This can make or break an interview. It can make the difference between you sitting there looking like an
antelope caught in the headlights, mumbling, “Um…ah… let me think…” and you looking calm and collected and impressively in control.
Here are some common questions, some really wrong answers, and some possible right answers. You may think of even better answers, but if all else fails, these answers will sound reasonably sensible.
Question 1: Tell me about yourself.Wrong answer: Well, I was born In Mombasa, but we moved here a couple of years later, after my parents divorced. I’m currently single, although I was engaged for two years, but he cheated on me, so then…
Possible answer: I graduated from Nairobi University three years ago, with a Bcom in Marketing, and then spent a year at Company X, in the marketing department, then two years at Company Y, also in marketing. Unfortunately, Company Y closed down, and then I heard about this opportunity at your company, doing the thing I really love…marketing....bla bla bla....you get the idea!
Reason: In almost all cases, your answers to the HR manager’s questions should be related to business, not to your personal life.
Question 2: Why do you want to work here?Wrong answer: It’s really close to where I live, and my sister works here. Also, you’re the only people employing right now.
Possible answer: I’ve read that your company is the second most successful manufacturer in product xyz, and I like the idea of working somewhere with a great future and lots of challenge.
Reason: This is where research is essential, and where you can show the employer that you didn’t just pick their company’s name out of a hat – that you’ve done research and really want to work for them.
Question 3: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?Wrong answer: Well, not still here, that’s for sure!
Possible answer: I don’t want to be someone who hops from job to job, like so many people do today. I’d like to stay at the same company for a long time, although maybe move up to higher positions within that company eventually.
Reason: Show you’re not a candidate to change jobs now and then. Show them their training time and money won’t be wasted on you.
Question 4: When people compliment you, what do they compliment you on the most?Wrong answer: Usually on my naturally black hair unlike Wambui's in accounts department. They also comment that my eyelashes are unbelievably long!
Possible answer: I’ve been told I’m very decisive. Also, that I’m really good at motivating people.
Reason: See Answer Number 1.
Question 5: What did you dislike about your last job?Wrong Answer: My Asian boss was a slave driver. It was nag, nag, nag. Always on my back about getting stuff done, hurry up, stop taking tea breaks, get in earlier. What a jerk!
Possible Answer: There were a few challenges, but nothing I couldn’t handle.
Reason: No one wants to employ a whiner, or a high-maintenance person.
Question 6: What kind of experience do you have for this job?Wrong Answer: That depends. What do you do here?
Possible Answer: I know you’re looking for someone with B.A Degree in education, and who has experience working with young children, and also a First Aid Certificate and CPR, and I have all those. Also, I have worked at a busy private school for fours years gaining experience in teaching and administration.
Reason: Once again, show you’ve done your research, and that your skills match their requirements.
Question 7: What would you say is your main weakness?Wrong Answer: Well, I do drink/take drugs/steal office stationery/assault co-workers quite a bit.
Possible Answer: Obviously I have weaknesses, like everybody, but I really don’t think I have weaknesses that will affect my ability to do this job well.
Reason: This is admittedly a kind of trick question, and it’s hard to avoid the tendency to say things like, “I’m too much of a perfectionist” or “I work way too many hours.” You could try the above answer, or come up with something even cleverer on your own. Either way, be prepared!
Question 8: Why did you leave your last job?Wrong Answer: I’m sorry but I can’t answer that until the court case is over.
Possible Answer: Unfortunately my company was downsizing and as one of the newest employees, I was one of the first to be laid off.
Possible Answer #2: I enjoyed my work at the last company, but there was no opportunity for advancement, and eventually I felt it was time to leave.
Reason: Never badmouth your last employer. It makes you look disloyal and bitter. If you left under awkward or difficult circumstances, take some time to think of a neutral, and non-hostile, non-self-pitying way to explain the situation. Tell the truth, but keep it unemotional and be as objective as possible.
Question 9: What kind of salary are you looking for?Wrong Answer: I don’t know. How much do you make?
Possible Answer: (if you don’t have a clue) How much is the going rate for this position?
Possible Answer: (if you’ve done your research) I know that the average pay for this job is about K'sh 60,000. Is that about what this position pays?
Reason: You don’t want to ask for such an exorbitant salary that you price yourself out of a job. On the other hand, it’s important to show that you value what you have to offer. So go online – you’ll find government reports that give you the average salary or hourly rate being paid for your position in your area
Question 10: Tell me about a time you… dealt with a difficult customer/ came up with an idea that saved the company money/ had problems with a co-worker/solved a problem no one else could…
Wrong answer: Um…………I don’t know…..you’re putting me on the spot. OH MY GOD! You're making me nervous.
Possible answers: These are up to you. Before you go on any interviews, spend time thinking of all the scenarios you can come up with of situations at work where you dealt with problems, or had great success, or even small success. That way, you’ll have lots of scenarios to share with an employer.
Reason: Telling the employer you’re smart, a good motivator, innovative, a problem solver, mean nothing without concrete examples. Think of some BEFORE the interview. It will make a great impression.
There are so many other questions an interviewer could ask you. What is your energy level like? What was a typical day like in your last job? Define an ideal boss. Describe how one employee can affect the whole company. You can never think of them all, but if you do research, you’ll be sure to ace at least a few of the questions, which is more than a lot of the applicants will be able to do.
Finally, make sure your answers are true, and not just what you think the employer wants to hear. Your goal is not to manipulate him or her, but to show yourself at your very best. You’ll probably be way too nervous at the interview to think as clearly as you usually do, so do lots of preparation before you go. You’ll feel and act way more confident, and it could make all the difference.