Chapter 7: Interviews
Question 1: Tell me about yourself.
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 resumé 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 term of the two-year Recreation and Leisure Services Diploma program at Fanshawe College. Through my program, I had the opportunity to complete two placements in recreational settings where I gained practical experience in providing various programs to a diverse clientele. Additionally, I have previously worked in customer service environments including Sport Chek 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. I am excited for an opportunity to work with a team that is committed to making a positive impact on the community.”
Question 2: What are your strengths?
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 identify your strengths clearly and concisely 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 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 items that we needed to prepare for an upcoming event. After calling the supplier, we learned that the shipment would arrive later 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.”
Question 3: What are your greatest weaknesses?
We all have weaknesses, that is why an interviewer will 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 overused clichés, such as “I work too hard” or “I am a perfectionist,” which come across as insincere and does not 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.”
Question 4: Why should we hire you?
This question provides you the opportunity to give your sales pitch. Reiterate to the employer what benefits they can expect from you. It is your opportunity to show your confidence and to highlight to an employer what specifically differentiates you from other candidates.
“I believe there are many reasons why you should hire me. For one, I meet the education and experience qualifications you are seeking for an individual to succeed in this role. I understand that there are likely other candidates that meet those criteria too, which is why I want you to know what sets me apart is my passion and commitment to motivate my team members to achieve their goals. For example, in my past work experiences, I have always exhibited a positive attitude and made it a point to lend a helping hand whenever opportunities presented themselves. My relationships with my team members have always been extremely collaborative and, as a result, we were more productive and efficient in completing our daily tasks.”
Question: 5 Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
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 unrelated ideas or ideas that would make the employer question your interest in working for them, such as mentioning 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 very best Equipment Operator 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 and continue to gain my ORFA certifications. In the long-term, I feel like this will prepare me to take on greater responsibilities as those opportunities present themselves.”
Question 6: Tell me about a time when you experienced a conflict with a coworker/supervisor/manager. How did you handle it?
This question is often asked to see how you are able to manage conflict and work cohesively as part of a team. The interviewers are seeking examples of real-life scenarios that have occurred and how you have 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. Avoid saying that you’ve never had a conflict or using negative language to describe others in the situation. Your answer should not include relying on your manager to solve the problem – employers want to know that you are able to overcome small conflicts and move forward without interrupting the flow of the workplace.
Situation: “When I was working as a recreation leader, the organization was experiencing some staffing changes and I was asked to support one of the other managers that I had not previously worked with. My previous manager had been very diligent in providing me feedback on my work, so I knew what was expected of me. The new manager provided less feedback, which I was finding challenging. This caused a few disagreements because of not understanding what the other person 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 so that we could have more of a conversation about this. In the meeting, I acknowledged the disagreements and asked for specific feedback on what was and was not working. Being able to have an honest discussion regarding work styles and expectations led to a much better understanding on 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 months. Since that experience, whenever I start a new job, I always take the opportunity at the beginning to discuss expectations.”
Question 7: Tell me about a time when you experienced an angry customer. How did you handle it?
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 representative at Sport Chek, a customer came in looking for a specific product that was currently on promotion. Because 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 then 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 made sure to tell 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.”
Question 8: What is your target salary? What do you feel this position should pay?
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.”