Interview prep 101 dictates that you should have your elevator pitch ready, a few stories polished, and a good sense of what you have to offer. So, how do you get there? Lots of practice, ideally aloud.
To help you better prepare for your next interview, here are 30 behavioral interview questions sorted by topic (in addition to 31 common interview questionshere) that you can practice.
Not sure how to answer these questions? Here’s a quick guide on how to craft job-landing responses.
For questions like these, you want a story that illustrates your ability to work with others under challenging circumstances. Think team conflict, difficult project constraints, or clashing personalities.
- Talk about a time when you had to work closely with someone whose personality was very different from yours.
- Give me an example of a time you faced a conflict while working on a team. How did you handle that?
- Describe a time when you struggled to build a relationship with someone important. How did you eventually overcome that?
- We all make mistakes we wish we could take back. Tell me about a time you wish you’d handled a situation differently with a colleague.
- Tell me about a time you needed to get information from someone who wasn’t very responsive. What did you do?
If the role you’re interviewing for works with clients, definitely be ready for one of these. Find an example of a time where you successfully represented your company or team and delivered exceptional customer service.
- Describe a time when it was especially important to make a good impression on a client. How did you go about doing so?
- Give me an example of a time when you did not meet a client’s expectation. What happened, and how did you attempt to rectify the situation?
- Tell me about a time when you made sure a customer was pleased with your service.
- Describe a time when you had to interact with a difficult client. What was the situation, and how did you handle it?
- When you’re working with a large number of customers, it’s tricky to deliver excellent service to them all. How do you go about prioritizing your customers’ needs?
Ability to Adapt
Times of turmoil are finally good for something! Think of a recent work crisis you successfully navigated. Even if your navigation didn’t feel successful at the time, find a lesson or silver lining you took from the situation.
- Tell me about a time you were under a lot of pressure. What was going on, and how did you get through it?
- Describe a time when your team or company was undergoing some change. How did that impact you, and how did you adapt?
- Tell me about the first job you’ve ever had. What did you do to learn the ropes?
- Give me an example of a time when you had to think on your feet in order to delicately extricate yourself from a difficult or awkward situation.
- Tell me about a time you failed. How did you deal with this situation?
Time Management Skills
In other words, get ready to talk about a time you juggled multiple responsibilities, organized it all (perfectly), and completed everything before the deadline.
- Tell me about a time you had to be very strategic in order to meet all your top priorities.
- Describe a long-term project that you managed. How did you keep everything moving along in a timely manner?
- Sometimes it’s just not possible to get everything on your to-do list done. Tell me about a time your responsibilities got a little overwhelming. What did you do?
- Tell me about a time you set a goal for yourself. How did you go about ensuring that you would meet your objective?
- Give me an example of a time you managed numerous responsibilities. How did you handle that?
You probably won’t have any trouble thinking of a story for communication questions, since it’s not only part of most jobs; it’s part of everyday life. However, the thing to remember here is to also talk about your thought process or preparation.
- Give me an example of a time when you were able to successfully persuade someone to see things your way at work.
- Describe a time when you were the resident technical expert. What did you do to make sure everyone was able to understand you?
- Tell me about a time when you had to rely on written communication to get your ideas across to your team.
- Give me an example of a time when you had to explain something fairly complex to a frustrated client. How did you handle this delicate situation?
- Tell me about a successful presentation you gave and why you think it was a hit.
Motivation and Values
A lot of seemingly random interview questions are actually attempts to learn more about what motivates you. Your response would ideally address this directly even if the question wasn’t explicit about it.
- Tell me about your proudest professional accomplishment.
- Describe a time when you saw some problem and took the initiative to correct it rather than waiting for someone else to do it.
- Tell me about a time when you worked under close supervision or extremely loose supervision. How did you handle that?
- Give me an example of a time you were able to be creative with your work. What was exciting or difficult about it?
- Tell me about a time you were dissatisfied in your work. What could have been done to make it better?
You are huddled in your apartment waiting for the phone to ring and are mentally running through the checklist of questions you think you might be asked during the interview. Once the phone rings and you exchange pleasantries, it begins.
“Tell me about yourself and your interest in this position,” says the employer.
Inwardly you groan. This is it. This is the question that everyone dreads, because it is seemingly impossible to answer without sounding like a used car salesperson or a live interpretation of your resume.
Flip the script on the question; it isn’t intended to be an obstacle. Rather, this question is a gate opening on the express lanes of employment. It is your time to shine and stand out from the crowd of other candidates. It sets the tone for the rest of the interview.
Don’t Regurgitate Your Resume
The employer has already seen your resume. That’s how you got here. Resumes get you interviews, but you will need to get yourself the job. Because you’re in a job interview, it’s easy to fall into the trap of talking about your professional accomplishments and goals. The employer has already seen the list of what you’ve done; this is your opportunity to show them who you are.
Use a Formula to Answer the Question
Experts recommend using a formula to answer the question: Past-Present-Future
Give a little information about your past experience, share what you are currently doing that is innovative or relevant to the position for which you are interviewing, and then go on to explain why you are excited about the opportunity for which you are interviewing.
An example of this formula in action may sound like, “I did my undergraduate work at Old University, where I majored in rhetoric and philosophy. I’m currently a graduate student at New University with an assistantship in conduct and community standards. I’m excited about the opportunity at This University because it combines my interest in Title IX with my current experience in conduct.”
Relax and Give Anecdotes
It’s acceptable – and welcomed – to personalize your answer and show off your personality here. Add in details about who you are outside of the office. While it may feel unnatural at first, it gives employers a sense of who you are or what you value. This doesn’t mean rattling off a list of your obscure hobbies or monopolizing the interview time with excessive detail about your personal history. Consider including a mention of the project of which you are most proud or a very brief overview of an initiative you planned from start to finish. This leaves the employer with something memorable about you, making you stand out from other candidates with similar backgrounds or experience.
Match Your Answer to the Mission
Before you ever get to the interview, you have researched the mission and goals of the department with which you are interviewing. Tying your answer back to what you learned highlights the excellent research that you did and demonstrates your understanding of the direction of the department. A good example is drawing a parallel between your experience and an initiative of the office or department. For example, you might mention your previous experience as the graduate hall director of a living learning program and that you saw on the office’s website the creation of two new living learning programs for the upcoming fall. Be strategic.
Practice Your Answer
You will be asked this question in job interviews for the rest of your working career. Having a script that you can practice so your answer feels natural will help you start interviews on the right foot. You will feel more confident and secure. Tailor your answer to the position and the interview, of course; rehearsing prepares you for the question and allows you to organize your thoughts.
Answering the “tell me about yourself” question should be a confidence-building moment in your interview. Feel good about what you’ve accomplished and your ability to articulate it to an employer. You are in control of the tone of the interview. Show off your personality and personal accomplishments in the context of the position description.
by Stacy Oliver-Sikorski
Stacy Oliver-Sikorski is the associate director of residence life for student success at Lake Forest College. She has more than a decade of experience in student affairs, primarily in housing, residence life, and student conduct. Stacy has served in leadership roles within ACUHO-I and GLACUHO, and is a prolific writer in the field. You can connect with Stacy on Twitter at @StacyLOliver or via her blog at http://stacyloliver.com.
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“What brings you here today?”
Apple is known for being one of the most challenging and exciting places to work, so it’s not surprising to learn that getting a job there is no easy task.
Like Google and other big tech companies, Apple asks both technical questions based on your past work experience and some mind-boggling puzzles.
We combed through recent posts on Glassdoor to find some of the toughest interview questions candidates have been asked.
Some require solving tricky math problems, while others are simple but vague enough to keep you on your toes.
- “Explain to an 8 year old what a modem/router is and its functions.” — At-Home Advisor candidate
- “Who is your best friend?” — Family Room Specialist candidate
- “If you have 2 eggs, and you want to figure out what’s the highest floor from which you can drop the egg without breaking it, how would you do it? What’s the optimal solution?” — Software Engineer candidate
- “Describe an interesting problem and how you solved it.” — Software Engineer candidate
- “How many children are born every day?” — Global Supply Manager candidate
- “You have a 100 coins laying flat on a table, each with a head side and a tail side. 10 of them are heads up, 90 are tails up. You can’t feel, see or in any other way find out which side is up. Split the coins into two piles such that there are the same number of heads in each pile.” — Software Engineer candidate
- “Describe yourself, what excites you?” — Software Engineer candidate
- “If we hired you, what do you want to work on?” — Senior Software Engineer candidate
- “There are three boxes, one contains only apples, one contains only oranges, and one contains both apples and oranges. The boxes have been incorrectly labeled such that no label identifies the actual contents of the box it labels. Opening just one box, and without looking in the box, you take out one piece of fruit. By looking at the fruit, how can you immediately label all of the boxes correctly?” — Software QA Engineer candidate
- “Scenario: You’re dealing with an angry customer who was waiting for help for the past 20 minutes and is causing a commotion. She claims that she’ll just walk over to Best Buy or the Microsoft Store to get the computer she wants. Resolve this issue.” — Specialist candidate
- “How would you breakdown the cost of this pen?” — Global Supply Manager candidate
- “A man calls in and has an older computer that is essentially a brick. What do you do?” — Apple Care At-Home Consultant candidate
- “Are you smart?” — Build Engineer candidate
- “What are your failures, and how have you learned from them?” — Software Manager candidate
- “Have you ever disagreed with a manager’s decision, and how did you approach the disagreement? Give a specific example and explain how you rectified this disagreement, what the final outcome was, and how that individual would describe you today.” — Software Engineer candidate
- “You put a glass of water on a record turntable and begin slowly increasing the speed. What happens first — does the glass slide off, tip over, or does the water splash out?” — Mechanical Engineer candidate
- “Tell me something that you have done in your life which you are particularly proud of.” — Software Engineering Manager candidate
- “Why should we hire you?” — Senior Software Engineer candidate
- “Are you creative? What’s something creative that you can think of?” — Software Engineer candidate
- “Describe a humbling experience.” — Apple Retail Specialist candidate
- “What’s more important, fixing the customer’s problem or creating a good customer experience?” — Apple At Home Advisor candidate
- “Why did Apple change its name from Apple Computers Incorporated to Apple Inc.?” — Specialist candidate
- “You seem pretty positive, what types of things bring you down?” — Family Room Specialist candidate
- “Show me (role play) how you would show a customer you’re willing to help them by only using your voice.” — College At-Home Advisor candidate
- “What brings you here today?” — Software Engineer candidate
- “Given an iTunes type of app that pulls down lots of images that get stale over time, what strategy would you use to flush disused images over time?” — Software Engineer candidate
- “If you’re given a jar with a mix of fair and unfair coins, and you pull one out and flip it 3 times, and get the specific sequence heads heads tails, what are the chances that you pulled out a fair or an unfair coin?” — Lead Analyst candidate
- “What was your best day in the last 4 years? What was your worst?” — Engineering Project Manager candidate
- “When you walk in the Apple Store as a customer, what do you notice about the store/how do you feel when you first walk in?” — Specialist candidate
- “Why do you want to join Apple and what will you miss at your current work if Apple hired you?” — Software Engineer candidate
- “How would you test your favorite app?” — Software QA Engineer candidate
- “What would you want to do 5 years from now?” — Software Engineer candidate
- “How would you test a toaster?” — Software QA Engineer candidate