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Common Types of Interview Questions – Overview

Posted by James M on November 4, 2008

In the Common Types of Interview Questions series we will be examining the common types of interview questions, their formats, and the proper way to respond.  There is a lot of information regarding this subject so first, in this Overview post, I’ll outline the 5 types of common interview questions, and then in future posts we’ll go over them one-by-one in more depth.  But rest assured there are specific strategies and formats to help frame your response to all 5 types questions.

1.  Behavioral Questions

This is the most common type of interview question and regardless of your major, career choice, or position you are applying for, you will invariably face many of these questions in your interviews.  Behavioral Questions include such famous examples as “Please tell me about your biggest weakness”, and “Tell me about a time you led a team to complete a task.”  Luckily, there is a sure fire structured response to this question type which we will discuss later in this series.

2.  Situational Questions

These questions are relatively uncommon, but include theoretical questions regarding ethical situations or circumstances where you are juggling many activities at once against a fast approaching deadline.

3.  Logic Questions

This format was made famous by Microsoft and is mainly, but not always, used during engineering interviews, especially in the computer science or creative design fields.  These questions have been waning in prevalence in recent years, but you’ll still want to read this post if you are applying for an engineering position or at a company that has branded itself as “innovative”.

4.  Case Study Questions

This type of question is usually restrained to consulting jobs especially strategic and management consulting, and involves analyzing a theoretical or real-world business situation or problem faced by an organization and coming up with a solution or set of actions to resolve the situation.

5.  Field of Study Questions

This is the term I have given to questions regarding questions which “test” your knowledge of a given target subject, and is most prevalent during engineering interviews.  For example, someone applying for a mechanical engineering position may be given a problem where they have to calculate mechanical or static forces acting on an object.  The point, therefore, of this family of questions is to “test” your knowledge of the field you studied in college to insure you have the background and quantitative skills to learn a new and complex trade and begin contributing to a company soon after hire.

Note that these 5 types of questions could appear in a variety of settings.  For example, there could be one or more interviewers or interviewees involved in the interview at one time.  The interview duration could range from 30 minutes to several hours.  The interview may be over the phone, on-campus, or at a local or regional company office.  Despite these variable the types of interview questions being asked will not change nor will the strategies used to answer them.

Ok, well there you have it, the 5 common types of questions you will see as a new college hire.  There are other more advanced types of questions used for experienced professionals and a few types of “exotic” questions that you are unlikely to ever see, but if you can understand how to answer these 5 types (especially the Behavioral Question family as it is by far the most common)  you will be well on your way to having a great interview and wowing your target company.

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