye for holes that need to be filled and have the creative mind to develop and implement methods for filling those holes]. I also think that I am a pleasant person to work with and can [example: learn my job quickly with basic hands-on experience].


Question #5: What are your strengths? 

Explanation: As tempting as it may be "I haven't strangled a bitch yet, despite many opportunities and motivation to do so!" might not convince a potential manager that you're safe around register cords that double as a garrotte or pointy, pointy scissors. Keep this short and simple without sounding like you're Thrognar's gift to the world. 

Answer 1: I am creative, have initiative and have a love for working with people.

Answer 2: I like working with my hands, like meeting new people, and developing a positive business relationship with regulars.


Jason ListenQuestion #6: What are your weaknesses? 

Explanation: Seize this and twist it so it works as a positive.

Answer: "I'm shy and don't talk much" can become: "I can communicate well with others, but I find I’m a better listener than a speaker."

Answer: "I procrastinate on tasks that I don't want to do," can become "I like doing a job right, so I may take longer to make it perfect."

Answer: "I don't like confrontation and avoid it when I can," can become "It upsets me when someone is unhappy, so I do my best to rectify the situation if it's within my power, but sometimes I need a supervisor's help." 


Question #7: Where do you see yourself in five years? 

Explanation: Working in retail doesn't have much in the way of advancement. Find a goal that you could potentially work toward. Having plans is more important than reaching them at this point. They want to know that you're not some slack off who plans to work crappy jobs till the day you die... however likely that may be depending on your situation. 

Answer: I want to start a family and have a good career. I believe that your company is a right place to realize my goals.

Answer: I'm saving up for [a house, further education].


Freddy frustrationQuestion #8: What are your biggest achievements so far? 

Explanation: Small or large, these are things you may be proud of. 

Answer: [You found something that the customer was having trouble identifying, you were sharp-eyed and alerted Loss Prevention of a potential theft, etc] 


Question #9: What characterizes a good boss / colleague from your point of view? 

Explanation: they're sniffing around for what you would expect from them and whether it's reasonable. Keep it safe. 

Answer: I find the best boss provides both guidance and support, but can also trust me to do my job with the quality the company expects from me. For a colleague, I would expect similar values; willingness to teach the new employees, but also to trust me to do my job and to share in my goals to get the job done with both quality and timeliness. 


Question #10: What motivates you? 

Explanation: Big cash bonuses may be truth, but you likely won't get those. ;) Simple is best. 

Answer: I find motivation in good teamwork and recognition for a job well done.


Question #11: How do you motivate the others? 

Explanation: this probably won't come into play unless you're applying for a position of some sort of authority. Between the guide or the whip, always choose the guide. 

Answer: I usually try to motivate others by offering a possible solution that would take care of the problem. Usually if the problem has been bothering them, finding a solution helps to inspire them to get past it. I also try to complement on things that are done well, so that they are more interested in getting that recognition.


Carolanne and JasonQuestion #12: What are your salary expectations? 

Explanation: is your best friend. Seriously this sweetheart deserves your most romantic evening you can dredge up. Not only can you figure out what the average salary is for someone in your position with your experience, but if you know ahead of time what people of your skill level are paid, you never run the risk of sounding greedy or too high maintenance. 

Answer: Salary is not a deciding factor for me, but I found that the average salary for [your state] is between [hourly slightly below your experience], and [hourly that is up to your experience and within a few dollars of your lowest price] for this kind of position. 


Question #13: When are you able to start? 

Explanation: none needed. 

Answer: I can start as soon as possible.


Question #14: Why do you want to work at [Company]? 

Explanation: They want to know how much you know about them, and how interested you are. Make sure you do some minimal research on what the company is known for. 

Answer: [Company] is known well known by many people and is popular for being accessible to nearby neighborhoods.


Question #15: If your previous co-workers were here, what would they say about you? 

Explanation: are you aware of your effect on your coworkers? Do you know how you helped others with their jobs? 

Answer: They’d say I was [Example: a fast learner, professional, and punctual].


Jason crossQuestion #16: What Did You Like Least About Your Last Job? 

Explanation: Danger! Danger Will Robinson! Whatever you say here can and will be used against you! Do not fall into the trap of bashing your boss or coworkers. They'll only realize that you'll say horrible things about them when their back is turned! 

Answer: Overall I've been very satisfied with my jobs. I've been able to work with some really interesting people. My only regrets were times when I couldn't help people because I didn't have it in my power to do so.


Question #17: Tell me about any issues you've had with a previous boss. 

Explanation: Welcome to your second Danger Will Robinson situation... tread very carefully here. 

Answer: "My manager was an idiot who couldn't communicate until something went wrong, and then she threw a shit fit" can become "I have found that if I take the time to talk with my manager at the beginning of a project, we can all get off to a great start on the same page." 

Answer: "My asshat boss can't schedule for shit and tried to break several labor laws when scheduling me" can become, "I learned that it's always good to put my availability in writing and discuss ways of avoiding mistakes so that no one suffers." 


Question #18: Do you prefer to work independently or on a team? 

Explanation: This is not an either/or question, no matter how much it may seem like one. They want both, and it's always wise to tell them that you can do so. They want you to be able to work with other employees, but they don't want to stand around holding your hand for your entire shift. 

Answer: I am equally comfortable working as a member of a team and independently.


Question #19: Would you rather work for money or job satisfaction? 

Explanation: they know for a fact that if you weren't getting paid, you'd bugger off to greener pastures. They're testing you to see if you'll do the bare minimum for a paycheck, or if you'll take some pride in your contribution to the company. 

Answer: I find that while money is important, the most important thing to me is getting it done, getting it done right, and getting it done well.


Carolanne chanelQuestion #20) Would you rather be liked or feared? 

Explanation: Trick question. Buddy-buddy employees play favorites and won't make difficult decisions. Feared employees don't work as a team and people tend to shirk things whenever they think they can. 

Answer: Neither, I'd rather be respected.


Question #21) Do you consider yourself successful? 

Explanation: "Are you a lazy dumbass coasting through life, or are there things that show that you've improved and grown as a person?" 

Answer: I feel that I am. I have faced and conquered my weakness at [a skill you used to have trouble correcting] and I've accumulated experience in several situations while assisting guests.


Question #22: If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be? 

Explanation: Ahh here we go, one of the "weird ones." Pick a superpower that you would use to do some good for humanity. Nerd out a bit here, it's okay! 

Example Answer: I think I would want a two-sided power. I would like the power to heal; to repair failing organs, such as the body's inability to produce insulin in Diabetics or to knit together injuries. I would also like the power to destroy; cancer for example, or even bacterial or viral invaders.


Question #23) If you were a type of fruit, which would you be and why? 

Explanation: More weirdness. No matter what you choose, what they're looking for is something that's somewhat thought out that has benefits from some sort of viewpoint. 

Example Answer: I think I would be a Huckleberry. You can find strawberry flavors or even strawberries themselves in any corner store you may wish to explore. Huckleberries, however, are much rarer to find and only known in certain states. Otherwise, you have to travel far afield to find it. Huckleberries also have a mellow, sweet flavor that doesn’t overwhelm your senses, but serves very well as a healthier treat than, say, chocolate. 


Freddy MoneyQuestion #24) If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money? 

Explanation: Have some charity in this answer. Obviously you would want to make certain that you would never be in financial danger, but planning to help others with some of it is always a good sign. They also want to know if you'd slack off and squander it, or whether you think you could still contribute to society in some way. 

Answer: I would make sure my parents would be financially stable for the rest of their lives and then put my half away. Some of it would go into a reasonably sized home for myself and then the rest would be put aside. From there I would find a hobby that I would be passionate about and make a career out of it.


Question #25) Who do you admire most and why?

Explanation: Are you self-centered, or are there qualities you find appealing in others that you would like to model? 

Answer: I've found a growing respect for Pope Francis. Although I do not share his faith, I respect that as a religious leader, he is trying to remind us all that we need to focus on the positive teachings that we have been ignoring, and to stop obsessing on all the negative things that do nothing but draw criticism. 


Question #26) Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 how weird you are. 

Explanation: Weirdness is actually a good thing. It takes creativity to do more than simply take orders.  

Answer: I’d say a 7.5 to an 8. I often find myself imagining alternative solutions to situations in movies or books that are way into the realm of fantasy. This can be anything from shapeshifting instantly into a scarier monster to scare the movie monster away, to taking care of the “Voldemort” problem with a high powered sniper rifle and scope from atop a building. 


Question #27) Do you have any questions for me? 

Explanation: This is where you draw your awesome card. It's time to turn around the interview. It's now your turn to challenge your interviewer. One of the best pieces of advice from my career counselor is to arrive at your interview with a list of questions. Most interviewers have never encountered something like that before, and having questions means that you've got some expectations of your own. This can be very impressive, and be that foot in the door that you needed. Some questions may have already been answered when they explain things to you, but you might be able to pry information out of them that they never covered. Write these questions down, leave space between then and take your time writing down their answers. 

“What are the next steps of the recruiting process?” 

“Can you tell me something more about the working environment?” 

"Is there any reason why you WOULDN'T hire me?" (good feedback to correct next time) 

"If offered a job in your company, what could I do to exceed your expectations?" 

"What excites you about coming to work?" 

"I've seen what happens when someone isn't pulling their weight. How does the company handle performance concerns?" (Good to know if your coworkers try to dump things on you, and a good way of telling them that you will do your job and not take shirkers) 

"What are opportunities for training and continuing a career with [company]?





Those are insightful answers to an array of interview questions. The only quibble I have, as someone on the other side of the desk, is with the answer to "When are you able to start?". Instant availability is desirable; however, if you are currently employed I would prefer to hear that you need to give notice at your current job and may need to start at a later date. It shows that you are responsible, considerate and are not as likely to leave without notice if something better comes along.

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I hate Question #1. They shouldn't give a crap about "myself" only about my work persona. Then again, when I get that question I always say what my training is in, why I cannot work in that profession and my other work skills.

Question #2 depends, I generally get so little employment across time, it doesn't matter. But in the cinema case, due to a lot of new people being hired and trained, I was not called in for weeks on time, so I figured it was easier to just quit and look for a new job. (And in the latest case, my contract expired, is all)

#4 and #5 bug me because I wanna just point at my CV and say "Look in there! It TELLS you my strengths and abilities in various categories!" but I generally put heavy emphasis that I speak two languages fluenty (which IS a big thing in Germany, still, especially if it's un-accented, fluent English to the point that I could hold business transactions in English)

#6 is always tricky. I just say I become competent fast, but have a brief period of chicken-with-its-head-cut-off.

#11? The hell kind of question is that? If I'm just a lowly person myself, I do not see it as my job to motivate other people!

#12 is akward for me. I am always awkward when talking about money and salaries are weird for me since what seems a lot to me may seem in actuality to be little.

#14 - again, what do you care what I know about your company? I'm just gonna work there. But if it's a clothes shop or so, I will say I enjoy (window) shopping there cause I like the designs.

#18 - I'm a loner, I prefer working on my own. If forced, I will work in a team. (Doesn't sound good, does it?)

#22...? Uh... flight? Floating? #23 - Um, uh... Bananarama?

#24 drool over the money I got! Then pay my mother the money back for the training she put me through and give my father some money, too. (If it was really millions that I'd have no clue how to otherwise spend, definitely some to charities - too much money makes me feel oppressed)

#25 - My mother? #26 - I... go all the way to ELEVEN!

#27 is generally when I ask about work clothes, is there a uniform or just a general code on what to wear. (Other than obviously no jeans, miniskirts or hot pants, stuff like that) I think/hope it gives me a good appearance in that I'm concerned about a code and want to know beforehand what it is, so I do not accidently make a mistake.

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