Appendix E: Answering Introductory Questions

Sarah Ladd

The beauty of introductory questions is that, with a little preparation ahead of time, you will be able to excel at these questions in every interview you attend.  Review the job description, research the company, and reflect back on your own self-assessment and workplace values to develop a multi-layered answer that can be used to answer any of these questions. Prepare some key point-form notes to review just before your interview to keep you from rambling. Never prepare a scripted answer for these questions because you might not get asked the question you were expecting and your scripted answer will not make sense. Be strategic in your answer and only include the information that is most useful for the interviewers to help them decide you are the perfect candidate. Remember to really focus on what you can offer the employer, but do not be afraid to mention what you hope to gain from the role too. It is ok to want to gain skills and experience; this shows interest and passion.

Ineffective answers will be short and generic; the employer will to be able to tell what you can offer them, or why you are interested in their company over any others. A good answer to an introductory question will answer the exact question you were asked, but a great answer will answer all of the questions including the real one (why should we hire you?).

Question: Why have you chosen to apply to our company for our junior accounting position?

Bad answer: I have always been passionate about accounting and want to work in a large, famous company with a strong reputation like yours. I think I can learn a lot from this job.

Good answer: Your job description mentions that I will be helping customers with their accounts payable needs, and their monthly and year-end budgeting. I am very interested in both of those and have experience from my classes and a small class project. I know that your company has a good reputation and I met one of your managers at an Accounting Night event on campus, and he mentioned that he really enjoys working there, so I think your company would be a great place for me to be.

Great answer: When I researched your organization, I found that not only am I qualified for the job because I have taken accounting courses in three of the four skill areas you need including budget forecasting, but also because I learned that your core values of integrity, growth mindset and excellent customer service match my own personality. For example, I am always learning new skills and recently completed some extra customer service training for my part-time hotel clerk job. I also remember speaking with one of your managers at the TRU Accounting Night last September, and she told me that your company is big but each team is small and close-knit, like a family, and that is very important to me as I am quite new to Kamloops. I am excited about the opportunity to work with your company.

In the last of the three sample answers, you can see the candidate is showing that they did their research and that they know and remember some very specific things about the company. They also highlighted some relevant knowledge and transferrable skills from their current work history. All of this helps paint a clear picture for the employer that says “yes, this person can do the job, and genuinely wants to work for our company.” Employers know you are probably applying to several other companies, and it is important that they believe that they are your preferred choice.

The great answer might seem a bit long; a good length for any interview question, including introductory questions, is one to two minutes per question. Much longer, and you might be rambling. Shorter than one minute and you definitely are not giving the employer enough information to make their decision. They might hire someone else who gave them more detail, even though you might be the most qualified for the position.

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