How to Answer the 10 Most Common Interview Questions

October 23, 2019

 

It's always important to be prepared to respond effectively to the questions that employers typically ask. Since these questions are so common, hiring managers will expect you to be able to answer them smoothly and without hesitation.

 

Though we don't recommend having a canned response for every interview question, we do recommend spending some time getting comfortable with what you might be asked, what hiring managers are really looking for in your responses, and what it takes to show that you're the right candidate for the job.

 

Consider this, an interview question study guide.

 

1) Can you tell me a little about yourself?
Often the first to be asked in an interview, this question often seems self-explanatory leaving many people unprepared for it, but your answer here will be crucial in creating a solid base to build your skills profile in the eyes of the recruiter. When answering this question, don't give your complete employment (or personal) history. Instead, offer a pitch, one that’s concise and compelling and shows exactly why you’re the right fit for the job. A good idea is to start off with the 2-3 specific accomplishments or experiences that you most want the interviewer to know about, then wrap up talking about how that prior experience has positioned you for this specific role. 


2) How did you hear about the position?
Another interview question many interviewees fail to prepare for, this is actually a perfect opportunity to stand out and show your passion for and connection to the company. For example, if you found out about the gig through a friend or professional contact, name drop that person, then share why you were so excited about it. If you discovered the company through an event or article, share that. Even if you found the listing through a random job board, share what, specifically, caught your eye about the role and what made you apply in the first place.


3) What do you consider to be your greatest weakness?
Most people reading this blog post will let out a collective groan when coming across this question on our list. And we understand why. However, this question is not as bad as many people think it is and can actually provide an opportunity to showcase what skills you are actively improving. What your interviewer is really trying to do with this question is to gauge your self-awareness and honesty, as well as identify any major red flags. So, “I can't meet a deadline to save my life” is not an option, but neither is “Nothing! I'm perfect!” Strike a balance by thinking of something that you struggle with but that you’re working to improve. For example, maybe you’ve never been strong at public speaking, but you've recently volunteered to run meetings to help you be more comfortable when addressing a crowd.


4) What initially drew you to this position?
As we explained earlier, companies will always want to hire people who are passionate about the job, so you should have a great answer about why you want the position. First, identify a couple of key factors that make the role a great fit for you (e.g., “I love customer support because I love human interaction and the satisfaction that comes from helping someone solve a difficult problem"), then share why you were drawn to the company (e.g., “I’ve always been passionate about education, and I think your company is doing great things in this space. I want to be a part of a team that's as passionate about driving the industry forward as I am”).


5) Why are you leaving your current job?
This is one of the tougher interview questions, but it’s one you can be sure will get asked. A good rule of thumb is to always keep things positive. You have nothing to gain by being negative about your past employers or companies; in fact, speaking ill of your current or past employers is a big red flag for the hiring team. Instead, try to frame things in a way that shows that you're eager to take on new opportunities and responsibilities and that the role you’re interviewing for is a better fit for you than your current or last position. For example, “I’d really love to be part of product development from beginning to end, and I know I’d have that opportunity here.” And if you were let go? Keep it simple: “Unfortunately, I was let go,” is a totally OK answer.


6) When did you last disagree with a decision that was made at work?
Everyone disagrees with company leadership from time to time, but in asking this interview question, hiring managers want to know that you can disagree in a productive, professional way. Interviewees want to be careful here as you don’t want to seem like a disgruntled employee. Instead, share a time where your actions made a positive difference in the outcome of the situation, whether it was a work-related outcome or if it benefited a working relationship. 


7) How would your boss and co-workers describe you?
First of all, be honest (remember, if you get this job, the hiring manager will be calling your former bosses and co-workers). Try to pull out strengths and traits you haven't discussed in other aspects of the interview, such as your strong work ethic or your willingness to pitch in on other projects when needed.


8) What is your greatest professional achievement?
Nothing says “hire me” quite like a track record of achieving results in past jobs, so don't be shy when answering this interview question. A great way is to use the S-T-A-R method, which stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. When answering, set up the situation and the task that you were required to complete to provide the interviewer with background context, but spend the bulk of your time describing what you actually did (the action) and what you achieved (the result). For example, “In my last job as an account executive, it was my role to manage the media results report. In one month, I was able to  streamline the process, which saved my company 8 hours of processing each month and reduced errors on client deliverables by 20%.”


9) Where do you see yourself in five years?
If asked this question, be honest and specific about your future goals, but remember, a hiring manager wants to know the following:

  • If you've set realistic expectations for your career 

  • If you have ambition (this interview isn't the first time you're considering the question)

  • If the position aligns with your goals and growth. 

Your best bet is to think realistically about where this position could take you and answer along those lines. And if the position isn’t necessarily a one-way ticket to your aspirations, simply say that you’re not quite sure what the future holds, but that you see this experience playing an important role in helping you make that decision.


10) Do you have any questions for us?
An interview should never be seen as just an opportunity for a hiring manager to grill you. Instead, it's your opportunity to determine whether a job is the right fit for you. So be sure to treat it as a business conversation rather than a Q+A. What do you want to know about the position? The company? The department? The team?


You'll cover a lot of this in the actual interview, so it’s typically a good idea to have a few less-common questions ready to go. We always like to see questions targeted to the interviewer (“What's your favorite part about working here?") or the company's growth (“What can you tell me about your new products or plans for growth?").

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