30 Common Job Interview Questions and Answers
Looking for a new job is stressful — and the interview is the most stressful part of it all. In some cases, a couple of Zoom interviews can be sufficient. In other instances, job interviews can span the course of several days and require hours of time.
But no matter what type of job it is, you'll need to prepare for the interviewer's questions. We can help with that. Job interviews are sort of like preparing for an open-ended test.
We can't tell you exactly what to say or what they'll ask, but we can show you how to answer the most common interview questions so you're better prepared for that upcoming interview.
Tell Me About Yourself
The employer isn't asking about your life story. They're looking for a sense of who you are, professionally, in a roughly 60-second elevator pitch.
You can give a short summary of your resume and skills, discussing where you worked and what you did. Try to give a few brief answers about why you worked where you did, highlighting relevant abilities, so the interviewer has a sense of who you are.
Don't be afraid to throw in a hobby or two at the end as well, but don't dwell on it. This is perhaps the most-asked interview question. Write a script and recite it until it sounds natural.
How Did You Hear About This Job?
This is the perfect place to name drop someone you know professionally who told you about that role — especially if they've worked with the company.
Of course, that's not always the case. Don't just say, "Oh, I saw it on LinkedIn, and it looked kind of cool."
Feel free to share the name of the job board, but take the time to explain what excites you about the position and how you looked up the company and saw how you think their values align with yours.
Why Do You Want to Work Here?
The key to answering this question is research. If it's a smaller company, look up interviews the CEO has conducted and talk about how their values align with yours. Use specific examples you can find and weave them into your interview. Try to be authentic and focus only on the things you think they're spot-on about.
You can also talk about how you've been watching the company grow over the past few years and have been following its work. Talk about what you find impressive and how you'd like to be a part of that, and what you can contribute.
Remember to be specific.
Why Do You Want This Job?
Now that you've identified why you want to work at the company, it's time to talk about why you want this specific position. Yes, we know the answer is probably "money" and "I need to work to live." No, you shouldn't say that.
Use the job description to answer this question, and discuss how your skills and experience line up with what they're asking for. Show the interviewer that you've researched this role and know what it takes.
Show you're excited about this position. Employers want to hire people who are passionate about work. Explain how your experience and skills line up with what the position entails. Weave into this an understanding of the company's culture and how their values line up with yours.
Don't go too in-depth about your skills here. There will be more opportunities to talk about specifics.
Tell Me About a Conflict You've Had and How You Responded
This question might catch you off guard. Be sure not to play the blame game here. Employers will think negatively about someone who refuses to take some responsibility. You don't have to go in-depth about exactly what happened, either. The important thing is talking about how you helped fix the problem and come to a solution.
Talk about what you'd like to do next time, or what you learned from the experience. Did it all come down to communication? If so, talk about how communication is vital in the workplace and how you've taken additional steps to make sure everyone is on the same page going forward.
Why Should We Hire You?
What the employer is asking is why they should pick you out of all the other candidates.
You can answer this by talking about yourself, your values, your skills, and your experience. Say what you like about the company's culture and how you line up. Talk about what aspects of this job motivate you. Talk about what the company is doing right and how you want to be a part of it.
If that sounds repetitive, it's because this question might cause you to repeat yourself. But that's fine, especially if it comes at the end of the interview. Use it as a chance to recap your experience and what you bring to the table by focusing on your strengths. If it comes at the beginning, use it as an opportunity to highlight your strengths.
What Motivates You?
The interviewer is trying to feel out whether this role will motivate you. If you don't seem excited about the position, they might rule you out of the running.
Refer back to the job description and note which parts of the job excite you. Write them down and then make a bulleted list about why they excite you and what you find fulfilling about doing them well.
Think if you can tell a story about previous, similar work that gave you a jolt of energy. Convey what you did and how it made you feel.
What Are Your Greatest Strengths?
The interviewer is trying to see if your strengths line up with what this role requires. They don't care that your greatest strength is raising a child with a strong moral barometer. Keep it about the job and the job role.
Make a list of things that make you good at your job. Think of a situation where you've showcased your strength for each one. You don't have to say all of them during the interview, but it helps to give examples because it shows the employer that you're not just all talk.
Having trouble figuring out your strengths or putting them into business-speak? The Balance has a list of strengths to draw from.
What Is Your Greatest Weakness?
Be honest with this one, but not to a fault. "I have a hard time getting motivated" or "I have unchecked ADHD" are red flags for your employer.
Nobody's perfect. And don't pretend that you are by saying you have no weakness. What you want to show here is an ability to assess yourself and an interest in self-betterment.
Are you bad at giving presentations? Say that, but mention you've been reading books on public speaking skills and are looking into your local Toastmasters chapter.
What Is Your Greatest Accomplishment?
Here's your chance to shine. Make a list of your work accomplishments and sort them by how relevant they are for the job and company you're applying to (it'll help to refer to the job description).
Which most relevant — and recent — accomplishment do you think best showcases your work ethic and your values? Use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure your response.
Be specific and be sure to say why that is your biggest accomplishment. Was it because your decisions propelled the company into a profitable fourth quarter? Or was it because you managed to motivate a teammate who was enduring personal struggles?
Both answers could be equally valid, depending on the position, the company and the culture.
Tell Me About a Time You Failed
Get it right and this one question can be the biggest factor in determining if you land the gig. Unfortunately, it's also many people's biggest stumbling block.
Avoid the urge to reframe a "failure" as an example of your virtue and opt for a problem-solving solution instead. One popular way to structure the answer is via the STAR method. Describe the situation, explain the task required, talk about what actions you took to complete it and then share the results.
Think of a situation in the workplace that didn't go as planned. Which parts went awry, and most importantly, what could you have done better? What did you learn from it?
Have You Ever Had to Work With Someone You Had Trouble Getting Along With? How Did You React?
Not everyone gets along with everyone else — not even the person interviewing you. But what the interviewer really wants to know if you're a team player. They're not interested in the office politics of your last job.
For example, explain a time a coworker was struggling at work due to personal issues at home and how you helped them get through the rough patch. Showing that you're willing to step in and help your team, rather than profit from their downturns, puts you in the best light.
Tell Me About a Time You Were Under A Lot Pressure and How You Reacted
The key to nailing this interview question is to avoid simply answering "yes" when the interviewer asks if you work well under pressure.
Instead, play off an example from your work experience where you were able to complete a project on time, receive good feedback from a customer or client, or keep your team together during periods of high stress. Remember, focus on the positive solution.
In a nutshell, don't complain about work stress. Instead, acknowledge that you know high-pressure situations can happen at work and explain how you manage them.
How Do You Manage Your Time When Tackling Big Projects?
When asked about time management, you can fall back on an example, but remember the interviewer is asking you how — not when — you manage your time. That is to say, make your example able to be applied to all of your work.
Explain what tools or methods you use for time management, whether that is an app like ToDoist, a simple notebook, your Google Calendar, or a method you devised on your own.
Explain in clear terms and show that you're buttoned up. This is one question that could trip you up if you deflect or are slow to respond.
Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?
Hiring managers love asking this question, but it is one of the toughest to get through if you aren't prepared.
Keep in mind, the interviewer wants to know if you're ambitious, if this role lines up with your career goals, and if you've set realistic expectations for your career.
Your best bet? Think of how the role might grow with you in it or what position above it you might aspire to (as long as it isn't the interviewer's job). If you're really stumped, it's OK to say you aren't quite sure, but be sure to let them know you believe this role will help you figure it out.
What Kind of Work Environment Do You Thrive Within?
The interviewer is trying to suss out whether or not you're going to work well in the company and the role. While the answer should keep the type of work and the location in mind, it's always a good idea to talk about teamwork and flexibility.
This is also a place to talk about the type of culture of the workplace you work well within — and it's a great place to line up the company's culture with your own work needs. Does the company go on workplace retreats or conduct team-building exercises?
Talk about how that is something you enjoy, but if you don't like those things, either don't mention it or reconsider your application. You'll be spending a whole lot of time here, after all.
Tell Me About the Toughest Decision You've Had to Make at Work
This is the perfect chance to show an interviewer what kind of worker you're going to be. Common responses to this question include firing people, layoffs and promotions.
It's important to explain how you had to weigh your options and why you came to the conclusions that you did. The STAR method can help you answer this question.
Showing empathy for those affected by your decision while also detailing how your decision helped the company overall is key here.
Explain This Employment Gap
Explaining why you haven't worked in several months or years can be uncomfortable. But it happens, and a good company will understand. There are many reasons for having a gap in employment, like raising children, medical issues, starting a new career or going back to school.
You don't need to explain your situation in detail. Briefly say what you were doing, then affirm that your time away from work has ended, and you're fully ready to get back to work. Mention any relevant new skills you picked up while on your employment gap. Did you take any courses or read any books?
If you've been laid off and had a rough time finding work, don't say that. Spin it and say you've been very selective about the kind of company you want to work for, and you think you've found the one where its culture and values line up with yours.
Don't dwell on this subject. Use clear language and move on.
What Is Your Ideal Management Style/Manager?
For managers, this is an opportunity to showcase how you manage teams and how that benefits the company. It's a way to showcase your managerial style and what you believe makes a good manager. Think of a quick story exemplifying how your style proved to be effective.
For employees, the interviewer wants to get a sense of what kind of management you prefer. Don't bother with the negatives. No one likes micromanagers or other horribly ineffective management techniques.
Instead, focus on the positive. Don't make this a fantasy ideal boss, though. Talk about past managers you've worked for and what styles worked best for you. Find ways to show how you've flourished under several types of management styles to show flexibility. That's a key response here.
How Do You Feel About Working Holidays and Weekends?
Here's the deal. If an employer asks if you're willing to work holidays and weekends, you're going to be asked to work holidays and weekends. Some people are workaholics and thrive in this environment. Others don't.
Just be honest here. If you're OK with working holidays and weekends occasionally due to an urgent project, but otherwise need that time to recharge, say so. If you're happy to work whenever, wherever, say that too. Just don't fake it, because you're going to end up miserable.
If I Asked Your Boss About Areas Where You Need to Improve, What Would They Say?
This is another way of asking what your weaknesses are while also assessing how you view your manager. Say something like "Oh, they'd complain about everything and everyone because that's who they are" will paint you in a negative light, even if that's true.
Use this question as an opportunity to identify a skill you're working on and how you're working on that with your boss.
What Do You Hate About Your Current Job?
This question can be a bit of a trap. If you start on a long-winded rant about all the things your company is doing wrong, you're not going to get to work at the new company. You'll want to word your answer carefully so as not to come across as too negative.
You could steer this question into something your current job doesn't have, but the current one does, like an opportunity for growth or new skills to learn. Touch on some things you disliked but also how it helped you realize you needed to be working at a different place or job role.
Why Do You Want to Leave Your Current Job?
Don't trash your employer and keep this answer mostly positive. Look to the future at the company you're interviewing at and show what you've learned from your current job.
Instead of saying your boss is making stupid decisions, say the company is going in a different direction. If there's no room for a promotion, say you're looking for a place with room to grow.
Why Did You Get Fired?
This is a tough one. Often, the interviewer won't directly ask why you were fired, but there can be cases where it's impossible to sidestep the reason for being let go.
Be honest, clear and quick about it, without getting into the details. Reflect on what you learned from the experience, what you would do differently in the future and why it wouldn't happen again.
Keep it positive, and as always, don't trash your previous employer.
Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?
Be honest, but put in a positive light.
You didn't quit your last job because you hated it. You left on good terms (hopefully!) after mutually agreeing that you wanted to pursue a more fulfilling role elsewhere.
Wanting to learn more, looking for places where advancement is possible and the ability to pursue new opportunities are all valid reasons.
How Would Your Coworkers Describe You?
The interviewer knows you're going to say positive things about yourself. So they're probably going to ask a follow-up question — "Why would they say that?"
This could throw you off if you haven't prepared for it. A list of how your coworkers would describe you and why is a good way to both be prepared and also flesh out some of the strengths you may want to convey throughout the interview.
What Are You Looking for in Terms of Salary?
It's illegal for companies to ask about your past salaries in many places, but they can ask how much you expect to earn from them.
First, have a salary range worked out beforehand. The Muse recommends giving a salary range that starts in the middle of your actual salary range. So if your actual range is $50,000-$65,000, tell them you're looking for something like $60,000 to $65,000.
Even if they come back with $55,000, it's still above your bottom end.
What Do You Know About Our Company?
The only answer for this is research. Look up the company's history, its values, its key players and its recent business moves.
Take a keen eye to how their founder has talked about the company and why he founded it. Read blog posts and interviews from the CEO.
The more you know, the better. Dig deep and surprise them.
Why Do You Want to Change Career Paths?
People switch careers all the time, and your interviewer isn't trying to trip you up. They just want to know what makes you tick.
You might want to say you need a new challenge and finally found something you're truly passionate about, but be prepared to back that claim up. It's easy to say that you found a new passion, but when you have something tangible — like training certificates or a spec portfolio — people will have little reason to doubt you.
Also, be sure to point out any crossover skills and how your experience in field X will help your new career in field Y.
Do You Have Any Questions?
Now it's your turn to play the interviewer.
Always ask at least one or two questions. Exactly what you ask matters less than asking a question that shows interest in the company, and it will shine a light on how that company actually operates.
Asking the interviewer what their favorite part about their job and the company is a solid go-to question. Here are a few more:
- What would a typical workday entail?
- How did the last person in this job succeed?
- Are there opportunities for professional advancement?
- What would a successful worker achieve in the first 30, 60 and 90 days at this position?
- How would you describe the culture?
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