You’ve written the perfect resume and cover letter, and sent out your applications. Now it’s time to wait and hope to hear back for an interview. However, it’s not quite time to relax yet.
When you start to get invitations for interviews, it’s important to be prepared. Don’t count on just going in winging it, as this can seem unprofessional and will not leave a good impression.
Of course, you can’t predict exactly what the interviewer will ask you, but fortunately, there are some common questions that you will almost definitely hear during your interviews. Here is our list of the 10 most common job interview questions and how to answer them:
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1. Tell me about yourself
This job interview questions is so deceivingly simple. If you are asked it when unprepared, it can leave you stumped. It’s best to think of your answer before you start going in for interviews. Afterall, there are a million ways to describe yourself depending on the angle you use. Avoid diving into your personal life and keep it succinct and professional.
Here’s a basic framework you can use to answer this question:
- Start with your current role and then work backwards, giving a brief idea of your work history.
- Highlight a few key projects, experiences or skills that match the job you’re interviewing for.
- End your answer by explaining why you’re excited about this new role.
2. Why should we hire you?
This is a frequently asked question that gives you a chance to explain why you are the perfect match for the job. Don’t feel intimidated if they start by mentioning that they have many applicants for the position, this is just a common way to move to this question. Here, it is important to be specific. Use the job description and think of your skills that will make you successful in this role.
This job will have some kind of “problems” and you need to show how you are the perfect problem solver and will deliver great results. Even better, do some research to learn about the company’s current projects and think of how you will fit in perfectly and enable them to succeed.
3. Why do you want to work here?
The previous job interview questions focus on what you can offer to the company. This question is asked to see whether you are passionate and motivated to work this job.
While the thought “I need money” may come up, this is not the appropriate response. Instead, think of why you want this specific position and why you would choose this job over some other options.
This is your chance to show enthusiasm for this type of work, or you can focus on why you like the company itself and the product/service they provide. Maybe you’ve heard positive things from others about the company, or there is something about the position that aligns well with your own goals. Think of 2-3 reasons in advance.
4. Your greatest strengths?
This question is quite straightforward. Think of a couple of specific qualities and skills in advance that match well with the job you’re interviewing for. Focus on professional qualities, and you can add where or how you acquired these abilities. Depending on the position, these can be interpersonal skills, patience, determination or a relevant hard skill you are especially proficient in.
5. Your biggest weaknesses?
This is often the next interview question that comes after discussing your strengths. The classic way to answer this question is to think of some quality that is not actually a weakness and make it sound like an advantage. Such as “I’m a perfectionist” or “I’m a bit of a workaholic”. This may seem like a good option, however it is quite overused and unoriginal.
Instead it’s best to think of a real weakness you have that you are working on and the progress you’ve made on it. Of course, it shouldn’t be anything that may compromise your ability to work in the position you’re applying for. For example, it can be that you used to struggle with time management but now found a system that works for you. Or that you sometimes are too shy and are working on being more outspoken and sharing ideas in meetings. Your potential employer will appreciate the honesty and self-awareness it takes to answer like this.
6. “Tell me about the last time a co-worker or customer got angry with you. What happened?”
There are several different ways this question could be asked depending on the specific type of job or field. Basically, the interviewer is asking how you handled a conflict or challenge at work previously. They are looking to see how you behave in these situations and whether you can face them head-on and work on a resolution.
Don’t pretend you’ve never had any conflicts, as this will simply not give the interviewer any information or may make them think you are just avoidant. Don’t go into a rant about the situation like you would with a friend, instead speak calmly and professionally as you tell the story, focusing more on the resolution than on the actual conflict. You can also add what you would do differently in the future to show that you can learn and improve from experience.
7. Your greatest accomplishment?
This is a positive question, but again, if you are unprepared, it may leave you quite stumped. That’s why before the interview, think back on your accomplishments and choose one that you think matches the job you’re interviewing for. Don’t worry about the accomplishment being too small, they’re not expecting you to be a Nobel prize winner. In fact, a small accomplishment which demonstrates a quality that makes you a good fit for the job is much better than a bigger, irrelevant accomplishment.
8. Why do you want to leave your current job?
It is possible you will be asked about reasons for leaving your current or previous job. This can make some people nervous, especially if you were fired from your previous position. In reality, the interviewer actually wants to see how you react and speak about your previous employer. This means it’s important not to bash your previous boss or company, and not to blame them for your leaving.
If you were fired, don’t lie. Instead, focus on what you learned and how you’ve improved since then. If you left voluntarily, explain your reasons. Perhaps you felt like you needed to move somewhere that had more opportunities for growth or the work simply did not align with your career goals.
Avoid responses such as “I just want to try something different” or “I got bored”, as this may make you seem like you lack commitment.
9. What are your future goals/where do you see yourself in 5 years?
This job interview question is to see how you fit into the company in the long term, and your commitment and motivation. You can mention where you think you may want to move up to within the company in the future, such as management.
However, it may be different if you are a teen or a student working a temporary job. Here, long term commitment is less important, instead you need to demonstrate motivation and that you will take this job seriously. You can talk about future career plans and how your experience aligns with that.
10. What questions do you have for me?
The majority of people in interviews respond that they don’t have any questions when this comes up. This is a big mistake! This moment is the perfect opportunity to stand out and show your employer that you have been paying attention and have done your research. It’s even better if you ask a few questions during the interview to make the conversation more like a dialogue than an interrogation, just make sure they are on topic and you aren’t interrupting.
Before the interview, prepare a few questions. Check out our article about questions to ask an interviewer for some advice and ideas.
Other job interview questions
This covers most of the job interview questions you are likely to run into during the interview process. You will probably get some other questions, especially since many interviewers now like to ask riddles and similar interesting questions. If this happens, no need to panic. Just remember that it’s not about giving the correct answer, but about how you think and react in these situations. Stay calm and professional, and do your best!
If you are job hunting while you are still working your current job, make sure you learn about how to quit, so the transition is smooth when you get hired.
Best of luck in your job hunt and interviews!