Job interview question types

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There are some basic types of questions you may face during the course of your interview. Different interview experts and websites will offer differing classifications, but their classifications generally look like this. This is a general guideline, and some questions might fall under more than one category. Thus, the focus is not “correctly” classifying interview questions, but to understand the general strategies that interviewers use, so that you can better prepare for interview questions.

1 Background questions

These are more personal or subjective questions about you and your general opinions.

  • Tell us about yourself.
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • Why should we hire you?

2 Competence and skill questions

These are questions about the candidate’s skills and qualifications for the job. They may often be simple questions about specific items listed on your application materials, or open-ended questions about particular skills.

2.1 Credential verification questions

Credential or resume verification questions include simple items like "What is your GPA?" and "How long did you work at ___?”

2.2 Experience verification questions

Such questions require you to evaluate and communicate experiences in your background.

  • What did you learn in that class?
  • What were your responsibilities in that position?

2.3 Competency questions

Such questions probe your specific hard and soft skills, such as:

  • Can you give me a specific example of your leadership skills?
  • Explain how you have sought a creative solution to a recent problem.

2.4 Technical questions

These questions probe specialized knowledge and skills that are needed for a particular field.

  • Explain how you would write a Python script to generate prime numbers.
  • Which statistical procedures would you use for analyzing data to find reasons why consumers prefer product A over B?
  • How would you teach metaphorical uses of English prepositions to middle school students?
  • How would you introduce the concept of deconstruction in a college course on literary theory?

3 Behavioral / experiential questions

These are questions about your past experiences, past accomplishments, what you have done in the past, how you developed or learned a particular skill, or what you did in a particular situation. The questions generally relate to possible on-the-job situations or required skills, or they may be asked to assess your character.

  • Can you give us a specific example of how you did ….?
  • Tell us about when you faced a difficult challenge.
  • How did you learn how to apply your programming knowledge for doing X?
  • What's the most difficult problem you've ever solved?

3.1 Critical questions

This type of behavioral question seems to be popular among Korean companies. They may ask you to justify and defend decisions or things you have done in the past, like “Why did you do it like that?”

4 Situational questions

These are questions about what you would do in a hypothetical, challenging situation, especially a situation on the job. This is often in the form of "What would you do if …”

  • How would you handle a conflict with a supervisor?
  • What would you do if you realized that your team’s new product was about to fail?

4.1 Communication questions

This type of situational question asks how you would use communication skills, such as, how you would share bad news with a business client.

5 Opinion questions

You might be asked more objective opinion questions, such as how you think the company should respond to a potential challenge, in order to probe how much you know and understand the company.

  • What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of this company?
  • What market do you think this company should enter in the next decade?

6 Analytical questions

Analytical, challenge, & brainteaser questions may be used by interviewers to test your knowledge and thinking skills. This can include unusual problem-solving questions that seem irrelevant to the job. They are not so interested in the correct answer, but to test your analytical, problem solving, and creating thinking skills and abilities. Your goal is not to produce a correct answer, but to explain how you would go about solving it, in order to demonstrate your analytical skills.

  • How would you describe what this company does to a 6-year-old?
  • How many tennis balls could fit into a typical car?
  • What is the global online retail market for non-fiction books?
  • How would you explain social media to someone who’s been stranded for 30 years on a desert island?

6.1 Nonsensical challenge questions

This type of question includes "What kind of animal would you like to be?" and "What color best describes you?" There are no correct answers here; these are used to test your ability to think quickly and under pressure.

  • Who would play the lead role in a movie about your life?
  • If you could be given any superpower, what would you choose?
  • If you could take one trip through time, where would you go?

7 Inappropriate questions

These would be questions about age, gender, marital status, your family, family plans, religion, sexual ortientaiton, religion, politics, disabilities, physical appearance, or any other questions that are inappropriate.

8 See also

  1. STAR model for challenging interview questions
  2. Job search red flags