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Career Resource Center

Students & Alumni

Interviewing > Answering Questions

Questions you may be asked will differ from interview to interview. Some interviewers will follow your resume closely and ask you questions about what you've done in the past. Others will ask more general questions. PRACTICE, and be prepared for anything.

Before the interview, think about:

  • What your qualifications are and how they relate to the position for which you're interviewing;
  • Specific aspects of your background that you want to emphasize;
  • Your experience and how it fits with what the employer might want;
  • Your "hidden" or transferrable skills: analytic, communication, interpersonal, leadership, etc.

Go back to these items throughout the interview, particularly when you are asked questions such as: "Tell me about yourself," "Why should I hire you?" "Why are you interested in this job?" and "What are your greatest strengths?"

While you are answering questions:

  • Don't be afraid to pause and think.
  • Listen to the questions before answering them. If you aren't sure what's being asked, ask for clarification.
  • Answer specific questions specifically.
  • Be honest. Take credit for your accomplishments, but don't exaggerate.
  • Strike a balance between answers that are too long and too short. Practice helps with this. Often you can tell from an interviewer's body language (tapping pen, leaning back in chair) if your answer is going on too long.
  • Convey excitement and interest in the position for which you are interviewing.

When the interviewer asks if you have any questions:

  • Ideally, questions will have come up during the course of the interview that you will want to ask.
  • Have a list of questions prepared that you can refer to if the interview conversation doesn't generate any.
  • If you do have questions prepared, make sure that you don't ask those that have already been answered.

Salary Questions
Discussing salary and benefits is often tricky. Some guidelines are:

  • Try to let them bring up salary first;
  • If asked what you would like to make, ask what range they had in mind and indicate whether or not it is acceptable;
  • If you must give a specific answer, quote a range. Try not to give a specific figure;
  • Do your homework on average salaries for the kind of position you are seeking, so that you will have a range to give. Salary information available at the Career Resource Center;
  • Don't accept an offer right on the spot. Take time to consider it even if you know you'll accept eventually;
  • Do not ask questions about vacation, benefits, promotions or raises at first, or even second interview. Wait until you are offered a position to negotiate these items.

Illegal Questions
Interviewers are required by law to keep questions asked job related. Charges of discrimination may result from improper or illegal interview questions. Often, these questions are a result of a bad interviewer rather than intent on the part of the organization to discriminate against applicants. Nevertheless, the job candidate is put in an uncomfortable position in deciding whether or not to answer these kinds of questions in the actual interview.

Sample Questions You May Be Asked

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why do you want to work for this organization?
  • What do you know about our organization?
  • Why should I hire you?
  • Describe yourself using three adjectives.
  • What motivates you?
  • What qualities are you seeking in a supervisor?
  • Why did you decide to attend New Paltz?
  • How has your college experience prepared you for a career in this field?
  • Why did you decide to major in?
  • What is your G.P.A.?
  • What course did you like best and why? Least?
  • What do you do in your spare time?
  • Where do you want to be five years from now? Ten?
  • Do you have plans for continued study? A graduate degree?
  • Are you willing to relocate?
  • What are your greatest strengths? Your weaknesses?
  • What have you learned from your mistakes?
  • What is your philosophy of (teaching, social work, etc.)?
  • What technical skills do you have offer?
  • Describe the most challenging situation you faced in (summer job/ internship/ student teaching)
  • Here is an example of a challenge we just faced. What is your assessment and how would you respond?
  • Why do you want to work with this population (of students, clients, etc.)?
  • What role do you usually play in a group? Give me an example.

Interview Questions: Teaching*

Sample Questions You Can Ask an Interviewer

  • What areas need the immediate attention of the person you hire?
  • What are the responsibilities of this position?
  • What plans does your organization have for the future?
  • What qualities are you looking for in the person who will fill this job?
  • Describe a typical day.
  • What kind of training would I receive?
  • Where can I expect to go from this position?
  • What activities can I engage in now that might help me on the job if I'm hired?
  • To whom would I report?
  • How would I be evaluated?
  • What do you like most about your job and the organization?

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