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How to Best Answer the 20 Most Common Interview Questions

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Going on a job interview feels like you’re taking a test with no definite right and wrong answers.

So the best thing you can do is find out common interview questions, and answers recruiters look for. This article will serve as your cheat sheet for that. So, you can go into your next interview well-prepared.

How will you answer the most common job interview questions graphic
How will you answer the most common job interview questions? Are you prepared? (graphic source)

How to Answer Interview Questions About Yourself

Here are some of the most common job interview questions and answers that you'll need to be prepared for that are about yourself. It's helpful to know your strengths and why you should be hired for the position.

1. Tell Me About Yourself

One of the most common interview questions in the book. It’s such a friendly and welcoming question, but in reality the recruiter just wants to see how you present your best self. 

It’s not an offer to recite your resume. Michele Mavi, Director of Internal Recruiting at Atrium Staffing adds, 

“As it’s a broad and open question, candidates tend to ramble. They talk about their professional lives in generic terms and end up rehashing their resume.”

Tell a story but make sure it has a clear beginning, middle and end.

  • Beginning: A one-sentence summary of your career highlights.
  • Middle: A three-point list of your top skills and achievements that’s also relevant to the role.
  • End: Conclude your story on a high note with a brief explanation of why you’re looking to make a move.

2. Why Should We Hire You?

This question comes in a form similar to this: “We received applications from lots of well qualified candidates. So why should we hire you?”

Be careful with this one. It’s a trap! Don’t let this ruin your confidence. They interviewed you, so that means you’re one of those ‘well qualified candidates.’

Take this question as an opportunity to share a success story. Share how you solved one of their current challenges for a previous employer, or one that explains how your skills fit their job description to a T.

3. What Is Your Greatest Strength?

Share a story of you displaying the number one strength the company values. You should’ve obtained this information while researching the company.

Example answer from Michelle Riklan, Certified Professional Resume Writer and Career Coach.

“I love talking to people. I’ve learned how to handle different customer personalities after five years in customer service. While other sales reps shy away from hard-to-convince leads, I take it as a challenge to step up my game.”

Bonus Tip: Start with your weak point if asked for your strengths and weakness at the same time. This way your answer ends on a positive note.

4. How Do People Describe You?

This is another one of those job interview questions you shouldn’t take at face value. The interviewer doesn’t want you to talk about what your friends think of you.

This question is your chance to differentiate yourself from other candidates.

Good communication skills are common, but how are you as a listener? Tell the interviewer how your listening skills helped you make a sale, or pacify an irate customer.

Hard working is another commonplace skill. But most applicants only share stories of how grit paid off in their own careers. Stand out from the pack by sharing how you helped lighten the workload of your teammate or boss.

5. How Do You Handle Stress?

Candidates often take this question lightly with answers like, “I eat stress for breakfast” or “I thrive under pressure.” While those answers sound correct, it doesn’t answer the question.

Tell the interviewer exactly what you do. Do you meditate, stuff your face with chocolate, or exercise? Your chosen method doesn’t matter. The interviewer is just confirming that you have a healthy way of dealing with stress.

6. What Gets You Up in the Morning?

This question tells the interviewer if you have an overarching plan in life.

Jimi Shabir, Managing Director at Bootcamp Media, gave this example:

“I wake up every morning with a renewed goal, be it in my personal or work life. One day my goal could be improving our website’s design, next day that might change into improving our marketing funnel. Smaller goals come together to deliver value for money for our customers.”

7. What Do You Like to Do in Your Spare Time?

Your answer shows if you’re a workaholic or have a healthy work-life balance. The correct answer shows both dedication to work and other hobbies that refresh your mind and body on your days off.

Spending too much time at work is unhealthy and unproductive; so many employers prefer hiring someone who knows when to unplug.

Evan Harris, Head of HR for HD Equity Partners says, “It’s important to show that you have other interests outside of work. And it also shows if you’d be a good fit for the company’s existing corporate culture.”

How to Answer Interview Questions About Your Qualifications

In this section, we have more common job interview questions and answers. These are specfici to your qualifications, such as your training, skillset, and comparison to other candidates being interviewed for this position. 

8. What Kind of Training or Qualifications Do You Have?

This question is often asked when an interviewer doubts you meet their minimum requirements.

How to answer this, if you have no educational qualifications but lots of hands-on work experience:

“While I don’t have formal school training for this work, I have more than made up for it in my X years of work in the field. I’m a fast learner, and I’m willing to undergo more training if I’m offered the job.”

If you’re a fresh graduate but have little to no experience:

“I just completed a X-month internship at (Company Name), which gave me hands on experience in (work related task 1) and (work related task 2). I also completed my (degree) in (School Name), where I learned about (industry).

Learn about how to get the training you need in your job: 

9. What Can You Do for Us That Other Candidates Can't?

Don’t compare yourself directly to other candidates. There’s no way to know for sure if you are better than them. Instead, sum up your main strengths and how that matches to the position’s requirements.

Other job interview candidates are also likely to be interviewed
Numerous candidates are likely to be interviewed for an open position. (graphic source)

Share a good mix of three to four soft and job-related skills, followed by back-up evidence demonstrating those skills to help you stand out. Include: 

  • Specialized skills that set you apart
  • Industry knowledge gained from years of experience
  • Industry contacts–perfect selling point for sales and executive positions
  • Growth or savings earned in past employment
  • Special courses or certified training you've completed

How to Answer Interview Questions About Your Career

Now let's look at the most common interview questions and answers about your career. You need to have good answers ready from questions that are likely to arise about your salary, why you left your last job, and what your career goals are. 

10. What Was Your Salary in Your Last Job?

This is a tough question. On one hand, you want to be honest and find out if the job pays within your target salary range. On the other hand, you don’t want to be removed from their candidate pool too early.

Try This Two-Step Strategy

First, deflect the question and say you’re more concerned about finding the right job.

“Right now, I’m more concerned about finding the right fit. If I can help you grow this company, while learning new skills in this role, I’m sure we can negotiate a salary that’s fair for both of us.”

If the interviewer insists, give them your salary range along with information about other job offers, if any. This makes you seem more valuable as a candidate, and it’s a great way to take advantage of companies not wanting to lose talent to their competitors.

“My salary range is $55,000 to $60,000 but I’m currently in talks with a company that pays (job title) $58,000.”

In the second part of this sentence, you’re not saying you have a job offer. Instead, you’re just saying the interview went well and that their job posting says it pays $58K. Learn about how to negotiate your job salary: 

11. Why Do You Want to Leave Your Current Position?

The interviewer wants to know if you’re a job hopper, or if you were terminated in your last role.

You’ll look better if your response doesn’t make you look desperate—that you’re leaving your current role in search of new challenges, instead of needing a paycheck. Don’t bad mouth your last employer though.

How to Answer Interview Questions about Your Last Role:

“I’m happy with my current role. But because I want to grow, I always keep my eyes open for new challenges and opportunities. This role seems like it fits that criteria.”

If you were laid off, be honest. Interviewers know this happens, and in most cases it’s not your fault. Tell them what you learned because of it, and how you’re looking forward to working with a new team.

Cherry Palmer, former Career Counselor at the Department of Labor and Certified Career Coach suggested this script,

“Because of the difficult economy, my company was forced to lay off 10% of its workforce, and I was one of the ones impacted.”

12. When Can You Start?

It doesn’t mean you got the job, so don’t be too confident.

Interviewers often ask this question because the position they’re hiring for needs to be filled on or before a certain date.

If you’re currently employed, be honest and say if your employer needs a two-week notice or a 30-day notice.

13. Tell Me About Your Career Path. How Did You Get Here and Where Are You Going Next?

Christy Hopkins, HR Consultant at Fit Small Business says, “Candidates should be prepared to explain why they moved companies, changed roles, or have any gaps in employment.”

Ideally, your answer should form a clear narrative that highlights your growth from one role to another, ending with what you plan to do next.

If you moved because of employer squabbles or a bad boss, skip it. Focus on what you learned in your role, even if it’s a lesson in handling disagreements with your boss.

14. Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?

Be honest, this question isn’t just to test your loyalty to a potential-employer. The interviewer also wants to know if you have realistic career goals given your current skill set and performance.

If you say you want to be a Regional Director in five years but have no promising achievements or initiative to take a leadership course, that’s a clue that you’re likely to resign if not promoted within a year or two.

Before answering the question, think about the career path of the job you’re applying for. What’s the realistic time for people in that position to get promoted?

How to Answer Interview Questions About Your 5-Year Career Plan:

“I’m excited about this Graphic Designer role at ABC Company because in five years, I’d like to have an impressive portfolio from different kinds of clients. I know that’s something I can do if I work here. I’m also looking forward to the possibility of taking on more responsibilities, and even taking the lead in some new design projects.”

15. What's Your Dream Job?

When asked about 5-year plans, many candidates are quick to talk about their goals to get promoted with the company they’re interviewing for. This question reveals if that’s true or not.

The interviewer is trying to see if this job is part of your professional goals, or just a way to pay the bills. Your passion for the job affects your performance and loyalty to the company, after all.

For some applicants, the role they’re applying for isn’t often their dream job but a stepping stone toward it. If that’s the case, here’s how you can answer this question:

“I’ve mentioned my experience with [skills you love but are also required for your target role]. My dream job will certainly be about using and improving those skills.”

16. Why Are You Interested in This Job?

Common answers to this focus on how the job fits into a candidate’s career goals. It’s good that you have a plan, but interviewers are more interested in how you’d add value to the company.

Sarah Dowzell, COO at Natural HR says, “It’s always interesting to see if the responses just focus on the role itself, or extend to include information and research the candidate did on our company.”

Tailor your answer to the organization’s goals, and how you’re going to help them achieve those goals once you become part of the team. If you can, share examples of how you contributed to meeting your last employer’s goals.

Other Questions

There are a number of additional common job interview questions and answers that you'll need to be prepared for, which can vary. We have a few examples below. And you also need to being prepared to ask your own questions in the interview. 

17. What Do You Think of Working in a Group?

The interviewer wants to know if you can get along with your potential teammates. Share an example of you working and succeeding in a group setting. Explain how your teammates had different skills and personalities, and how those differences complemented each other’s work.

18. How Did You Learn About the Opening?

Candidates often learn about job openings through job boards and fairs. It’s normal. But it also shows you have no real passion for the company. You just applied because they have a vacancy in your target role but you know nothing about them.

It’s okay to admit that you found the job posting online. Just don’t stop there. Tell the interviewer you researched the company’s values, products, and projects. And that made working in the company more interesting for you.

19. Do You Have Any Questions for Me?

Ending the interview without asking any question shows a lack of genuine interest for the job. But asking questions that are answerable by reading the company’s website is even worse. It reveals how little you prepared for the interview.

Instead, prepare a couple of questions to ask the interviewer towards the end of your discussion. That’s aside from the routine “what’s the next step?” questions, of course.  

It’s Not About You

You’re the one getting interviewed, but in reality it’s not about you. It’s about the company you want to work for—their needs, goals, and challenges. Talk about your experience but always tie it to the job at hand. 

For more information about job interviews, check out these guides:

Also, if you're gearing up to apply for new jobs, then take a look at our comprehensive guide to creating a great resume, or jump over to Envato Market to browse through our professional resume templates. That way, you can put your best foot forward when sending out job applications.

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