30 Common Interview Questions and How to Answer Them


Job interviews are very rarely a pleasant experience for most jobseekers. Whether you’re looking to kick-start your career or land your dream job, what stands between you and your goals is a successful interview with your potential employers.

The best way to cope with the all too familiar pre-interview nerves is to prepare sufficiently beforehand. Even if you don’t know exactly what interview questions will be hurled at you, this will help you feel more confident about the big day, and it will give you a better sense of what to expect.

So, if you’re wondering where to start from, we’ve got you covered.

Here are the 30 most common interview questions you should prepare for, along with tips and advice on how to answer each one.

1. ‘Can you tell us a bit about yourself?’

This question is a common interview opener, as it gives recruiters a chance to break the ice with interviewees. Although it might seem like a straightforward question to ask, it’s important that you prepare an answer for it that will summarise the most important facts about you.

Pick a couple of crucial moments from your professional life, like your degree, your most relevant work experience or any other major accomplishments. Your answer should be brief but compelling, and it should cover different areas in your professional career (including your current role, previous positions and your future plans).

Make sure to tie the company into your answer and explain what brought you here too.

2. ‘What is your greatest professional accomplishment?’

This is the perfect opportunity for you to showcase your suitability for the role. That said, it’s important to talk about an achievement that is relevant to the job you’re interviewing for.

Think about a professional accomplishment that can prove that you are the ideal candidate.  What did you do in your last job that is worth mentioning? Has your boss ever given you recognition for anything? Have you increased sales or sold a product in a unique way? How did you do it? These are the things employers are most interested in.

When you’re talking about your achievements, don’t forget to also refer to facts and figures that will serve as evidence.

3. ‘How did you hear about this position?’

Although this might seem like a simple enough question to answer, there are a few things that you should consider. For starters, employers are more interested in candidates that proactively seek to work in their company over the ones who are simply looking for any available jobs. This, then, is another great opportunity to highlight your enthusiasm about the organisation and the particular role.

For example, if you found out about the job through a colleague, an article or the company’s website, talk about it and share your enthusiasm when you heard about the opportunity. And, even if you did come across the opening on a job board, explain how it was the perfect fit for you because it matched your professional objectives.

4. ‘Why do you want this job?’

Employers know very well that the best results are produced by people who love doing what they do. This question, then, is an excellent opportunity for hiring managers to learn about your professional objectives and motivation.

You need to provide your interviewers with solid reasoning and align your answer to the job’s description and listed requirements. Is the job in alignment with your personal interests? Is it a cause you feel passionate about? Do you have extensive experience in this industry?

You must prove to the hiring manager that this is a unique opportunity for you and for them alike as you also have something to offer them.

5. ‘Why should we hire you?’

Although you might be tempted to roll your eyes at this question, employers will want to know what sets you apart from other candidates, and it’s your responsibility to provide a compelling answer. Indeed, this might seem like a pointless question to ask, but it’s, in fact, the perfect opportunity for you to demonstrate your enthusiasm for the role.

The best way to tackle this question is to talk about how your skills could benefit the company and yield great results. From there on, talk about how you would fit within the team and the culture of the organisation.

While you should keep your answer professional, don’t be afraid to show your eagerness to work in the company or take on the specific role. Recruiters like candidates that don’t give robotic answers, so the more authentic and honest you are, the more memorable you’ll be.

6. ‘What is your greatest strength?’

This question provides you with an excellent opportunity to sell your best qualities to your recruiters. You can talk about your skills, personal traits, knowledge or experience.

However, when crafting your answer, you need to consider which of these qualities are the most relevant to the role at hand.

Avoid generalisations like ‘I have great people skills’ or ‘I’m an excellent team player’. And don’t fall into the trap of listing qualities you think your recruiter wants to hear. Instead, select one of your key strengths and provide an accurate and specific answer. Then, follow up with an example that will better demonstrate this attribute.

7. ‘What is your greatest weakness?’

This is the question we all fear the most. Why? Because nobody wants to admit weakness to their potential boss. Nonetheless, admitting that you have flaws shows that you are self-aware and honest about areas that need improvement.

The trick here is to pick the ‘right’ weakness to talk about.

In other words, your answer should encompass a flaw that you’re working on, and you should offer evidence that can support your claim. Avoid generic answers such as ‘I’m a perfectionist’ or ‘I work hard’ as these are clichés that offer no real value. Instead, give an example that others can empathise with, and explain how you’re trying to mitigate it.

8. ‘What’s your management style like?’

If you’re applying for a managerial role, your potential employers will want to know that you have the capabilities to manage a team. Your answer, then, will help them evaluate your leadership abilities and see if you’re fit for the company.

Start by sharing your views on what a good manager is: someone who is flexible and can give directions and autonomy to their team. Then, draw a comparison between the definition you’ve just given and your own management style.

Don’t forget to include specific examples within your answer and to demonstrate that you possess the same qualities you’ve just described.

9. ‘What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever dealt with?’

This behavioural interview question is a way for hiring managers to deduce how you’d deal with a crisis.

Most jobs come with their fair share of challenges, and the ideal candidate should be able to resolve a problem without running for the hills the moment one arises.

The best way to tackle this question is by using the STAR method. Start by giving necessary context about the Situation, then describe the Task you had to complete and then move on to the Action you took and the Result it had.

Walk the interviewer through the process and reflect on what you learned from that situation. Not only will it help you create a compelling answer, but it will highlight your problem-solving and crisis-management skills, too.

10. ‘Have you ever had any conflicts at work? If so, how did you deal with them?’

Competition is a normal aspect of every job, especially when individuals are working towards the same goals. However, healthy competition can often turn into conflict in the workplace.

If a hiring manager asks you this question, there’s a fair chance that this has occurred in the past, so they’ll want to know that you can handle that prospect.

Your answer, then, should draw on an example where you took the required steps to rectify a situation. A candidate that shows awareness about a difficult situation and who takes ownership of their mistakes is what recruiters are looking for.

Meanwhile, be careful not to put the blame on someone else, as this will only count against you.

11. ‘What is your dream job?’

Companies are well aware that employees don’t intend to remain in an entry-level position for their entire career. By asking about your ideal job, they can check if your ambitions align with the company’s mission, culture and long-term goals. It’s also a good way to find out whether this job is just a pit-stop for you or if you’ll be a dedicated employee.

It’s vital that your answer relates to the position at hand. To do that, identify the key aspects that will help you achieve your aims and explain how this is an opportunity that will help you grow professionally in order to achieve your dreams.

12. ‘What do you know about the company?’

The interviewer’s objective here is clear: they want to know if you have done your homework on the company. So, before marching into your interview, be sure that you get all your facts right about your potential employer.

If asked this question, you might be tempted to recite the information you’ve memorised from their website, but it’s important to add your own personal touch too. While you should talk about the company’s objectives, you should also explain how that drew you to the company and how they relate to your own professional goals. This will show that you’re already invested in their mission, and it will make your answer more personable.

13. ‘Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?’

Recruiters will want to know if you have realistic expectations for your career, and this is the best way to determine that. Remember, they’re attracted to candidates with an entrepreneurial mindset and who are driven and focused on their career.

While you should be determined and confident, make sure to not to come across as overambitious. So, for example, if you tell them that you see yourself as the CEO of the company in five years, then the game is lost.

Instead, talk about the milestones you’re hoping to hit within that period and give solid reasoning on how you plan to achieve them. The key here is to connect your professional goals with the job at hand and to show how it will help you as a professional.

14. ‘Are you interviewing with other companies?’

Although this question might put you in an awkward spot, recruiters find it particularly useful in order to regulate the competition. It’s also an excellent way to determine whether candidates are serious about the industry they want to work in.

The best route to take here is to be honest and find a common characteristic in every position you’re applying for. That way, you can show that you’re hoping to land a job where you can utilise your expertise and make use of your specific professional skills. Plus, it shows that you’re focused and driven and that you know where you want your career to take you.

15. ‘Why are you leaving your current job?’

This question can be a real minefield if you’re not careful. You might be tempted to rant about your current employer, but the best way to manoeuvre your way through it is to avoid disclosing adverse opinions.

Instead, focus your answer on your professional development and talk about the opportunities that will come with working for the particular company. For example, you could say that your career goals no longer align with those of your current employer or that you were no longer challenged by your role.

Remember to be neutral and to avoid bad-mouthing your boss and coworkers, as this will only reflect negatively on you. Instead, focus on the positives, and make sure that the reasons you give demonstrate your desire to develop as a professional.

16. ‘Why were you fired from your last job?’

No one wants to admit they were fired from their previous job. But if the question arises, you’ll have to address the elephant in the room. Your best bet is to answer it with honesty and without hesitation.

You don’t have to dive into the details, and you should avoid talking about any adverse issues regarding your dismissal. Still, it’s important to be upfront about it rather than try to dismiss the question altogether.

It’s also important to end your answer on a positive note, so focus on how this event has bolstered your professional journey instead of hindering it. Self-awareness and honesty are the best way to show a potential employer that you’ve overcome difficulties and that you’re willing to develop further as a professional.

17. ‘Why did you quit your last job?’

We tend to think that quitting a job reflects badly on our professionalism. However, this isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker for employers – as long as you can provide rational reasoning behind your decision.

Of course, your answer will depend on the circumstances which affected your decision to quit. Like the previous question, you should keep a neutral stance and give your reasons in a factual manner.

The trick is to focus on your professional development and your desire to take bigger career steps. It’s okay to say that you were looking for a better opportunity, wanted to relocate elsewhere or desired to pursue a different profession altogether.

18. ‘Why is there a gap in your employment?’

If you were unemployed over a stretch of time, it’s justifiable that you would feel nervous about being asked this question. For employers, this could be a potential red flag, so it’s expected that they’d want to know about the reasons behind your employment gap.

The best policy to follow here is to be honest about the situation and show that you used your time in a proactive way. Be direct and avoid drawn-out answers in an attempt to dodge the question. Instead, talk about your reasons for taking time off, whether it was to raise your family, you were laid off or to pursue further education.

If you want to impress the interviewers, talk about other activities which you took on at the time, such as volunteering, learning new skills or travelling and what you gained from them. Plus, make sure to steer the conversation towards your career and emphasise the reasons why you’re entering the workforce again.

19. ‘What do you hope to gain from this position?’

The goal here is to match your qualifications and skills with the requirements of the job. This is also the perfect time to talk about your career goals and your expectations as a potential employee.

Your main talking point could be the company’s culture, personal development opportunities and the work style of the organisation. This shows that you’re familiar with the company’s structure and that you know exactly why you want to be part of its team. That said, do try not to fixate on materialistic perks, including the remuneration package, as this could send employers the wrong message.

20. ‘What type of work environment do you feel most comfortable in?’

Although this question might seem to be targeting your own needs, in reality, it’s a way for employers to know if you’re compatible with the company.

Your ideal type of environment should be similar to the one that the organisation offers. Think about their company culture and talk about the features you think will enable you to do your best work there. However, if you can’t come up with a convincing answer, this might be a good indication that this isn’t the right job for you.

21. ‘How would your previous boss describe you?’

In asking this question, employers are trying to see you through your former supervisor’s eyes. It goes without saying that you should be completely honest when giving your answer, as your last employer is just a phone call away.

Think back to previous performance reviews, feedback and appraisals you received for your work, and use them as evidential points that will inform your answer. With every attribute that you provide, you should also offer an example that justifies your point. You should also try to touch on strengths and attributes that you haven’t yet discussed in the interview in order to avoid being repetitive.

22. ‘How would your coworkers describe you?’

This question enables employers to get a better look at your personality and understand how your peers see you.

Think about all your personal traits and make a detailed list. If you’re asked this question, pick a few that are relevant to the role and back them up with examples. You could say something along the lines of ‘Some would say I’m quite hard-working because I’m usually the last one out of the office’ or ‘I was often told that I was extremely reliable. They always knew they could count on me to get the job done on time’.

23. ‘What are your salary requirements?’

Discussing your salary expectations with your potential employer might seem like a taboo subject. Indeed, the trickiest part is providing an amount that is neither overambitious nor too modest.

To answer this question gracefully, find out the median salary for your position and the company’s usual remuneration package prior to the interview. Don’t forget to take your years of experience into consideration, too, as this will help you to come up with a respectable salary range.

24. ‘What do you like to do outside of work?’

Your hobbies say a lot about you, especially to your hiring manager. Learning about your personal interests helps recruiters gain a better understanding of your personality, and that allows them to assess whether you’d be a good fit within their team.

The point is to show that you are a multifaceted individual who has different interests beyond the realms of the workplace. Focus on activities that refer to personal development such as learning a new language, volunteering, blogging or anything else you might be passionate about.

25. ‘How do you handle success/failure?’

For employers, it’s important that you not only know how to celebrate successes but that you can also overcome failure. Indeed, your ability to maintain a positive outlook regarding your work is a definitive attribute to possess.

Think about a few instances from the past and provide a case for each. When talking about success, make sure to give credit to everyone who was involved in the process. As for your failures, make sure to talk about what you gained from the situation, and explain how you would have acted differently now. All in all, your answer should convey your self-awareness and humility through your examples.

26. ‘How do you handle stress?’

Work stress can be detrimental to employee performance and productivity. Recruiters, then, will be interested to know how a hectic environment can affect your work and how you can cope with stressful situations.

Even if you’re prone to stress, there is a good way to work your way around it. This is a great opportunity to talk about your time management and organisational skills and how they allow you to sustain a good work-life balance overall. Pair this with examples that show that you can handle stressful situations in a productive manner. You could also mention personal tactics that help you relieve stress or avoid it altogether.

27. ‘How many tennis balls can you fit into a limousine?’

This sort of bizarre interview question has become increasingly common in recent years (thanks, Google!), so don’t be surprised if your interviewer throws a curveball at you.

If they do decide to test you with a brainteaser, it’s to see your ability to think on your feet and come up with creative solutions under pressure. In other words, the interviewers are not interested in the answer itself but rather with the process you will follow to get there.

The first step here is to come up with a logical approach that will help you answer this question. Walk the interviewer through your thought process, explaining how you plan to find the answer out loud. Ask for a pen and paper and use some estimates to get you going.

Remember: how you deal with the problem is more important than what your final answer will be.

28. ‘Describe a difficult situation/project and how you overcame it.’

Your past behaviour is a predictor of what you will do in the future. As such, this behavioural interview question allows employers to see how you would react to a difficult situation based on previous encounters.

While there is no wrong or right answer here, this can often lead to follow-up questions, so be prepared to talk about your chosen example in detail. Prepare some stories that will demonstrate how you dealt with the issue adequately. Overall, your answer should highlight the qualities that will be useful for your prospective role.

29. ‘Do you work well with other people?’

Having the ability to work within a team is crucial for every workplace. It’s no surprise, then, that employers look for candidates who are real team players. Indeed, your ability to communicate effectively and collaborate with your peers could be a determining factor for your interview success.

A simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer won’t do here; you need to incorporate a few examples that can confirm your ability to work within a team. Disclaimer: you don’t have to lie if you prefer to work solo in most cases, but it’s important that you recognise the value of collaboration and show that you have a flexible working style.

30. ‘Do you have any questions?’

It’s important to show up at the interview with a few questions of your own, as this will show that you’re truly interested in the company. Seize this opportunity to find out more about your potential employers.

Ask questions that target specific areas of the position and the company, and stay clear of questions regarding monetary benefits. Instead, focus on the ones that show your familiarity with the job or can provide an insight into the organisation. For example, you can go for things like ‘How would you describe your company culture?’ or ‘How are teams usually structured within the company?’.

In an interview, everything you do and say counts. The goal is to make a memorable impression on your recruiters and get every interview question right. This, of course, is easier said than done, but with a little preparation, a positive outlook and the right mindset, you can tackle even the toughest questions thrown your way.

Remember: what the interviewers want to see is a candidate who is passionate about what they do and who is eager to take their career one step further. If you enter your interview with that attitude, you’re guaranteed to ace it!

Can you think of any other common job interview questions? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments section below!

 

This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published in July 2016.