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Common Interview Questions

Always finish answer with the result/outcome

Tell me about yourself. 

  • Almost always the first question an interviewer will ask
  • Companies are not looking for family history, hometown or hobbies
  • Keep your response related to the job you are applying for
  • Discuss education, work experience, and skills but do not ramble

Tell me about a difficult decision you have made.

  • Employers are looking for the process you use to make a decision

Tell me about your best/worst boss.

  • When given the choice, focus on the positive - no one wants to bring on a whiner
  • If pressed about your “worst” boss, put a positive spin on it and focus on the learning involved
  • Ex: My boss was very vague, and as a result I learned the importance of good communication

Describe a time when you worked as part of a team.

  • Draw on examples from past work experiences, class projects or athletics
  • Emphasize what your role was and how you contributed to the team

Do you have any questions for me?

  • Always have 5 questions prepared, ask 3
  • Ensure they are not questions you can find the answers to on your own
  • Have questions prepared on the notebook in your pad-folio, you may be nervous and forget what you want to ask
  • Never ask about salary, vacation, break time or benefits

Additional common interview questions:

  • Why do you want to work here?
  • If you could be the company president/CEO for one day, what changes would you make and why?
  • Tell me about a conflict you had with a co-worker.
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • Describe your ideal job.
  • What do you consider to be your greatest strengths?
  • What is your proudest accomplishment?
  • Why did you choose your major at NDSU?
  • How do you account for your GPA?
  • How would your supervisor describe you?
  • What kind of manager brings out your best?
  • What do you know about our organization?
  • How do you feel about working in a structured environment?  Unstructured?
  • Do you plan to go to graduate school?
  • Why should we hire you?

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Behavioral Interviews

Behavior-based interviewing is the most popular format among HR professionals.  This style of interview focuses on past behavior to determine how an applicant will respond to similar situations in the future.  Most questions are designed to elicit specific responses and detailed descriptions. Behavior-based interview questions will challenge the applicant to recall in detail what they did and how they felt.  By doing this, the interviewer is able to see the big picture- the applicant’s thought process, decision making, communication skills and results.   

Answer behavior-based interview questions in the following format:
Situation/Task; Action; Result (STAR)


  • Describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish 
  • You must describe a specific event or situation, not a generalized description of what you have done in the past
  • Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to fully understand what the situation/task was


  • Keep focus on you even if you are discussing a group project or effort
  • Describe what your role was - not the efforts of the team
  • Don’t tell what you might do, tell what you did


  • Finish answer by telling the interviewer what happened, how the event ended and what you accomplished

Sample Behavioral Style Questions

  • Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
  • Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
  • Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to use your presentation skills to influence someone's opinion.
  • Give me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
  • Please discuss an important written document you were required to complete.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
  • Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize your tasks.
  • What is your typical way of dealing with conflict?  Give me an example.
  • Tell me about a time you were able to successfully deal with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).
  • Give me an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead.
  • Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or co-worker.
  • Give me an example of a time when you motivated others.
  • Give me an example of a time when you used your fact-finding skills to solve a problem.
  • Tell me about a time when you missed an obvious solution to a problem.



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Illegal Interview Questions

Laws regulate the kinds of questions interviewers cannot ask during the interview.  Employer’s questions must be related to the job in which you are applying. If asked an illegal question you have 3 options:

  1. Answer the question - You are free to do so if you wish.  If you do answer the question keep in mind you are giving info that is not related to the job and may put yourself at risk of giving the “wrong” answer.
  2. Refuse to answer the question - It is your right.  Be careful in your refusal as you don’t want to appear confrontational or uncooperative. 
  3. Examine the question for its intent and respond with an answer that will apply to the job.

Examples of illegal interview questions:

  • How old are you?
  • Are you a US Citizen?
  • What religion are you?
  • Are you planning a family?
  • Are you disabled?
  • What is your marital stutus?
  • Have you ever been arrested?
  • How is your family's health?
  • What is your sexual orientation?

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North Dakota State University
Phone: +1 (701) 231-7111 / Fax: (701) 231-8756
Campus address: Ceres Hall 306
Physical/delivery address: 1301 Administration Ave., Fargo, ND 58102
Mailing address: NDSU Dept. 5280 / PO Box 6050 / Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Page manager: Career Center

Last Updated: Tuesday, October 04, 2011 1:26:02 PM