We put together a list of fifteen most common interview questions, to help you prepare for your interview. Practicing your answers should help you to calm down, and to feel more confident on the big day.
Question nr. 1: Can you tell me something about yourself?
Typically the first interview question, and your chance to make a good first impression. Brilliant answer will help you to feel better, and to start well is always important.
You should focus on work related things. What you do and did for living, what you excel at, what you try to achieve in your career, etc.
You can briefly mention also your personal life, and hobbies, but recruiters aren’t really interested in these things.
Anyway, you should spend less than two minutes answering the question. Remember that it is just an ice breaker, a first question, and try to compose a simple and work relevant answer.
“I like to manage people and to work on challenging projects. I have been working for IBM for the past six years, but I am looking for a new challenge right now. I like to do sports, especially athletics. I spend my free time with wife and kids.
Question nr. 2: Why did you apply for this job?
Interviewers try to understand your intentions and motives. It is perfectly all right, and actually good for you. If you prepare a good answer, you can convince them right in the beginning that it makes sense to talk to you, to spend their precious time interviewing you.
Try to speak about the company. You should devote some time to browse their website and study the job description carefully, trying to find points of interest and reasons for your application.
“I really like the job description, and the working duties. I believe to be a good fit for the job and a potential asset for your team. That’s why I submitted my application. On the top of that I have similar working experience.”
“I decided to apply because I really like the vision of your company and the career growth possibilities you offer. I hope to use my full potential at this position, and help your company grow and prosper.”
Question nr. 3: Why did you leave your last job? / Why are you planning to leave your present job?
Life’s a change. However, employers want to understand the reasons of your career moves.
It is crucial to stay positive, and not talk negatively about your past employers or colleagues. Try to focus on the future, not on the past. Let me show you some good answers.
“I didn’t feel challenged in my last job and I wasn’t motivated to wake up to work anymore. I got along well with my colleagues and boss, but I simply can’t keep myself motivated anymore. This role would be new to me, and with all the new challenges and responsibilities, I hope to get my motivation back and deliver my best every day.”
“Similarly to many people from financial department, my contract was terminated. New owners brought their own people on board and we had to leave. However, it is the past. I am ready to use all the knowledge and experience I gained there to start my new career, possibly in your corporation.”
“I have been with the ABC company for the past seven years. We achieved great results and I helped them to become the leader on the market. However they never offered me a raise, and I was never promoted, even though I asked. I believe that the results of my work should be rewarded better, and that’s why I want to leave.”
Question nr. 4: Can you tell me something about your education?
MBA and other prestigious degrees will open you some doors to interesting job contracts.
However, if you do not have a degree, you can still giver a good answer to this question. Try to focus on the knowledge you gained, not the names of the institutions.
“I have studied at ABC University. I acquired knowledge of statistics, project management and process management. I was active during my studies, and took part in projects and competitions. My practical experience and internship prepared me for a job of a project manager, at least I believe so.
Question nr. 5: Can you tell us something about your working experience?
You should always talk about the relevant experience. Many job seekers spend twenty minutes answering this question and that’s a mistake. If you interview for a role in marketing, they won’t be interested in your experience flipping burgers at McDonald’s. You should pick just one or two relevant roles and briefly describe what you did, and what you learned there. Of course should you have one previous job only, talk about that one, relevancy doesn’t matter.
“I have done a lot of things in my life. It helped me to gain a good overall understanding of business. From 2001 to 2004 I worked like a project manager for Siemens. We were working mostly on smaller energetic projects, water plants on rivers. I hope to use my knowledge and contacts I gained there in your company. I learned to budget projects and to lead them from scratch to success. From my other jobs I can mention my role of a marketing manager in CDE, from 1998 to 2001, and my freelancing experience from 2005 to 2009. Would you like to hear more details about these roles.”
Question nr. 6: Why should we hire you?
This is one of the most difficult interview questions. However, if your answer is good enough, it can actually convince the employer to give you a job!
You should focus on your USP (Unique selling point), showing the employer something special, something other candidates can not offer. General phrases will not help. You simply need to find something unique to offer. Following answers should help you.
“I had the very same job with one of your main competitors. My experience can come handy, as I can show you what they did better and what you do better.”
“I am a nice guy and always try to build good atmosphere on the workplace. This helps, especially nowadays, when many people are negative about everything, including their daily job.
Question nr. 7: What are your strengths?
Questions about strengths and weaknesses are typical for the interviews. All you have to do is to pick the strengths that are relevant for the job you apply for.
“I am very responsible and always do my duties on time.”
“I am pretty organized, and I’ve probably never been late in my life.”
“I have good communication skills, and people generally enjoy talking to me.”
Question nr. 8: What are your weaknesses?
You should describe how you try to get rid of your weakness, or at least improve on them. This is what the employers want to hear from you.
And you should choose weaknesses that are not very important for the job.
“I am not very patient. That’s obviously bad. But I am working on it, trying to control myself, and stay tolerant to the others. It’s not easy, but I definitely made some improvements in the recent years.”
“Sometimes I struggle to focus on my duties. However, I practice every day, trying to eliminate all the other thoughts. My concentration has improved over the years.”
“I often trust people too much. It is nice to live with such and attitude, but it caused me some troubles in the past. Getting older, however, I’m learning to recognize who I can trust.
Question nr. 9: What are your goals in five years?
Every responsible person has some goals. When recruiters ask you about your goals and dreams, they simply want to hear that you have any.
Some people love to dream about running their own business, or about traveling the world. But those would not be good answers. Companies do not want to hire people who will leave them after one year–to start their own business or travel.
Therefore you should talk either about personal goals, or try to connect your career goals with the company. Let’s have a look at some good answers.
“My goal is to become a better manager, and to help my employer to achieve exceptional results.”
“I want to start a family and have a good job, the one where I will deliver an actual value. That’s all I want. I believe that your company is a right place to start realizing my dreams.”
“I would like to have a managing role in five years time. However, I understand that I firstly need to learn a lot, and I believe that this position is a perfect starting point.”
Question nr. 10: What are your biggest achievements so far?
Achievements matter more than experience. This is a fact. Other fact is that everyone of us has has achieved something. We just sometimes do not realize it, or we struggle to talk about it.
Tangible or intangible, working or personal, all kinds of achievements can impress the recruiters. For example a former heavy smoker who managed to quit smoking recently shows strong determination and will.
Our life is full of achievements. We just need to remember them, and choose the most relevant for our interview answer.
“I ran marathon under three hours. I trained very hard, and it strengthened me physically and mentally.”
“When I hold Sales Manager job at ABC Inc., the sales grew by twenty percent every year.”
“I became a better person over the years. I learned to listen to the others and to see the good in people. I consider it my biggest achievement so far.”
Question nr. 11: What characterize a good boss/ colleague from your point of view?
You won’t work alone. Interviewers try to understand if you fit the company and if you would get along with new colleagues. The most common mistake is mentioning something specific.
E.g. to say that you prefer older (or male) boss would be a huge risk… If the boss was young (or female), they would hire someone else. That’s why you should choose a neutral answer and say that you can get along with practically anyone. Let’s have a look at good answers.
“I can get along with everyone. All I want to be sure about is that they are qualified for the job.”
“Ideal boss doesn’t exist, and it doesn’t even matter for me. I want to focus on my job and my duties, and I try to avoid any conflicts with other employees. We are all different and I respect the individuality of each person.”
Question nr. 12: What motivates you? / How do you motivate the others?
You need to convince the employer that your motivation comes from inside, and that you do not need special incentives to work hard. The best way to do this is showing enthusiasm. If you show it, every answer will be good enough. . . .
“Meaningful purpose of this job motivates me. I would be proud to have this job and I would work hard to become a better teacher every day.”
“I simply love to work with people. If I was not strongly motivated to do this job, I would never apply for it. I could not work only for money.”
Question nr. 13: What are your salary expectations?
If the recruiters start to negotiate your salary, it will be a good sign–they consider hiring you. On the other hand, you should not initiate this discussion–just wait for their question.
While answering, or negotiating, try to emphasize that the salary is not the deciding factor for you. And if you have a number in your mind, it is good to have some statistics o back it up.
“It’s not about salary. I really like the job description and want to get this job. I’m sure you’ll make an appropriate offer.”
“I would accept an average salary for this position, something between $35,000 and $40,000, according to the latest statistics from salaries.com website.”
Question nr. 14: When can you start?
Companies have their plans and ideas, and in most of the cases they will want you to start soon as possible. But if you can not escape the notice period, or have another reasons to postpone your start, you can come up with a good answer that presents you as someone with the right attitude to work. Let’s have a look at some answers.
“I am ready to start as soon as possible.”
“I could possibly start tomorrow, but I want to finish the project I currently work on. It would be very unprofessional and irresponsible if I left now. I need two or three weeks to finish the work, and train colleagues. Then I can start here.”
Question nr. 15: Do you have any questions?
You will get a chance to ask some questions in an interview. It is good to ask one or two questions, or possibly even more, as it shows that you care, that you still want the job at the end of the interview.
You should definitely not inquire about something that was already discussed in the interview, or explained on the job description. Let’s have a look at some good questions:
“What are the next steps of the interviewing process?”
“Can you tell me something more about your working environment?”
“What are the goals of your company (sales department) in one, five and ten years time?”
What to say at the end?
Congratulations! You read answers to all the fifteen most common interview questions. You did more than 90% of all job seekers do to prepare for their interview. But if you want to go one step further, you should have a look at an e-book that will teach you brilliant answers to 177 interview questions.
And if you believe that your behavior and an impression you make on the interviewers matters (and if you struggle with making a good impression), you can have a look at I Will Get a Job, an audio recording from Matthew Chulaw, author of this article. Thank you for checking it out!
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- What Job Is Right for Me? If you are not sure about your next career move, have a look at this article.
- Unique Job Interview Tips – Few good tips will help you on your way towards a new job contract.