For those of you who are bravely saying to yourself, “I’m just going to wing it!” our advice to you would be to do the opposite. Preparation is essential in being successful in the interview process. Your research will show the interview committee your initiative, interest, motivation, and resourcefulness.
Before your interview, watch the video and read the suggestions below to properly prepare. Download the Before the Interview checklist - PDF - opens in a new window to help you prepare for future interviews.
It is better to be safe than sorry. Make sure you have the following details right before the interview:
Prepare in the following ways so you can show you are a good fit:
In order to show you know about the company, look for information in the following ways:
Practice in the following ways so you can deliver great responses in the real interview:
Follow these tips for help presenting yourself with confidence:
When you are going to an interview, don’t go empty-handed! Here is what you need to bring:
Preparation is essential for a successful interview! You should be able to convey to the employer that you are the best candidate for the position. You are the interviewer’s main source of information about your qualifications. Do not assume that the interviewer knows all of your qualifications and accomplishments; you must clearly spell them out as you answer the questions during an interview.
Introductory questions give you an opportunity to describe yourself and your accomplishments as they pertain to the job you are applying for. These questions are used to assess your background, your experience, and your organizational fit. Being that they are open-ended questions, they give you an opportunity to sell yourself.
Examples of common introductory questions include:
Behavioural questions will ask you to describe a specific situation or experience, and require you to provide an example of how you handled it in the past. Behavioural interviews are founded on the idea that the best predictor of future behaviour is based on evaluating past behaviour. The key is not to get the “right” answer but to demonstrate how you came to an appropriate result. To answer these questions well and completely, you need to be prepared with specific examples or experiences.
When answering behavioural questions, you should use the STAR technique to ensure you’ve included the appropriate amount of information and detail.
Examples of common behavioural questions include:
Situational questions are focused on hypothetical scenarios. They require you to demonstrate sound judgment with a response or solution to a problem that you may not have experienced before. Sometimes these questions require you to think outside the box, and carefully consider what is really being asked.
Examples of situational questions include:
More unconventional questions an employer may ask:
These questions typically assess the particular technical or professional skills and knowledge you will need to perform a job. Hands-on tests, simulations and questions are phrased to find your level of experience with specific equipment, software, processes, procedures, etc.
Examples of technical questions include:
The law in Ontario prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of: age, ancestry, colour, race, citizenship, ethnic origin, place of origin, creed, disability, family status, marital status (including single status), gender identity, gender expression, receipt of public assistance (in housing only), record of offences (in employment only), sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding), and sexual orientation. The Ontario Human Rights Commission protects job seekers against unlawful questions.
Employers’ questions must be related to the job for which you are applying; however, use your discretion when answering, as questions could be asked unintentionally. Here is how you might respond if asked an inappropriate question:
When an employer asks you at the end of the interview, “Do you have any questions for us?” you want to avoid saying, “no.” Having a lack of questions prepared may suggest that you’re uninterested in the opportunity, so come up with some well thought out and engaging questions in advance. Be conscientious of the interviewer’s time, and choose no more than three questions to ask.
Examples of questions you SHOULD ask include:
Examples of questions you SHOULD NOT ask include:
Below are some examples of common interview questions. Find out why employers might ask you each question, and read an example of a good answer to that question. Watch the videos that accompany each question to see examples of an interviewee answering poorly, and then see what they should have done instead. To view all the example interview answers, view the full Example Interview Questions Playlist - opens in a new window on YouTube.
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 don’t go into irrelevant personal details. 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.
“I am in my final semester of the three-year Dental Hygiene Diploma program at Algonquin College. Throughout my program, I had the opportunity to complete a number of clinical placement hours in a dental clinic where I gained practical experience in providing various preventative oral health care procedures and patient education. Additionally, I have previously worked as a receptionist in a dental clinic and in a variety of customer service environments including Reitman’s and Loblaws.
I wanted to pursue this line of work because I have a passion for helping people live healthy lives. This has always 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 bring many qualities to the table, 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 team who is committed to making a positive impact on their community through a number of preventative dental care initiatives.”
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.
"In all of my past jobs, I’ve always considered myself to have a strong work ethic. For example, I remember a situation that occurred during my Culinary Management field placement when I was working with a chef who had my team on a strict timeline. Unfortunately, there was some confusion and we did not receive a delivery of vegetables that we needed to prepare for an upcoming event. After calling the supplier, we learned that the shipment would arrive later on that evening, after the time in which everything should have been ready to go. Rather than go home, I volunteered to stay late and finish everything, ensuring that we would be prepared well before the event started.”
We all have weaknesses. An interviewer might ask you about yours to see if you have a realistic picture of your own limitations. In your response, discuss a weakness that doesn’t 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 weakness that are actually strengths, such as “I work too hard” or “I am a perfectionist,” which come across as insincere and don’t actually answer the question.
“When delivering presentations to large groups of people or speaking in front of crowds, I sometimes feel nervous and I have a hard time getting my words out. However, while completing my Diploma Program, I have taken many opportunities to voluntarily present information during my group projects, which involved speaking in front of 30-40 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.”
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 ideas that would make the employer question your interest in working for them, e.g. that your real goal is to start your own business or return to school full-time.
“In the next five years, I would like to become the best Computer Programmer your company has on staff. I would like to take opportunities to learn and grow so that in the future, I become the 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.”
This question is asked to see how you are able to manage conflict and work as part of a team. The interviewers are seeking examples of real life scenarios that have occurred and how you 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.
In your answer, avoid doing the following:
Employers want to know that you are able to overcome small conflicts and move forward without interrupting the flow of the workplace. Use the STAR Technique to structure your answer.
Situation: “When I was working as an administrative assistant with a large accounting firm, the firm was experiencing some staffing changes and I was asked to support a manager that I had not previously worked with. The new manager provided less feedback than my previous manager, which I found challenging. This caused a few disagreements because I did not understand what the new manager 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 and have a conversation about this. In the meeting, I acknowledged the disagreements and asked for specific feedback on what was and was not working. Having an honest discussion regarding work styles and expectations led to a better understanding of 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.”
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’ve 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.
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 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 told 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.”
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:
“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 very flexible to discuss the salary that you had in mind for this position.”