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Understanding Questions

Different questions are asked by employers to gain very specific information about the candidates. What type of information are interviewers interested in? Some hints can be gained by understanding the question.

Opening questions

Example: "Tell me about yourself". The interviewer is probably interested in finding out about you as a person.

Experience questions

Example: "Have you done this kind of work before?" Here the interviewer is trying to evaluate your background.

Opinion questions

Example: "What do you see as some of your weaknesses?" The interviewer would like to see how you react to certain situation.

Company research questions

Example: "Why do you what to work for this company?" Did you do your research like we recommend? The employer is going to see how much you know about the company to see just how interested you are in working for them.

Off-the-wall questions or approaches

Example: "If you could be a cartoon character who would it be and why?" or "Tell me how many triangles are in this picture." These approaches may be rare but they do happen. Employers are testing your creativity, flexibility, and original thought processes.

Closing questions

Example: "Do you have any questions?" This is your cue that the interview is finishing up. Make sure you prepare to ask questions. Also be prepared for employers asking for resumes, samples of work, or references.

Illegal questions

It is unlawful for employers to ask certain questions of candidates. Why? Employers could use certain information as a way to discriminate against you. What types of questions are illegal?

Questions regarding marital status, family status, handicaps, age, gender, race, ancestry, national origin, citizenship, religion, finances, etc...

Also, it is illegal to ask for the student to submit a photograph with his/her application or for the student to be asked to take a picture at any point before they are hired.

How do you respond to illegal questions?

Many times questions of this nature are asked out of ignorance or out of an attempt to make small talk, but not necessarily to use the information inappropriately.

  • Try to determine the employer's motivation in asking the question.
  • Clarify the question by asking the employer to restate the question. At this point, it may come out differently or they may realize they made a mistake in asking.
  • You may choose to answer it with a quick answer and try to redirect the conversation to your qualifications.
  • It is best to avoid getting upset or defensive.
  • You can ask employer the purpose of asking the question.
  • You may choose to answer it in relation to the position.
  • If this situation arises, use your own judgment. You will be the only one in the room to analyze the situation. Afterwards, discuss this with your Career Center liaison for additional information and advice.