The best thing you can do for your interviewers is make his/her job easier. If interviewers walk out after talking to you feeling like they carried the weight of the conversation, that is a strike against you. But if your exchange leaves them with a feeling of, "Hey, I enjoyed that," that could move you that much closer to hearing that you got the job.

Be prepared for common questions

There is no way to predict every question your interviewers are going to deem worth asking, so don't worry if something comes at you that you didn't see coming. In fact, acknowledging that you aren't going to be ready for every little thing puts you ahead of the game.

Across every job type, you can expect a couple of typical questions to come up.

  1. First is the trap question, which comes up in almost every interview. The trap question is some variation on "What is the area you need most improvement in?" or "What is your area of weakness?" The real answer may be that you have are lousy to attention detail or that you are incredibly shy. Whatever you do, DON'T SHARE your personal weaknesses. Instead, try to find something to say that isn't a real weakness, but a slightly less-than-ideal characteristic. For example:
    "I prefer to see a project through from start to finish rather than working on a single component and never seeing the finished product. I sometimes find it a bit frustrating to work without that overall context."

    "Sometimes I have a hard time saying no to people, and I end up taking on more than my share of work."
    If you really can't think of anything to say, you can always go with this time-tested (albeit clichéd) comeback: "I'm a perfectionist. I need to improve on not being so hard on myself and making sure I get everything right."

  2. Be on the lookout for questions about why you left your old company and why you are interested in the new one. These questions (or their offspring) are designed to make sure your interest in the new company is sincere and not due to you being fired and/or having serious problems at your former place of employment. If the interviewer throws at you is "why were you fired?" keep the answer simple and brief. "It was a hostile environment in which many people were let go," is a good way to handle it. Quick, easy, to the point.

  3. Have answers ready for these popular interview questions:

    • Tell me a little about yourself.

    • What interests you most about this position?

    • Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, 20 years?

    • What is your ultimate career goal?

    • Tell me about a project that had a tough problem that you solved.

    • What are your greatest strengths?

    • What did you like about your last job?

    • What separates you from other candidates?

    • How does your previous experience/academic preparation/college activities relate to this work?
  4. Most importantly, sell yourself as a problem-solver. Think about the work you have done, the job you had in college, volunteer work you did, or the club that you founded. Then proceed to illustrate how you solved a particular problem by breaking that experience into three parts: 1)The problem you encountered, 2) How you analyzed it, and 3) The solution you implemented.

If you prepare careful answers to these questions in advance, you'll be ahead of the game. In each of your answers, try to convey your enthusiasm and ability to be a team player. And remember to answer every question in a timely manner. Long answers make it seem like you are struggling to find something intelligent to say.

Have questions of your own

Toward the end of interview, the interviewer is going to lean into you and say, "Do you have any questions for me?" You MUST have questions. First, don't rush into your answer. Look as if you are thinking about whether you have any questions and then ask an appropriate one from the list you've thought about beforehand. Here's a handful of potential questions:

  • How would you describe a typical workday?

  • What is the best part of working at this company for you?

  • Are there significant opportunities to take seminars, classes, etc. to learn more about the different facets of the company?

  • Why did you join the company?

Interviewers LOVE to talk about themselves, so these questions will win 'em over every time.

One last great tip about the actual interview: ALWAYS end the interview with, "I am very interested in the position. What are the next steps to take?" Boy, are you eager. They'd be lucky to have you!