Answering Interview Questions: Part One

While we can’t predict every question that will get asked in an interview, there are a few common ones we can expect to pop up. In part one of this interview with an OFE staff member, we talk about how to answer some of these questions. 

OFE’s Self-Marketing Preparation Workshop covers these topics and more. Ask your Employment Consultant (EC) to register you for the next workshop to grow your interview skills!


What are key things you learned from your own interview experiences?

Being nice and genuine with others can lead to unexpected opportunities.

“Winging it” may not be the best decision to take. Practice and preparation helps a lot!

There’s no need to hold a grudge when you get rejected by an employer. Continue to develop a professional relationship, and be optimistic about future opportunities with them.

What common misunderstanding do participants have about interviews? 

That the employer leads the interview, but actually, it’s the candidate who decides how the session will go. The employer’s knowledge of this person is limited to what is on his or her resume and cover letter, so it’s the candidate who has to highlight connections between his or her experiences and personality and what’s written on paper in a clear and easy-to-understand way. 

Another is the feeling of “not being good enough”. It’s natural to be doubtful of your abilities, but keep in mind that YOU were invited to the interview BECAUSE of what you presented to the employer. So on a base level, you are good enough!

How do you choose which questions to focus on in the Self-Marketing Preparation Workshop?

I gravitate toward common interview questions first because they appear in most (if not all) interviews. These questions include: 

Tell me about yourself.
Why should I hire you?
Why did you leave your last job?
What is your greatest strength?
What is your greatest weakness?
Where do you see yourself in x years?

Afterwards, we discuss answer approaches for more unique questions, like behaviour-based, situation-based, oddball, and illegal.

What are “illegal” interview questions?

“Illegal” interview questions are questions that address personal identifiers not applicable to the job/company and can include:

Family Status/Children/Marital Status
Physical or Mental Health 

If employers ask these questions and they’re unrelated to the job/company, you have the opportunity to respectfully decline answering the question. If you voluntarily share this information, employers can address it. If you’re comfortable answering the question, use the “common” interview approach (see below).

It’s good to know you don’t have to answer those if you’re not comfortable. What’s a common interview approach and what other answer approaches do you teach in class?

It’s a two-point approach. First, answer the question directly (e.g. “My greatest strength is…”), followed with how that idea, skill or characteristic will positively impact the job/company OR how it will prevent negative impact.

For “tell me about yourself”, I use a past, present, and future approach. Start with sharing and reflecting on your past experiences, then discuss how those accomplishments can help in the role you’re applying for, then wrap up with what you hope to gain or accomplish for the company in the future. 

For “what is your greatest weakness?” I use a three-point approach. Again, start with answering the question directly. Next, share what you’ve done (before the interview) to improve on that weakness, and finally, tell them what you plan to do (after the interview) to continue improving yourself.

There’s so much more to say about interviewing (we really recommend you sign up for a Self-Marketing Preparation Workshop!) but we’ll end part one with one last question. What elements should you always include in your answers?

Highlight information gained through research (of the company or position).
Consider using ideas/stories that can be verified from the resume.
Provide examples of you successfully using a skill/qualification. Comments made by others or recognition for a specific skill it can also be used.


Read part two of this interview!