It's important to be prepared to respond effectively to the questions that employers typically ask at interview. Since these job 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 all of your answers, but do think about what you're going to say so you're not put on the spot during the job interview. Your responses will be stronger if you prepare in advance, know what to expect during the interview, and have a sense of what you want to focus on during your interview. Even if you aren’t able to recall the specifics of the answers you planned, simply knowing that you prepared will boost your confidence during the interview and help you feel more at ease.
Top 10 Interview Questions and Best Answers
Review the top 10 interview questions you'll most likely be asked at a job interview, plus examples of the best answers. Also, be sure to review the bonus questions at the end of the article, so you’re prepared for some of the more challenging questions that may come up during the interview.
This is one of the first questions you are likely to be asked. Be prepared to talk about yourself, and why you're an excellent fit for the job. Try to answer questions about yourself without giving out 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.
If it feels daunting to generate this information from scratch, you can rely on a simple formula to construct your answer. The ‘present-past-future’ formula is a way to share key background points while ending on a high note. Begin with a brief overview of where you are now (which could include your current job along with a reference to a personal hobby or passion), reference how you got to where you are (here you could mention education, or an important experience such as a past job, internship or volunteer experience) and then finish by touching on a goal for the future.
Bonus points if you’re able to identify how the position you’re apply for aligns with how you envision your future.
Remember to be careful about what you include in your answer – avoid potentially contentious subjects such as political or religious leanings, unless you are absolutely positive that your opinions would be well-received by your interviewer. You should also avoid talking too much about family responsibilities or hobbies that might make your interviewer wonder whether you could commit yourself 100% to the job.
No matter how you choose to respond, write out your answer in advance and then read it aloud to ensure it sounds natural. Try to keep it short and sweet, as you don’t want to come across as the type of person who endlessly drones on about themselves.
This is one of the questions that employers almost always ask. When you are asked about your greatest strengths, it's important to discuss the attributes that will qualify you for the specific job and set you apart from the other candidates. Take the time, before the job interview, to make matches between your qualifications and the requirements as stated in the job announcement. This way, you will have examples ready to hand that will demonstrate your suitability for the job.
It can be helpful to remember the tip 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.
Another typical question 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. For example, you might say something like, “I’ve always struggled with perfectionism – I truly want to do the job correctly the first time, but this sometimes means that I devote more time to a project than is necessary. I’ve learned to balance this drive with the equally important responsibility of meeting deadlines.”
You can also share examples of skills you have improved, providing specific instances of how you have recognized a weakness and taken steps to improve yourself.
Are you the best candidate for the job? Be prepared to say why you're the applicant who should be hired. This is not the time to be modest (although neither should you be conceited). Make your response a confident, concise, focused sales pitch that explains what you have to offer the employer, and why you should get the job. This is another 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.
What are you looking for in terms of salary? It seems like a simple question, but your answer can knock you out of the contest for the job if you overprice yourself. If you underprice yourself, you may get shortchanged and a lower offer. Review the best way to answer questions about salary so you get the fair pay that you deserve.
When asked about why you are moving on from your current position, stick with the facts, be direct, and focus your interview answer on the future, especially if your leaving wasn't under the best of circumstances.
Always try to put a positive slant on your response; 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.
This question gives you an opportunity to show the interviewer what you know about the job and the company, so take the time before the interview to thoroughly research the company, its products or services, its climate, and its 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.
What do you do when things don’t go smoothly at work? How do you deal with difficult situations? What do you do when something goes wrong? The best way to respond to this question is to give an example of how you have successfully handled stress in a previous job.
Avoid claiming that you never, or rarely, experience stress. Not only is this difficult to believe, but it could also lead the interviewer to conclude that you’ve only worked in low-pressure environments and therefore aren’t equipped to handle a difficult situation. 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.
The interviewer wants to know what you do when you face 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 around this example in order to make the story believable and engaging. That being said, avoid talking negatively, or extensively, about other people. This can detract from what the interviewer really wants to know about, which is how you perform in a challenging situation.
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 you’re interviewing with, and reiterate to the interviewer that the positions aligns with your long-term goals.
At the close of the interview, most interviewers ask whether you have any questionsabout the job or company. If you don’t have any questions, this can make it seems like you are apathetic about the opportunity. So, it's always a good idea to have a list ready and to be prepared to respond.
Here are some related questions that you may be asked during a job interview that will require some thought to answer. Consider how you'd respond, so you're as prepared as possible to answer the hiring manager's questions.
How do you handle success?
How do you handle failure?
Do you work well with other people?
What can you do better for us than the other applicants?
What else will the hiring manager ask? Review more common job interview questions, plus see 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.
What shouldn't the interviewer ask? There are some interview 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 diplomatically respond.
More About Interviewing: Step by Step Guide to Job Interview Success | 10 Interview Tips That Will Help You Get Hired
BY ALISON DOYLE at thebalancecareers.com