Job interviews are often nerve-racking and if you are unprepared they can be disastrous. You only get one chance to perform well, so before you go for your interview take a look at these tips on how to answer 25 of the most common asked questions in interviews and maybe it will help you get that job you so desire.
It’s true that each job interview is unique depending on the job, the interviewer, the industry, and so on. However, there are some questions you can expect to hear in almost every job interview. These are the tried-and-true questions that interviewers feel they’re required to ask.
Make sure you stand out from the crowd in your next interview by practicing and perfecting your answers to these questions. You’ll feel more confident in any interview situation, and you’ll get points from the hiring manager for being prepared!
Work History Interview Questions
1. Can you tell me about yourself?
The vast majority of interviews begin with a vague question that could be answered a myriad of ways. Remember, you’re auditioning for a role, so pretend this is your movie trailer. Don’t deliver your life story. Instead, give a quick snapshot that provides specific highlights of your education and career which make you a desirable candidate for the job. The key is to be poised, confident, and cover the points that are likely to be most important to the interviewer. Therefore, your response to this question will vary depending on each interviewer, job, and company.
2. How does your experience make you right for this job? Why should I hire you?
This is your chance to shine. Again, be specific. Mention big achievements in your past jobs that apply to the new role. Discuss how your skills and experience can benefit the company and make an impact in the short- and long-term. Review the job description in great detail before the interview and be sure to speak to the responsibilities and requirements stated within that description. Provide examples that demonstrate how you can fill those responsibilities better than anyone else.
3. Why are you looking for a new job? Why did you leave your previous job?
It’s important to put a positive spin on your reasons for leaving your previous job. What do you like about the company or job that you’re applying for? Use those as the basis for your positive response. For example, if you’re interviewing with a larger company than you worked with previously, you can mention that you’re interested in advancing in your career and a larger company offers the growth opportunities that you’re looking for.
4. Could you explain the gap in your resume?
These days, many people have gaps in their resumes. If you have one, it’s likely you’ll be asked about it. If you were laid off, be honest about it. A quick reference check to your previous employer will reveal the truth about your employment history, so explain that you were a victim of the economic downturn (or whatever your personal situation was), and that you used your time to re-evaluate your career goals, seek additional training and educational opportunities, and find a job with a company that you planned to stay with for a long time. This shows the interviewer that you weren’t just taking an extended vacation during the gap in your resume, and that you’re not planning on quitting shortly after you’re hired.
5. Can you describe a typical day in your previous job?
Depending on the position you’re applying for, this question could serve multiple purposes from the interviewer’s perspective. He might want to learn if your previous position was tactical or strategic. He also might try to determine if you’re a leader, a team player, an independent worker, or used to being micro-managed. Describe your day by highlighting tasks, projects, and interactions with colleagues that match the type of work you’d be doing if the interviewer hired you.
6. Could you describe a situation where you achieved great success in your previous job?
Have a detailed story ready for this question and really toot your own horn when the interviewer asks it. Be sure to choose an achievement that is directly applicable to the job you’re interviewing for, and provide specifics by quantifying your success.
7. What did you like and dislike about your previous job?
As always, cater your response to the company and job you’re interviewing for. With that in mind, mention positive things about your previous position that will be part of the new job and mention negative things about your previous position that won’t be part of the new job. For example, if you’re applying for a customer service job and you worked nights but the role you’re interviewing for offers daytime hours, that’s a great thing to discuss as something you didn’t like about your previous job.
8. Have you ever worked with a difficult boss? What made it difficult? Can you describe your perfect boss?
An interviewer could ask you one or more of these questions, so be prepared to answer all of them. Spin negative experiences with previous bosses into personal learning experiences. Describe the difficult boss as “challenging” but also share something positive that you learned from working with that person. When describing your perfect boss, be sure to mention attributes that your supervisor in the job you’re interviewing for would have. For example, if the job description calls for a person who can work independently, mention that you prefer not to be micro-managed.
9. Can you give me five words that your previous boss would use to describe you?
Think of the job description for the position you’re interviewing for and be sure to reiterate some of the adjectives used within that description when you answer this question. Don’t ramble. If you’re asked to give five words, provide exactly that, and make sure they’re highly relevant to the open position. The person who wrote the job description included buzzwords that are meaningful to him. Use them to describe yourself!
10. Can you give me five words you’d use to describe your work style?
This question could also be phrased as, “How would you describe your work style?” Basically, the interviewer wants to get a better understanding of what you’re like to work with in order to determine if you’re a good fit for the organization. He wants to know if you’re a leader, a team player, innovative, organized, productive, and so on. Again, use words from the job description to describe your work style, so it’s clear to the interviewer that you’re a great match for the job and the company.
11. What is your greatest strength?
This question is asked in most interviews, and you should be able to knock it out of the park with a well-prepared answer. Read the job description and find a quality that you possess which is required for the person who gets the job. When this question comes up, you can say this quality is your greatest strength. Be sure to provide an example from your work history to demonstrate that you actually possess that quality.
12. What is your biggest weakness?
This is another question that is asked in most interviews, and it’s easy to have a stock answer ready to go. Just turn one of your weaknesses into a positive. It’s even better if that weakness is unrelated to the position you’re applying for. If the hiring company offers opportunities to grow in your areas of weakness, mention that you’re aware of the training opportunities and can’t wait to take advantage of them. For example, the company might offer technical training, leadership training, networking groups, and so on.
Goals and Salary Interview Questions
13. Where do you see yourself in five years?
The interviewer asks this question to make sure you don’t plan on leaving the company a month after you’re hired. Depending on the job you’re interviewing for, this question can also flag unmotivated employees who want a job anywhere rather than a career with this specific company. Therefore, state your desire to stay with the company for many years where you can learn, grow, and advance in your career. Depending on the job, you might need to ramp up your answer to demonstrate you’re a go-getter.
14. Can you describe your dream job?
This is another way that an interviewer tries to determine if you’re a good fit for the job and the company. Model your response after the job description and company culture. Demonstrate that you want to continue to advance in your career but be realistic. It’s great to dream big, but the hiring manager just wants to know that you’ll be happy at the company for more than a few years.
15. What is your ideal working environment?
Again, the hiring manager wants to make sure you’re going to be happy working at the company. This is a particularly important question for companies with highly unique working environments or highly structured working environments. Do your homework and have a clear understanding of the work environment at each company where you interview. When asked what your ideal working environment is, make sure you match the company in your response.
16. What salary are you looking for?
This is always a difficult question to answer because you don’t want to undervalue yourself or price yourself out of a great position and company. Know how much you need to make, and if you’re forced to disclose a figure, go higher than that amount. However, the best response to this question is to turn it back on the interviewer by saying something like, “What is the salary range budgeted for the position? I’m sure we could negotiate something that would work for everyone if I were to be offered the job.”
17. What is your salary history?
This is a touchy question because the only information you should have to disclose is your starting and ending salary for your most recent job. That’s all corporate personnel departments disclose when they receive employment verification calls, so an interviewer who knows what he’s doing shouldn’t ask for more information than that. Unfortunately, most interviewers have no idea what they should or shouldn’t ask in an interview, so this question may come up. If an interviewer asks you this question, tell them what you’re currently making and be sure to include any bonus amounts as well as benefits and other perks. Your goal is to show the full package of your earnings which could be quite different than what is actually reflected in your paycheck.
Test Interview Questions
18. What do you know about our company?
The only reason an interviewer asks this question is to test you. He wants to know if you did your homework and prepared for the interview by researching the company in advance. In other words, he wants to find out if you are really serious about this position and company or if you just need a job. Show him how important this position is to you by giving a succinct rundown of the company’s business, competitors, customers, products, recent news, and so on. What you choose to focus on will vary depending on the job and interview.
19. Why do you want to work here?
This is another test question asked to determine if you’re serious about working for the company or just looking for a job. Therefore, use some of your research knowledge to offer specific reasons why you want to work for the company. Is it one of the top 10 companies in its industry? Does it have a global presence? Is it know for its social responsibility and philanthropic ventures? Choose a few specific reasons why the company would be a great place for you to work and use them to answer this question.
20. If your boss gives you a mountain of tasks at 3:00 and says she needs them by 5:00, but you know you can’t finish them in time, what do you do?
This question is asked to test your work ethic and could be asked in many ways to put you in a problem situation and ask how you would deal with it. Do you ask for help? Do you go home and pick up the tasks again in the morning? Depending on the job you’re interviewing for, your answer to this type of test question might vary. Certainly, an entry-level employee would act differently in this situation than a seasoned executive. Therefore, tailor your response to fit what you know about the position and the company culture.
21. If your boss or another higher-level colleague does something wrong, or asks you to do something wrong what would you do?
This is another business ethics question meant to ensure you’re an honest employee. Explain to the interviewer that you would always do what’s right for the company, and you would always act in a professional manner.
22. What motivates you?
Money might be your greatest motivator, but don’t tell that to the person interviewing you for a job. Instead, mention things that are related to the job. For example, if you’re applying for a sales job, say that you’re motivated by closing the deal and fulfilling customers’ needs. If you’re interviewing for a technical support role, explain that you’re motivated by solving difficult problems and making things work.
23. Where else have you applied?
This test question is intended to learn how serious you are in your job search. It’s also asked to determine if you’re applying to companies within similar industries or if you’re applying to any job opening you can find. Mention a few other companies in your response, but don’t go into detail. You want the interviewer to know that you’re serious in your job search and that includes your strong interest in the company and position he’s interviewing you for.
24. What was the last book you read?
This question is intended to reveal a bit more about you personally, but could also be a test. Similar questions include, “Do you belong to any organizations related to our industry (or your field)?” and “Do you read any websites or magazines about our industry (or your field)?” The interviewer might be genuinely curious, but he might be trying to determine how committed you truly are to your field and the company’s industry. For example, if you’re applying for a job in a company’s marketing department, the interviewer might be trying to learn if you read books, magazines, and websites or belong to professional association’s dedicated to the marketing field. Consider the position and the company, and provide a relevant response. However, be truthful. If the interviewer asks follow-up questions to get more details, you could get caught if you lie.
25. Do you have any questions to ask me?
The common thread throughout all of these interview questions and answers is making sure you do your homework and research each company you interview with in advance. The more you know about the job and the company, the better prepared you’ll be to answer the common questions and surprise questions. You’ll also be prepared to answer the last question asked by recruiters in most interviews, “Do you have any questions for me?” Show you’re motivated by asking when the company expects to extend an offer for the position, and show you’re interested in learning more details about the job by asking what the first priorities and projects would be for the person who fills the position.