Do you have a job interview coming up?
Good for you!
But, how prepared are you?
The key to a great interview is confidence. Make sure you’re prepared for your interview and ready to make a great first impression. Beyond that, the best way to instill confidence is to know how you’ll answer common job interview questions inside and out.
At the heart of the interview process are the questions and answers. Your objective is to make sure your interview answers are compelling and convincing.
But how do you know what to practice for?
Interview questions often follow similar themes, regardless of the job (though some job titles will have specific technical interview questions to get through, as well). When you understand what the most common interview questions are, you can prepare how you’ll go about answering them. You’ll also arm yourself with a list of examples and stories to flesh out your answers.
Below is a list of interview questions and answers often asked by a hiring manager or recruiter to any candidate, no matter which industry, so you can knock your meeting out of the park. Note that there will also be interview questions asked specific to a job, and you should know the job description and responsibilities well enough to answer them.
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The 25 Most Common Interview Questions and How to Answer Them
Though these job interview questions below are quite common, be forewarned that they could be worded differently during the interview. Be ready when asked for specifics in any of these questions. If you spend time practicing, you’ll convey the confidence needed to get the job.
Questions about You
These are the common questions with which interviewers use to understand a little bit more about you. Some of these are often the first questions asked.
1. Tell me about yourself.
This is going to be one of the most open-ended questions you’ll get in an interview, and the one that warrants the most practice. Avoid giving too many details since this is usually the first question you’ll be asked and you don’t want to spend too much time on the first question. Frame the response with a past, future, and present description of yourself. For example, describe briefly where you’ve worked, why you’re leaving your current job (optional), what future goals you’re working toward, and how this job helps you toward those goals.
2. How did you hear about this job?
The most common missed opportunity when answering this question is when interviewees provide a simple answer such as “I saw this on the bulletin board” or “I learned it through a friend.” Instead use this common job candidate question as a way to convey how you are in tune with the industry of the job you are applying for.
Make it known to the interviewers that you keep your ear out for opportunities that help you advance your goals, and that is what attracted you to this job. It’s not about how you heard about the job, but rather than you were listening.
3. What makes you unique?
This is what interviewers use to separate the candidates from each other. Since you won’t have the benefit of knowing who the other candidates are, your best bet is to hone in on a few choice qualities and attributes you possess that meet the company’s needs.
Think about what those qualities are that make you stand out from the people you know. There’s a good chance they’ll make you stand out from the other job seekers, as well.
4. What are your greatest strengths?
Come up with a short list of what you think your greatest strengths are. Whittle down the list until you can identify the ones that are related to this job the most. It’s doesn’t matter exactly what your actual greatest strength is. What matters is how the company will benefit from your strengths.
Use a clear example for each strength you choose. It’s important to include what resulted from your strength, especially if it ended in relevant accomplishments or awards. Also stick to just one or two examples, as listing too many strengths may dilute the impact of each strength and make them less memorable.
Questions about Your Last Job
Inevitably, the interviewer will ask you questions about your current job, most recent workplace, or simply your last bit of employment history. Be prepared to discuss this work history, but keep the responses relevant to the position you’re applying for to show you’re a perfect fit.
5. What is your work experience?
Even if you’re applying for a job where the interviewer knows about your last job, answer the question by describing the most relevant experience. Show that you’ve put thought into the job and how your current or past job experience transfers seamlessly into the new role. For example:
- indicate the length of time you’ve spent performing the role
- list the activities that are most related to the job
- describe the experience and how you will apply it to the new job
6. Why are you looking for a change?
Interviewers asking this applicant screening question often look for negative reasons underlying why an applicant is looking for a new job. Avoid criticizing anything about your last job, even if you had problems with it. Focus on why you are looking for a job, not why you are leaving a job.
It’s always a great interview answer to talk about professional growth as a reason for changing jobs. For example, you could describe your skills and how you’re looking to expand on them and how this company is the best fit for that.
7. What is your greatest achievement?
Try to use a work example that is the most related to the job you’re applying for. Pick something that isn’t just noteworthy, but make sure you’re proud of it as well. The passion you have for your job will come through when you’re proud of your own achievements. When coming up with your shortlist of achievements in preparation for this question, try not to list everything. Focus on those achievements that showcase your best qualities and how they will translate to this job. If asked this question, follow the STAR method when discussing your greatest achievement:
- the Situation describing the context
- the Task set out for you
- the specific Actions you took to handle the situation
- the Result reached through the actions
Questions on How Well You Might Fit
These questions at interviews give the hiring managers, recruiters, and HR representatives a glimpse into what your future in their company might look like. Homework into the company and job you’re interviewing for are critical here.
8. Why do you want to work for us?
This is a way for interviewers to see if you understand the company, what it offers, and what they do for their business. Study the background of the company, including the mission statement, company history, and corporate values, if this information is publicly available.
Describe how your values align with the company’s, and how your career goals are aligned to help move the company toward the future.
9. What interests you about this job?
Interviewers want to know if you really understand what the job entails. Study the job description and pick out a few key responsibilities and reiterate how they appeal to you. Provide some examples of how you have performed these functions in the past, or how you want to grow with the company to increase your skills.
This is where you get to sell how excited you are for the challenge. However, stating that the job matches your compensation and salary requirements isn’t one of the best interview responses. It’s kind of a trick question, in a way, as the best answers will still be more about them rather than you.
10. Why should we hire you?
This interview follow-up question almost always comes across as putting the candidate in a defensive position to explain themselves. Often it’s an intimidating question to answer. Interviewers ask this to separate job candidates from each other, and this question sometimes is what they use as the final decision-maker. Focus on your skills and how well you will fit within the culture of the company.
Don’t use this as an opportunity to bash the other candidates and job applicants. You never know if you’re describing attributes or traits of current employees, and you’ll inadvertently be criticizing the company you’re trying to work for. Instead, talk about how you feel you could add to the company. Describe how you will make the company stronger by translating your skills, leadership experiences, career expertise, and enthusiasm into the company culture.
Questions on Your Potential
Knowing yourself is important for these questions, not just what you’ve done but where you want to go.
11. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Be ready for this tricky interview question. This offers the company’s human resources and management teams insight into your ambition and ability to see your own future. Make it about your professional skills development or the type of work you’d like to do. For example, describe how in five years you’d like to be an expert in a given field and how the company would help you achieve that.
Another example would be to describe how in five years you would lead a team in a particular capacity. Show your commitment to the company and always tell the story in the context of the company’s future as well. Be careful not to convey any message that you’re a short-timer, looking past the job you’re actually interviewing for.
12. What motivates you?
This is a great opportunity to engage with the interviewer with positive energy. The objective is for the interviewer to imagine what it would be like with you on the team, so make it visual. Display enthusiasm when you describe the story of where your motivation comes from. It is important that your sources of motivation are relevant to the company’s objectives, which means performing research on the company before the interview. Provide examples of how your sources of motivation have directly led to lasting results, strong customer relationships, and other work environment success.
13. What are you passionate about?
This question is similar to the motivation question. Think about what your passions are, and come up with a short list. Whittle that list down to which passion relates the most to the job. Then have a conversation with them about why your passion will translate well to the job. Try a structure similar to the following:
- select one of your passions and explain the reason you’re passionate about it
- provide an example of what you have done in pursuing your passion
- describe what you’ve learned through your pursuit of your passion and how it relates to the job
Related Read: How to Turn Your Passion Into a Career in 5 Easy Steps
Situational interview questions and answers put you in scenarios to show how well you would handle certain scenarios. Of all the questions asked at interviews, these often feel the most like a test.
14. Can you describe a conflict you faced at work and how you dealt with it?
This question is about your problem-solving skills. Have several stories available in case this question is asked, and choose the one that is most compelling for the job. Don’t shy away from talking about conflict. Often it’s a chance for teams to grow when properly dealt with. It’s also a great opportunity to show how you can spot conflict before it bubbles into something bigger. It’s important that the story has a constructive ending to it. Follow this structure:
- set the context
- describe the conflict
- explain the action you took
- illustrate how all parties benefited from the outcome
15. How good are you in a crisis?
This interview query is not necessarily about how good you are, but rather what skills you have developed to handle a crisis. Employers want to know if their employees can handle stress and crisis situations constructively, so make sure you focus on the response skills that you have developed to prepare you for any crisis that occurs. First, describe what a crisis is for your last job, then list out what skills apply. Use examples to show how you think clearly, solve problems, and take initiative during the resolution of a crisis. During times of crisis, one of the most important qualities is to communicate clearly and calmly. Use this opportunity to show your confidence in your own interpersonal skills in leading others through a crisis.
16. When have you demonstrated leadership skills?
Begin by defining good leadership, how a strong leader would make difficult choices, and spelling out key points in terms of what it means to you. Leadership does not always mean a management position. There are elements of leadership in just about any role, so you should be able to find examples for how you demonstrated leadership even if you’ve never been put in a formal leadership role. Provide clear examples that address the key points you spelled out. Talk about when you have had to draw from your leadership abilities to overcome challenges.
17. What is good customer service?
This question is often asked for jobs that are customer-facing. There are plenty of resources that can help you understand the qualities of good customer service skills. However, instead of simply rattling off the definition of good customer service, focus on what you believe are the most important aspects that make good customer service. Your answer should align with what is important to the company.
Do some research and understand how the company handles customers and clients. Often you’ll find material that will provide insight into what’s important to the company, and you can convey that it’s just as important to you as well. Provide an example of either being a customer having received good customer service, or being a provider of good customer service.
Related Read: How to Put Skills on a Resume the Right Way
18. How do you prioritize work?
In this case, techniques and tools matter. A simple answer of asking a lead or a boss the priorities won’t do. This is about being proactive and self-sufficient. Start by defining the difference between important and urgent. Then outline your method for breaking down the assignments using objective measures such as due dates, dependent tasks, or stakeholder impact.
Show that you are an organized person through your system of managing tasks and schedules. This is where getting a little bit into the weeds will help provide insight into your structured way of thinking.
19. How do you like being managed?
Do research on two fronts: the management culture of the company and the management styles. Equipped with both, you’ll be in a great position to show how well versed you are in management styles and how you will thrive in their culture. Stay away from the details of the day-to-day supervision tasks. This is more about philosophy than practice. Provide an example of how you were given an assignment and how a particular management style allowed you to deliver results and stay challenged.
Not everything will be about the job. Be prepared to talk about yourself in a way that gives the interviewer a good view of who you are.
20. What do you like to do outside of work?
This question allows the interviewer to know a little more about you, but it’s also a great opportunity to relate how your interests make you better for this job. If you do have hobbies or interests that take a lot of time and energy, it’s best to choose one that won’t suggest any impact on the job. Instead, choose one and use it to better spell out your personality. Use it to include achievements that you weren’t able to use for professional achievements. This shows how well-rounded you can be, and how you are committed to continual improvement. Use those examples of how you would apply the same principles and habits to the job.
21. How do you achieve a good work-life balance?
Provide your own definition of what good work-life balance means. Describe how both you and the company would benefit from a good balance. Provide examples, such as how you refrain from working weekends so you are fully energized to tackle hard assignments during the week.
Maybe describe if you’ve been flexible and made yourself available outside of work if you’ve been able to set some boundaries to protect your personal time.
Ultimately a good work-life balance is about setting priorities. Describe your priorities and how you manage them. Finally, relate your approach to the company’s mission and values, if you know them.
These are the questions that candidates trip over often. Here are some tips to not stumble.
22. What is your salary expectation?
Ideally, you are asked this question after you are offered the job, not during the interview. However, this is asked so the interviewers get to see if your expectations are in alignment with what they’re willing to offer. If you come across as too high, it will show that you don’t understand the role very well. If you come across as too low, it may reveal that you don’t understand your own value. The best way to approach this is to do the research and understand what the salary is within the company. If the company salary information is not available, there are online tools to determine a comparable salary. Make sure to provide a range to show you are flexible, but make the top end of that range a little on the higher side to show you know your worth.
23. Have you ever been fired?
People do get fired, and if you get this question it’s best to be prepared first. Have a couple of sample responses ready, and run it through a few times with others to get a feel for how good the explanation comes across. For example, maybe management changed and the direction of your last job shifted and a lot of staff were let go as a result. Another example is that there was a potential of having to relocate, and you weren’t ready for moving at the time. Practice a response until it feels natural discussing it. The response should not have to feel personal.
24. How long do you plan to stay with us?
If your work history shows that you’ve changed jobs frequently, convey that you’ve been looking for the right company to learn from and grow with. It’s easy to get caught up and explain all the reasons why you switched jobs. What the interviewer wants to know is how you will stick around here. The best way to do that is to align your goals with the company’s and describe how you’ve found an opportunity to be part of a long-term relationship. That prevents you from coming across as uncommitted.
25. What are your greatest weaknesses?
The biggest mistake is to go with the classic “I’m a perfectionist” response to this common interview question. Worse yet is to tell the interviewer that you don’t have any weaknesses. The point here is the show self-awareness and how you overcame your weakness.
Be honest, but also refrain from picking a weakness that will alarm the interviewer. Try to pick a weakness that relates to the job professionally. Give an example of the weakness and what you have done to overcome it. Remind the interviewer that you’re still learning from it, which is why it’s a weakness.
Start Your Career Search
All of these common interview questions and tips can help you land that job you wanted, but you still need to get in front of that interviewer. We have advice on all the things you can do to land that interview or succeed in those scary group interviews.
Finding a job can be overwhelming, which is why we’ve laid it out step by step for you.
It’s important that when you are in that interview, you are your most compelling self. This is true whether it’s one-on-one or with a panel. Focus your responses on the stories you tell. Interviewers remember the most persuasive and charismatic candidates, and the best way to do that is storytelling and not reciting facts and figures.
No matter what, don’t give up! We have articles and advice for every aspect of your job search. Check out our other career articles on the Goodwall blog!