We put together a list of fifteen most typical interview questions. It is always a good idea to think about good answers before your interview. Although you won’t remember most of the answers you prepare upfront, it will help you to calm down and feel more confident in an interview.
Below the questions and answers you will find links to different specialized articles devoted to phone interview questions, Skype interview, group interview and other common forms of interviews.
You should have a look at it too, in order to narrow the group of questions you can possibly get. It is much easier to prepare answers for fifteen questions than to try to learn answers to fifty questions. Anyway, let’s have a look at the fifteen most common questions and answers.
Answers to the most common interview questions
Question nr. 1: Can you tell me something about yourself?
This is typically the first question in a job interview. If you answer it well, you will make a good first impression, feel better and logically have better chances to succeed and get a job.
You should focus on work related things in your answer. That means, what you do and did for living, what you are good at, what you are looking for in your career, etc.
You can mention your personal life and hobbies briefly, but it is not what the recruiters are interested in.
Anyway, I recommend to spend less than two minutes answering this question. It is simply not good to tire the interviewers right in the beginning… This is just a starting question, an ice breaker. So you should approach it in that way. Good answer should look like the following one:
“I like to manage people and be involved in interesting 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 free time with my 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 too! If you prepare a good answer to this question, you can convince them right in the beginning that it makes sense to talk to you and to spend their precious time interviewing you for a job.
The key is to speak about the company, not about you (this will be described in detail later). You should definitely spend some time reading their website and the job description, so you know what to answer to this question. Here are good examples:
“I really like the job description and the working duties on this position. I believe to be a perfect match for the job and a potential asset for your team. That’s why I submitted my application. I have similar working experience too…”
“I decided to apply because I really like the vision of your company and the career growth possibilities. I can use my full potential at this position and help your company to grow and prosper.”
Question nr. 3: Why did you leave your last job? / Why are you planning to leave your present job?
Change belongs to life. However, employers want to understand the reasons behind your decision to make a move, to change employment.
It is crucial to stay positive and to not mention negative things about your previous employer or colleagues. You should simply focus on the future, not stay locked in the past. Let me show you few good answers to this question.
“My last job was not challenging enough. I was not motivated to wake up to work anymore. I liked my colleagues and boss, but I simply can’t keep myself motivated anymore. Based on the job description I really believe that I can find new motivation and challenges in your company.”
“There was a downsizing in our company. Similarly to most people from financial department, my contract was terminated. However, it is the past. I am ready to utilize all the knowledge and experience I gained there to start my new career, possibly in your corporation.”
“I have been with ABC company for the past seven years, achieved great results and helped them to become the leader on the local market. However, they never offered me a raise and I was never promoted, although I asked for it. I believe that the results of my work can be rewarded better somewhere else. That’s why I want to leave.”
Question nr. 4: Can you tell me something about your education?
For some employers and on certain positions, your education is very important. Employers inquire about it. Degrees like MBA are prestigious and many employers prefer candidates with a degree to other applicants.
However, if you do not have a degree, you can still offer a good answer to this question. Try to focus on the knowledge you gained, not on the names and labels 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 practical projects and courses too. Overall my studies were pretty practical and I believe to be ready for job of a project manager.
Question nr. 5: Can you tell us something more about your working experience?
You should always talk about the most relevant experience. Many job seekers spend twenty minutes answering this question. That’s a mistake. Employer is not interested in your experiences from McDonald’s, if they are interviewing you for a job in marketing… So, you should pick just one or two from your previous jobs and briefly describe what you did there and what you learned there. Of course, if you have had one job only, you should talk about it, doesn’t matter if relevant or not.
“I have done 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 built on rivers. I believe that I can utilize the knowledge and contacts I gained there in your company. I learned how to budget the projects and lead it from the scratch to completion and success. From my other working experience I can mention my role of marketing manager I hold in CDE from 1998 to 2001 and my freelancing experience from 2005 to 2009. If you want, we can discuss it in detail.”
Question nr. 6: Why should we hire you?
This is one of the most difficult interview questions. However, if your answer is convincing enough, it really has a power to convince the employer to give you a job! So, what to say?
You should focus on your USP (Unique selling point). It means to show the employer something special, something other candidates can not offer as employees. General phrases will not help you at this place. You simply need to find something unique you can offer. Following answers and help you with your inspiration.
“I have a relevant experience and I am strongly motivated to work for your company, as it has always been my dream to work there.”
“I fulfill all the job requirements. However, I am sure some other applicants do fulfill it too. But I am a nice guy and always try to create a good atmosphere on the workplace. This helps, especially nowadays, when people are stressed and negative about everything.
“I believe that I bring success with me. All the companies where I worked were prospering. It is good to have such a worker in your team, isn’t it?”
Question nr. 7: What are your strengths?
Questions about strengths and weaknesses are typical for many job interviews. All you have to do is to pick one or two strengths relevant for the job.
“I am very responsible and always accomplish all my duties on time.”
“I am pretty organized, what is strongly reflected in a quality of my work.”
“I have good communication skills. I believe that communication skills are crucial in every job, but especially in this one.”
Question nr. 8: What are your weaknesses?
The most important thing is to define how exactly you try to get rid of your weakness, or at least improve on it. This is what the employers want to hear from job applicants with right attitudes to work and themselves.
Secondly, you should choose weakness that is not important for the job you are applying for. This is pretty straightforward and you should manage to do it right. Here are some good examples.
“I am not very patient. That’s obviously bad. But I am working on it every day, trying to control myself and be more tolerant to the others. It’s not easy, but I definitely made good progress in recent years.”
“Sometimes I struggle to concentrate in job. However, I practice every day and my concentration has improved over the years. I try to eliminate other thoughts and focus purely on my job.”
“I trust people too much. It is nice to live with such feelings, but it caused me many troubles in the past. However, as I am getting older, I can much better distinguish friends from foes.”
Question nr. 9: What are your goals in five years horizon?
Every responsible person has some goals. Employers know this. When recruiters ask you about your goals and dreams, they simply want to hear that you have some.
However, one can make a mistake at this place. Some people love to dream about running their own business. This is not a good answer. Companies do not want to hire people who leave after two years to start their own business and get freedom.
Therefore, you should either talk about personal goals, or connect your career goals with the company where you apply for a job. Let’s have a look at some good answers to this interview question.
“My goal is to become a better manager and to help my employer to achieve exceptional results as a company.”
“I want to start a family and have a good job. That’s all I want. I believe that your company is a right place to start realizing my goals.”
“I would like to have a really good job in five years time. However, I understand that firstly I need to learn a lot and I believe that this position is a perfect start for me.”
Question nr. 10: What are your biggest achievements so far?
Achievements are more important than experience. This is a fact. Other fact is that everyone of us has some achievements. We just sometimes do not realize it, or are unable to talk about it.
Recruiters can be impressed with both tangible and intangible, working and personal, achievements. For example, if you were a heavy smoker and were able to quit, it would show that you have strong determination and will. Think about it…
Our life is full of achievements. You just need to choose some for your answers to interview questions. Just like other job applicants did.
“I ran marathon under three hours. I trained for it very hard and it strengthened me both 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 see the good in people. I consider this as the biggest achievement of my life.”
Question nr. 11: What characterize a good boss/ colleague from your point of view?
In most companies, you won’t work alone. Interviewers try to understand if you fit into the company and if you can get along with colleagues. The most common mistake job seekers do is to mention something tangible and specific.
E.g. to say that you prefer older (or male) boss is a huge risk… If the boss is young (or female), you will not be chosen. The best thing you can do is to choose a neutral answer and to say that you can get along pretty much with everybody. Let’s have a look at two good responds.
“I can get along with everyone. All I want to be sure about when it comes to my boss and colleagues is that they are qualified for the job we do. When I see the level of proficiency in this interview, I am sure they are.”
“There is nothing like an ideal boss for me. I simply focus on my job and duties and try to avoid any conflicts with other employees. We are all different and I respect the individuality of each human being.”
Question nr. 12: What motivates you? / How do you motivate the others?
Motivation is crucial in every role. You need to convince the employer that you are naturally motivated and do not need any special incentives to work hard every day. The best way to do so is to show enthusiasm in your interview. If you do so, every answer will be good enough.
“Meaningful purpose of this job is very motivating for 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 for money only.”
Question nr. 13: What are your salary expectations?
If the recruiters start to talk about salaries, it means that they consider hiring you. But you should never initiate that discussion on your own.
If we talk about right answer, the key is to emphasize that the salary is not the deciding factor for you. However, you should never say less than what represents your minimum expectations. If you need to say a number, it is better to have some statistics about average salaries to back it up.
“First of all, salary is not a deciding factor for me. I really like the job description and want to get this job. Therefor, I will accept an average salary for this position what is something between $35,000 and $40,000, according to my knowledge and statistics from salaries.com.”
Question nr. 14: When can you start the job?
Companies have their plans. If they need you from the next month, they want you to start from the on. That’s why you should always say that you can start ASAP. But if you really can not avoid notice period, or something else, you still can come up with an exceptional answer that shows right attitude to work. Let’s have a look at good answers for both scenarios.
“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 to continue it. Then I can start here.”
Question nr. 15: Do you have any questions?
You will get a chance to ask some questions during, or after the interview. It is good to ask one or two questions, or possibly even more. It shows that you care, that you are really motivated to get the job. So, what to ask? You should definitely not inquire about something that was already answered in the interview or explained on the job description. Let’s have a look at some good questions:
“What are the next steps of interviewing process?”
“Can you tell me something more about the 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 all fifteen answers to the most common interview questions. You did more than 60% of all job seekers do to prepare well for their interview. But if you want to go one step further, you should have a look at this great e-book, that will teach you brilliant answers to 177 interview questions, written by a highly experienced interview coach from the US.
Alternatively, if you believe that your behavior and impression you make on the recruiters matters more than answers to their questions, you should have a look at I Will Get a Job, an audio recording from Matthew Chulaw, author of this article and many other articles on InterviewPenguin.com. Matthew will teach you how to win the heart of every recruiter. Thank you for checking it out!
Other articles that can help you with your preparation:
- Interview Questions in Detail – Detailed analysis of the most difficult questions. You can find here more about “why should we hire you” question, weakness interview question as well as many other.
- Interview Attire – Learn how to dress for your job interview to make a perfect first impression.
- What Job Is Right for Me? If you are not sure about your next career step, have a look at this article.
- Types of Interview Questions – Find out more about behavioral, situational, personal, etc. interview questions.
- Unique Job Interview Tips – Few good tips can help you a lot on your way to a dream job.
- Practice Interview Questions – To practice the questions and answers with a friend before an interview is an excellent way of preparation. Find out how to practice it effectively.