How to Answer the Most Common Interview Questions
Are you ready to ace your upcoming job interview? One of the most important parts of interview preparation is being ready to respond effectively to the questions that employers typically ask.
Since these interview questions are so common, hiring managers will expect you to be able to answer them smoothly and without hesitation.
You don’t need to memorize your answers, but you should think about what you’re going to say so you’re not put on the spot.
Your responses will be stronger if you know what to expect during the interview and have a sense of what you want to focus on. Knowing that you prepared will boost your confidence and help you minimize interview stress and feel more at ease.
Top 10 Interview Questions and Best Answers
Review these most frequently asked interview questions and sample answers, and then prepare your own responses based on your experience, skills, and interests.
Remember that it’s less about providing the “right” answers and more about demonstrating that you’re the best candidate for the job.
1. Tell Me About Yourself.
This is one of the first questions you are likely to be asked. Be prepared to talk about yourself, and why you’re an ideal candidate for the position. The interviewer wants to know why you’re an excellent fit for the job.
Try to answer questions about yourself without giving too much, or too little, personal information. You can start by sharing some of your personal interests and experiences that don’t relate directly to work, such as a favorite hobby or a brief account of where you grew up, your education, and what motivates you.
You can even share some fun facts and showcase your personality to make the interview a little more interesting.
As an ER nurse, I find that the best way for me to de-stress when I’m not working is to relax outdoors, rain or shine. I’ve always been an avid hiker, nature photographer, and trout fisher, and one of my favorite things to do is to volunteer with the U.S. Forest Service and with local salmon habitat restoration groups.
I also lead group hikes on some of Mt. Baker’s more challenging trails. This is where the skills I developed during my initial training as a military nurse sometimes come in handy. My current personal goal is to climb Mt. Rainier next summer. Being outdoors never fails to renew my spirit so that I’m able to be the best ER nurse I can be.
2. Why Do You Want This Job?
Why are you a good fit for the position? What would you accomplish if you were hired? This interview question gives you an opportunity to show the interviewer what you know about the job and the company, so take time beforehand to thoroughly research the company, its products, services, culture, and mission.
Be specific about what makes you a good fit for this role, and mention aspects of the company and position that appeal to you most.
Construction design is in my blood—both my dad and my grandad were home builders who owned their own construction firm. From the time I entered college, I knew that I wanted my architecture career to be focused on sustainable, green design practices, so I earned my certification as a LEED Accredited Professional.
Greenways Construction is the most respected sustainable design firm in Texas. I’ve been following reports of your LEED Certified projects in Journal of Green Engineering, and I wrote my capstone project on the energy modeling you pioneered for the ACME Business Park and the ABC Tech campus. Working here really would be my dream job, since your mission aligns perfectly with my goals as a sustainability specialist.
3. Why Should We Hire You?
Are you the best candidate for the job? The hiring manager wants to know whether you have all the required qualifications. Be prepared to explain why you’re the applicant who should be hired.
Make your response a confident, concise, focused sales pitch that explains what you have to offer and why you should get the job. This is a good time to review the qualifications and the requirements in the job listing, so you can craft a response that aligns with what the interviewer is looking for.
You should hire me because my experience is almost perfectly aligned with the requirements you asked for in your job listing. I have seven years’ progressive experience in the hospitality industry, advancing from my initial role as a front desk associate with Excalibur Resort and Spa to my current position there as a concierge. I’m well-versed in providing world-class customer service to an upscale clientele, and I pride myself on my ability to quickly resolve problems so that our guests enjoy their time with us.
4. What is Your Greatest Strength?
This is one of the questions that employers almost always ask to determine how well you are qualified for the position. When you are asked about your greatest strengths, it’s important to discuss the attributes that qualify you for that specific job, and that will set you apart from other candidates.
When you’re answering this question, remember to “show” rather than “tell.” For example, rather than stating that you are an excellent problem solver, instead tell a story that demonstrates this, ideally drawing on an anecdote from your professional experience.
As a cybersecurity specialist, my greatest strength is my intellectual curiosity. I enjoy researching the latest technology trends so that our critical information technology systems remain uncompromised.
Not only do I do this by reading the latest issues of cybersecurity journals, but I also convinced my employer to fund my participation in quarterly information technology conferences. This has allowed me to build a network of peer resources—many of whom are leaders in the field—that I can call upon for strategies when new threats arise to our systems.
5. What is Your Greatest Weakness?
Another typical question that interviewers will ask is about your weaknesses. Do your best to frame your answers around positive aspects of your skills and abilities as an employee, turning seeming “weaknesses” into strengths.
This question is an opportunity to show the hiring manager that you’re well qualified for the job. In addition to learning whether you’ve got the right credentials, the hiring manager wants to know whether you can take on challenges and learn new tasks.
You can also share examples of skills you have improved, providing specific instances of how you have recognized a weakness and taken steps to correct it.
My greatest weakness used to be procrastination. Friends who knew my work style would tease me, saying, “Panic precipitates performance.” In college, I was the person who pulled all-nighters to finish their essay right before deadline.
This isn’t as irresponsible as it sounds—from the moment I’m assigned a project, I’m thinking about it. Most of my first and second drafts get composed mentally, so it’s only a matter of writing down the final draft. And, since I have an excellent command of grammar, I don’t have to spend much time proofreading or revising.
However, after I landed my first job as a content writer, it became clear that while this process worked for me (I’ve never missed a deadline), it made my editor extremely nervous. So, I’ve learned to set “early” deadlines for myself, at least 24 hours before the actual deadline, so that my projects now always arrive with plenty of time to spare.
6. Why Do You Want to Leave (or Have Left) Your Job?
Be prepared with a response to this question. You’ll need to give an answer that’s honest and reflects your specific circumstances but keeps it positive. Even if you quit under challenging circumstances, now isn’t the best time to share what could be construed as too much information with the interviewer.
The interviewer wants to know why you left your job and why you want to work for their company. When asked about why you are moving on from your current position, stick with the facts, be direct, and focus your answer on the future, especially if your departure wasn’t under the best circumstances.
I was very fortunate to be hired by ABC Company right out of college. They taught me a lot about digital marketing, and it’s been stimulating to work as a contributor to their creative teams. However, I’m ready for the next step.
I’ve always been a leader—I was captain of the crew team in college, student body vice president, and I’ve served as team lead for most of our projects in FY 2020. I think I’m ready to move into management, but ABC Company already has very talented managers in place, and they won’t be leaving such a great employer anytime soon. I’ve completed supplemental management training courses during my time there, and I know I can hit the ground running as your next digital marketing manager.
7. What Are Your Salary Expectations?
What are you looking for in terms of salary? Questions about money are always tricky to answer. You don’t want to sell yourself short or price yourself out of a job offer. In some locations, employers are legally prohibited from asking you about salary history—but they can ask how much you expect to get paid.
Do your research before the meeting so that you’ll be prepared to name a salary (or salary range) if you’re asked. There are several free online salary calculators that can provide you with a reasonable range based on your job title, employer, experience, skills, and location.
Reliable salary calculators, like the one used by Glassdoor.com, say that sous chefs here in Portland average around $45,000 a year, 1% above the national average. I brought home around $42,000 last year. While I would definitely welcome a salary over $45K, particularly given the cost of living here, I’m open to negotiation if a lower salary was accompanied by greater flexibility in scheduling and additional vacation time.
8. How Do You Handle Stress and Pressure?
What do you do when things don’t go smoothly at work? How do you deal with difficult situations? The employer wants to know how you handle workplace stress.
Do you work well in high-stress situations? Do you thrive on pressure, or would you prefer a more low-key job? What do you do when something goes wrong? The best way to respond to this question is to share an example of how you have successfully handled stress in a previous position.
Avoid claiming that you never, or rarely, experience stress. Rather, formulate your answer in a way that acknowledges workplace stress and explains how you’ve overcome it, or even used it to your advantage.
I’m not someone who is energized by or thrives in stressful environments. My first step in managing stress is to try to circumvent it by keeping my work processes very organized, and my attitude professional.
When customers or associates come to me with issues, I try to look at things from their perspective, and initiate a collaborative problem-solving approach to keep the situation from escalating. I find that maintaining an efficient, congenial office with open lines of communication automatically reduces a lot of workplace stress.
Of course, sometimes unanticipated stressors will arise. When this happens, I just take a deep breath, remembering that the person I’m dealing with is frustrated with a situation, not with me. I then actively listen to their concerns and make a plan to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
9. Describe a Difficult Work Situation or Project and How You Handled It.
There isn’t a right or wrong answer to a question about handling a difficult situation. How you react will show the hiring manager your work style and how you manage issues. It will help determine if you mesh with the company, and you’re a fit for the role.
The interviewer wants to know how you respond when faced with a difficult decision. As with the question about stress, be prepared to share an example of what you did in a tough situation. It’s important to share details to make the story believable and engaging.
I think the most difficult situation I face as a production manager is when I have to lay off staff, either because they aren’t doing their job properly or, even worse, because sales are down.
When I can, I try to work with underperforming personnel to see if we can’t improve their efficiency. If not, then I hand them their pink slip and give them straightforward reasons for why they are being laid off. No one wants to be fired without an explanation.
When I have to let someone go, I keep my tone polite and avoid using too many “you” statements; I absolutely do not want to cast shame on them.
10. What Are Your Goals for The Future?
Are you a job hopper? Or do you plan on staying with the company, at least for a while? Do your plans for the future match the career path for someone typically hired for this position?
This question is designed to find out if you’re going to stick around or move on as soon as you find a better opportunity. Keep your answer focused on the job and the company, and reiterate to the interviewer that the position aligns with your long-term goals.
I’m someone who likes stability. My goal is to find a job that I can hold long term with a local company, becoming a valued employee as I gradually advance to positions of increasing authority and responsibility.
I’m extremely interested in the teller job here at First Financial Credit Union because of your internal training program. My long-term goal is to eventually become a branch manager after I’ve proven my competencies in customer service and team leadership.
Common Interview Questions and Answers
For a comprehensive list of over 100 of the most common interview questions, review the most frequently asked interview questions, tips for responding, and sample answers you can use to practice for a job interview.
You can also expect to be asked about how you would respond to a specific work-related situation. Here’s a list of examples of these behavioral interview questions you may be asked.
How to Answer 5 Common Interview Questions
Questions to Ask the Interviewer
At the close of the interview, most interviewers ask whether you have any questions about the job or company.
If you don’t have any questions, this can make it seem like you are apathetic about the opportunity. It’s always a good idea to have a list of questions ready, and to be prepared to discuss them.
What the Interviewer Shouldn’t Ask
There are some questions that hiring managers should not ask during a job interview for legal reasons. Here are questions that shouldn’t be asked, with advice on how to respond diplomatically.
How to Prepare for a Job Interview
The more time you spend preparing for a job interview, the better your chances will be of acing it. You’ll feel more comfortable speaking with the hiring manager if you’re familiar with the company’s products and services.
Research the company. Before your interview, take the time to learn as much as possible about the job and your prospective employer. There are many different resources you can use to find information and news about the organization, its mission and its plans.
Tap your connections for insider information. Who you know at a company can help you get hired.
Check LinkedIn to see if you have connections who work at the company. Ask them if they can give you any advice that will help with the interview process.
If you’re a college graduate, check with your career office for alumni who may be able to help.
Make a match. Take the time before the interview to make matches between your qualifications and the requirements as stated in the job announcement. This way, you will have examples at hand to demonstrate your suitability for the job.
Practice your responses. Write out your answer in advance for each question and then read it aloud to ensure it sounds natural. Try to keep it short and sweet. You don’t want to come across as the type of person who endlessly drones on about themselves.
Be prepared to show and tell. It can be helpful to remember the tip “show, don’t tell.” For example, rather than stating that you are an excellent problem solver, instead give an example that demonstrates this, ideally drawing on an anecdote from your professional experience.
How to Make the Best Impression
The first impression you make at a job interview, is going to be the most important one. Hiring managers can decide whether you’re a good candidate, or not, within a few minutes of meeting you. These tips will help you make a terrific first impression.
Dress for success. What you wear to the interview is important because you don’t want to be underdressed or overdressed. A three-piece suit can be as out of place as shorts and a t-shirt. Carefully choose appropriate attire, and don’t be afraid to ask the person who scheduled the interview if you’re not sure what to wear.
Be on time or a little early. You definitely don’t want to keep your interviewer waiting, so be on time or a few minutes early for your appointment. If you’re not sure where you’re going, do a trial run ahead of time so you know how long it will take you to get there.
If your interview is virtual, check to make sure that you’re comfortable with the technology ahead of time.
Keep it positive. Always try to put a positive slant on your responses to questions. It’s better to give the impression that you’re more motivated by the possibility of new opportunities than by trying to escape a bad situation. In addition, it’s important to avoid bashing your current organization, colleagues or supervisor. An employer is not likely to want to bring on someone who talks negatively about a company.
Follow up after the interview. After every job interview, take the time to send a thank you note or email message sharing your appreciation for the time the interviewer spent with you, and reiterating your interest in the job. If there was something you wish you had said during the interview, but didn’t get a chance to, this is a good opportunity to mention it