The purpose of a job interview is to find the most qualified person for the job. Finding that person involves evaluating not only their skills, but also their ability to respond and react to customers, fellow workers and worksite management.

One of the best ways for employers to evaluate how a person thinks and reacts is by asking open-ended questions. By asking the same questions to all applicants, the employer can evaluate each applicant against the others, and find the person with the best combination of technical and interpersonal skills. Open-ended questions allow the employer to see how applicants think, and how they process information. Some jobs require quick decisions, while others require patience before action.

It is helpful to think about why certain questions are asked. That way, you can provide the desired information, even if the question is asked in an awkward or confusing manner. As you read the questions below, think of both why this question would be asked (what is the employer trying to find out), and how you would respond to the question:

1. Which supervisors have you found easiest to work with and which have been most difficult?
This is to judge your adaptability. Start by discussing the management skills of your favorite supervisor. Chances are, they were clear in their direction and allowed you to provide input. In addressing the ‘Most Difficult’ supervisor, be careful to discuss only the actions or skills of the person, and not the person themselves. Say something like, “I, and other employees felt their direction was not clear. However, I asked questions when I was not sure.” Never criticize the person with a comment like, “I just didn’t like her. She was rude to everyone.” If you are openly critical of others, why wouldn’t the employer assume you will also be critical of them?

2. What did you like best and least about your previous job?
This question helps to determine how you view work. Is work there to make you happy, or do you understand that you are there to do the job? Discuss work tasks rather than your previous co-workers. Say something like,” I liked the variety of work, and that I was busy all the time.”

3. Give me an example of a time you did more than what was required in your job.
This question addresses initiative. Discuss when you went above and beyond in your job. Talk about awards you received, or a team effort that was recognized by your employer. Perfect attendance can be mentioned here, adding that you feel perfect attendance should be expected, not considered an exception.

4. Give me an example of a time you found it necessary to make an exception to the rules in order to get something done.
This question addresses your integrity and ethics. When challenged, will you do the right thing, or the easy thing? Describe how you handled a personal or professional dilemma in the past. The “right” answer may be that you did not make an exception. If you find yourself justifying a wrong, the employer will see it was still a wrong.

5. What was the best decision you ever made? What were the alternatives? How did you go about making it?
This question will address your judgment. How do you approach situations? Do you gather information first, or do you shoot first and ask questions later?

You may want to practice your answers out loud while looking in a mirror to see how you look and sound. Another tip is to record your answers by video camera or tape recorder and then play it back and see what the employer sees.

There are, of course, thousands of questions that can be asked of you in an interview. It’s important not only to answer the question asked, but to also understand what the employer is trying to find out about you. The better you are at figuring out what the employer wants, the more likely you’ll be the one hired!