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Interviewers will discover little if they rely on the same questions everyone else asks

“Tell me a little about yourself.
“What are your weaknesses?
“Where do you hope to be five years from now?
“Why should I hire you?”

Do any of these questions sound familiar? Maybe you responded to some of them when you were interviewed. You may have even asked them yourself. A caution before using these questions when you next interview: most well-prepared job applicants anticipate these questions and are ready with good responses.

The above questions were selected from among approximately 20 questions identified by Max Messmer in Job Hunting for Dummies (ISBN 1-56884-338-7) as those that job seekers “will hear over and over.” Messmer’s readers, and those who have read other books with titles such as The Perfect Interview: How to Get the Job You Really Want (by John Drake, ISBN 0-8144-7919-7), and 101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions (by Ron Fry, ISBN 1-56416-464-X) arrive for interviews well prepared to answer these frequently asked questions. Having identified the questions, the authors explain why interviewers ask these particular questions, suggest how to answer them, and warn readers what not to say in response.

I recently reviewed ten books written to prepare job seekers for their next interview. Using ten questions from Messmer’s list as my basis, I thumbed through the other nine books. Which questions did the other authors indicate a job seeker would encounter most often?

Two questions made everyone’s list: “What are your strengths?” and “What are your weaknesses?” Variations of “Why should I hire you?” and “Where do you hope to be five years from now?” appeared in nine of the ten books (90%). The next most frequently discussed questions were:

  • “Tell me a little about yourself.” (85%)
  • “How much do you know about our company?” (70%)
  • “If I were to call your former boss, what would she likely to say about you?” (70%)
  • “What do you think you can bring to this company?” (65%)
  • “What did you like best (least) about your previous job?” (55%)

Knowing that candidates are likely to come to their interviews prepared to answer these and other common questions, you, as an interviewer, must be ready to follow up on their initial responses. Ask probing questions to get beyond the superficial, well-rehearsed answers. The interviewer who settles for canned responses will gain little insight into the candidate’s values and understanding of the job.

During his Interview Right to Hire Right seminars Nelson Scott works with participants to develop job-specific questions that will yield high quality information about applicants.


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A professional trainer, speaker, and consultant since 1995, Nelson Scott works with organizations that are committed to making the right hiring decisions, developing and retaining productive staff, and strengthening relationships with customers.  Learn more by visiting or e-mailing


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