4.4 Sample Questions and Answers

Lindsay Bortot and Employment Support Centre, Algonquin College

Question 1: Tell me about yourself.

This question is often used at the beginning of the interview as a way for the interviewers to get to know you. When answering this question, avoid being too general and do not go into irrelevant personal details (“I was born on a summer’s night…as a child I loved playing with Lego…”). Use your resume to guide you in providing an outline for the employer to understand your work history. Focus on describing your related education, experience, personal traits, and emphasize your interest in this position or company.

Example answer:

“I am in the final semester of my Bachelors of Business Education in Corporate Communication degree. I had the opportunity to complete an internship with the Hays Larks, where I gained practical experience in managing social media posts and contests for the baseball team. Additionally, I was a student employee for the Applied Business Studies Department on campus and have worked in customer service roles at local restaurants. I wanted to pursue corporate communication as a career because I have a passion for connecting communities and seeing local businesses thrive. This has been obvious in my previous work experiences, as I have often been regarded by my managers and colleagues as welcoming, approachable, and kind. I believe I would bring many relevant qualities to this position, for example, having successfully balanced my school schedule and maintained two part-time jobs, I know my time-management skills will be an added benefit to your team on a daily basis. I am excited for an opportunity to work with a family-oriented business that is committed to making a positive impact on their community through providing locally sourced products.”

Question 2: What are your strengths?

This question tests your self-knowledge. The interviewer is looking for you to describe some of your core skills or traits that would make you an excellent candidate for this job. You should be able to clearly and directly identify your strengths as if you were a product that you were trying to sell to the employer. The best strategy is to speak confidently, and relate your strengths to the requirements of the job. Simply listing a number of qualities is not sufficient. Focus on identifying three strengths and add value to your responses by expanding your answers and providing concrete examples from your work, school, or volunteer experiences.

Example answer:

“In all of my past jobs, I’ve considered myself to have a strong work ethic. For example, I remember a situation that occurred when I was working as a ranch hand on my family’s farm. I was working with a foreman who had my team on a strict timeline. Unfortunately, there was some confusion and we did not receive a delivery of feed that we needed. After calling the supplier, we learned that the shipment would arrive later on that evening, after the time our shifts ended. Rather than go home, I volunteered to stay late and make sure the feed was unloaded properly, ensuring we would be ready to go in the morning.”

Question 3: What are your greatest weaknesses?

We all have weaknesses or qualities that we are working on developing, that is why an interviewer will ask you about yours to see if you have a realistic picture of your own limitations. In your response, discuss a weakness that does not directly affect your ability to do the job you are applying for and then follow up by demonstrating what you are doing or have done to improve upon this weakness. A thoughtful response shows self-reflection and initiative in overcoming your weaknesses. Avoid overused clichés, such as “I work too hard” or “I am a perfectionist,” which come across as insincere and does not actually answer the question.

Example answer:

“When delivering presentations to large groups of people or speaking in front of crowds, I sometimes feel nervous. However, while completing my degree, I have taken many opportunities to voluntarily present information during my group projects, which involved speaking in front of 20-30 classmates. As a result, I feel more comfortable presenting, however, I know I need to continue to improve my skills further – this is why I have decided to attend a Toastmasters group once a week.”

Question 4: Why should we hire you?

This question provides you the opportunity to give your sales pitch. Reiterate to the employer what benefits they can expect from you. It is your opportunity to show your confidence and to highlight to an employer what specifically differentiates you from other candidates.

Example answer:

“I believe there are many reasons why you should hire me. For one, I meet the education and experience qualifications you are seeking for an individual to succeed in this role. I understand that there are likely other candidates that meet those criteria too, which is why I want you to know what sets me apart is my passion and commitment to motivate my team members to achieve their goals. For example, in my past work experiences, I have always exhibited a positive attitude and made it a point to lend a helping hand whenever opportunities presented themselves. My relationships with my team members have always been extremely collaborative and, as a result, we were more productive and efficient in completing our daily tasks.”

Question 5: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

This question is asked to address what your future goals or career aspirations are and how you intend to achieve them. Employers may also be looking to get a sense of your long-term commitment to their organization. Avoid speaking about unrelated ideas or ideas that would make the employer question your interest in working for them, such as mentioning your real goal is to start your own business or return to school full-time.

Example answer:

“In the next five years, I would like to become the top seller your company has on staff. I would like to take opportunities to learn and grow so that in the future, I become the sales expert that others rely on. My goal is to learn from the talented team of professionals at this company. In the long-term, I feel like this will prepare me to take on greater responsibilities as those opportunities present themselves.”

Question 6: Tell me about a time when you experienced a conflict with a coworker/supervisor/manager. How did you handle it?

This question is often asked to see how you are able to manage conflict and work cohesively as part of a team. The interviewers are seeking examples of real-life scenarios that have occurred and how you have handled them. Your ability to demonstrate appropriate problem-solving skills in resolving conflicts, while dealing with different personalities, will give the employer confidence that this is something you will be able to effectively deal with in the future. Avoid saying that you have never had a conflict or using negative language to describe others in the situation. Your answer should not include relying on your manager to solve the problem – employers want to know that you are able to overcome small conflicts and move forward without interrupting the flow of the workplace.

Situation: “When I was working as an administrative assistant with an accounting firm, the firm was experiencing some staffing changes and I was asked to support one of the other managers that I had not previously worked with. My previous manager had been very diligent in providing me feedback on my work so I knew what was expected of me. The new manager provided less feedback, which I was finding challenging. This caused a few disagreements as a result of not understanding what the other person wanted.”

Task: “I knew that I needed to clarify the manager’s expectations of me and identify how I could support him better.”

Action: “I suggested that we meet so that we could have more of a conversation about this. In the meeting, I acknowledged the disagreements and asked for specific feedback on what was and was not working. Being able to have an honest discussion regarding work styles and expectations led to a much better understanding on how we could work together more effectively. Listening and understanding each other’s point of view was helpful in coming up with a solution.”

Result: “After we had this conversation, we successfully worked together for several years. Since that experience, whenever I start a new job, I always take the opportunity at the beginning to discuss expectations.”

Question 7: Tell me about a time when you experienced an angry customer. How did you handle it?

Similar to the previous question, this is often asked to see how you are able to appropriately manage conflict and use sound judgment when faced with difficult situations. Again, the interviewers are seeking examples of real life scenarios to demonstrate how you were able to think on your feet, find a solution, and maintain your professionalism. Avoid saying that you have never had this happen, but rather, relate it to a situation in which you exercised conflict resolution. Show how you took the initiative to implement a solution without having to escalate it to your manager.

Example answer:

Situation: “When I was working as a sales associate at Walmart, a customer came in looking for a specific product that was currently on promotion. Due to the fact that it was a busy time of year, we did not have any of that product left in the store. The client appeared agitated and verbalized her frustrations towards me and several other employees.”

Task: “I knew that I had to calm the customer down and find out what I could do to help.”

Action: “I took the customer aside, listened to her concerns, validated her frustrations, and apologized for the inconvenience. Through our conversation, the customer disclosed that finding transportation was very challenging for her and she was upset because she knew she wouldn’t be able to get to another store to purchase this product. I then presented a solution by calling other stores to locate the product and offered to have the product delivered straight to her house the following day.”

Result:  “As a result, the customer felt understood and made sure to tell me how much she
appreciated my efforts, despite her initial concerns. Later on that day, my manager pulled me aside to recognize my excellent interpersonal skills and my ability to handle a difficult situation with such professionalism.”

Question 8: What is your target salary? What do you feel this position should pay?

In this question, the employer could be interested to see if you have a realistic expectation of
your salary based on your skills and experiences. They may also be evaluating whether or not your expectation fits within what the company can realistically offer you. Make sure to conduct your own research and show your flexibility by providing a salary range rather than a concrete number. You can research this information ahead of your interview using the following resources:

Example Answer:

“In my research, I have seen salaries ranging from $42,000-$46,000 based on positions requiring my level of education and experience. However, I am flexible to discuss the salary and associated benefits packages that you had in mind for this position.”


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4.4 Sample Questions and Answers Copyright © 2022 by Lindsay Bortot and Employment Support Centre, Algonquin College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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