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Common interview questions are par for the course in the interview process.  These are questions that aren’t specific to any one industry or profession.  Interviewers typically ask these questions to get a better and more cohesive understanding of the interviewee.

These questions usually don’t have a right or wrong answer.  Rather, they are meant to provide a deeper sense of the interviewee and what their accomplishments are.  Reviewing these common interview questions will help you prepare for your interview and what to expect.

When answering these questions, we also suggest brushing up on the STAR method, which will be useful for many of these questions.

Main Interview Questions

  1. “Tell me about yourself”

From a candidate perspective:

This is the single best question to break the ice and begin the interview process and conversation.  You should take this opportunity to discuss your education levels, your previous work history, any certifications that you’ve acquired, and what you are looking for in your next role.

You should mention these accomplishments and experiences briefly and not dwell too long on any single item.  The interviewer will most likely be interested in your most recent experience and work history.

From an interviewer perspective:

You should be looking to verify that the experiences, education levels, and certificates match what is on the interviewees resume.  Do your homework before the interview and lookup the college where the interviewee attended, their previous work history, and their certifications.  In-addition conduct some quick Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram searches to get a better feel and understanding of the interviewee.

  1. “Why are you looking to leave your current role?”

From a candidate perspective:

This is one of the “gotcha” type questions.  The interviewer is looking for an honest answer, up to a point.  They want to know what you’re looking for in the future and for your career.  Do not answer with negativities concerning your current role or that you are looking to make more money.  While those both may be true, they are better left unsaid.

Rather, go along the lines of stating that you are looking for additional experiences and opportunities which will expand your industry knowledge and horizon.  This answer shows that you’re a go-getter and someone who is looking for a challenge and new opportunities.

From an interviewer perspective:

Be aware of any badmouthing of former employers or colleagues.  You should be looking for a candidate that feels comfortable discussing their future goals and how to achieve them.  If their future goals align with your company offerings, then the fit is ideal.

Don’t get too strung up by this question.  You’re probably still in the initial phase of the interview and nerves may still be a bit tense.

  1. “What are your biggest weaknesses?”

From a candidate perspective:

This is another “gotcha” question.  In addition, this is one of the more common interview questions you may get asked.  While I personally despise this question, it is still widely used.  The question is meant to be more introspective, allowing the candidate to show some levels of honesty and vulnerability during the interview process.

There is no right answer, but there are wrong ones.  You don’t want to divulge your biggest weaknesses, whether professional or personal, which could jeopardize your chances at the job opportunity.  Rather, find a weakness that you are currently working on improving.

Some good examples are:

  • I find it difficult to delegate my workload
    • However, I have been working to improve my delegation skills
      • By requesting weekly status updates on tasks delegated
  • I find it difficult to speak publicly and in-front of large groups
    • However, I have been working on improving my public speaking skills
      • By becoming a member of Toastmasters
  • I have been told that my feedback and critique may be too direct
    • However, I have been working on my feedback skills
      • By taking conflict resolution classes

From an interviewer perspective:

You want a candidate who is going to be both honest and vulnerable with this question.  However, be mindful that this is a difficult question to answer.  If the candidate is uncomfortable with the question, feel free to pivot into a more generalized question of “what would you change in [current industry]?”  This allows for the interview to stay on track and for the candidate to provide some insight into the industry and how they would make things better.

If the candidate does answer the initial question, you should be concerned with any answers that may be too difficult for you to resolve or assist in resolving.  Getting in late, missing deadlines, and not adhering to SLA’s should be red flags.

  1. “What are your greatest strengths?”

From a candidate perspective:

You should be ready to answer this question directly and head-on.  Your greatest strength should be something professional and something that allows you to stand out from other candidates.

You should also tailor it to the specific job you are applying for.  If you are applying for an analytical role, you can speak to your Excel skills.  If you’re applying to a marketing role, you can speak to your ability to increase brand awareness for companies or products.

Whatever your answer is, so long as it is relevant to the job you are applying for, then you should be good to go.

From an interviewer perspective:

This question is meant to get a better understanding of the candidate and what they are really good at.  A good candidate will provide an answer that is applicable to the industry and the role they are applying for.  Look to see if the candidates answer aligns with your company and team goals.

  1. “Why should we hire you?”

 From a candidate perspective:

 This may seem like a “gotcha” question, but it really isn’t.  Typically, companies will conduct multiple rounds of interviews before selecting and making an offer to a candidate.  They need to know why they should hire you over the other candidates.

To answer this question, be honest and direct about your experience and your ability to get the work done.  Bring in direct examples of how you’ve resolved issues and completed tasks at previous places of employment.  Discuss how you have been promoted quickly.  Discuss how your educational background makes you a perfect match for the role.

Essentially, sell yourself and what makes you an amazing candidate.

Feel free to also pepper in that you’re a motivated, willing candidate who works harder than others.  Provide anecdotal references about how you’re the first one into the office and the last one out.  Supplement that by stating that you have an innate hunger and yearning to succeed.

Whatever it is that you say, be confident and forceful in your reply.

From an interviewer perspective:

This is a great question to ask.  You are looking for a candidate that will be able to address some issues, concerns, or problems that you are currently facing.  If you want more direct answers, feel free to ask the interviewee not only why you should hire them, but let them know why you are looking for a new hire.

For example, “We are currently looking for someone who can increase brand awareness in several verticals, it says here on your resume that you have direct brand awareness experience.  So, tell me, why should we hire you to help us with this problem?”

You are essentially leading the question, but you’ll get an answer more in-line with the problem you’re currently facing.

  1. “Why do you want this job?”

From a candidate perspective:

This isn’t a common interview question so don’t give into the clichés with this question.  You don’t want to just talk about how great the company is and how much you’ve always wanted to work there.  Rather, discuss how the role is what you want.  How you are passionate about solving the issues they’re facing.  From there, you can discuss your admiration for the company, its culture, and its standing in the industry.

From an interviewer perspective:

Look for the candidate who has done their homework.  You want the candidate to show that they understand the role and what it entails.  They should want this job because they are eager to fulfill the responsibilities successfully.  Try to look past any cliché answers which do not address the job function directly.

  1. “What is your greatest professional achievement?”

From a candidate perspective:

This is another great opportunity to show off your capabilities and accomplishments.  You should try to think of the answer to this question before the start of the interview, but don’t provide a scripted answer if asked.

Your answer should be something which is both relevant to the job you are applying to and should be relatively recent (within the past couple of years.). You don’t want to speak on your greatest accomplishment from 10 years ago, which may make the interviewer question what you’ve been doing since.

In addition, when asked this question, be sure to utilize the STAR method.  Describe the situation, the task you were assigned, the actions you took, and the direct result of your actions.  Provide the interviewer with a sense of why this is your greatest professional accomplishment.

From an interviewer perspective:

You want to look for a candidate that has a ready and definitive answer to this question.  A candidate that has accomplished a number of achievements and is able to convey what they were and how they positively impacted their previous company or place of employment.

The candidate does not need to provide a “wow” answer.  It doesn’t need to be something larger-than-life and career altering.  But the accomplishment should be career relevant and have a positive impact.

  1. “Describe your dream job”

From a candidate perspective:

A ton of people feel uncomfortable answering this question.  They assume that the job they are applying for should be the dream job.  But interviewers are human too.  They understand that your dream job isn’t necessarily going to be the one you’re applying for right now.

Rather, focus on relevancy.  Speak to certain aspects of the job that you enjoy and how you would like to focus on those.

For instance, if you work as a business analyst and enjoy working with SQL, you can say that your dream job is one that focuses solely on SQL.

Similarly, if you’re applying for a retail position, you can focus on the customer service aspect and state that you, “would like to utilize my passion for helping others into a career.”

From an interviewer perspective:

The candidate should provide relevant answers here.  If they have long-term dreams, those should be admired and cultivated (i.e. a junior copywriter would like to be a director of copywriting.)

  1. “What do you know about the company?”

 From a candidate perspective:

 This question is why doing your homework before the interview is so important.  The interviewer isn’t asking about the company itself, but more on what qualities the company has that made you interested in applying to work there.

You should have a fundamental understanding of the company and its culture.  Utilize resources such as Glassdoor to get a deeper understanding.  Prepare yourself by doing your research beforehand and having a list of accomplishments and qualities of the company that you find interesting.

From an interviewer perspective:

Too many candidates apply to positions they’re either ill-fit for or through mass applications.  This question is trying to get to the heart of the candidate to determine if they have a passion for the company and a true understand of its value proposition.

  1. “Tell me about a challenge you faced recently and how you overcame it”

 This is a classic behavioral question, which means it is a perfect candidate for the STAR method.  This question is asked because the interviewer wants to see how you handle conflict and what path you take towards resolution.

You can pick something professional or personal, so long as it’s not too intimate in detail.  But the outcome should be a positive one.  Essentially, your answer should show how you were patient and understanding in the face of a challenge and how you rose to the occasion to find a solution.

From an interviewer perspective:

This is a behavioral question, so you want to see how the candidate reacts to challenges and uncomfortable situations.  Were they polite and on a path of resolution?  Or do you sense that they were stubborn and escalated the challenge?  Look for subtle signs as to how the candidate reacts to challenges both professionally and personally.

  1. “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

 From a candidate perspective:

 The interviewer is trying to get a sense of what your long-term goals are.  They would like to see both a mix of realism and ambition here.  You should include in the answer that you hope that the role you are applying for will allow you to reach those goals.

You can be honest here to a degree.  Letting the interviewer know that you wish to start your own business or to get promoted is fine.

From an interviewer perspective:

Look for realistic, ambitious goals here.  The candidates 5-year goal doesn’t need to align with your own or with that of the company, but it should show a level of ambition and will to succeed.

  1. “What other companies are you interviewing with?”

 From a candidate perspective:

 This question is a tough one and one that you don’t necessarily want to divulge.  You should be tactful in your response and let the interviewer know that you are looking for positions that meet your current skillsets within the industry.

The interviewer may be trying to get an inside scoop on what other companies are doing and whom they are interviewing.  You don’t want to divulge too much, but let the interviewer know that you are looking to remain within the industry, at a similar or more senior role.

From an interviewer perspective:

Most candidates will not answer this question, but it is still good to ask.  If the candidate does answer, you may be able to get a better sense of what your competitors are looking for and if the candidate is serious about remaining in the industry.

  1. “Why were you let go at your last company?”

 From a candidate perspective:

 This is perhaps the single most difficult question to answer.  There is no correct answer except the truth.  If you were fired or let go from your last company, you should be honest as to the reasons why.

However, don’t stop there.  You need to make a concerted effort to let the interviewer know that you have learnt from your previous mistakes and that you are a better employee from it.

Simply stating that you were let go won’t do you much.  You need to show that you had taken it as a learning experience and have worked on yourself to ensure it never happens again.

From an interviewer perspective:

Many employers steer clear of candidates who had been fired from their previous role.  That is wrong.  Some of the best employees I’ve ever had were ones who were let go from their previous position.

Rather, look to see if the candidate understands why they were let go and what steps they took to better themselves.  See if they are working on themselves and their future career.

You should not make a judgment call on any candidate due to one previous mistake.  Take the time to listen to the candidate fully and determine if they would be a good fit for you company and team.

  1. “What is your management style?”

From a candidate perspective:

When applying to a management position, most interviewers would like to know how you manage and what your management style is.  You should have a good understanding of the type of manager you are, or the type of manager you would like to be.

From an interviewer perspective:

Make sure that the candidates management style does not conflict with your own or the company culture.  If the company has a more laid-back feel, you would not want to hire someone who has a more “iron fist” approach.

  1. “Are you willing to travel?”

From a candidate perspective:

While many companies are beginning to reduce overall employee travel, some industries have increased their travel requirements.  In answering this question, be honest as to why you would or wouldn’t be willing to travel.

You can let the interviewer know your travel preferences and whether or not you’d prefer to travel.  However, some companies place travel as a requirement and declining to do so may be grounds for not receiving an offer.

From an interviewer perspective:

Look for a candidate who is willing to be flexible and accommodating.  If travel is a requirement, you can let the candidate know as-such and have them decide how they would like to proceed.

  1. “What is a time you disagreed with your manager at work?”

 From a candidate perspective:

 What’s that I hear?  The STAR method? Another perfect opportunity to utilize it!

Disagreements happen and they happen at work more than you’d expect.  What shouldn’t happen at work are full blown arguments.

Utilize the STAR method to provide a situation where you disagreed with your manager but be sure to emphasize how you were able to show your manager your point-of-view.  Be tactful in your delivery and show how everything turned out correctly in the end.

From an interviewer perspective:

We stated above that disagreements happen at work.  You should expect some levels of disagreement, however the candidates answer should be provided tactfully and should show a level of maturity in finding a solution that was agreeable to all parties.

  1. “What can we expect from you in your first three months?”

 From a candidate perspective:

Employers want to see that candidates they interview have a plan of action that they can implement from day one.  Though they don’t expect you to be an expert immediately, they want to see that you are willing to put in the hard work to become one.

With that in mind, you can let the interviewer know that your first 90-days will be dedicated to creating value, continuing to do what you do best, and focusing on making a difference with all applicable parties.

From an interviewer perspective:

You should be looking for a candidate that is motivated from day one.  Though you don’t expect them to be an expert immediately, you will want to see that they have the motivation to become one.

  1. “What are your hobbies outside of work?”

 From a candidate perspective:

Many companies are hiring qualified individuals whom also fit in well with the office and company culture.  They want employees who are well-rounded and versatile in different arenas.  You should come into the interview with a few personal hobbies that you are willing to divulge and speak on.

From an interviewer perspective:

Not too much to say here, hopefully the candidate has the same or similar hobbies as you!

  1. “How do you deal with stressful situations?”

From a candidate perspective:

Stressful situations occur in both professional and personal environments.  The interviewer isn’t looking for the perfect answer, but rather, the one that shows maturity and the ability to handle stressful situations.

You can speak to how you have handled stressful situations previously and your ability to maintain a calm and collected demeanor.  What is important is that you describe your ability to remain calm and to act quickly and rationally to resolve the situation.

From an interviewer perspective:

Look for the candidate who handles themselves with composure when faced with a stressful situation.

  1. “Why did you choose this field of work?”

From a candidate perspective:

This is more of an ice-breaker type question.  The interviewer may simply be curious as to how you first started in the industry or what attracted you to it.  In addition, this question allows the interviewer to understand your motives for wanting to remain in the industry.

 

  • Can you tell us about your previous work experience?
  • What did you major in, in college?
  • Why did you choose your major in college?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5-years?
  • Where do you see yourself in 10-years?
  • What is your ideal career path?
  • Why are you looking to leave your current position?
  • Why are you looking to leave your current company?
  • What is something a previous manager has done that you enjoyed?
  • What type of manager are you?
  • Do you wish to pursue a management career?
  • If you could give your college-self advice, what would it be and why?
  • How did you hear about our company?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • What do you know about our team?
  • What do you know about the role?
  • What systems and tools are you proficient with?
  • What is a recent accomplishment that you’re proud of?
  • Can you tell us a time you were frustrated at work? What did you do?
  • Can you tell us a time you had to deal with a frustrated or angry customer? How did you handle the customer?
  • Why did you choose your previous employer? What attracted you to apply there?
  • What are your short-term goals?
  • What are your long-term goals?
  • What are your skills and qualifications that make you the best candidate for this role?
  • Are you happy in your role or this industry?
  • What would you change in the industry?
  • What would you change in your current role?
  • What areas would you like to develop in further?
  • How do you go about learning a new skill?
  • What would you like to see at a new company that you go to?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • If position required, would you be available to travel?
  • If you were offered the position, when would you be available to start?
  • If you were offered the position, would you be willing to relocate?
  • If you were offered the position, would you want work from home opportunities?
  • How do you feel about working from home or remotely from the office?
  • What tools do you use to stay in touch with your colleagues and manager?
  • What tools do you use to remain productive?
  • How do you prioritize your tasks?
  • How do you organize your inbox?
  • Are you available after-hours or on weekends?
  • What skills do you bring to this position?
  • How well do you think you would be able to handle the needs of this role?
  • Can you tell me something that would help me make a better and more informed decision on who to hire for this role?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Tell me about a challenge you’ve faced at work and how you dealt with it
  • What’s your dream job?
  • Which other companies are you interviewing with?
  • Why were you fired?
  • What type of work environment do you prefer?
  • Can you let us know a time you exercised management or leadership skills?
  • How would you handle a disagreement at work?
  • What would you do if you didn’t agree with a decision made by your manager?
  • How would your manager describe you?
  • How would your peers and colleagues describe you?
  • Why was there a gap in your employment history?
  • What can you tell us about yourself that your resume cannot?
  • What would your ideal first 30, 60, and 90 days look like at this company?
  • What do you enjoy outside of work?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • If you had to give a spontaneous TED Talk, what would you discuss?
  • What do you think we can do differently?
  • What motivates you?
  • Do you have experience with (industry software)?
  • How would you change (industry software)?
  • Do you feel like you are a quick learner?
  • What classes did you struggle with at college?
  • What gets you excited in the morning?
  • If you didn’t have to work, what would you do?
  • What is the last book you read?
  • How would you fire someone?
  • What was the most difficult thing you had to do at a previous company?
  • How would you handle a task that you felt wasn’t ethical at work?
  • What are some of your leadership skills?
  • When was a time you had to spearhead a project?
  • How do you get colleagues to work together?
  • How do you incentivize employees?
  • When was a time that you had to reprimand a direct report?
  • Would you go to your manager if you were having problems with an employee?
  • Have you ever conducted a skip level meeting?
  • Would your manager write you a letter of recommendation?
  • Have you ever been asked to write a letter of recommendation for someone?
  • What is the last book you read?
  • Where do you like to get your news from?
  • What’s your favorite website?
  • What is the name of our CEO?
  • Describe a time your manager was wrong; how did you handle it?
  • Would you feel comfortable reporting to someone younger than you?
  • How long do you expect to work for this company?
  • Have you ever been written up at work?
  • How did you improve after a poor performance review?
  • Describe a time you had to give someone difficult news
  • Which is more important, creativity or efficiency?
  • Are you well versed in Microsoft Office Suite?
  • Would you be willing to train your peers on what you know?
  • What areas or subjects do you consider yourself to be a subject matter expert (SME)?
  • Who are our competitors?
  • What are our competitors doing better than us on?
  • What are our competitors doing worse than us on?
  • What is your greatest personal achievement?
  • What is the perfect company size?
  • Do you prefer working for small, medium, or large companies?
  • Describe your top three technical skills
  • Do you have reliable transportation?
  • Do you prefer an Apple or a Windows computer?
  • Would you be ok with having work emails on your phone?
  • Is it better to be good and on-time or late but excellent?
  • How would you let your manager know you were going to be late for the day?
  • Do you believe our field is robot-proof?
  • How would you sell me this pen?
  • Would you consider yourself to be a professional?
  • What is your greatest fear?
  • What was your best vacation?
  • If you could have a vacation home anywhere in the world, where would it be?
  • Who are your heroes?
  • Do you feel you are adequately compensated for you position?
  • Do you prefer to work with a team or alone?
  • What qualities make a good leader?
  • What mistake did you make at a company that you learnt the most from?
  • What questions haven’t I asked you?
  • Do you have a personal mission statement?
  • Describe a time you went above-and-beyond at work
  • How would you handle a coworker who wasn’t carrying their weight?
  • How would you handle a coworker who was bossy?
  • Do you consider yourself an organized person?
  • Who was your favorite manager and why?
  • How would you handle a deadline given at the end of the day?
  • How would you handle a work emergency on the weekend?
  • How would you handle an emergency while you were on vacation?
  • Do you feel that our interview process at this company is efficient? Would you make any changes to it?
  • Have you ever been disrespected at work? How did you handle it?
  • Are you active on LinkedIn?
  • Are you active on social media?
  • Do you feel we are addicted to our phones and technology?
  • Do you have any questions for me?


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Conclusion

We highly, highly recommend going through these most common interview questions and preparing yourself before the interview.  It is also a good idea to begin a list of questions you would like to ask the interviewer regarding both the position and the company.

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